If every single one of my favorite restaurants had a Chef's Table, I would never eat at home.
You know what I am talking about, right? That spot in the restaurant, strategically located next to, overlooking or, if you are really fortunate, in the kitchen where, while you are eating, you can watch the choreographed magic that is the culinary arts. When I watch a chef do their thing, I am completely in awe of their effortless execution and the manner in which their creativity and design come to life on a plate and I love picking up little tips and tricks from watching them work their craft. It certainly helps that the food tastes as good or better than the process or the finished product appear to the eye. In fact, that component surely adds to my overall amazement and appreciation for their talent.
I find a similar interest and curiosity when I listen to professional athletes and coaches talk about their craft. Recently, ESPN debuted a show called "Detail" where athletes break down the performance of their peers, providing key details and critique of their in-game decisions and actions. To listen to Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the best to ever lace up a pair of Nike's, break down the game of Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in the game today (maybe ever), is music to my ears and I absolutely cannot get enough. I learn so much about what it takes to be successful, how the great athletes think and what drives them to be the absolute best at what they do and my brain craves that kind of insightful & inspiring commentary.
And all of this really hits home when it comes to my biggest passion in life...Education! As a proud lifelong learner, I am consistently inspired and motivated by what I learn from my amazing Professional Learning Network (PLN)....whether that be face-to-face at conferences, on Twitter and other social media outlets, or through the greatest PLN on the planet: the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEEs). I crave hearing the experiences of my peers about what works in their classroom, I find growth in reflecting upon challenges they faced and how they find ways to overcome obstacles, and I am inspired by their similar passion and excitement around the possibilities of what schools and learning can and should be....and I am incredibly motivated to make it a reality!
Those who know me well, or who just follow me on social media, surely know that my favorite job in life is being a Dad. To me, It's the most difficult and most wonderful adventure I could ever experience and nothing has taught me more about myself, the world, or even about learning/school than these last few years of parenthood. In fact you may have read a previous post of mine about seeing the world through the eyes of my son Carter , which is also truly the inspiration for the next chapter of my adventure...but more to come on that shortly.
Over the last 5 or so years, while my passion and love for teaching and learning has reached new heights...I have watched our high school Students largely become completely disengaged from the joy of learning. They work hard and they play the game that is high school, but mostly they are often overworked with activities, worksheets and assignments that assess nothing more than their ability to copy text or regurgitate facts from a book or website. We race them from classroom to classroom during the day, providing little time to reflect on their learning, slow down their brain or, God forbid, just take a break and relax for a few minutes. In all of this, I fear we have effectively killed their curiosity of and thirst for learning. Rather than asking questions such as: "What makes that work?", or "I wonder if there is a different method to solve that problem?", the question whose answer matters most to our Students is: "Is this going to be on the test?"
Seriously, Students....that's all you care about? Oh wait, of course that is all you care about because the pressure to maximize your GPA so you have a chance of getting into the University of your dreams is about the only thing you can think about on an hourly basis. Welcome to education in America in the year 2019.
What's worse is, rather than find ways to creatively tap into the knowledge and passion of our Students, many Teachers/Schools/Districts across this great country just continue to bombard their audience with hour-long lectures, multiple choice exams and tired methods that haven't changed in decades, like those aforementioned worksheets. News Flash: The world has changed people...it's time that everyone jumps on board and that we all agree to put an end to this awful learning process.
Back to my adorable, sometimes volatile, toddler who has captured my interest like no other. Watching Carter grow and learn over the past few years has been transformational for me, both as a Parent and as an Educator. He is constantly asking me why and I vow to never pass on answering those questions. Whether it be "Why did the construction man build our house next our neighbors," or "Why does the cereal float in the milk" or any of the other hilarious inquiries that pop out of his mouth, I will always engage in the conversation. I want him to always be curious, desire to know more about everything, and maintain his wonder and awe for how things work in the world. Which brings me back around to that new adventure I mentioned above.
Inspire by Carter and his quest to always know more, I am excited to announce that I am launching the Awe-Full Learning Process to help inspire a new of way of looking at Education across all grade levels. I want our Students, whether classmates of Carter's in Preschool, High School Seniors preparing for college, or somewhere in between, to simply love and be curious about their own learning process. I want them to ask "Why" as often as they can and to always be given some sort of answer which inspires another "Why", and then another. Now, I am not saying each and every Student is going to fall in love with each and every subject they study, but certainly creating a higher appreciation for the process of acquiring knowledge, skills and application can and will create a new standard for what learning looks like in every classroom in America.
To be honest, I have no idea where this is all going to take me but like any great adventure, it starts with a leap of faith. At this very moment, the Awe-Full Learning Process is this blog post and a Twitter account with zero followers (@AweFullLearning). In the many moments to come, my hope is the Awe-Full Learning Process becomes a podcast, a book, a speaking series, a movement...and so much more. More than anything, I hope it becomes a way to connect and inspire Students and Teachers everywhere.
Here's to every classroom across this great country becoming its own Chef's Table...where every Student and Teacher are eager to be next to, overlooking, or in the heart of the most engaging, collaborative, awe-inspiring learning environments we have ever seen.
I can already here Carter now...."Daddy, why do we want classrooms to be like Chef's Tables?" I better get to working on perfecting my answer to that question right away.