20 Feb 201726 Comments
From Cooking to Becoming a Chef
In a recent conversation with a colleague, I realized how our mental processes are like cooking by yourself at home. Thoughts are the food of our brains. We gather the ingredients, apply the recipes we learn, but most importantly we personalize it. We may not afford to cook at home all the times. We may need a quick snack, or sometimes we even crave for comfort food. However, at times we go to the restaurants we assess the authenticity of the recipe, the creativity of the use of ingredients, the mastery of cooking and service.
The classroom setting is where the teacher presents her/his best recipes with the ingredients as delicious as possible. But it seems it is half of becoming a well-known chef. The design and serving are also artistic sides of becoming a chef, which is considered to be her/his signature of success. The success of the chef is at the heart of her/his creativity and skill in using the cooking material, as well as adjusting different tastes in harmony. In that sense, a chef needs good observation skills, s/he needs to be mindful, to be open to critique and reflection, and to be self-reflective. Cooking is both an art and responsibility for a chef like teaching is for a teacher.
Deel presents the dilemmas she encountered when he first started teaching. Her discussion reflects how we may easily rely on the conceptual models of teaching, which are more or less caricatured, in depicting success of a teacher. The task of engaging students in discussions or to motivate them to speak out their opinion in the classroom environment is a preliminary benchmark of the quality of the communication between the teacher and the student. The silence or enthusiasm is a symptom of how well the engagement has been accomplished: however, focusing on the outcome will not contribute to making progress as Deel argues.
Two lessons Deel brought to the discussion on authentic teaching is invaluable in helping to readjust our focus on the process of education as opposed to assumed teacher models or reactionary outcomes. Explaining the strategy of instruction helps the student to assess how much s/he can digest the information served to her/him. In that way, it also helps the way in which the intellectual food we prepare to be distributed equitably. Yet, teachers, like chefs, engages in a conversation with students through their own style, which may be too spicy for some or the entire class, as well as too sweet or too salty. The teacher needs to create her/his own assessment to serve what s/he prepared.
Finally, a chef does not aim at feeding but creating something unique and artistic. A teacher should not seek to feed the students. S/he should set an example of how to become an experienced cook, to engage in a conversation about cooking and the way in which we process, use, and digest intellectual food, how we narrativize and apply a recipe, and most importantly, how teachers guide students to cook their own beneficial mental food that will help them to survive and develop.
February 20, 2017 @ 8:56 pm
Thanks for sharing!
Great metaphor. Sometimes chefs adapt to their audience and change their recipes, and serving depending on the different types of clients they will get. Some other times chefs will make the clients adapt to their recipes and serving.
Based on your philosophy, what type of chef are you? do you think you need to adapt your recipe and serving based on the type of customer you get? or do you think your cooking will be so good, that despite the type of customer you just need to do your best and they will adapt?
February 22, 2017 @ 9:34 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. My envision in cooking is to be a chef that is open to learning about both what makes a meal special as well as how individuals learn and improve their cooking skills. I think being a chef is different than running a restaurant where you see those who came to have a taste of your cooking as customers. I feel that this approach would end up in favoring popularity over the art and the joy of cooking. I rather see them as audiences. No matter whether (which may range from a simple breakfast to a sophisticated dinner) they are family, friends or students whom I am presenting the meal I prepared at home (which is a fundamental difference in terms of cooking), I value the exchange of emotions and ideas and the experiences of sharing a test that is so essential for our being.
February 20, 2017 @ 11:47 pm
It’s interesting how you related teaching to cooking especially for people who enjoy doing both! (the donuts look delicious!) This sentence struck me most: “A teacher should not aim feeding the students, but s/he should set an example of how to become an experienced cook”. Spoon-feeding students is one of the main challenges in teaching that I personally faced. Students keep asking questions related to the answer, and not related to the thought process behind it. This prevents them from thinking independently, which doesn’t benefit them. We need to guide students to develop their own thoughts instead of simply answering their questions.
February 22, 2017 @ 9:39 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed reading my post. The sentence you quoted is also my favorite among others. I believe, one’s ability to cook her/his own meal or to process and produces ideas is essential for how we socially survive and develop. It is still possible to take a look at a corny article in a magazine, since we crave for donuts as well sometimes; however, I believe the life we chose to live is very much related to the food we eat.
February 21, 2017 @ 3:26 am
Just like in life there are those who live vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free diets, some students may be hands-on learners or they may learn best by reading and writing. If I were cooking for a party for a large group of people I would want to provide a wide variety of dishes to suit the tastes of each guest, and similarly in the classroom I try to allow the students to work in many different ways to suit their particular learning style.
Thanks for this great metaphor!
February 22, 2017 @ 9:42 pm
Thank you so much for your comment. This is exactly the point I wanted to make by writing on this metaphor. Cooking is so much embedded in our daily life and the way we socialize. In addition, the concrete nature of the labor we put into cooking makes it easier to talk about an abstract issue such as thinking, learning, and teaching.
February 21, 2017 @ 2:34 pm
This is a very interesting analogy. I really like your last paragraph about food being an experience (in other parts of the world, at least). Education should also be an experience. Students should be given time to “chew and digest” — process and internalize the information they have received in class and a way to demonstrate that understanding with those who also shared the experience. Feeding is sort of a secondary goal to cooking, right? I want students to “know” this material, but having the ability to spout off facts that can be easily looked up is essentially pointless. I would much rather them be able to have a discussion and share an experience with their peers about the material than performing well on an exam.
February 22, 2017 @ 9:49 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I also believe that the most fundamental point in both cooking and teaching is their experimental nature. I want my students to be able to shape their own opinion about what we have discussed in the classroom and present it to her/his audience to keep the experiment going. This is the way we are able to create things that are unique, whose value is to be assessed by further experiments.
February 21, 2017 @ 4:58 pm
I have to agree with my fellow commenters, this is a really cool analogy. Like Alex mentioned, the “chew and digest” portion of learning is one of the more critical aspects of truly understanding a topic. It’s important to present the material in an interesting (or appetizing) way, and it then becomes the responsibility of the student to absorb the information in a way that is most comfortable/effective for them individually.
February 22, 2017 @ 9:53 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I liked how you underline the similarity between appetite and intellectual interest. I believe that such framing, which address the everyday aspect of both of these actions help to move beyond the characterized and simplified understanding of the experience of learning/teaching.
February 21, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
What an interesting analogy! I also think that if our courses like restaurants. The ideal one should like a Buffet, where students can choose their favorite staff to eat, and they want to explore more and more. The less preferred instructors teach students like feeding animals. They provide students the same materials and the best student in that class will be the one who eat and digest fastest.
February 22, 2017 @ 10:00 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. A buffet! There you go. You can shape the feeling and the taste of your very own experience through this analogy. The aspect of satisfaction, the experimental, social and affective nature that helps the students to digest the information better.
February 21, 2017 @ 9:19 pm
This is one of the richest analogies for teaching that I have ever seen. I like that we can all start with the same ingredients–standards, materials, activities–but what we create from them as teachers is limitless. Also, once we serve them to our students, they will all experience the dishes (Lessons) differently. Such room for creativity and growth. Thank you!
February 22, 2017 @ 10:02 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. One of the main points I wanted to make was the unique nature of learning and tasting. I am so happy that this analogy grows by the contributions of the commentators like you. Thank you as well.
February 22, 2017 @ 9:59 am
What a delightful article!
I have been thinking lately that students may be turned into teachers, for the benefit of their own learning and that of the entire learning community. Best case is for every learner in the community to have a teaching role. Your analogy supports that idea. It also helps me see the role of the primary instructor in a community of teacher-learners, as a master chef!
Thank you for sharing this!
February 22, 2017 @ 10:06 pm
Thank you very much for your comment and pinpointing the mastery aspect of the teaching. We all are fundamentally cooks, but what makes us chefs is the extra ordinary training we went through in running a kitchen and creating a signature dish to enhance our cuisine.
February 22, 2017 @ 5:46 pm
The metaphor you use is an interesting way of relating to the knowledgeable versus knowledge(able) division we first recognized in class. A good cook knows their ingredients and can serve up a few dishes reliably. They’re knowledgeable concerning their ingredients and how to present them together in a cohesive dish. Chefs, however, have mastered cooking methods and can interpret new information within dishes. In this sense, they’re more knowledge(able) than a cook because they use information to break through previous beliefs and convictions concerning cooking itself.
February 22, 2017 @ 10:10 pm
Thank you so much for your comment. I am also very thankful for your contribution to this analogy by the connection you make through this very useful distinction between knowledgeable and knowledge(able) in teaching. Being a cook may be part of everyday life, but becoming a chef is taking up a challenge of dealing with the cuisine itself, as well.
February 22, 2017 @ 9:50 pm
I really like how you compared teaching to cooking! I find it very true that both activities are part art and part science. For some aspects of teaching you have to follow a set of rules, while in other aspects you just have to feel of how your students are understanding the material. Your last paragraph is on point! You want to teach you students to take the facts you have lay out for them, find new and apply it as well as finding new facts themselves.
February 22, 2017 @ 10:15 pm
Thank you so much for your comment. I believe both activities include research, experimenting, and observation, as well as the reflection of our personal, which is the artistic side. I appreciate the way in which you describe how inseparable our emotions and our reasoning in teaching are.
February 22, 2017 @ 10:27 pm
I love your metaphor of comparing how our intellectual processes to cooking by ourselves at home. That is a unique and reasonable metaphor attracts foodie like me. I agree that “Cooking is both an art and a responsibility for a chef, like teaching is to a teacher.” We would like to engrave our students into something unique and artistic, we would like to gain more knowledge like different recipes, then create our own based on those in our kitchen (classroom) and share them with our students. That was some of my thinking of extending your metaphor. Great job for coming up with such a cool metaphor! Thank you for sharing!
P.S. I love pictures you chose for this blog. Artistic looking.
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March 19, 2017 @ 7:47 am
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