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- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
I recently missed a day and half of school for a bunch of medical appointments. As I sat in various waiting rooms, talked to a host of medical assistants, and shook hands with more than a few doctors, I realized something – we teachers have something to learn from the doctor-patient relationship. We need to establish our own “deskside manner.”
It’s easy to find the connections. Both of these professions involve a practiced professional who is expected to be beyond knowledgeable in their respective fields. Teachers and doctors handle an endless list of cases and the individuals attached to them. Both have schedules, but their ability to think on the fly is what defines them. Doctors and teachers have the ability to leave a lasting imprint and improve the lives of those they come into contact. But teachers have something to learn from docs. Let's take notes, comparing deskside and bedside manners:
First, how do teachers greet students? When one enters a doctor’s office, there are a certain set of expectations. Chief among these are compassion, comfort, attentiveness, and somebody there to greet them with a smile. Teachers should try and replicate this order and predictability as best they can.
Second, how do teachers queue students? When one enters a doctor’s office, most docs employ an orderliness. While some of them stress the importance of being on time, others doctors are predictably behind schedule because they are invested in listening to their patients. There’s nothing wrong with either method, but the great doctors are usually open and communicative of their style. Additionally, they know that emergencies are a top priority. Teachers, like doctors, come with all sorts of personalities and peculiarities with their deskside manner. The more teachers communicate to their students, the easier the empathy.
Third, how do teachers listen to their students? When doctors enter the exam room, one expects to have their full attention. There shouldn’t be a checking of email. There shouldn’t be glancing at the time. There shouldn’t be a professional who’s looking over one’s shoulder to reach the next patient. People want to have all their concerns heard and provided a full explanation. Students require equal amounts of undivided attention.
Fourth, how do teachers treat students? One expects to have a doctor who reacts to us as patients. Some of us need a doctor who’s more serious, others need someone who’s more jovial and lighthearted. Still, tantamount to all of these is professionalism. Nobody wants a doctor who enters the room, shows us an x-ray and says “that looks like malignant cancer” only to elbow rib and laugh afterward. There is often bad news to share, but almost as important as the news is the method of delivery. A close friend recently learned that he was diagnosed with cancer (during outpatient therapy) and that “he’ll get back to him in a week or 2.”
Any profession that is as interpersonal as medicine and education needs to remember the needs, respect, and dignity of people always rank first. Bedside manner asks docs to treat patients like their mother; deskside asks them to treat students like their own child.
Fifth, how do teachers simplify educational jargon? So many of us have sat in a chair to hear letters and number rattled off to the point where we think we’re playing a game of Battleship. When one is diagnosed with a subjunctuvial hemorrhage (some blood behind the eye) of the eye, subluxation of the lower spine (strain of the lower back), and Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (brain freeze - ha!) sound awful, but not when properly framed by a doctor. The same can be said about the alphabet soup of acronyms (IEPs, DRAs, FAPE, etc) and diagnoses (Asperger’s, 504s, and dyscalculia) can all make a conversation absent of deskside manner seem just as foreign.
Finally, how do teachers engage students’ investment outside of the classroom? Doctors are blessings to humanity, but they cannot cure and placate issues in one session or with the simple writing of a prescription. Much of it requires an investment of the patient in their health outside of the examination room. People need to eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking, get more sleep, but they also need a coach (the doctor, namely) to encourage them to do so.
Teachers can also empathize here. Secondary school teachers see their students a grand total 132 hours a school year, or a total of 3.33 40-hour weeks. Elementary teachers are provided considerably more time, at 650 hours and 16.4 work weeks. Teachers can make a solid amount of change in that time – especially in comparison to a doctor’s singular visit – but so much more needs to be self-directed and self-invested outside of our classrooms.
Next week, we’ll check back in and examine things that need to change in the education world to make the use of deskside manner more prevalent and useful in the classroom.