wake up

So I wake up, suddenly, thinking that I gotta write something.

This has happened to me before- sleep crashes headlong into an idea and I spring out of bed. Thoughts are bouncing around and it takes me a few minutes to focus on what idea snapped me out of slumber.

I make coffee, let the dog out for a pee, splash some water on my face and the idea crystallizes… I gotta get back to my blog.

Over the summer me and blog had some pretty productive moments- but very few since the start of the school year. Not sure how that could be. Over the summer I had piles and piles of reflective material to draw from and no real school work to do, then September hit and the well dried up.

The start up for this school year has been pretty challenging. Professionally, both my wife and I are firing on all cylinders, her more than me, and both of our teaching portfolios are demanding. My kids are busy- just busy even if they are not busy, so the last 60 days really have evaporated. Yet I wake up this morning feeling like I gotta write something, create something, see my thinking outside my head.

So I do.

I have been thinking a lot about forgetting and the process of forgetting and why we forget things. Initially, I started this blog with an ego centred fictional belief that my thoughts could be interesting to others. I shifted easily from that frame into ‘should’ be interested because I received a few followers. Now, I think that I am starting to think differently. None of my subscribers sent me a note mid-September inquiring about my next post, my calendar notifications did not chirp incessantly ‘blog, blog, blog’, heck until this morning I could have easily admitted that I had forgotten about blog altogether.

I realized, as I watched the coffee drip, drip, drip into my mug that when I am busy doing, thinking gets benched, reflection disconnect from experience and arrives pretty late to the party. Over the summer, I had very little doing apart from life stuff- the good stuff. The ease of summer living relaxed the bindings on the work stuff, it all flooded back and found a reservoir in my blog.

September to July is chock full with doing. Thinking is squeezed into micro cracks while doing life stuff. Capturing mindful moments in the wild in their natural spaces is best, but incredibly difficult. The value of in the moment creative posts is not lost on me, but I gotta find a different way to track my doing and thinking.

This entry is definitely an outburst. I have a few other things that I want to work on this morning- all school related… so I will have to get back to these thoughts another time.

Good thing I wrote them down.

#nablowrimo

I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career so far.

When I transitioned from cooking to teaching I left a very familiar world behind.

Arriving in a classroom and a new career meant my search for mentors would begin anew. That’s a thing with me… I learn best from people. I learn best from people in some sort of social setting. I need stimuli from seeing, doing, and especially hearing and feeling. While I was learning to cook, I hungrily sought out apprenticeship opportunities under anyone that would teach me.

The funny thing about the hospitality industry is that the competition for customer dollars created many closed doors for me. Often when I asked a chef colleague to share their knowledge I was met with the raised eyebrow skepticism of mistrust. And in some cases, flat out refusal.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but that is how it can be in a pay to play industry. The knowledge holders become gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I found many people to help me. Often when I asked, the best of the bunch were overjoyed and surprised to share. They also sometimes were a bit embarrassed by the recognition- they knew their work was good, but rarely felt that positivity from the outside.

The reality check that face punched me in my first week of teaching was that teacher’s college only got me part way to preparedness. In some ways, all it did was inject me with confidence…competence, not so much. And the knockout happened when I asked for help.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but how could that be in a public school system? The knowledge holders were gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake. Their stake, not the students, not their community’s, not the schools. Now maybe asking to borrow a binder or two or three [if I am being honest] can seem like stealing and I only did it a few times. I stopped doing it altogether because of the overwhelming guilt that came as a side dish in the transaction. I was new, I had nothing to trade, and I dared to ask the most qualified gatekeepers of the bunch.

I am now in my 12th year of teaching and still chasing competence. But that newbie experience has left a permanent impression on me. I did not have the edubabble to frame my mindset at the time but I have come to embrace, fully and completely, open source and growth mindset. The only thing better than asking me for my help, my thoughts, or my resources would be offering me your iteration of my learning that you found posted, placed, or printed somewhere. That would be cool.

At this point in my game, I fully recognize the power of lifelong learning. And that there is a distinction in its pursuit. Since coming into education I have had many mentors that either through intent or accident have kept me informed, inspired, and fascinated. I will throughout my blog posts make intentional account of the ways that my current mentor list has helped me.

All that I ask of you is that you pay it forward – maybe even before you are asked.

food is ..?

I start this course in a similar fashion every semester. I poke and prod the students with survey questions designed to explore their rules and beliefs that surround food.

A large portion of the first week is spent in discussions surrounding favourite flavours, and shapes, and the ‘whys’ behind systems of thought that support the fact that ketchup is better than fresh tomatoes and that muffins are actually cupcakes without icing.

All the while I am slowly cataloging the pre-knowledge of my students.

All the while I am engaging them in some pretty lofty debates- ‘Be it resolved that nobody should buy bread from a gas station..’

All the while I am assessing Learning Skills and the critical analysis tools that each of my new, young chefs employ.

And all the while I am nurturing the open opportunity to build rapport and lure the students into an open mindset or growth mindset. By challenging their assumptions, discussing their beliefs, and sharing their experiences the class slowly gels around a common pursuit- deeper appreciation of the course material and of each other’s contributions.

This mindset ultimately serves more useful than the handouts, the slide-decks, and the summative tasks. Students that give themselves permission to explore the ‘why’ behind their food rules and food knowledge, usually experience a deeper satisfaction in their learning. And, more concretely, are able to demonstrate their skills clearly and articulate their qualifications without leaning on any marking scheme.

The open minded student leaves this course being able to explain what they could not do when they walked in, what they can do by the end of the course, and confidently replicate the effort it took to arrive at success.

This kitchen/classroom space is an amazingly, deep learning zone for me. Every semester that I am able to continue teaching this course I try to add more depth and density. By adding flipped videos, blogging, and maintaining a virtual classroom I hope that the students will appreciate a Modern Learning approach to a ‘cooking course’ In the least, by openly documenting my learning process and including the class community in the development of class resources, the students will see the reasonable risks that I am taking. And maybe, in turn, the students will be willing to do the same.