No More Broccoli

My dad is an Episcopal priest. We moved to a new church when I was about 16. It is a medium sized church in Upstate New York, and one of the first sermons he gave there was about getting rid of “Broccoli Church.”

Sit down. Shut up. Eat your broccoli. It’s good for you.

Church, for many, is a place you go not because you want to, but because it’s good for you, your parents made you, or your parents made you and therefor you’re going to force your kids to go as well. You sit in your pew, sing when required, respond when required, and be quiet when expected because it’s good for you. My dad wanted to change that. He wanted projects and events that people were excited about participating in and that would help the community. The congregation rallied behind this message. Families got involved. They planned and put on events. Ministry wasn’t only coming from the pulpit, it was coming from the congregation as well. For Christmas that year, the congregation gave my dad a bottle of Heinz ketchup and the label read, “Can’t Help Broccoli.”

This class has been about ending “broccoli school.”

Sit down. Shut up. Read this. It’s good for you.

We want education to come from all sides of the room. We recognize that students have the ability to teach each other, and also teach us (the instructors). We want students to be motivated by the projects they are working on. We want students to put forth their best work because they want to, not just because we control their grades. We want students to become the best engineers, critical thinkers, critical readers, mathematicians, soil scientists, landscape architects, food scientists, and whatever combination of whatever else they can be.

There’s no one way to do this, though. You don’t need to radically change the physical appearance of your classroom. You don’t need to have everything done on a computer. You don’t need to do away with lecture completely. You don’t need every single project, activity, or reading to have a direct real world application. Vegetables are gross, but they are still good for you.

My dad didn’t stop giving sermons. He didn’t tear up the pews and place them in a circle. He did, however, engage with the congregation outside of the service. Before the service on Sundays, after the service on Sundays. He met with parishioners on the weekday mornings and evenings. He added more than he took away, and I think that’s an experience we can learn from. Add more to your classroom; don’t just take away. Engage with your students; build a rapport. Jig saws will work some places, and not others. Lectures will work in some cases; and readings as well. The more tools you add, the better prepared you’ll be. Work on perfecting the craft of teaching, not perfecting the application of theory.




8 Replies to “No More Broccoli”

  1. I laughed a lot while reading your post! Attending church forced by my mom was always a painful experience in my childhood, but I finally enjoyed attending church when I participated in the student volunteer activities in my church. Now, I am studying how to catch my students’ attention in my Sunday school class.

  2. You’re spot on with a couple of things. First of all, broccoli is disgusting. Second, this class has taught us all that if nothing else, there isn’t one correct way to prepare the classroom. It seems to be more of a fluid dynamic that requires you to always adapt to see what works, and what doesn’t. This is reminiscent of learning and teaching: there is always more that can be done. Having an open mind of this fosters learning and teaching. I feel like you’ve summed up the entirety of the course with your last sentence: “Work on perfecting the craft of teaching, not perfecting the application of theory.”

  3. I love this post! I really appreciate the idea of making small changes and figuring out what works in a particular situation. Like you said, we don’t always have to completely change everything to make big changes in our classrooms. Sometimes it is the small things (talking to students before and after class for example) that can make a huge difference! Thanks for the post!

  4. Thank you for this interesting post. I absolutely liked that you mention that improving the conditions of different ‘activities’ in life in no way means going all beyond but instead adding to the current state of how they are, in meaningful ways.

  5. I love what you mentioned about selflessness and giving more than you expect to get out. We are investing in our students and in our classrooms, and it has to be like that if you expect any real results in return. The question becomes how patient are we as investors, and how do we really expect to get paid back? In most cases the return will not be a financial one. To succeed as educators, we have to make sure to keep the broccoli out of our attitudes as well. We have to want to show up every day and reinvest in our students educations because it is something we love to do and it gives us a sense of true fulfillment. We have to work outside of the institution and use our passion as our currency.

  6. Yes, the whole idea is to make a class interesting. If a teacher can make the students excited about the class or a project, 90% job is done there, the rest 10% is to direct the class in the desired direction.

  7. Using narrative to introduce an argument. Nice!

    My sentiments exactly. I still think there’s value in lecture. I like it. The issue is relying on one format of teaching to be the foundation of everything I do as a teacher. I agree. I should mix things up in my classroom. This isn’t mean that I have to omit lecture or grades completely; it means that I recognize that multiple pedagogies can inform the way I teach. Because broccoli isn’t the only vegetable that that is good for you.

  8. I don’t know which I enjoyed more — your post, or the comments! I will confess that I like broccoli, but the flavor is strong and can be overpowering. A class based on broccoli would have me headed for the french fries (and that ketchup!) pretty quickly.

Leave a Reply