© 2014 paulwhankins

“. . .Even Though It’s Breaking” (Part III)


It’s been a week since we took this picture for this series. In the past seven days, I have logged ten hours between endodontist, dental hygienist, orthodontist, and dentist chairs. Because of my heart murmur, I have consumed some 10K mg of Amoxicillin (if there were to be a bacteria warfare threat in my locality, I could stand in the middle of the street and be completely impervious to the attack).

I’ve been reading Katherine Sokolowski’s post at Read, Write, and Reflect this morning entitled “Being Vulnerable”(http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/2014/03/slice-of-life-being-vulnerable.html) I’ve been vulnerable this week. I have opened my mouth to no fewer than ten people who weren’t there to judge. They were there to help. They helped me to understand, better, their language as they listened to the language I was using.

The language of fear.

The language of shame.

The language of hopelessness.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that these are the triad of my “mother tongue,” this guy usually bent toward positivity and good will.

But this is not the language I use in my “vulnerable spot.”

In an attempt to Cliffnote the week, I submit that I have had one root canal, a deep cleaning of my whole mouth, a consultation with an orthodontist, and, finally, the replacement of two silver fillings with a resin composite that looks more like a tooth than a silver mine. I have been numb: Monday (upper right side), Tuesday, (left side–whole mouth), Wednesday (right side–whole mouth), and Friday (left side–lower). I have embedded antibiotic around the roots of all of my teeth. I have a tooth that needs to come out, but we are awaiting further consultation with the orthodontist as we need to know how to proceed with the space that will be left in light of the extensive work we will be doing together.

I kept every appointment. I still feel some fear for the work that still needs to be done, but I am not afraid of the practitioner’s opinions of me or my condition. We are partners now. Partners in treatment. Partners in care. Partners in putting the better–if not the best–me forward. I am known in these offices. I feel like I belong there.

Mind you. . .this is an office I have driven by for years on my way to my own classroom.

I am not ashamed. I did not create the bite that I have been given. There were and are some things that I can do to be healthier. And we are doing them. That shame language is slowing giving way to “what I can claim” language.

And that hopelessness is being replaced by a sense of something for which to hope. I do not have to give myself over to endenulation (mass removal of teeth). My caregivers assure me that much of what I have is salvageable, treatable, and will be maintained in what will be my new smile after this part of the journey. While it will be a new sense of me, I get to keep the me I came in with. The me that I have lived with for forty-four years.

It’s been a time of great discovery. What earlier dentists that looked into my mouth thought was some kind of growth or tumor in my upper left side are actually two teeth that never erupted because they did not have room to do so. These two teeth may be part of the cause of a bite and a smile that shifted. What a discovery. Now, we are planning for how these teeth will work within the new smile (they may have to be removed–but wow. . .this was in my mouth all along. We just couldn’t see it with the tools we had earlier in my life).

The removal of buildup around my teeth means that I am no longer as “toxic” as I was seven days ago. I wish I had thought to get a baseline blood test to see just how much bacteria I had been carrying about as I went about my day. However, the psychological lift I have noted since the removal of this build-up is “anecdata” enough for me.

So. . .what language are our struggling readers using when they “self-talk?” Are they walking by our classrooms and our libraries. . .our book clubs. . .for four years without stopping by or stopping in because of this language?

Worse yet. . .are they avoiding these spaces because they don’t have a language to describe their personal struggle?

Perhaps they are using our (“education”) language. Struggling. Reluctant. LD.

It’s a language that comes with a sense of fear (what if I am called up to read), of sense of shame (everyone else seems to get this. . .just listen to _________’s reading), and a sense of hopelessness (I’ll never get this).

Like looking at someone smiling naturally into a camera. “1. . .2. . .3. . .Smile!”

Like hearing someone say, “Oh my. . .you have a beautiful smile.”

Like thinking, “I wonder if anyone can see or hear me smiling on the inside?”


I can. . .we can. . .create a culture wherein we can shift from vulnerability to victory. I believe this.

I didn’t learn this in a desk, mind you. Or  within  the hallowed halls of some undergraduate program.

I am learning it in a chair. I am learning it through x-rays. I am learning it through probing with tools. I am learning it through essential conversations with my practitioners. I am learning it through reflection as I walk away from my treatments. And I don’t feel as though I am going to be dropped off at the end of this journey.

Because. . .along with my caregivers and practitioners. . .I am learning about sharing my story. And sharing the parts that need to be written by others as we move along.

My orthodontist wants to do an ortho study on me before saying more about our course of treatment together. He says that I am what he likes to call a “thinking case.”

Our struggling. . .reluctant. . .readers. Do we regard these as our “thinking cases?’

Here’s a thought:

“What do we think that these readers think of themselves?’


“What do we think of them?”

Do we have the necessary tools at our employ to help them to find new discoveries about themselves as they move forward with their. . .teaching?qA


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