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Sunday, November 9, 2014

The prescription is not standardization! It's magic!

Magic!  Let me explain.

My husband and I took my dad to a doctor's appointment in New York City.  He flew in from Florida because he was set up by a friend of mine to see a master doctor at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  Dr. Fuster is world-renowned in the field of cardiology and celebrated for decades.  One of his specialties, my dad's nemesis, a leaky Mitral valve in his heart. I was interested to see what was so unique about this doctor.  After all, my son was a micropreemie with eleven physicians at one point.  My husband and I are well versed in expert medical care versus good medical care.

Dr. Valentin Fuster with his Muppet Dr. Rooster
There with Dr. Fuster were his right hand man and two students watching and learning.  Mt. Sinai is a teaching hospital, another thing we desire in a doctor/hospital.  Dr. Fuster, so soft-spoken and gentle, talked with my dad about his history while reading his file and probing with further questions.  He listened, probed, listened, and followed-up some more.

Then Dr. Fuster gave him a physical exam.  He listened with his stethoscope to his chest, back, lungs, etc.  He spoke, occasionally asking questions.  Then he asked my dad to take in a deep breath and blow out as hard and long as he could.  While he did this, Dr. Fuster had his ear parallel to his upper chest while watching his lower chest.  His stethoscope was in place and his hands were also working his abdomen.  He tells his students, "See, listen.  Watch this here."  He asks my dad to do it again.  Same positions.  All listening, watching, feeling.

Dr. Fuster, in his lovely Spanish accent, says to his students, "See, you can send out a pulmonary function test and have the results in 4 to 6 weeks.  But you can perform the same test this way in just 4 to 6 seconds.  And this way is more accurate."

Magic. 

Really it's the opposite of magic.  Watch.  Listen.  Feel.  Repeat.  Diagnose.  Treat.  Diagnose.  Repeat as needed.  That's the magic! This personal, hands-on diagnosis is not only imperative, but the antithesis to standardization.

This is the magic we do as teachers every second of every day!  Assessment is ongoing, formative, instinctual, reactive, proactive, and repetitive.  All students have different prescriptions.  That's the whole point.  We cannot standardize education because we cannot standardize children.  We cannot standardize medicine because we cannot standardize patients.

Now, there are some commonalities, thank goodness!  I'm sure cardiologists must all know how to listen to a human heartbeat and know its functions within normal limits and the common/uncommon abnormalities that have been discovered over the years.  Just as similar, educators all need to know how to give information and disseminate it in an effective way that has been proven so over time.  They also need to know how to gather information they need to impart from various sources.

Yet neither the common nor uncommon can account for the individual.  It's that individual prescription that is the magic.  It is what makes a doctor magical. It's what makes a teacher magical.

Individualization while utilizing common essential questions is our best future for our students.  We also need to add in motivation towards finding passion for their goals.  Teachers need to work together as professionals to talk, discuss, listen, try, fail, and try again.  Working together and designing professional development that is also unique to each teacher is the key to getting that prescription right.  It's the art of teaching, and of doctoring!

Standardized testing is the opposite way our country should be going.  If the results of the tests were worthwhile, the teaching toward its goals would be worthwhile.  Because the results tell us so little about our students, the amount of information (or data, as the current buzz word commands) gathered is not enough for this upheaval in education.  We should be going the direction of prescriptive, individualized goals for all of our students.

Big business, politics, and those not in the trenches as educators are deeming the future of education.  Hmmmm.  People are upset because insurance companies and big business drug companies are deeming the future of medicine.  Houston, we may have a problem here.