Friday, January 3, 2014

Cooking is a Little Bit Like Teaching (But Only Just a Little Bit)

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2014!

As I think about all of my teacher-friends who are getting ready to return to work for a new semester, I can’t help but be thankful for the break I have been enjoying. I now seriously believe that sabbaticals should be incorporated into K-12 education and not just reserved for college professors. 2012 and 2013 were full of sress for me: I planned a wedding, overcame undiagnosed health issues while teaching for a third year, and then got married and moved 1500 miles away from “home.” The last several months out of the classroom have been a time for me to explore my interests and passions outside of education, to learn new skills, and to be a good wife to my fantastic husband.

One thing I have had more time for is baking, which always intimidated me a little bit, but became even more time-consuming when I went gluten-free. When I was teaching, I hardly had the time to make dinner, let alone bake cookies and other treats. As I was working on my first batch of donuts for New Year’s Eve dessert, my teacher brain got to work contrasting cooking and teaching. I know it might seem weird, but since I am happiest when I am creating something, it makes sense to me to compare creating something in the kitchen with enlightening young minds.

Here are some comparisons made by my optimistic self:
  • Cooking and teaching both require a lot of preparation. If you are missing something key, things just won’t turn out right. 
  • Recipes usually turn out how I want depending on what I put into them. Sometimes I do everything right and it still doesn’t turn out as I expect it to.  The same can be said for student performance.
  • In both the kitchen and the classroom, one learns best by doing.

Okay, so the optimism was short lived; here is my more cynical side:

  • In cooking, formative assessment consists of licking the bowl, tasting the sauce, and nibbling at dinner to make seasoning adjustments. In teaching, formative assessment means endless tests and data analysis, which just are not as fun as eating raw cake batter. (For those of you who are not teachers, formative assessments are given throughout the learning process to track progress, whereas summative assessments are given at the end of a unit of learning.)
  • In the kitchen, I can cook and bake whatever I want, whenever I want, and I can spend as much or as little time on it as I want. In most classrooms in this country, teachers are bound to curriculum maps and pacing guides that dictate what they can and cannot teach and when they have to teach it.
  • If I am teaching someone how to cook something and it turns out badly, we laugh and order pizza. If the students I am teaching do poorly on their summative assessments, I get a bad rating and my job security and/or reputation could be jeopardized.
  • At the end of a tough day, I can eat the cookies that I baked. I can’t eat the students who wear out my every last nerve.
  • Dinner smells great while it is cooking. Not all classrooms, or students for that matter, have a pleasant aroma. I hated it when the boys had gym before coming to my class.
  • Kitchen appliances, batters, doughs, soups, and roasts don’t talk back to me (yes, I talk to inanimate objects). Students talk back ALL THE TIME.
  • The mixer doesn’t get distracted by a cell phone. Students can’t function without one.

Is it any wonder that I am less stressed out this year compared to last? I love teaching, don’t get me wrong, but taking a break has been so wonderful. All of the great "teacher-highs" that make the job so worth it only happen after the stress, frustrations, and hours of work that go into a successful lesson. Sometimes I miss it, but I am also happy in this stage of my life right now.

Here is a look at some of the other stress-free things I did in 2013:

I made this awesome mug for my Daddy's birthday. I am pretty jealous of him for having it.

I spent much of August and September painting these peg nativities to give as Christmas gifts. I kept this secret for a long time! In the background you can see the Christmas tree skirt I made.

I had so much fun making these super heroes and Christmas sets for a craft sale. My favorite is the Elf collection.

I made Christmas stockings for Drew and I. His is made out of an old shirt! I also made a festive banner and mistletoe.

I thought these little owls would look adorable on our garland. I was right! In 2013 I also made a turkey, a turtle, and two elephants!

This was so exciting - a family asked me to paint them onto pegs as a stocking stuffer! 

I had a lot of fun renewing my blogging efforts this year and I hope to keep it up in 2014! Thanks for reading and for your comments and feedback. May God bless you in the new year!

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