In what feels like a previous life at this point, I was once a high school history teacher. In my last year in the high school classroom before I left for education research, I had this hilarious student. To give a nod to students’ privacy rights, let’s call him Kenny Rogers (you know who you are**). Every once in a while, Kenny would come to school wearing a t-shirt that simply said, “Trust me, I’m a doctor.” I’m squelching my laughter right now at the memory of this kid in his t-shirt, since people who sit in cafes and laugh at their computer are weird. I think it was partly to do with the juxtaposition of the scruffy-haired 15-year-old and his claim to be a doctor that made it so hilarious.
Anyway, after all these years, the visual comes to mind because that’s essentially what I’m asking you to do.
Trust me, I’m a doctor.
For those of you disinclined to trust me based on my claim, and at the gentle prodding of people with my interests at heart, you’re welcome to view my academic accomplishments – but you’ll have to follow another link to do it.
I came into education research over ten years ago, but my path to this line of work is long and deep. I can easily recall the day in early 1982 when my mother and father returned from a morning outing. They came into the kitchen and with broad smiles announced, “Guess what? We’re moving!” They were clearly very excited, but my heart completely sank. I was finishing second grade in a MetroWest school in Massachusetts, I loved my neighborhood. I knew this meant something bad, but I couldn’t know what. I think the first thing out of my mouth was, “Why?”
The answer came back quickly: “They have good schools.”
Unknown to me, in that moment in our kitchen -at the age of seven- my life’s work was silently and discreetly charted out for me. I was outraged at the thought that schools in a different town, but in the same state and less than 20 miles away, could be so different as to warrant uprooting my siblings and I from the neighborhood I loved.
While my seven-year-old self is still traumatized by our move, 33 years later I am a professor of education policy, and fully at peace with my parents’ decision. Today I am firmly committed to helping other parents make sense of schools, and mostly committed to keeping my children in the same district from grade one to graduation. With over ten years to go, though, I have to reserve the right to change my mind.
**For former students who have no idea who Kenny Rogers is or why I would pick this pseudonym, just Google a list of Roger’s best hits and connect the dots.