The end of the year is fast approaching (as is my maternity leave, which will likely start just a couple of days into 2020), and I’m proud to say that I successfully completed my fun New Year’s resolution (cooking 52 new recipes over the course of the year). If you want to read more about why I set this goal for myself, read here.
Back in January, 52 seemed like a hefty number. I was excited to learn how to cook new things and build my repertoire. The number still sounds pretty good to me, but in reflecting on my learning, the number doesn’t feel so important. Before I get into why that’s true, I want to share what I’ve made.
Chicken pot pie
Chocolate covered strawberries
Spaghetti squash with sausage
Boneless buffalo wings
Winter vegetable stew
Chicken dry rub (for the grill)
Chicken parmesan (in the skillet)
Chicken tikka masala*
Naan (plain and garlic)
Pizza (including sauce from scratch)
Cast iron steak with homemade herb butter
Chocolate chip banana bread
Summer corn coconut soup
Cinnamon sourdough rolls*
Yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting*
Tex-Mex zucchini bake
Peach & cherry pie
Jalapeno tuna casserole
Apple cider donuts
Shells with gorgonzola-creamed greens & roasted squash*
Sully’s Cider Cake
Brown sugar cream cheese frosting
Dutch apple pie
Autumn harvest soup*
* Denotes what I would thoroughly recommend. Send me a message or email me for the recipe!
In my six-month progress update, I spent some time looking at the dishes I’d made from a numbers perspective. I found, for example, that only 3% of the dishes I made were desserts (that number is up to 12% at the end of the year) and about 42% of the entrees I made included chicken (that stayed steady, coming in at 44% in December). Filtering this list by numbers helped me identify trends, think about categories where I could have pushed myself further, and made me ask myself questions. Quantitative data can, and should, propel us forward in this kind of thinking. But if we only look at numbers, if we avoid reflecting on how we feel about a goal or what it’s made us realize about ourselves as learners, we’re not doing our learning justice. If you want me to tell you a little more about the numbers, email me. Here, I’ll get to what’s really important.
-Learning isn’t a constant (even though it is constant): There were weeks this year where I didn’t try a single new recipe, and there were weeks where I made four new things. In trying to balance the myriad other parts of my life, I made choices about what I could take on and when. I don’t think this means that I was lazy. Everyone needs breaks. Some of those weeks were when I was traveling or when my family had a few different things we were juggling. Because I’m an adult, I doubt anyone would think very much about why some of this happened in fits and starts. But in so far as curriculum guides are concerned, we expect kids to walk a very linear and entirely constant path. When adults (who are often too far removed from kids) ask them to develop at an artificial pace, we aren’t merely serving up a “rigorous” education; we’re often asking them to do things that don’t yet make sense (for one tangible example, see this kindergarten teacher’s perspective on teaching kids to read before their brains are ready for it). All learners walk their own path in acquiring the knowledge and skills that they need to continue making progress. We shouldn’t be asked to rush our kids to tackle the next thing because of a pacing guide; we should be able to give considerable thought about what their authentic next thing is.
-Agency needs more than lip service: It felt great to be totally in control of how my learning would unfold this year. Did I want to try a new technique? Should I focus on creating a dish that I’d eaten somewhere and loved? Should I open up my favorite cookbook to a random page and pick what sounded best? It was freeing and invigorating to get to make the decisions about what work I do and how I go about doing it. So many of our students don’t regularly get meaningful input into what they do (and it’s great to offer essay topic choices but better to let students determine how they’ll express what they’ve come to know). Agency matters (read Kris’s blog post from November for more about this). If you haven’t been given the opportunity to own your learning and make choices before you turn 18, how are you supposed to know how to do it? Kids will be more satisfied, and they’ll be better equipped to handle some of the pressures of post-secondary life if they’ve been given opportunities to develop in authentic, meaningful, and self-directed ways well before then.
-Mindset is key: This year felt like enrichment to me. I felt like a competent cook, and I got to define competency, so it wasn’t about remediating what was wrong or not good enough. This learning felt like play (even though I took myself a little too seriously when things weren’t going well in my kitchen). New Year’s resolutions (and learning in school) too often feel like you’re fixing a deficiency, and though I can’t be sure about your feelings, I know that I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m not good enough just as I am. I wasn’t dumb in the third grade when it took me longer than other kids to understand multiplication; that one thing didn’t make me bad at math and didn’t doom me to a subpar life. Did I need more work on it? Sure. I probably would have invested more quickly if I’d understood why it was relevant and how it could be helpful. But the mindsets of everyone involved in learning matter. If teachers don’t already see all of their students as competent people, they run the risk of teaching from a place that devalues kids. Helping anyone with anything should start by acknowledging what that individual can do and under what conditions.
I’m a different cook than I was at the beginning of 2019. The dishes that I make regularly have changed, and my meal plans for the week are much more inspired. I’m not as intimidated by dishes that are finicky or time-consuming, and my goal in cooking dinner isn’t limited to hearing people say something is “good.” I’m expecting more of myself, critiquing my food more thoughtfully, and finding inspiration in new and unexpected places. That’s what I call success.
Are you thinking about fun and inspiring learning for 2020? Me, too! Share your ideas here or let us know if you want some help in crafting an enriching and engaging resolution.
Images courtesy of Sara Bailey