“I don’t even look at the letters anymore. I listen to the hesitation in patients’ voices.”
I had zoned out in the ophthalmologist’s chair after a long day at school, but his aside to a junior ophthalmologist intrigued me. I’d invested a lot of energy in trying to get the letters right in the years since I got contacts in 6th grade. I’m always a disappointed with my incrementally increasingly myopic vision. Perhaps I’m more competitive than the average person, but I was disappointed that the ophthalmologist wasn’t even concerned about whether I was getting the answers right. What about my gold star for letter reading?!
As I sat there reading the string of DFHTL, I realized how much I am like the students in my classroom, who often care desperately about the numbers that appear on the online gradebook. But like the eye doctor, I don’t really care much about the actual letters (numbers). I want to know what work, what corrective lenses, my students need to get to the point where they can see clearly. It’ll be different for all of them, and it’s unlikely that any of them will achieve absolutely perfect vision, but we can work toward all of them seeing more clearly. It does us no good to try to mask the difficulties, to squint and make excuses for blurry vision. We might as well set ourselves to the task of making adjustments.
I also thought about the skill of this ophthalmologist, one who has examined so many eyes and heard so many voices, that he can assess the right pair of lenses just by a hesitation. I want to be a teacher with that kind of assessment skill.