Saturday, February 21, 2015

No More Squinting

A couple weeks ago, I took my oldest son, Alex, to the optometrist. Over the past few months, my husband and I have noticed that he has been squinting quite a bit, moving closer to objects, and his teacher reported that he always moves to the front of the room to see the board. He has always been, as one teacher has coined for us, “a mover and a shaker”. As he learned to read, he physically pulled himself closer to his work in order to focus. He passed every eye screening with flying colors in the past. So, while his eyesight waned, he built strategies to see, strategies that were similar to his coping skills from the past, but elevated so we knew we had to do something about it. After I took him to the eye doctor, we found he needed glasses. Alex was ecstatic! He thought this was the coolest thing to happen to him!

As we waited for his glasses to come in, Alex grew increasingly anxious. Every day, he would ask, “Did the eye doctor call about my glasses yet?” We would tell him no, and off he went with his strategies to get through his day.

Then, the phone call came. He could hardly contain himself as we drove to pick up his glasses, and on the way in, he nearly knocked me over! While he was excited once the new glasses were put on his face, I could sense something was not right. His excitement suddenly became reserved, putting on a show that he liked them, but a mom can sense it was not quite what he had expected.

By the time we got home, which is only a 5 minute drive, those glasses had been on and off his face at least a dozen times.

“Alex, is something wrong with your glasses?”
“Can you see better?”
“What looks better to you?”
“I don’t know.”
“You need to wear them to see better, ok? Leave them on.”

After 30 minutes of this, I decided we needed a different plan of action.

“Alex, take off your glasses. Now, read this.” I held up a book, and asked him to read the title.
“I can’t see it.”
“Ok, now put your glasses on. Read it.”
And it was magic! His face lit up, he read the title with ease, and then said, “Ok, Mom, I get it.”

During his first full day of wearing his new glasses, I could still see him squinting, moving closer to objects. He would play with his glasses, still taking them on and off throughout the day. And by the end of the day, he looked a bit defeated again, despite celebrating his ability to see the clock and the board without moving closer.

“Alex, this is a big change for you. And it will take time. But trust me, it will get better. I promise.”

Today, he wears them most of the day, and there is no more squinting. His face has become accustomed to the feel of glasses, and he no longer questions why he needs to wear them.

My son’s adventure has reminded me of many things in our educational world. We all have many strategies that we use on a daily basis to get us through it all. When checked, we find that there is a change needed to do something more efficiently or even a change in how we go about our lesson. Change is going to happen, but it is often very uncomfortable. We question it, try to remove it from our lives, but it still comes back to us, yet in many instances the change is a necessary improvement. Change comes with an adjustment period, and if we don’t see this through, the change will not stick and we will be back to our old strategies once again.

Whether it is new standards, a new framework, new curriculum, new devices, new tools, or new instructional strategies, these will all feel uncomfortable to start, and we will question why we even need these changes. However, these changes are necessary for the betterment of our schools and our students. We make these changes so that our students may grow and learn in the way that THEY learn and grow. We do not teach the way we were taught, as this is not best for our students. So, we teach with new strategies and tools, methods that will feel uncomfortable to start. Yet, we must stick with it, we must persevere, because in the end, we will help our students be their very best.

We do not need to squint any longer. Open your eyes through new lenses. It will change us and our schools for the better.

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