Dental Work, Spiders & The Why

 Today, a reflection about fear. My thoughts about this started on Friday, at the dentist appointment I'd put on the calendar for noon. Goodness only knows what I was thinking, scheduling dental work on my lunch break. I guess I'd conveniently forgotten how afraid of visiting the dentist I really am. I actually envisioned getting that cracked filling taken care of and returning to school for the afternoon. It wasn't until we noticed a spike in my blood pressure that I recognized and acknowledged my edgy emotions. I was in tears before the hygienist even finished applying the numbing gel. When the dentist came in and saw me struggling, our conversation went something like this: 

Dr. Hicks: Are you okay in here?
Me: Yes, I'll be fine. The taste of that numbing gel just shocked me and caught me off guard (I fibbed a little to dismiss the fear).  
Dr. Hicks: It's okay to be afraid. It's actually quite common, normal even. Everyone's afraid of something. For me, it's spiders.
Me: Really? I take pictures of them. 

She found that almost as gross as I found the taste of her numbing gel.

I took it as a sign when I watched this ambitious arachnid building her web this weekend. And I smiled, knowing I'd survived that nerve-wracking dentist visit. 

It wasn't as bad in hindsight as it was in real life; I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with the why. As the dentist and I visited, waiting for the first shot she'd given me to numb my jaw take effect, then waiting for the second shot to help that first one get the job done, I attempted to explain how my experiences with the dentists of years passed had not always been very pleasant, how during one visit, in particular, my procedure had required six shots, one of which had hit a bullseye straight into a nerve center and sent me soaring straight up out of that chair (and not in a good way!). 

Dr. Hicks listened, then responded by walking me through the anesthetic procedure, teaching me about how and why they are trying to hit the dead center of that nerve web to better ensure that the entire jaw numbs. It made so much sense. All of these years, I thought that the other dentist had messed up. 

Don't get me wrong. 
I still don't like it. 
But somehow knowing the why really made a difference.
Understanding it put me at ease better than ever before
and helped me better tolerate 
the poking and prodding,
the drilling and filling.

I wonder if that's how it is in school, too, if knowing the why
would make a difference to the what and the how.
If it could measurably increase engagement and motivation.
If it would greatly change processes and outcomes.

For the record, I didn't go back to school that afternoon.
I went straight home to take a nap, relieved that it was over
and thankful to have a dentist who would take the time
to patiently educate me, 
to entertain my questions,
and to process the why.

What would knowing the why do to diminish fear and
increase productivity for you and your students? 

No comments

I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!