Too much focus on WHAT we teach, and HOW we do, and too little on KIDS

There’s too much focus on WHAT we teach, and HOW we teach, and too little focus on KIDS and what’s going on with them. Specifically what is going on inside of their heads in response to the past and current events of their life in and outside their classrooms. If kids are faring well with regard to coping and dealing with such events, they’re relatively easy to teach, and it’s easy for them to learn. It won’t matter much WHAT we teach, or HOW we teach them. If they are struggling with such events, it also won’t matter WHAT we teach, or HOW we teach them. 

There has always been, and continues to be an assumption that if teachers know WHAT they teach well, and know HOW to teach it, kids will learn. Anyone who has ever taught knows this simply isn’t true. Yet it continues to be the assumption we base teacher preparation on. It’s why we have never really prepared teachers well to deal with those real issues and problems that get in the way of kids learning, and us teaching them. 

A perversion of this assumption has also been used against teachers in the past decade or two to manufacture a crisis and justify privatizing the American institution of public education. Proponents of privatization have used NCLB and the media to create the narrative that we’ve got all these incompetent teachers out there, and it’s their unions’ fault – tenure laws protect all these incompetent teachers. And these privatization proponent’s solution is to create charter schools, get rid of unions, and pay teachers up to 40% less than we do now in public schools. 

Many kids ARE learning, more than ever before. I’m always amazed when I look at what they are. And some AREN’T. That’s the way it’s always been. And the reasons some aren’t, and eventually drop out have and continue to be the same. It’s because of what they learn to think and feel about themselves, school, life, and what’s happened to them – not WHAT or HOW they were taught. How they were treated when they acted out because of what they think and feel does make a huge difference. It always has, and it’s often why they always have and continue to give up, and drop out.

Some kids have always gotten off to good starts in life, and others haven’t. The ones who haven’t have always struggled in school because of it. Sometimes a special teacher in a kid’s life can help those who get off to a rough start straighten things in their lives out. Some teachers are naturals at dealing with that sort of kid, and such issues. But too often it goes the other way. 

Are kids struggling with more mental and emotional issues than in the past? Sometimes it seems like it. Don’t know for sure. But I do know we still don’t do much to help them with that. And I think some aspects of modern life are creating more issues that they struggle with. 

Technology is one of those aspects. For all its pluses, there are some untoward effects of introducing ever more of it into kid’s lives at earlier and earlier ages. Right now the focus is so much on the pluses that people are overlooking the downsides, and teachers are being goaded into using ever more of it with younger kids, lest they be seen as denying and depriving kids of the best possible opportunities. And most teachers are acquiescing, or even advocating for more technology.

We need to ask “Why is this kid not learning as well or as much as we’d like him/her to?” The answer to that question never has been and never will be because of WHAT we teach, or HOW we teach it. It’s because of what goes on inside his/her head. And we never have and still aren’t doing what we could or should to help young people better manage that. The reason? We always have been and continue to be too focused on WHAT we teach, and HOW we teach it.