Espresso Ideas: How Good Teaching is Like Good Eating

Espresso Ideas: Small but strong ideas to make you sit up and say ‘yeah!’ (Also known as wasabi ideas)

(With apologies to my vegan and vegetarian friends.)

Good food always has a crispy element. And you can always taste when something stale has been refried in an attempt to make it crispy. It’s just not the same. Good teaching crackles with crunchy newness and fresh-cut goodness: A sliver of contemporary affairs, a rasher of the latest in neuroscience research, and a crouton or three of a new approach makes all the difference.

Spice makes all things nice. Sometimes it’s used delicately to achieve a masterful balance, and sometimes it’s thrown about liberally. Teaching spices include: brain breaks, games, and, best of all, a sense of humor.

Eating is better together. Learning is a better when done collaboratively.

There’s probably no eating experience worse than when everything on the plate is the same color, the same texture, and practically the same taste. Gloop does not make for good eating. Like good cuisine, good learning is multi-layered, multi-textural and complex. It engages the senses and excites the mind.

Sometimes you just want to bite into a good steak. And you want to chew on it’s juicy tenderness. Giving kids a good juicy problem to sink their teeth into and to chew over is far yummier than pre-chewing it for them.

Trying new taste combinations and experimenting with new flavors, cooking styles, and dishes often gives us a new perspective on what food is supposed to be. Same with teaching. A new approach might not be to your taste, but it’s always worth trying twice: the second time to make sure it isn’t for you.

Too much of the wrong kind of food can cause irreparable damage. And sometimes, just a little bit of a toxic ingredient can be incredibly dangerous. So much of what we do in our classrooms is about trying not to do any harm.

The best eateries cater to a diverse range of palettes, instead of forcing you to enjoy what they recommend. (And some of he least enjoyable ones tell you what you should be enjoying.) The best classrooms cater to a diverse range of abilities, interests and backgrounds.

(A note: No, I am not the Heston Blumenthal of the classroom. My lessons are often canned and stale. But I do try to make my teaching palatable. Like almost everything else I publish, this is a reminder to myself as much as it is advice for anyone else.)


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