Teachers: Do your kids pass the flossing test?

DentistBy Matthew Olinski — I just finished my trip to the dentist.

I go to a really good dentist, and I enjoy going there… well, as much as one can enjoy going to the dentist knowing what inevitable procedures are about to be performed.

If this were a report card based upon my performance, I would get a C.  If my dentist were paid based upon my performance, he would not be so happy. In this case, I haven’t done my homework, and I’m ill prepared for the tests set before me.  The hygienist has to perform extra remediation based upon my poor performance.

My homework is flossing.

I know I have to do it, and on occasion I do this, but, as every dentist tells me, it must be done every day, preferably multiple times a day.  I use what I would consider the cliff notes version of flossing, which is mouthwash of some sort, (Listerine, etc.) but it does not have the same effectiveness.   So, when test day comes, my biannual trip to the dentist, it is probably obvious that I have not been keeping up with my homework.

Why am I bringing up my trip to the dentist?

Well, I have seen the comparison floating around the internet about what if certain people were paid based upon the performance of their clientele.  I was thinking of this as I was having my teeth cleaned by the hygienist.  My dentist would be graded fairly harshly, and I do take relatively decent care of my teeth, despite my tribulations and concerns as I walk into the dentist office. The dentist really has no control over how much soda I drink, whether I brush once or twice day, or any number of other factors.   So, how do we get people to care about their dental health?

So, how is this different from education?  How do we get students to buy into their education and begin to care about their learning?

This is the most relevant question in education.  Just as there are varying levels of dental care taken by different people, and whether or not they actually go to a dentist, students come from different backgrounds. They complete homework with different levels of success.  As educators, we are responsible for ensuring that each student “has clean teeth” when they walk out the door, no matter how well or ill prepared they were when they came in to the room to begin with.

How much would the world of education change if more people understood some of the challenges educators face each day.  I’m sure that my dentist has a concern over my dental health, but in reality, if I don’t take care of my teeth, he will for me, and he’ll charge quite a bit to do it. In addition, there is more pain for me as I sit in that dental chair.

As teachers, we can’t just let students walk out our doors ill prepared and just wait for the next patient to arrive. That’s not the way the education world works.

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