Fifty Minute Classroom

May 24, 2019, 10:09
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50-Minute Classroom: To Pay It Forward, Keep Learning

08 July 2015

Telling people to be the best they can be allows them to quit striving whenever they want. To be the best in your field, however, one must always strive for the next level. This is the generations-long American Dream that we, as teachers, offer our students.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

I would like to dedicate this article to my two mentors and instructors for my California Teaching Credential: Susan Clark and the recently passed Lee Clark.

In this article I would like to revisit two previously published articles.

The first article is “Assessing Culinary Math Skills,” September 2011. This article has received more than 3,500 hits, and is one of the most popular articles that I have written. It is a culinary-math assessment test that I believe should be utilized by all instructors within the first week of a student starting your class.

Sadly, I have noticed that in the four years since I first wrote this assessment, scores are dropping. Today, I had a new student ask me how to triple the first ingredient in a recipe. The first ingredient was “one cup of water.”

By the way, at CAFÉ’s recent Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls, there was a special class on teaching culinary-math skills presented by Cathy Scruggs, director of product development at American Technical Publishers, Inc. As I tell my students, you need to keep learning. When you graduate from a culinary program, I tell them, you are just beginning your education, not finishing it. I tell them that you learn different skills, techniques and styles with every different chef for whom you work. I am doing the same (practicing what I preach).

The second article I want to revisit is my article that appeared in “50-Minute Classroom” in April 2015: “Those Who Can, Teach; Those Who Can’t, Do.”  Shortly after I sent that article to CAFE, I went to the memorial service for Lee Clark.

Lee and his wife, Susan, were my instructors, sponsors, mentors, coaches and, yes, even teachers, for my California teaching credential that I obtained in the summer of 2006 through their unwavering assistance over several years. At the memorial service, we were reminded that Lee always told us, “Don’t be the best you can be, be the best in your field.” He encouraged us to not only take this personally, but to teach it to our students, as well.

As he explained, telling people to be the best they can be allows them to quit striving whenever they want. To be the best in your field, you have to always strive and reach for the next level.

Susan Clark stood up at the memorial service and asked for a show of hands from teachers in the room. Well over 100 hands shot up. She then gave an oral quiz, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many things I got right considering I hadn’t taken a class from them in nearly nine years.

After the quiz Susan told us something that made each teacher in the audience teary. She said that Lee believed every teacher, no matter what he or she taught, changes the course of history in immeasurable ways for literally countless people.

Since Lee’s students were mostly people obtaining vocational or GED teaching credentials, she gave the example of a vocational instructor. She talked about how teaching someone a vocation changed that person’s life—giving him or her a better job, and a better life.

We all know that, of course, but we unfortunately take it for granted in our day-to-day lives. What Susan then went on to say, which hit me like a ton of bricks, is that we not only change the course of history for our students, but for their spouses, kids, grandkids and countless generations to come.

She gave the example of a vocational student who got a good job, which allowed his kids to stay in school and get their educations so they could get better jobs than their parents.

This, as Lee believed, was the true American Dream being brought about each and every day because of teachers. Because of us teachers, our students have better lives, and this in turn brings about better lives for each generation of their families.

Before that memorial service I had never thought about it that way. Imagine that: We as teachers change the history of the world as we effect influence on our students and generations to come!

If you are off for the summer, have a great summer. If you are like me and teach year ʾround, then keep on teaching. Either way, take a moment to remember that everything you do changes the course of history for generations to come.

Thank you, Lee and Susan Clark for all that you taught me. You both allowed me to alter the course of history for every student I’ve had.


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.