I like to think of myself as a pretty good cook.  I specialize in basic, good for the soul, filling dinners. You know, comfort food.

One of the things that makes me a creative and successful cook, I think, is that I can intuitively combine ingredients and blend flavors and amounts without too much fuss.

I don’t use cookbooks very often.   Mostly, if I want to find a recipe, I can just read them over and get the general idea, then go on and mix it all up and make it my own.

I teach the same way.  I am very good at intuitively knowing how to encourage, prompt, coddle and instruct.  I am very flexible!  I let the kids lead when they are able to lead. I let their curiosity guide us, and I adapt my lessons to their strengths and weaknesses.  I am very good at recognizing their individual learning styles, at understanding how they learn and what they need to progress.

Which is why I am having a very hard time with current teaching practices.

You see, instead of letting us develop lessons based on the individual kids, we are now told to use cookbooks for everything.  A cookbook for math, complete with online videos, worksheets and big fat text books.  If kids ask great questions about how two concepts are related, we aren’t supposed to go off on that interesting tangent. We have to stick to the recipe.

A cookbook for science, with a whole huge, expensive, glossy box full of boring…..I mean, “developmentally appropriate” texts.  And a script!  Seriously…..a script.  If kids are excited by the study of ecosystems and they bring in a big old frog to the classroom, we aren’t supposed to work that frog into our lessons about life in a pond. We have to use the sparkling clean containers from the kit, filled with the creatures that have been ordered for us from the big science company.  No more digging in the mud to see if worms are down there. Now we have a video of worms and a shiny photo book of worms!  How clean………

We have a cookbook for history.  A cookbook for teaching writing.  A cookbook for reading. We can all be on the same page, saying the same words at the same time, even in different rooms or different buildings. We can all add the exact same amount of spice, the exact amount of heat and the exact amount of stirring.


Now I guess anyone can teach.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Off topic a bit: if you haven’t done so, you should figure out the recipes for your favorite dishes and write them down for your kids/grandkids to enjoy when you’re not around. I too learned to cook comfort food from my mother using a pinch of this, a smidgen of that, cook until the color’s just right. But I found that, as I got older, people (mostly ex-wives) bugged me for how I made certain dishes. Eventually I started measuring exactly how much of each item and how long to cook each thing and before you know it, I had a cookbook to share.

    Turned out to be a good thing, too, because I’ve gotten to the age where I can’t remember how to do a lot of that stuff. Fortunately, I’ve got my handy dandy cookbook to remind me…


  2. Posted by Zorba on September 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Momshieb, you are so very, very right. About cooking, but even more, about teaching. I am a retired special education teacher, and my kids were “the worst of the worst,” who did not fit into any other classes. They were more than difficult, but I loved those kids, and I did a good job with them (I don’t mean to be bragging, but I had parents who came to me in tears, thanking me for what I did for their kids).
    But if I had to teach in this current environment, where teachers are so disrespected and so denigrated, I don’t think that I could handle that.


    • Good for you! My past is in special ed, too: I was a speech/language specialist for 25 years before jumping to the classroom. I hope that you still feel pride and happiness because of what you have done in the past.
      It is a hard time to be a teacher; and an even harder time to be the mother of a teacher.
      But the kids keep it honest, and true and fulfilling.
      Thanks for your comment!


  3. I think a witty and obviously retired teacher once said, “I knew it was time to quit [teaching] when they handed me a script.” Psst! I improvise and go off book/script a lot—I can’t help it—I’m a teacher!


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