What Good Would It be if I Died Holding the Secret to the Fountain of Youth?
I have a secret. It’s not anything super special or important like the secret to recipe to Twinkie’s (how do they squeeze all of that sticky wonder inside without it exploding through the outer sponge anyhow?) nor is it how to cure cancer or the secret to the foundation of youth. But what if it was? What if I knew the secret to the fountain of youth and I hid it? Swallowed the recipe and kept it all for myself. And then what if I was so afraid that someone was going to find out about it that I didn’t even use it myself in case someone would notice my lack of aging and what if… what if I died knowing the secret? How ridiculous… people would be outraged… if only they knew, but they wouldn’t be because they wouldn’t have known it existed. Okay fine, what if I shared the recipe with only a few people. A few people who I really liked (like maybe the guy who is hoarding the Twinkie recipe). What if I only shared the secret that could impact so many and save people so much heartache of losing a loved one? How terrible. And yet it happens. It happens every day.
“You’re crazy. You’re giving away your secret”. If I only had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I could afford Starbucks every day. But this is the phrase I hear over and over when others, even sometimes my own family, find out that I started consulting. But I’m going to let you in on a secret… what I do each day, isn’t a secret. Gasp! Now some of you might be thinking “Well if it’s no secret, then why do you charge for consulting?” Just because the cookie recipe is on the back of the chocolate chip bag does not mean Nestle gives away the ingredients; that’s a bit silly don’t you think? I mean this isn’t Willy Wonka and we aren’t creating golden tickets with a Zerox. And even if they did, you know “give them away”, if you had all the ingredients and yet you didn’t set the oven to the right temperature or check the cookies, or adjust for altitude differences, your cookies might burn or even wind up flat. While I do enjoy cookies, I’m not hoarding a secret family recipe, but I’m also not hoarding a secret recipe to a quality early learning environment, because… there is no secret recipe.
No SECRET? Well then, I must be a fraud, charging for consulting for something that’s simply not a secret, right? The answer is no but it’s the reasoning that is important. Let’s continue with the cookie line of thought. Let’s say you visit a cookie factory. You see the workers, you see the ingredients, you even watch them bake. But what they don’t tell you in the factory tour are the two most important parts, the how and the why? Sure you can watch them and see how they mix the ingredients, but the how is useless without the why. Why do you mix some of the ingredients separately, why do you beat the eggs, why do you adjust baking soda with altitude? The how and why are different in every environment, and that is why simply giving away all of the ingredients and the recipe is not harmful.
The same is true in early childhood. Even in environments that are part of a franchise or have multiple locations. It will never be exactly the same because the ingredients are always slightly different. There may be a few more specs of sugar or a slightly larger egg in one batch, and that is what makes it so special. That is the job of a consultant; to spend time in an environment and learn how to share the how and why to use with all of the ingredients so children have a living, early childhood experience (but that is a different blog for a different day).
So am I afraid that by consulting I am going to give away a secret? Now that’s just silly in my opinion. And even if I did give away, all of the components, curriculum and assessment tools, and our strategies for working with families, it would only go so far, because just as every oven is different, so is every environment. I’ll share a secret with you: It’s the teachers that are the secret ingredient and are truly what make it what it is.
So what good would it really do to not share what I truly, deep down believe and know with my whole heart, is best for children? What good would it be if I died holding the secret to the fountain of youth?