20 Feb 2017
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.