Fifty Minute Classroom

May 24, 2019, 11:04
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50-Minute Classroom: Making Sure Everyone Shares in the Work, Making Sure Everyone Gets the Glory

04 November 2012

weinerEasy, free and completely impartial, an assignment board guarantees that everyone shares equally in the assignments over a few days. Say these educators, the system is beautiful in its simplicity.

By Windi Hughes and Chef Adam Weiner

One of the toughest set of problems facing all levels of culinary instructors is how to make sure that no one in a group takes over, no one is always stuck doing the dishes, and no one just sits back and watches everyone do the work. One of the toughest things for a high-school teacher to explain to parents is why their daughter or son comes home every day and says that they did nothing in cooking class.

An easy, free and completely impartial way to handle these problems is to set up an assignment board, which guarantees that everyone shares equally in the assignments over a few days.

1. Divide your class into groups. (At Stevens High School in San Antonio, like many high schools, groups of four are used.)

2. Tell the group that they will be together for four cooking projects.

3. Assign everyone in each group a number (1, 2, 3 or 4.). Write down which number belongs to which person. Tell the students that there is no switching numbers.

4. Tell the students that there are four jobs for each team: chef, sous chef, utility/prep and cleaner.

5. On the first cooking day tell all the number ones they are the chefs, number twos they are the sous chefs, number threes they are the utility/preps, and number fours they are the cleaners.

6. On the second cooking day tell all the number twos they are the chefs, number threes they are the sous chefs, number fours they are the utility/preps, and number ones they are the cleaners.

7. On the third day of cooking tell all the number threes they are the chefs, number fours they are the sous chefs, number ones they are the utility/preps, and number twos they are the cleaners.

8. On the fourth day of cooking tell all the number fours they are the chefs, number ones they are the sous chefs, number twos they are the utility/preps, and number threes they are the cleaners.

It’s beautiful in its simplicity, isn’t it? Not only is it easy, free and completely impartial, but in four days it makes sure that everyone on every team has done everything. Another wonderful part of this system is that after you implement it a few times, the students automatically know which job position to take.

After everyone has done each of the four positions (which is completing the lab assignment) changes the members of each lab team, which forces the students to learn how to work with new and different people, including people they don’t necessarily like.

After the end of each lab, have students fill out a brief “complaint” card where they can let you know if everyone in the group did the jobs they were assigned. Try to keep harmony in the class by not allowing students to confront one another—rather, directly address any issues.

Now, if you want to be like Emeril Lagasse and “kick it up a notch,” only let your assigned chefs ask questions. If you really want to kick it up, watch your students carefully in their groups at the beginning of the term. We all have students who take over, students who don’t want to clean, students who want to be bossy, students who don’t want to do anything, etc. When you reassign groups (which we recommend you do frequently), put all of the ones who want to take over in one group, all the ones who don’t want to clean in another group, all of the ones who don’t want to do anything in one group, etc. This way, each member of each group has to get out of her or his comfort zone as she or he works through the four different positions.

The best part: No parents or students whining about doing the same thing every day.


Windy Hughes teaches Lifetime Nutrition and Restaurant Management at Stevens High School in San Antonio, Texas. She attended the 50-Minute Classroom Roundtable led by Chef Adam Weiner at the June 2012 CAFÉ Leadership Conference at The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.

Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula.