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Orthodontics- Philosophy of Teaching Statement


Laurance Jerrold DDS, JD, ABO

     I have been very fortunate that during my career I have experienced the gift of having had 3 mentors. All of them were incredibly influential in my professional development and all in different ways. Yet, there was one commonality among them in their relationship with me: they all taught me to think, to question, to explore, and to stand firm in my convictions; all the while being fluid enough to accept change and differing perspectives when faced with conflicting doubts or newly developed truths.

     I knew early on that I wanted to be an educator. Not a teacher mind you, for in my mind there is a great difference. Teachers instruct. They generally focus on narrow perspectives, instructing their students in proper technique or providing knowledge about a particular subject. This is as it should be. Educators on the other hand, take a student and guide them through the thought processes concerning why and how we do what we do, when something should or should not be done, to appreciate the long view that evaluates the far reaching ramifications of whatever the undertaking is in relationship to those who are affected by those activities. Educators foster questioning skills and plant the seeds of subtlety that develop into differential insight. Educators allow students to make choices, to learn from successes and failures, to develop to their maximum potential, and to undertake the global responsibilities that attach with exacting their skills, knowledge and experiences on the recipients of their efforts. Lofty words and goals to be sure; but that is exactly why they are educators and not teachers

     One of the most underappreciated aspects of orthodontic education rests in the realization that we are not teaching an advanced course in a high school laboratory, we are not conducting lectures in an undergraduate college, we are not supervising post graduate students as they pursue a Masters in a particular field of study, we are not overseeing young doctors as they make their way through the clinics of doctoral level dental education, we are rather mentoring dentists who are possessed with various levels of clinical and life experience in the finer art and science of post-doctoral orthodontic specialty education. We are training the highest level of specialty dental practitioner through rigorous patient care experiences, in depth seminar participatory activities, and last but not least the intensity of selfstudy. In post-doctoral orthodontic education, it is the road taken and the experiences encountered along the way that are invariably more important in forging the stature of an orthodontist than is the mere achievement of learning to correct a malocclusion.

     My role as an educator, as a Deshi’s Sensei, is to immerse them in the clinical Dojo and assume the task of being their Sherpa, guiding them through the intricacies and interpersonal aspects of determining and delivering individually required appropriate orthodontic care. I must become a mentor to them as they develop questions and concerns about their evolving roles, as they assume their responsibilities to the sponsoring institution, to the program, to their fellow residents, to the patients they treat, to the profession which they represent, and the society they ultimately serve. I am not here to spoon feed them, telling them what they have to know in order to pass a test. Instead, I am here to help them learn how to forage for themselves as they seek to sate whatever their hunger is at that moment. I am their personal trainer, driving and pushing them to be the best that they can be. I am their role model, showing them how to act, respond, prepare, undertake, and stand accountable for their ministrations. I am their professional father, pushing them when they are afraid, encouraging pursuit when they are on the right track, counseling them when they are unsure, congratulating them when they do well, sanctioning them when they deserve it, but always being there for whatever their individual personal and professional needs happen to be. Such are the tasks of an educator.

     I don’t ask for much, mere immortality will suffice. You laugh but I say this in the most deferential way. I ask only that I am able, every now and then, to see one of my residents become a leader for others. To take the responsibilities for training future generations off my shoulders and those like me, and to care enough to assume the future role of educator and ensure that the ethics dealing with, and the collective knowledge of, our specialty remain as pristine as possible and as valuable to those practitioners coming up through the ranks as well as to the populace whom they will serve.

     I believe in the Socratic method of teaching whereby through a series of adroitly directed questions one is able to guide the neophyte into discovering the solution to a given problem. I believe that this method of instruction is the forerunner of problem based learning, a mainstay in healthcare education. I believe we have to select those who will follow in our footsteps wisely in that it is often not the smartest student, nor the one who tests well, who will become both an outstanding resident and practitioner. Rather, it is the one who is self-driven; possessing the inner strength and fortitude that is required to tackle the rigors of postdoctoral orthodontic education and brave the shallows and shoals of private practice. It is the one who ultimately realizes that the culmination of one’s career comes not with mere financial success, but with having balanced professional proficiency with commitment to family and society. It is the one who has the insight to recognize that to have all of one’s professional endeavors end with oneself is to suffer the foolishness of greed and self-centeredness. An orthodontic education needs to be passed on and paid forward.

     In closing, the essence of my teaching philosophy can be summed up in a quote attributed to Socrates; it reads: “I cannot teach anyone anything. I can only make them think”.

Laurance Jerrold, DDS, JD, ABO
180 Riverside Blvd. Apt 25B
New York, NY 10069
Tel: (904) 710-5125
Email: ljerrold@comcast.net

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