Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life – Missing the Story
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Slice of Life – Missing the Story

 

sols_6My doctor recently retired.  He was amazing.  You don’t realize what someone means to you until they are gone.  I made an appointment to meet my new doctor.  I wasn’t sick, but I wanted to get to know her and I wanted her to know me –before I become sick and need to see her.

The door opened.  I looked up with a smile, ready to engage in a new relationship.  She didn’t look up from her chart.  She sat down in a chair in front of her computer.  With her back to me she asked me to move off of the table and into the chair across from her.  I have never done this before, but I jumped down, ever so carefully in my paper gown, made my way across the cold linoleum floor and into the chair.

I waited, still no eye contact.  My face began to hurt so I stopped smiling.  She then launched into a list of questions that she was reading off her computer.  Do you exercise? Do you have healthy eating habits?  Do you have children?  Do you work outside the home? Do you feel depressed? Any change in weight?  Any injuries?  She asked if I was happy – it was just one of the questions on the list.  I answered yes. She typed away at my answers, never looking up, never commenting, never further questioning, and never connecting with the person sitting across from her.

Her data tells her that I exercise, I work, I have a family and I have healthy eating habits.   She told me that a healthy person of my age does not need to see her doctor every year.  That is what the research shows.  She followed up with telling me I would not need to see her again for two years unless there was a reason.  She told me everything was good and it was nice to meet me.

Her data doesn’t tell her that my father died 6 months ago and I now care for my 71-year-old mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  She doesn’t know I am terrified I will get Alzheimer’s and won’t know my own children in 20 years.  She doesn’t know that I still feel my hip injury and decided to give up my number for the NY Marathon in fear of permanent damage.  She doesn’t know that while I am happy I am also exhausted.  Working full time, with two adolescent boys and an elderly mother to care for has me spent in every possible way.  There are moments when I feel I have nothing left to give, but I am happy. She doesn’t know that I exercise so that I can breathe, slow down, and find peace.  She doesn’t know that I am a teacher and that I love what I do with a complete passion.  She doesn’t know that I wanted her to know me so that I could come to her if I needed her, if someday I am not happy, if someday I am worried about my health, if someday I have a question.

There is a medical truism that says, “Eighty percent of the time, a diagnosis can be made on a history – the diagnosis is often in the story.”  Although in medicine the diagnosis is often in the story, it is the story that helps the physician know which tests to run.  We would not want our doctors to rely solely on what they think the problem is, and we would not want to get a test result without talking to our doctor.  We want both from our doctors – formal tests and conversation – to provide the full picture of what is happening for us.

I realize that this experience is not so different from what is happening in so many schools.  The mandates around assessments are causing us to ask the questions and report the data, but they are also setting a trap for us to fall in — never really knowing the person behind the number.  We can assess our students and still completely miss their story.   Assessment, regardless of the profession, is about relationships.  It is about creating a setting of trust, respect and care so one will share their story so we can more fully understand.

Clare

29 Comments
  • Avatar
    anita ferreri
    Posted at 10:58h, 10 December Reply

    Your SOL is my first one this morning. I have tears streaming down my face. I am so sad that this doctor will now be following you (or anyone else). She does not know you. She does not know your stressors or what will make you sick. She does not know your passions or your fears. You might as well have put your information into a computer and stayed home.
    Perhaps, I connected so powerfully with your piece because I connected on many levels. I too am a caretaker who tires to exercise but has some crazy knee injury that I don’t have time to purse! I too am exhausted from the demands of family, caregiving and oh yes, teaching. I too LOVE my life and am passionate about teaching but have moments when I feel I have nothing left to give. I too know that doctors AND teachers must know the history but also be in the moment. We are ALL more than test scores! Thank you for the reminder and know that you will be in my prayers.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:12h, 16 December Reply

      Thank you for your kind words. It seem as if I could have emailed my answers and saved myself a trip.

  • Avatar
    Michelle Haseltine (@Mhaseltine)
    Posted at 11:05h, 10 December Reply

    Clare,
    I’m so sorry about the treatment you received! It makes me sad. The words, “Everyone has a story” kept floating around in my head as I read your slice. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so powerful! I’m left wondering what you will do. Will you find another doctor? Will you educate this doctor? I’m hoping you find a doctor with whom you’ll really connect and be able to trust…after all, isn’t that what we do for our students? Work on connecting with them and getting them to trust us to become the best they can be? Thank you for this slice!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:13h, 16 December Reply

      I have found another doctor and already have an appointment with her. Once you know what it is like to have a real relationship with a doctor it is hard to go back. Thank you for your kind words.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Carol
    Posted at 11:50h, 10 December Reply

    Wow! What an experience! Like Michelle, I’m wondering whether you will ever go back to this woman, or whether you will send her this post, so that maybe she can learn something. Your story illustrates, so, so powerfully, all that we lose when we reduce people to “data.” Sending lots of hugs and prayers your way this morning…

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:15h, 16 December Reply

      I have found another doctor and already have an appointment with her. Once you know what it is like to have a real relationship with a doctor it is hard to go back. Hoping we all remember to move beyond the number to find the story. Thank you for your kind words.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Katie
    Posted at 12:23h, 10 December Reply

    Clare –
    You are amazing. I wanted to hug you after reading this and kick her awake! Hoping you find a dr you can trust again. What a powerful post.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:15h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Katie — I felt your hug here in MA! I appreciate your response.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    carrie
    Posted at 15:38h, 10 December Reply

    Clare,
    First – the way you wrote your slice. The way you gently unraveled the story. I was hooked from the first sentence! All of the doctors I and my family have had over the years were running furiously through my head. I could 100% see the connection you were making between doctors and teachers. All of the teachers I and my family have had over the years were ALSO running through my head! You captured it all so beautifully and so truthfully here. Thank You. (And…leave that doctor! You can find better!!!!)

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:16h, 16 December Reply

      Thank you for your feedback on the writing –it kind of wrote itself. I have found another doctor and have an appointment set up. Maybe I will write the follow-up slice on my new doctor.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 16:09h, 10 December Reply

    I was so touched by your hopefullness when this slice began,,,and my heart broke as it became clear that your hopes would be dashed. She missed the most important things, didn’t she? I hope you will find another doctor, someone who will look you in the eye and really listen.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:17h, 16 December Reply

      Thank you — I have an appointment with a new doctor –hoping for a different experience.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Stacey
    Posted at 19:13h, 10 December Reply

    Wow, Clare. You were so hopeful about cultivating a new relationship and were left with a lot of nothing for yourself (though you gave US a blog post that includes an important reminder about teaching, “We can assess our students and still completely miss their story.”).

    As you know, you will find a new doctor. One who will go beyond the questions on the paper and will make you feel respected and heard. You know that person is out there. When you find him/her you’ll be thankful since they’ll see you for who you truly are.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:18h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Stacey — it is a good thing when we can learn something from a bad experience. Thank you for reminding me of that. I have found a new doctor — I do know it can and will be different.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 00:26h, 11 December Reply

    First of all, I’m so sorry. The absolutely best part that got me through the past few years with my husband were the people who not only cared for him, but cared for me. And when I saw my doctor for a check up, she has been so supportive, and has called me to check on how I’m doing. You should send this to that doctor, but also find another. Your reasons to go were so good and self-responsible, it must have been a huge disappointment. Like, I can imagine you wanted to just shout, “look at me”, “listen to me”. Best wishes to you at this tough, tough time! I’ll be thinking of you often!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:20h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Linda! I did want to shout a bit, but I did not. I guess my emotions came out in this piece. I have found a new doctor –thank you for sharing your story and encouraging me to find a new doctor.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Terje
    Posted at 10:20h, 11 December Reply

    I am sorry for your experience. I thank you for telling a bit of your story here on the blog. You need a lot of resilience to keep yourself healthy and happy with so many things on your plate. I like how you connected health and education. They are similar in a sense that you can’t give them to someone and there are so manny different factors to consider when deciding on the best possible action to support a person.
    I don’t know the doctor’s background, but if she is in a new position, she may be challenging for her to reach the highest standards. To give her a second chance or to find a new doctor is a question you have to figure out.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:21h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Terje — it is interesting to relate health and education. Many aspects are the same when it comes to assessment and next steps. I appreciate your response and support.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Mary R
    Posted at 13:15h, 11 December Reply

    As an educator I feel that this piece perfectly expresses what is core to any professional relationship, but especially the pedagogical relationship. Martin Buber spoke about I-it (a philosophy in which this doctor appears to be grounded) and he urged an I-Thou approach. Carl Rodger’s Person Centred Approach is light years from this doctor’s practice.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:23h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Mary! I appreciate your response. I did think about our students the entire time I was in her office.

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Holly Mueller
    Posted at 17:04h, 11 December Reply

    Oh my – the way you wove your message in with a poignant personal story was brilliant. This is so important – let us never forget to connect with each other.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:24h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Holly – I appreciate your feedback on my writing. I hope it helps us all remember the importance of connections in this hurried world of ours.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Chris
    Posted at 15:37h, 14 December Reply

    Thank you for an incredible piece. Our resource team gets so frustrated with interpreting assessments because our students (like all students) have such intense stories. I wish you strength in caring for your mom, your family and yourself.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 19:25h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks Chris — it really is all about the story and it does take so much time to pice it together for our students at-risk. I appreciate your response and support.
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Cheryl
    Posted at 11:12h, 10 January Reply

    Hello, Clare! Boy, I could relate to this slice on many levels. I am a new follower, and enjoyed reading ~ thank you! At the end of your piece, as I was thinking, she should get a new Dr., I read the comments. Glad you have a new Dr. 🙂 ,but I love that you answer your comments! I have to say, I have never read a blog where the author answers ever person that comments. Very thoughtful!! I hope you enjoy your day.

  • Clare and Tammy
    Clare and Tammy
    Posted at 14:07h, 10 January Reply

    Thanks Cheryl! We are new to blogging so we hope to keep up with responding but I am sure it can be difficult if you have lots of readers. I am glad you could relate to the piece – I appreciate your response.
    Best,
    Clare

  • Avatar
    Bev
    Posted at 16:57h, 11 January Reply

    I came to your post late (via The Two Sisters but I am so glad I did. I felt your pain, both a s a patient and as a teacher. Too often we are at the mercy of doctors who see us as only a file and school administrators who demand high scores at the expense of teaching what children need. A truly lovely, thoughtful post. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    Gwen
    Posted at 20:41h, 13 January Reply

    I am so thankful that I took the time to read this post this afternoon. Like every teacher, I have a ton of “stuff” to do but did take the time to read your story. (I feel like I know you better than your doctor does). Thanks for the reminder that our students should be more than numbers and testing booklets to us. It is their personalities, their stories and their liveliness that makes coming to school worthwhile. Thanks for the reminder-Gwen

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    Posted at 13:26h, 16 February Reply

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