Food for thought

Food has its own language, I’m sure. Whilst never having been a particularly great cook, some of the most amazingly special moments I have shared with family and friends have been over food.

I also get a little bit excited every time Term 4 comes around because we finally cover the ‘Il Cibo’ (‘The Food’) unit in Year 9 Italian. I am a big believer in students understanding that there is more to culture and language than food. Going in to the kitchen also acts as somewhat of a reward for the hard work the students have put into the last couple of years. So, I wait equally as patiently as my students to get them cooking, and as a result, eating.

This week I took both of my Year 9 Italian classes into the kitchen and showed them how to make pasta from scratch. It never ceases to amaze me how this lesson always turns out to be a bonding session of sorts. Students who only ever seem to want to play games on their laptops during classes, would prefer not to participate in class discussion, and complain about how ‘old-school’ paper and pen are get so excited and engaged when faced with the simplest of ingredients and an ‘old-school’ recipe that people have followed for centuries!

I also learn so many things about the students from these activities. The nature of our LOTE timetabling means that I have a very limited amount of time with my Italian students, making the development of relationships quite challenging. But step into the kitchen and I find out about the challenging boy who works as a kitchen hand in a local winery and has an incredible passion for food and another boy who avoids any form of classwork and talks incessantly while I’m trying to teach, yet in the kitchen is the one telling everybody else to be quiet so he can concentrate on my demonstration.

Then there are the girls who work so quietly and gently in their groups, as concerned about getting their dough perfect as they are about their test scores. And then there’s the gratitude from the students who don’t often show gratitude for a carefully planned and strategically implemented lesson but who are the first to say thank you for such a task.

Given the busy nature of society these days, I do wonder how many of the students I teach actually sit down to a regular meal with their family. And how many spend time helping out in the kitchen learning how to make fresh, healthy food? Surely this is an equally important part of a child’s education, helping them to develop healthy habits, healthy relationships and a healthy sense of self? But in a time poor society, how much of a reality is this for many kids?

I am still in the very early years of my career as an educator, but already I know that I learn more from sharing these moments with my students than I ever do when we are in our normal classroom. And I can only hope that they learn more from me this way too.

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