My Conversation with Dr. Margaux B. Gray, a local pediatrician
By Monserrat Avalos Franco (6th Grade)
June 2020 - I am a student at the education nonprofit Thiebaut Method in East Palo Alto, CA. Thiebaut Method is helping me learn more about my passion for pediatrics. We started by learning about doctors themselves and eased into learning about the medicine pediatricians prescribe. On Thursday, the 11th of June, I interviewed Dr. Margaux B. Gray. I interviewed her because when I grow up, I want to be a pediatrician. I was inspired to become a pediatrician because in mid-September I had my appendix removed, and the nurses and doctors made me feel really safe and they made me feel as if I was in a kind environment.
During this interview, Dr. Gray did 3 things for me. She confirmed the fact that I don’t want to be a dentist, she opened up my passion for also wanting to learn about psychology, and she reinforced my passion to be a pediatrician. Here is the interview.
Q: Why did you become a doctor?
A: Around the age of 12, I loved my pediatrician. I always really loved my pediatrician and her nurses too. I always really enjoyed working with children. For example, being a summer camp counselor and taking care of my nieces and nephews. I also really liked science and doing science experiments at school.
Q: What is the hardest part of being a pediatrician?
A: Causing pain and making kids cry, or even just doing shots, which we do all the time. I don't like being in the room when doing shots because I don’t like hearing the kids cry. But I have to remind myself that sometimes we have to cause a little bit of pain to help people feel better.
Q: What is the best thing about being a pediatrician?
A: So many things. I love working with kids because they are so resilient and kids just want to be kids. They have dreams and they want to get back to school and they want to have fun. Because of that, they are so motivated to get better.
Q: What inspired you or motivated you to be a pediatrician?
A: I had a lot of mentors and people that I looked up to when I was growing up, my pediatrician, in particular, was someone I looked up to. All through my life, I have found people that inspired me. For example, when I was in college, I met a doctor who let me shadow her on a daily basis. She has been someone who gave me advice during my early career and became someone I really looked up to.
Q: Growing up, what did you think about your pediatrician?
A: When I was really little, I had a male doctor, and I didn’t like him very much. At around the age of 12, we switched to a female pediatrician who was actually my sister’s friend through high school. I thought she was so cool because she knew my sister and they were friends and I felt really close to her. It made my dream of being a pediatrician accomplishable.
Q: Did you ever think about being a dentist?
A: No, I don’t like going to the dentist. I have never liked the teeth. That was never on my mind. I did think about being a child’s psychologist. I have always liked understanding our minds. What motivates us and what scares us and what inspires us. I actually studied psychology in college. Although I thought that maybe I would be a school counselor, I decided being a doctor was a better fit. I wanted to do more hands-on work.
As a young person, what did you want to be when you grew up? The answer to this question is not so obvious to young students. But, what is obvious is what students are passionate about right now.
Take our 4th grader, Jorge, for example. Jorge started Thiebaut (T-Bow) Method Tutoring passionate about baseball. His birthday parties are baseball themed, he plays baseball, his heroes are baseball players, and Jorge is convinced he is going to become a professional baseball player. He might!
Jorge with one of his Thiebaut Method cultivators
In school, though, Jorge reads at a 2nd grade level despite being in 4th grade. Complicating matters, his classroom doesn’t contain a single book about baseball.
The gap between what school offers and a student’s passions can be vast — what Thiebaut Method calls the “passion gap”. The passion gap results largely from the fact that our current education system dictates so much of what must be learned that schools and teachers are left with very little choice about what they can allow their students to learn.
The passion gap often prevents students from pursuing their motivations and interests in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean their passions can’t support classroom learning and student achievement.
After discovering that Jorge was passionate about baseball, we designed his classes around our #1 Passion Principle: Plan instruction and teach in ways that expose the student to college and career skills and goals related to their passions. In just two months, Jorge learned that there are many more goals and skills related to baseball than just wanting to be a baseball player.
Take, for example, when Jorge interviewed ESPN/49er reporter, Nick Wagoner.
Thiebaut Method connects every student with a professional whose occupation relates to the student’s passions. By exposing students to a “real world role model” they learn how their passions are applied in the real world and the critical importance of learning through doing and long-term commitment.
Jorge spent two classes and 10 hours of his free time preparing for his interview. Despite a massive deficit in his reading skills, Jorge did background research on Nick, reading articles written about him and by him. To make sure Jorge was well prepared, he wrote summaries of what he read and engaged his cultivator in Q & A sessions related to Nick’s profession so that he could build rapport with Nick when they met.
Jorge also created his own interview questions. This is where Jorge exhibited a natural ability. His questions were simple, unique, and yielded interesting responses from Nick. Not only that. Jorge was allowed to ask three questions, but to everyone’s surprise, crafted a 4th, and provocative, question.
Preparing for and while conducting the interview, Jorge showed what world renown intelligence researcher, Robert Sternberg, calls Successful Intelligence. According to Sternberg, “a successfully intelligent person accomplishes their goals by figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, and then by capitalizing on the strengths and correcting or compensating for the weaknesses.”
Jorge, in pursuit of his passion, not only showed a proclivity for journalism, he also was highly intrinsically motivated to address his weakness in reading, writing and language arts in general.
To top off Jorge’s learning, after the interview Jorge wrote an essay describing his realization that he needed to read more in order to become a successful sports professional. He also self-initiated his next project to interview a local high school baseball player.
From the point of view of Jorge’s passions, he appears to be talented, not a struggling student.
Thiebaut Method shows students how to cultivate their passions intellectually, creatively and practically in order that they can develop a greater awareness of their passions and avenues their passions can follow into adulthood.
A wealth of research, one such study being E. Paul Torrence’s 40 year study, shows that above and beyond school success, a child’s ability to convert their passions into a career covaries with economic success and emotional well-being — and, works of genius in rare cases.
The reality, though, is that passion isn’t always a centerpiece of how children are educated or parented.
Often, extrinsic motivation is prioritized, giving children clear goals such as earning good grades, doing community service, and aspiring to attend college, but sometimes at the cost of them not knowing why they are pursuing such goals. This leaves many students feeling purposeless and arriving at adulthood clueless about what they want to do with their lives.
Tellingly, one of the most popular courses at Stanford University is called “Designing Your Life”, a course designed to help the world’s brightest and best students figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
Thiebaut Method helps students discover their passions so they can figure out why they want to go to college and what they might want to be when they grow up. And, like in Jorge’s case, what they learn while chasing their passions translates into skills needed for academic success.
When Jorge’s teacher found out how much learning he had done in relation to baseball she offered to have Jorge present his interview to the class and plans on adding books about baseball to their classroom library.
While on the topic of reading, Jorge’s reading level has improved from a second grade level to only a few months below grade level. At this pace, I’m happy to report, he will complete fourth grade a successful reader!