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With September right around the corner, I am sure we have all been following the changes that will be affecting our healthcare benefits. Alongside those articles we are reading about changes that will be taking place within our schools and classrooms regarding systems of evaluation for observations and tenure recommendations based on a handful of variables. Many of these changes are new for us, but they are not new for most other professions. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants have been dealing with many issues that we have been "immune" to for years. I hesitate to use the word immune, as many teachers feel as if we have been "immunized" against nothing at all, and that we have been equally susceptible to aliments that afflict every other profession in a negative fashion. No true. Oh so untrue.
I am into my 14th year of teaching, but this is my second career and second profession. For fifteen years prior to becoming a teacher I was a chiropractor. Like most doctors, once I received my doctorate I believed my employment was set for life. I dreamed of treating patients until my late 70's (being relatively fit) and then retiring to some out in the woods location to read, relax and rest. I had always wanted to teach, but I could not imagine where I would squeeze it into my busy life. But then came an opening. Like most other professionals (except teachers) chiropractors are not salaried employees and so must adapt with the changes from third-party reimbursement (insurance companies). Unfortunately, managed care reduced, reduced, and further reduced our reimbursements until (for those of us with a bit of foresight) I saw the trend that was taking place. With almost 300 patients walking through my door each week, I decided to sell my practice at its peak and become a science teacher. I have never looked back one day. Do I miss my patients? To this very day, yes. Do I regret my decision, not one single day. But why am I telling you this story? Because no one - not even the teacher - is immune to change.
And not surprisingly, this was not the first time I needed to adapt to changes in my professional career. When I first became a doctor, I thought I knew it all. No one could tell me what to do or how to do it. I did it like Frank Sinatra... my way. Unfortunately, after my first year in practice my way was not working. I thought I knew everything when I graduated. And I did - about treating patients - but I knew nothing about running a practice, a business. I was broke and things were not looking very good at all. This is the same road traveled by today's teachers. We (most of us) know how to teach, but we (very few of us) know anything about the "business of school." And unfortunately, virtually every teacher I have ever spoken with refuses to believe there is even the possibility of a "business" component to our profession. I am told that we "work with young minds" and "shape the future of children" and therefore we cannot possibly be in business. Really? How is it possible then that pediatricians, psychologists and ob/gyns are in "business?" They work with young people too, don't they? Of course they do, but the difference is that they have learned to separate their "practice" from their "business."
This was the lesson that took me from being a complete failure as a doctor, to a highly successful doctor AND businessman. How did I do this? I enlisted a Practice Management Consultant who showed me that I can be a kind and compassionate health care provider while at the same time learn what every other successful businessman understands: I needed to become an expect in data management. I need to learn how to use data to drive my productivity as well as form the basis for all of my goal setting, time management and prioritization. And I did become an expert. So much in fact that when I sold my practice I was at maximum capacity for a sole practitioner. Again, why am I telling you this story. Because this is our time to change. It is our time to become experts in data management. For those who become experts in managing their statistics, they will thrive and prosper. Those who do not, will become extinct.
Schools want us to become "data driven," but the use data to increase productivity is a function of the business world and we are only being told a fraction - scratching the surface - of what data management is and absolutely nothing of how it works its "magic." Additionally, most teachers are reluctant to accept the "business" aspect of teaching and thus cannot see how the basis for others business successes (data and its statistical analysis) could possibly have any bearing on, or be applied to, what we do. This is where we are, and we need to change - fast. From my first day teaching I gravitated towards using many business concepts in the classroom - most significantly, data management and statistical analysis. These business management protocols have allowed me to enjoy above average successes in every year of teaching. They came very naturally to me given my business background and I hope they will become the basis from where we will expand the parameters of our teaching success. This has become the next step in my professional evolution - to show these ideas and methods to every teacher who wants to bring this profession to the next level. I hope to hear from you regarding this most important next step in teaching success.
Dr. Mike Cubbin