I go to my hair dresser and I let him do what he wants. He knows me. He has cut hair and colored hair for a long time. He is a master stylist. I often joke that I won't tell him what to do with my hair if he won't tell me how to teach reading. Sadly, that is not often the case in our field. People make decisions about education and their expertise stems from the fact that they too once went to school. Guess what? I too once cut hair and it didn't go so well. Just ask my mom and my cousin. Just because I did it, doesn't mean I am an expert.
Today I got to visit an expert in the field of Type 1 diabetes. I have been working with an endocrinologist and a nurse practitioner for the past three years, but my doctor really wanted me to work with Mike. Mike is special because he is truly an expert in my disease in so many ways. First he was born this way. He is a type 1 diabetic. He runs marathons so he understands the unique challenges that type 1s manage while engaged in exercise. He also has the medical expertise related to his field of study and degrees. I meet with him every six weeks this year to refine my medical treatment. We tweak my basal rate each time.
Morning fasts over the last six weeks have revealed that work brings my sugars up at least forty points, significant and not a one day occurrence. Now we have to figure out how work really affects my day. Next week I have to eat the same thing each day and record my numbers. I have to collect tons of data, both quantitative and qualitative. They are equally important. The numbers don't matter if he doesn't know what and when I ate and what I did each day, if he doesn't pay attention to my story.
As I think about my visit with Mike today what strikes me most is the trust that we put in other professions to be experts and put our lives in their hands. We don't do this in the field of education. In fact, the state of education has even caused the best of teachers to question themselves, their expertise.
What I do know is that I have spent almost nineteen years in the classroom. I have achieved National Board certification and a doctorate. I have shelves lined with books about the teaching and have actually read them. I attend professional conference most often at my expense. I keep learning and refining my practice. I am not any different from any other experts in my field. They are often right there by my side engaging in the same. I am an expert. Will this matter when my students take their big test of my expertise in three weeks?
If Mike relied on one test, my AIC, he would not be able to treat me well. If he didn't spend a significant amount of time working with me and getting to know me, my treatment would be less effective. Instead, he relies on tons of data points and my story. Teachers get tons of data points each day by working with their students, just not the one that matters in this age of high-stakes testing. These are the data points that we can't or don't share. In a few months, teachers will be judged when FCAT scores come out in this state. Like other states, newspapers will potentially publish my students' scores for one test date. I won't be able to extract all of the variables or tell our story. But it still matters.