Are you training cooks or chefs?
My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Rhoda, had a knack for taking virtually any object and creating a teaching tool that was relevant, accessible, and an instrument of enlightenment for his eager pupils. Was this an innate skill, or was he formally taught how to do this? I suspect that Mr. Rhoda possessed an inherent capacity for innovative thinking and teaching, and synthesized his formal professional development training and materials to enhance his ability to work his magic. I loved his magic, and I recall that my peers did too. He was a “chef”, one could say, creating a daily multicourse banquet of delicious teachable moments for us, and more importantly, with us. By being an imaginative teacher, we became more imaginative, involved, and engaged students – we were emerging “chefs”!
Unfortunately, in contrast to Mr. Rhoda, some teachers today might be considered the equivalent of the microwave oven. Burdened by new demands on their time and priorities, they’re (understandably) focused more on training kids to “cook” then create.
Let’s help teachers move past this “microwave” mentality. Support them with professional development opportunities that demonstrate how to use different tools and technologies to not just meet district goals but also foster creativity among students. These tools can empower them to make a grand, ongoing meal with their classes and contribute something deeply nourishing.
Professional development should awaken our inner “chef” – it should challenge the recipe of education and encourage new thought. The root word of education is “educe,” which means “to bring forth from…” By keeping this ideal at the core of our professional development efforts, we may be able to bring forth some of the tastiest, most satisfying and healthiest delicacies from teachers and students alike. The world needs a working kitchen.
Dan Ostergren, affiliate assistant professor of communication disorders at University of Northern Colorado, has more than 25 years of experience in clinical and educational audiology, as well as teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels of audiology training. He is a consultant, author, and lecturer at local, state, national and international levels and was the recipient of a Colorado State Department of Education Award.