My knee had been bothering me for several months, so a few weeks ago, I finally broke down and went to my orthopedist. He ordered an x-ray ... but that didn't reveal anything. He checked my mobility and strength in his examining room ... and that didn't reveal anything. So he ordered an MRI. I met with him a few days later and got my results.
As I was feeling sorry for myself, it occurred to me that my experience served as a model for education ... and perhaps a blog post could provide some redemptive value for my unfortunate predicament.
Physicians, like many professionals, are compelled to improve their practice because their livelihood depends on it. They utilize the latest research, the latest medicine, and the latest technology. Their practice will not survive without this commitment. Imagine a scenario where my doctor says, "Well ... the X-ray didn't reveal any breaks, so I don't know what to tell you. I guess you should rest your knee and put some ice on it." Or ... "I realize that some orthopedists use MRI's, but my office staff doesn't feel comfortable with that type of technology." These scenarios are obviously absurd. We take for granted that our doctors will be relentless in identifying our injury or illness, and will use whatever technology, medicine, or therapy, is available to "fix" us.
Educators do not really have the same built in accountability that many other professionals have. The students will keep showing up in our classes whether we are following "best practices" or not. Students can't "shop around" for the teachers with the most research based instructional strategies. They can't pick and choose their teachers based on which ones capitalize on the latest technology and utilize the most authentic assessments.
But every school in America has teachers who approach their profession with the same commitment that drives my orthopedist. They treat their students as individuals that have unique needs and talents. They experiment with different instructional strategies to see which ones are the most effective. They steal ideas and activities from colleagues that will enhance their classroom. They embrace the challenge of refining their "desk-side manner" so that all of their students feel valued and respected. They commit themselves to learning new technologies that will allow them to teach and assess students more effectively. Here's to those professional educators who do these things because they understand the ethical imperative ... the kids deserve it!