The Pied Piper of Kitchens – but the kids are holding knives

This year, my school has decided to focus on literacy. Literacy across all subjects to ensure improvement in writing skills due to Queensland *finally!* joining the rest of Australia in conducting external examinations for Seniors. As part of this program, we as teachers, are being encouraged to also write a lot more and experience what our students are experiencing. This then led to an ad-hoc poem written during one of our staff meetings which I bravely shared with my fellow teachers.

 

Lessons start calmly.

So calm, that you might be fooled into thinking that disaster does not loom in the background.

They are keen. Excited even!

They get organised…

Hair tied back. Hands washed and dried.

Aprons on. Equipment out.

They wait for the signal to being.

It’s like they’ve heard a gunshot and they are off to the finish line!

Whereas, I?

As alert as a bloodhound.

Reminding students to be safe.

“Say behind when you walk past someone!”

“Tuck your fingers in.”

“No…no! Do not put metal in the microwave!”

The squeals from oil splattering.

The moans of pain from singed thumbs and slightly dismembered fingers.

The green faces at the thought their dish could be partly for a cannibal.

Eventually, it all ends.

The knives are put away.

The benches are clean.

The food is packed away to enjoy at the end of the day.

And how do I feel?

Like Pied Piper with the occasional bunch of Gremlins that sometimes gets splashed with water.

The universe of diversification

First of all, I would like to tip my hat to one of the blogs that I have been following by Ian Wade. His ideas on diversification and some of the things that he has been using in his classes have been a large inspiration for this professional development video. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen myself on video and also awhile since I’ve had to do any kind of professional development since I’ve been buried in books for the last few months studying for my masters. So I’d really like to know what you think!

 

Did I meet my objectives? Did I help you guys learn about diversification through the video?

Was the information  useful to you? How so?

Did it seem like I understood the topic? Did I communicate clearly?

Was the setting, the time and the format appropriate for the information that I was delivering?

So I made this thing called a Prezi…

Ever heard of Prezi’s? If so, you are a little behind the times 🙂 I discovered this baby quite a number of years ago and from time to time come in to dabble and look at amazing things that people have done with it. I must say that in comparison to this, my level of proficiency is nowhere near the advanced level, but I think I’ve done alright, don’t you? The students definitely love seeing what it does! Have you used Prezi before? How did you find it?

Ever played with pop rock candy?

Let me remind you of a guessing game that I posted up a few days ago….

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Just looking at it you more than likely wouldn’t have any idea what it was. Except it does look like a dessert and it has been deliberately made to look like a flower pot. This dessert, in fact, caused the best faces being pulled at a dinner table I have ever seen. Why? Because I never told my guests that there were pop rocks in it. Adults suddenly became children as surprise was overcome with giggling delight as memories from childhood games filtered through their minds while eating this scrumptious pot of chocolate gold. Albeit it was messy, I didn’t think how much mess the “crumb” would make on the table but it was definitely worth it!

So where did this idea come from? My love, Heston of course!

Exploding Chocolate Gateau Starts from 6:40. I’ve used almost the exact same recipe though it has been turned on it’s head to look like a flower pot and because I didn’t have a spray gun!

Of course this morphed into a multitude of ideas to be used in the classroom and enabled my students to come up with ways of using unusual ingredients in their cooking.

Have you ever used pop rocks in your cooking before? How did you use them? I’d like to know!

If you haven’t… how would you use them? What weird and wonderful ideas can you come up with?

For the love of the game

There is something about the adrenalin of service that people whom have never worked in Hospitality will never understand.

I was reminded of this while watching Masterchef last night. Three contestants had to attempt Christy Tania’s Mango Alfonso in three hours.

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The recipe has 10 elements, over 30 ingredients, numerous advanced cooking techniques and just to throw a spanner in the works, let’s make them do a bit of molecular gastronomy as well. This recipe would make most experienced chefs balk in horror. Let alone if you are an amateur cook. However, if you love your adrenalin, you would have loved the opportunity to take this recipe on.

I’m not naturally a competitive person. I’m more bookish than anything else but there is something about food challenges and service that really gets my heart pumping. As I sat there watching them do the task I couldn’t help but be immersed and reminded about what it is like to work in Hospitality all over again. It is very competitive. But it’s not about competing with anyone else…

Hospitality is a competition with yourself.

It’s about seeing how well you can handle…

stress,

time limitations,

constant tests of memory when it comes to recipes and orders,

burns,

cuts,

tempers,

a rushed environment,

being on your feet for at least 8 hours a day,

dealing with a variety of people,

the crazy hours,

the back breaking work

and having enough faith in yourself that you are not going to beat yourself up over mistakes that you might make along the way.

It’s about learning how to pick yourself back up after those mistakes that make or break you in commercial kitchens.

It is a special kind of person that can handle working in those conditions.

This is why I loved working in Hospitality.

This is why I love teaching it now.

If you can make it in a kitchen, you can make it anywhere.

Why do you love Hospitality?

Reflection Burn Out

Reflect. Reflect. Reflect.

 

From the very first day of my education degree to the very last it was drilled into me that reflecting was something that I needed to do. All the time.

Did I do it actively? Yes.

Did I do it effectively? Sometimes.

Did I always write it down? Almost never and only when asked of me.

Was it helpful? Well, since I hardly ever wrote any of it down a lot of it is floating inside my head waiting to be recalled when required. If you want quantitative proof, I can’t give it to you.

What happens when I asked my students to reflect? Multiple groans around the room.

They had a point. Why should I be expecting them to actively write it down and do it when I didn’t do it myself because I found it taxing at times? Cue first attempt at getting students to actively reflect as part of an assessment = semi-fail!

“So what made it a semi-fail?” you ask. First of all, the questions. The biggest complaint that I got was: “Miss! There are too many of them!!”

These were the questions I posed for reflection:

  1. What key things have I learned in Food Technology this week (from the teacher, demonstrations, slides, and/or from other classmates)?
  2. How does this relate to what I already know?
  3. How can I apply what I’ve learned in Food Technology to other subjects I’m studying?
  4. Can I apply what I’ve learned in Food Technology to aspects of life outside the classroom?
  5. What was a high point of this week (mastering a new skill, being safe in the kitchen, learning how to cook something new)?
  6. What was the low point of this week (not being safe in the kitchen, computer crashing, taking 20 minutes just to find a pen)?
  7. What obstacles did I encounter this week (difficult books to read, new school to get used to, got lost)?
  8. What strategies did I use to overcome these obstacles (got help from someone on how to do the work, found a study partner in the classes I find challenging, cleaned my room so I could be more organised, got to school early and took a walk around to familiarise myself with where everything is)?
  9. What have I learnt about myself as a learner this week (strengths and weaknesses, how I learn best, best times and places to study, balancing study with other responsibilities and commitments)? 

The second complaint? “Miss!! I don’t see the point in doing these every week. I’m just repeating the same thing over and over!” This comment definitely baffled me as we cooked something different every week that required varied skills sets and equipment.

The third complaint? “Urgh, this just takes way too much work and some of these questions have NOTHING to do with Food Tech.”

At second glance, I got what they were saying. Too many questions, not enough variety and the last few questions would be considered to fall into the realm of pastoral care rather than subject specific.

 

So… what made it a semi-success then?

  • I gave the chance for students to improve every week. They received feedback after each and every single post and had the chance to improve their score the next week. This turned it into a personal competition for some students.
  • I was able to learn what the students learned and how they learned. A lot of it was incidental and it was refreshing to see students really think about what they experienced that week.
  • And, possibly the most valuable aspect of the task was that I was able to use the information they gave me to improve my teaching.

 

Now what I want to do is find a way of getting students (and myself!) to reflect more effectively. How do I do that?

 

To the teachers: What’s worked for you? How have you made it more engaging?

To the students: What is it that makes you want to reflect? Better yet, what do you dislike the most about being made to reflect?

To everyone else: Are you an active reflector? What inspires you?

 

Samples of student responses: Student Reflection Journal – Exemplars.

The Dry Ice Debate

I’m going to make a confession. I love Heston. In fact, I’m in love with quite a number of chefs, however, Heston does hold a special place in my heart. Does he hold a special place in yours?

He held such a special place in my heart that I spent 3 days of my first week at my new school waking up at 5AM to go and pick up some dry ice 10 kilometres from where I lived and then drove the next 68 kilometers to school. Yes, I concur, I am mad, probably just as mad as Heston. So, I’ll take that as a compliment!

“What on earth did she need all that ice for?” you might ask.

Ice cream.

I wish I had a video camera in my kitchen for those few days! Alas, that’s something I will definitely plan for the future.

Want to see how it’s done?

Some questions persist though considering that it can be quite dangerous in nature if not handled correctly. I used this method of making ice cream as I wanted to push home how important safety was in the kitchen, introduce the element of chemistry in cooking and also making it tons of fun!

But is it too much to expose middle and senior high school students to?

Is it too dangerous?

And, let’s be honest, did I go to way too much effort just for ice cream?

 

 

Are these too scary?

As a teacher, I’m always scrambling to find ways to make my lessons more engaging. The eternal educator’s dilemma. Who hasn’t been there? And so when the words “Workplace Health and Safety” came up as one of the first things I had to teach I freaked. All I remember from workplace health and safety sessions was the urge to sleep. I reacted the way most students do at those words and a never-ending “Nooooooooooooooooo…” echoed in the recesses of my brain. I wanted to do exactly what my students want to do every time they hear those words… Cook! “Please don’t do it to us!” their eyes pleaded. “Let us cook instead!”

However, safety is important! I’ve worked in enough kitchens and seen enough fingers lost to know how important it is and I think I’ve figured out a way of making these classes a lot more entertaining, if not for my students, at least for myself when I see the looks on their faces. It may have a lot to do with my fascination with horror movies, zombies and the fact that I have a teenage brother. There’s just something about blood and screaming that tends to get everyone’s attention. 

There are a few things that I would *really* like to know though: 

as a student, what do you think of these videos? Would they actually even help you in being safer at work?

as a parent, are you ok with a teacher showing these videos in class? 

as another teacher, would you use these too?

 

As I would say to the senior students that I would show this to, “BEWARE! Graphic scenes containing blood and injury will be shown!”

 

Video 1

 

Video 2

 

Video 3

 

Video 4

 

Video 5

 

Video 6