Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, explores what to do if your love for teaching has turned lackluster. And he does this as any instructor might – with a quiz.
By Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE
Last month I published an article for you as a teacher, “Make a Resolution to Lose Weight.” This month I am again addressing you, the instructor.
Most of us entered the food business and teaching about food because we loved everything about food: we loved to eat out; we loved to eat at friends’ homes; and we loved to shop for food. But, most of all, we loved to cook. We cooked food our mothers cooked. We cooked food our mothers never heard of. We cooked different food just for the culinary adventure.
But the longer we teach, the more we tend to get in a rut. We teach the same way over and over and over and over again. We have our students make the same food over and over and over again. There are two problems with being in a rut. First, you are bored. Second, and more importantly, your students sense your lack of enthusiasm. When you are not passionate about what you teach there is little chance they will be passionate about what they do in class.
How do you know if you are in a rut? Take the following test. Be honest and circle each item you have done within the last year.
In the last year have you:
- Had your students make something you have never had students make before?
- Taught your students about food from a cuisine that you have never taught before?
- Driven more than 100 miles to go to one of your favorite restaurants, and then told your students about it?
- Gone to eat at a unique or historical restaurant where you have never eaten before and told your students about it?
- Made french fries or fried chicken in the classroom ignoring all the bad stuff about fried foods?
- Had your students make food in class and then serve it to chefs or teacher friends at your home? (Yes, you have to give the credit to your students.)
- Tried a new technique that you read about in CAFÉ’s Gold Medal Classroom?
- Made a picnic and enjoyed it outdoors with a special person or your family, and showed the class pictures of the food?
- Shopped at a farmer’s market and bought something you haven’t cooked in years?
- Spontaneously stopped at a farm stand on the side of the road?
- Gone to a winery to taste wine—not for selling in your restaurant, but just to try something new? You don’t have to tell your students about this one. By the way, if you tell the winery you are a culinary teacher they often wave the tasting fee.
- Sat back and let a student act as kitchen manager and run your classroom kitchen? If you haven’t done this, you will be surprised at how well it works.
- Let the students research, write and cook their own recipes?
- Volunteered to teach or cook for a day at some place other than your school, such as a church, food bank or soup kitchen? The best part of doing this is no paperwork, lesson plans, grades, etc.
- Volunteered to teach a day or more at a vocational program or local community college to share your skills and experience? See the above comment about paperwork.
- Had your students host a tea party for you and your fellow teachers at lunch or afterschool?
- Volunteered to judge a youth or adult cooking event?
- Gone to a CAFÉ conference? And no, this isn’t a shameless plug. The meetings are really motivating. It’s also fun to learn new things and discuss with other teachers your day to day issues (good and bad).
- Had your class make something over a few days instead of having them try to squeeze everything in during one period?
- Had a graduate student come back and teach your class about reality?
Okay, time to score your quiz. For each item you circled give yourself 5 points and add up the total.
If you score was 65 or under, you had better get a steam shovel and dig yourself out. You are in a deep rut and need to get your motivational mojo back immediately.
If your score was 70, 75 or 80 you are in a rut, but you only need a regular shovel to dig yourself out.
If you scored 85, 90 or 95, congratulations, you are still enjoying your teaching profession and you still are feelin’ the love. Keep it going!
If you scored 100 you need to start writing for CAFÉ’s Gold Medal Classroom. You have a gift for excitement and adventure that is sought by other members of our field.
By the way, if your score is lower than you would like go back and look at all of the items to which you answered “NO” and try them - the sooner the better. Don’t get into the rut of putting off things for you and for your students.
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is a frequent presenter at CAFÉ events throughout the nation.