As I wrote about last year during the holiday break, I got progressive lenses - I needed to wear glasses all the time. My eyes have needed attention for awhile - it started just as reading glasses and went downhill from there. Over the summer, I struggled wearing my glasses all the time. While I was running, while playing with My Children, when it was sunny (no I didn't buy the prescription sunglasses), and when I was umpiring. And yes, I was "that guy" at the beach who had his regular sunglasses over my prescription glasses while reading.
Of course, there's a simple solution to all of this, one that My Wife was fully on board with: contact lenses. I made an appointment at the end of the summer and it took place this past Tuesday. I had no idea what to expect and I asked how long I should plan to be there. About one hour was the response I got back. Perfectly reasonable.
Once at the appointment, I went through the routine eye exam to confirm my prescription had not changed since last year. I was offered the different options for lenses, and took the doctor's recommendation. My doctor then showed me to an empty room and told me someone would be with me to help me learn about how to put my contact lenses in shortly.
Soon I was seated opposite the woman who would teach me how to put in my contact lenses, at a table with a mirror. I have no problem touching my own eyes I said, and with a quick nod, the lesson began. "Put the contact lens on your right index finger." Done. "Hold your eyelashes from your top eyelid with your left hand, then pull your bottom eyelashes down with your middle finger of your right hand, and place the contact lens in your eye." Wait... what?
For the next hour or so, I struggled mightily to be proficient at this. I could not get the contact lenses in my eyes. The left eye was the trickiest. As someone who is right-hand dominant, I had to position my hands in just the right way to get the contact lens even close to my left eye. As it got closer and closer, I would speed up (recommended to go slow), blink (instead of holding my eyelashes open), or some combination of both. I was unable to do it.
I sat there, realizing how anxious I was, how frustrated I felt, and it was only growing. I could not do it. I watched the minutes ticking away and grew more and more upset. I could not do what was asked of me and I could not leave because I needed to show that I could put the lenses in, take them out, and put them in again for an eye exam. That was my demonstration of proficiency necessary to get back to work on Tuesday. I could not do it.
How many of our students feel this way? How many of our students struggle to meet the proficiency standards that we set? How patient are we while we scaffold the learning for our students to demonstrate their proficiency? (It is noteworthy that the woman helping me was encouraging, patient, funny, and kind, during my struggle)
Finally, I was able to put the contact lenses in, both of them, take them out and put them back in. I had the motivation to stick to the task, to persevere, and to ultimately walk out the door, for the moment proficient. But that feeling stayed with me throughout the day, and I spoke to a number of people about it, even letting them know this would be my blog post for the week.
Yes, we have made tremendous strides moving away from content toward proficiency. Yes, personalized learning will help engage students in areas they are passionate about. And still, with the best of intentions, with real substantial motivation (or at times, without) our students will struggle to be proficient, to demonstrate what they have learned. Then what?
P. S. It took me 25 minutes to put my left contact lens in on Wednesday morning (30 minutes total), about 23 minutes on Thursday, 30 again on Friday, I wore my glasses on Saturday because I was taking too long, and today only 8 minutes total.