Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chopped PD: Lessons learned from The Food Network

Full disclosure. In my free time, I watch The Food Network. A lot. Most days, I'm just too tired to read, or even think. My relationship with The Food Network goes back, way back... to when I was 27! That was a long time ago. Inspiration was as close as my remote control!

Rachael Ray and Tyler Florence? Yum!
I remember the utter disappointment I felt when I discovered that The Naked Chef was... well.... wearing clothes! Dang.

Looking back, I realize that teaching and learning in many ways has followed a similar path as The Food Network. Take Emeril, for instance...

I watched. I googled the recipe. I used the same EXPENSIVE ingredients. I made the dish and…
if I was lucky it turned out just like his. Well, not exactly.

Sound familiar?

It reminds me a lot of what PD and teaching looked like at that time. Stand and deliver. Sage on the stage. No offense, Emeril.

Then, in 2009, everything changed. Chopped was born. 

And... the state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards was launched in 2009. Coincidence? I think not.

One night, watching Chopped, I came to the realization that teaching and learning had changed- for everyone-- students, teachers, and leaders. The common core asked us to incorporate more collaboration, creativity, and thinking into our teaching and learning. More mess. More passion. And I noticed PD starting to reflect these changes. Things to notice about Chopped? There is a timed element that creates a sense of urgency but not panic. The chefs love their work. They feel the work is important. They strive to make plates beautiful. In only 20 minutes! Teaching and learning should inspire this in us. Earlier this year, Adam Welcome shared this video with me. It's what I want learning to feel like for everyone. Teachers. Kids. Leaders. Everyone. Delicious and inspiring! Magical. Fun. Noisy.

So what does all of this Chopped goodness mean for PD? Four posts have inspired me to write this one: Scott Bedley’s post on PD gluttony, Karl Lindgren-Streicher’s response, Travis Phelp’s reflection on both posts, and Riley Johnson's thoughts here.

So why Chopped? Every episode of Chopped features different ingredients, but there are three components that are always the same: the appetizer round, the entree round, and the dessert round. For me, PD also can be categorized this way. Just like in the video above, professional learning can be experienced through delightful small bites or a meaty main dish. And there are many ways to create a delicious combination on your PD plate!

Appetizer round-- small bites

Ingredients: Twitter, Voxer, books, and school visits!

Twitter: a constant stream of ideas, inspiration, links to blog posts and even chats. (Which can be helpful just to watch!) Twitter can also provide answers to questions-- see my question and all of the answers received from just one tweet in less than 5 minutes!

Voxer: another small bite you might enjoy! #leadwild and It's Elementary are just two of the Voxer chats that provide me with inspiration, a safe place to ask questions, and a place to talk with smart and passionate educators from across the country every day.

Books: No time or money for conferences? Books are another small way to make a big impact. Some of my favorites (discovered on Twitter, many of them) include The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Steal Like and Artist and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

School visits: This may be one of my favorite ways to learn! I've always loved visiting other schools and usually set out with something in mind to see or learn about. Over the years I've visited schools to find out about instructional practices or to observe teachers and kids in action. But one thing I've discovered is that I always take away something I wasn't expecting or looking for-- and it usually blows me away. This past February, Amy Fadeji's school hosted CUE Rockstar Petaluma. Penngrove has so many little magical things that I can't stop thinking about and that I plan to steal for our school!

recycled art
signs that inspire

The entree round: Meaty main dishes!

Ingredients: Conferences big and small

Conferences: There are so many great conferences to attend, and if you present you can learn and connect for FREE! The biggest conference I've ever attended was CUE last year in Palm Springs, and although the lack of internet was a big bummer as a presenter, it also gave me the opportunity to connect with some amazing people poolside and inspired me to go old school and write in my notebook- with a pencil! For me, a little smaller is better-- I like the local CUE affiliate events like SVCUE, NBCUE, the CapCUE Tech Fest, and Fall Cue in Napa. By far, my favorite main dish conference is CUE Rockstar. Capped at 100, with a leader/learner ratio of 10:1, there is nothing like it. Casual and messy. Hands-on. Where the smartest person in the room IS the room. There are NO Rules. Read a few reflections about Rockstar here, with Petaluma, my most recent,  Tahoe from a few summers ago, my first, and Catina Haugen's post-Petaluma musings here

The dessert round: celebrate and reflect

You might be thinking that you usually skip dessert-- too many calories. But in many ways this little sweet part may be the most important component on your plate. 

One of the things I love the most is celebrating and sharing the good work of others. I love being a cheerleader of good ideas, and this happens in a variety of different ways. I tweet out awesome things I see happening in my school every day here. I retweet blog posts that are relevant or inspiring or that challenge my thinking-- to people I am connected to on Twitter. And many of these posts inspire ideas in me- things I think about, want to try, or even blog about. Austin Kleon says to "share something small every day" in Show Your Work. Good advice, I think!

Reflecting is another piece of this dessert round-- thinking about all of the dishes we try and reflecting on what we've learned is truly the icing on the cake. When I'm thinking about something I've read or learned, I blog. I used to worry about what I wrote. Maybe it wasn't good enough. Maybe no one would read it. But what I've discovered is that I love reading the reflection of others. It inspires me. It makes me think. It makes me want to learn more. Blogging is thinking out loud, sharing our process, our struggles, and dreams. As Bobby Solomon says, "Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you'll start meeting some amazing people." And it's true.

So, take a little inspiration from The Food Network, and go for some Chopped-style PD! With everything from small bites to delicious entrees and desserts, there is something out there that will inspire you! Choose a few ingredients, get messy, add your passion and soon you'll be cooking up something amazing!

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer--Again, you've captured the goodness of what we do. Thank you for wrapping it up in a full, delicious meal for us! I am honored to learn right along side you every day. Voxer counts as "right along side you," right!?!