Friday, March 18, 2016

Teresa in the Kitchen??!!

Lesson from a Culinary Classroom

Dear Readers,

I went into this experience with an open mind. I did not really know what to expect, but I have become somewhat of a risk-taker, so I thought if nothing else it would be a great social experience with colleagues. 

After parking my car at the destination, I entered the building to find a group of peers sitting around talking and laughing. I deposited my jacket and turned around, I was looking directly through a large glass window into........ THE KITCHEN.

Our district is offering its staff an opportunity to participate in a culinary experience off campus in a professional teaching kitchen. 

Now, for those of you who do not know me very well, the kitchen is not my comfort zone. As soon as I walked through the doors, my anxiety rose. Sharp knives and open flames terrify me. I once put my finger on the wrong side of a sharp knife to cut brownies and will never forget the surprise when I saw blood! (In my defense, the knife was oddly shaped.) As the chef shared safety tips, I told this story to the group. As the chef chuckled and shook his head, he took one look at the scarf I was wearing and informed me I had a "wick" around my neck. Clearly, I do not spend much time in the kitchen.

As I tucked my "wick" into my vest and zipped it up tight, I found an extremely compatible cooking partner/colleague who works at the high school. It turned out the fear I had was complemented by her strong desire to learn. I happily took a spot as the observer as she practiced cutting techniques and trying out different seasonings. I felt more comfortable with her taking the lead and me cleaning up.

What did I learn from this amazing opportunity? More than I could ever have imagined!
  • Our classrooms can be comfort zones for all learners. The chef and his "crew" made me feel incredibly safe and comfortable in an environment that causes me anxiety. They exhibited patience, humor, repetition and were an absolute pleasure to spend the afternoon with.
  • Our students must be taught to be risk-takers and step outside their comfort zones. I would never have thought I could learn so much about myself as a teacher, while spending the afternoon in a kitchen.
  • We have to let our students do the talking and learning. After the chef explained everything, it was up to us to put it all together. As we worked in partners, he walked around and guided us, answered questions, etc. 
  • We have to allow our students the opportunity to create their own products. We were given choices of protein, vegetables, seasonings, etc. The process was the same, the final products all unique and individual to the learners.
  • We have to provide different learning opportunities to our students. We started off as a whole group with what I would consider a mini-lesson and modeling, then moved into guided and independent practice. Gradual release of responsibility!
I want to thank the amazing chef and his staff for a truly enriching experience! It is definitely not something I would normally do, yet highly recommend!