Slice of Life Tuesday: Teaching connections (of course!) at the vet’s office…

Over the course of raising three active children, I’ve had many opportunities to visit  doctor’s offices and  emergency wards in every town we lived in.  There were broken limbs, bleeding wounds, and the time my son decided to see if what mom said about never, ever putting something metal into an electric socket was true.  The short answer: Yes!  So, I’m inured to the whole ritual of bundling a screaming, bleeding child into a mini van and driving him or her (usually with crying siblings or friends in tow) to immediate treatment.  It’s different, however, with the family pet.  Last Friday morning, I found myself driving a whimpering Sophie to the good Dr. Fariello’s office (her story is here) and hoping for the best.

cambridge vets

Driving back, I couldn’t help my teacher self from intruding; I began thinking about what I learned from the way Dr. Fariello and her amazing staff handled their new patient, and how that experience compares to parent teacher conferences.  I kid you not.  And here’s how:

It’s a team effort:

Everyone greeted us, made us feel welcome, and let us know that we were in good hands.  Even though it would be the doctor who would be in charge of Sophie’s treatment, her care was a team effort.  I wonder if we can do a better job of projecting the same spirit when it comes to our students?  No teacher works in isolation, after all, and do we allow our parents to see that their child has a team of experts all working together to ensure the best possible learning experience.  I felt reassured by Sophie’s team and their collective effort, I think our parents would feel the same way, too.

Listen to the story – let the parent talk

Dr. Fariello wanted to hear Sophie’s story: where she had come from (she’s a rescue dog), her life with us, her attitudes and general temperament.  In my anxiety, I rambled a bit, also telling her about other dogs we’ve had, and their stories.  Upon reflection, I thought I talked too much.  Did I really need to waste her time with all that information? But, then I realized that she must have learned a lot about how Sophie would be cared for once she had been released back to our care: could we be counted on to be reliable in making sure each step was carried out so that Sophie could make a good recovery? would we be gentle in administering medication and the hot compresses? would we be vigilant about infections setting in?  By letting me talk, she had gathered insight.  Do we give our parents enough of a chance to do the same? We can learn so much through learning about the backstory – who our kids are, how their parents view them, the environment they live in outside our classrooms.  What we learn can so influence how we teach that child.

Be specific and clear about what you are going to do…take the parent seriously

At each step of the process, from evaluation through diagnosis and treatment, Dr.Fariello was specific and clear about what she had come to learn and how she was going to treat Sophie’s wound.  She didn’t need to explain, she could have sent me out into the waiting room with a: “We’ll take of it from here on!”, but she didn’t.  She took me seriously, she knew that I would want to know, and she was crystal clear in the way she explained each step along the way.   As worried as I was about Sophie’s prognosis, I knew that she was getting thoughtful and smart care.  This made me wonder about how clear I was when I communicated with my students’ parents.  Do I break down their child’s learning issues so that they can have a coherent idea of what I see and how I envision a teaching plan for their child?

Be positive about the patient

I, of course, love my dog, and think the world of Sophie.  The entire team “got” that.  No one was impatient with me for rambling on, asking millions of stupid questions, or needing to be reassured that all would be well.  There were other patients waiting to be treated, but while the doctor and her staff was with me, they gave us all their attention.  Most importantly, they showed me that they liked Sophie, too, and so I felt immediately at ease – I could trust them to take good care of her.  That’s what our parents want, too.  Deep down, they most often know about the issues we may raise in conferences, but they want to know that their kid is liked and will be taken good care of.  They need this so they can place their trust in us, and work with us.

So there it is…my teaching connection at the vet’s office.  The teaching life, it seems, can be found in the most unexpected places.

Sophie, getting ready for laser treatment.

Sophie, getting ready for laser treatment.

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25 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Teaching connections (of course!) at the vet’s office…

    • What an amazing story and wonderful connections to a logical school environment that should exist, but does it?
      I think you picked the right place to lay down some new life roots, don’t you?
      Bonnie

  1. As a non-pet owner I am always amazed how you and many others relate your life with pets to situations at school! Hope all is well with Sophie!

  2. Oh little Sophie with those glasses getting ready for her treatment. So precious.

    I’ve found many connections, through the years, between the work we do as educators and the work of great doctors. So many comparisons to be drawn.

    Hope Sophie recovers quickly.

  3. Love your connections to teaching! There are so many places that “we” can learn; after all, there are so many places that we LIVE!

    Hope Sophie’s recovery is swift and without any complications!

  4. Yes, you have once again made a very poignant reflection. Parents send us the best they’ve got and they do want to be heard and know that their child matters. Hope Sophie is on the mend.

  5. I think we as teachers always find teaching connections in many situations. How appropriate these reflections are to our profession. Love Sophie’s picture. Hope all is well with her.

  6. All true, and we should re-read before parent conferences!
    I especially like the part about knowing a capable and friendly TEAM is helping your loved one. Can we say that every staff member at our schools conveys this sense to families?
    I got so involved I had to go on to read Sophie’s story. Glad she will recover. Take care.

  7. As a parent, I did know my child’s issues, and you are right; the most important thing I wanted from a teacher was to know he was liked by his teacher and would be taken care of.

  8. I read your story about Sophie, but who knew you would gain such wisdom for our schools and classrooms from your vet visit. It is important for us to realize we are taking a precious life into our care. I happen to think vets are amazing people!

  9. First of all, so glad you have a good vet & that Sophie is okay. That means the world I know. I loved “We can learn so much through learning about the backstory”. Listen, listen-great advice. I’ve often said that if we can communicate to the parents that we will love their child, everything else will be ok. I think you just wrote that beautifully, Tara.

  10. I learned so much from this connection! As a teacher, mom, and over-anxious pet mom, I really enjoyed reading this slice! I often worry that the vet and dog trainer “dread seeing me walk in the door.” My beloved Schnauzer can really be a challenge.

  11. I, too, wrote about teaching connections in unlikely places for this week’s slice.

    Incidentally, I read your blog post about Sophie’s incident and I understand that fear of a dog attacking another dog. Our two pugs, as sweet as they are in general, can go into attack mode over food. Thankfully they’re too small to do too much damage to each other, but currently our one pug Frank has a couple bite marks on his front limbs due to a fight over food. I wish I knew how to eliminate this behavior, but they’ve acted this way since they were young and our only solution is to keep them as far apart as possible when food is around. As vigilant as we are about it, sometimes we let our guard down.

  12. What a perfect connection. There is so much to be heard in the rambling. Parents are passionate about their children, and they are trusting us to take care of this most treasured part of their life. Showing them we like, care and want to understand their child on all levels is so important. I love how you saw so much at the vet. Vets would make great teachers.
    Hope Sophie’s on the mend!

  13. This post is the perfect example of how there is so much we can learn and take away from any experience if we are present and open to it. Your experience at your vet resonated with you as teacher because you can’t turn off being a teacher; it’s who you are as much as what you do. What a lovely reflection! And I do hope Sophie feels better!

  14. Love this post and Sophie’s pic in those glasses (she looks so small). Wonderful connections from the vet’s office to the teaching life. I was always in the classroom on schedule day just so I could be a comforting presence (especially important for sixth grade students AND their parents) before school actually started. And then our admin started scheduling meetings on that day. SIGH!

  15. I just finished Beth Shaum’s Slice about the lessons a hotel concierge in Costa Rica taught her about teaching. I love these connections between noticing other service/caring professions and what they do well and applying it to teaching. The points you took away were wonderful! Thank you for sharing them with us!

  16. What an amazing experience at the vet and your teaching take aways! I love when we learn from the most unexpected. So glad to hear that Sophie is doing better. Poor thing. As they say, everyone has a story, even a dog. 🙂

  17. Your heart for your students and parents is always so evident. I love the connection you made to another love in your life and the care from the vet. What would we do without our furry family?

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