Cure All, Teach All and the Capitalist

Every time I hear or see an educator toting or selling a new educational Cure All, Teach All product, I see them for what they are, snake salespeople hawking their wares.  Teaching is quite simple: know your content, know your kids, meet the needs of your kids in real time.

However, more often than not, teachers are asked by the administration and districts to implement a Cure All, Teach All product.  Master teachers know that CATA products don’t exist.  There simply is no one way to do it.  There are certainly best practices and tricks to the trade but those are different from CATA.

Think about running.  Every person on the globe knows what running is and every able bodied person knows instinctively how to run.  It’s what kids do.  Even the first few steps are more of a run than a walk.  We all just know how to do it.  We don’t need to learn to run. 

This is both true and false.  No one needs to learn to run. It’s a verb. It’s an action that we all intrinsically know how to do. Nike would say just do it.  But there is a world apart between say a 7 year old falling in love with running on the beach in summer and an Olympian running the marathon.  

These two runners or students of running have very different needs even superficially.  So the problem if you are the running coach or teacher is meeting the needs of the individual in real time.  This is almost impossible if forced to use a ware hawked by a Capitalist Educator.  

I am not saying all educational products are bad but the best advice I was ever given as a teacher, two times in my life 20 years apart, was break down what you are teaching to the simplest components, start as though the student knows zero and go from there.  Remember you are the master teaching the student.  You know it, they don’t.  It’s your job to get them to know part of what you know.  Easiest way to do it is to be you, find out what they know, what they don’t and go from there. 

Moreover than not, each year teachers are given a CATA product to use knowing it will fail.  It is a waste of time and money.  The best thing anyone could do to help teachers is to have real conversations with them about their pedagogy, with parents about their role and for administration to always side with the educator.  If the admin is doing step 1, then the teacher is doing their job well.

Often the teacher is held over the flames for all issues.  This doesn’t empower teachers or help them to grow and become better educators.  It does the opposite. It stifles growth and blocks instinct.

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s inevitable. For example, my first big mistake as a teacher was with a 15 year old girl.  I barked at her and from there it went downhill quickly ending with her in tears.  What I realized as I spoke to her was that I had experience being a 15yr old boy so that’s why the boys responded to me, but I had no experience at being a 15 yr old girl.  I had never for a second thought about the world through her shoes.  Once I did, almost immediately everything changed.  Every time I was talking to a student I would ask myself what experiences do we share and which do we not.  It made getting to know the kids easy.   They simply knew I cared about them.

That’s why some products are so awful.  It’s like Sesame Street learning.  If you like the characters and understand the message, you succeed.  If you hate Big Bird, you fail.  Classrooms are dynamic. When a curriculum is canned, the dynamics are diluted and the outliers are the ones who pay the price.  I really do not think Capitalism should control education.  Reform is needed.

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