Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Core vs "Elective" Classes: Misperception #2

Misperception #2: Foods 1 is a "Gourmet Culinary Arts" course.

Note: I work at a very small school; we only offer one year of Foods/Nutrition.

Just a sampling of the comments I hear in this category:
"I'd love to teach your classes - I'd just have them cook all the time."
"It must be great to have the kids making your lunch every day."
"It must be nice to just sit back and watch the kids do all the work."
"You should start a catering service/cook for in-services/run a student cafe/etc."

Here are some facts that seem to escape my colleagues:

  • I have a budget. It is not impressive. We do not cook all the time, not even close.
  • Most students come in with very, very, very little background knowledge. I literally have to start with lines like: "This is a measuring spoon. Measuring spoons come in different sizes." It takes a long, long path of baby steps to get them to the point where they can process even a basic recipe on their own without extensive support from me. 
  • Prepping novice "chefs" for lab takes an extensive amount of planning. Recipes have to be broken into chunks that will fit within class times, then further into tasks that can be dovetailed. We have to go over the recipes in detail, because they don't yet know basic terminology ("boil," "level" teaspoon, "whip," etc). I  create demonstration videos so they can see exactly what they are supposed to do. I set up the lab table to make ingredients as easily accessible as possible. This doesn't happen on its own.
  • My classes, just like yours, are only 49 minutes long. In that time we have to review the recipe, set up the lab, cook, possibly eat (most of our labs are stretched out over two or three days, so they don't eat every day that we are in the kitchens), and clean. This will not happen if I don't actively manage these novices.
  • And who do you think does all the grocery shopping? That would be me, outside of school hours.
  • And let's not forget that as little as they know about cooking basics, they know even less about food safety. This has to be addressed before they can cook - and also explains why I never have my students prepare my lunch.
  • Probably my personal favorite would be the co-workers with grandiose ideas. Last year an aide was using one of my microwaves as I set up for our first lab of the year. When she asked me what we were making, I replied "Biscuits." Her response was "Biscuits and?", then proceeded to lecture me on how these kids need to learn how to cook. At which point I tried to explain to her that just the biscuits would take us two days, and getting the kids cleaned up and out the door each day this first time around was going to take every ounce of my focused attention to accomplish. She just shook her head and walked out the door.
Starting the year with kids who can barely prepare Ramen noodles and getting them to the point where they can read and accurately execute a recipe is extremely rewarding, but in today's world of microwave snacks and dinners from a box this does not come easily. Remember that the next time you start to tell your Foods teacher how easy and fun cooking labs are.


  1. I could not agree more. I get tired of the statement "Oh you just teach FACS - that must be fun all the time." I agree it can be a great deal of fun, but it is an immense amount of work. Your math curriculum comes with all the handouts, worksheet, example and videos already prepared? Oh that's nice - my 12 year old text book doesn't.

    I have to say I really appreciate you for sharing all your ideas! I have applied quite a few to my own classroom!

    1. Right? And agreed, my textbooks are such outdated nonsense : ). Glad to be a help, thanks for reading!