As I write this blog, I’m munching on delicious homemade mac and cheese. I made quick white cheddar sauce and tossed in peppers, mushrooms, and peas. It’s topped off with more cheese and a few pieces of crunchy dried jalapenos. It’s the perfect ending to my day.
I love food. But who doesn’t?
I couldn’t wait for Brooks, my son, to start eating real food. I read tons of blogs and articles about introducing food. We started slowly with purees and dry Cheerios. He was hooked immediately. Soon he was trying new foods regularly and gobbling them up. One day while walking through my local grocery store, I snagged a box of mac and cheese. I couldn’t wait to go home and cook this creamy treat for my little man.
I presented the new cuisine that night. I waited while he surveyed his plate. He picked at the mac and cheese. I tried offering it and modeled eating. He refused, turning his cute little redhead away from me. I tried again and again and again. No matter how enthusiastic I was about mac and cheese, his toothless mouth denied my glorious mac and cheese. Darn. Does my kid really not like the quintessential American classic?
Often times our passion for our content is received like my son’s mac and cheese. We stand and deliver engaging lessons about our favorite math equation, science experiment, novel, or time period, hoping our students will jump on the train and shout with joy along with us. But what happens when they turn their heads, rejecting one of our favorite lessons?
I recently joined a book club, and I was so excited to start. I just knew I would love reading this book. I anxiously awaited its arrival. As soon as it arrived, I opened it and dove right in. But about five pages in, I hated it. I mean I couldn’t get through a few pages. This book was my mac and cheese. No matter how many times, I’ve tried to slug through a chapter or two, I just don’t like it.
I started to think about how our students feel when they don’t love our lesson or content. They may enter our classroom with the best of intentions to succeed and thrive in our classrooms, but maybe they just don’t end up loving our mac and cheese.
How do we create a space where kids can try the mac and cheese and, gasp, possibly not fall in love with it?
I think honesty is the best policy. My students started reading Julius Caesar this week. While I introduced the play, I shared this isn’t my favorite Shakespeare, but I do believe there is value in reading good ole Caesar. We talked about the focus skills and outcomes and Caesar why allows us to meet them. We then went into a quick chat about which play is my fave, Taming of the Shrew, and why I love it. They shared what they liked and didn’t like about their previous Shakespeare experiences. We had a real conversation about literature, an English teacher’s dream.
By modeling authentic feelings with our students, we create an environment where our kids can express themselves honestly. We can teach them how to appropriately engage in a discourse where not all of the parties agree. We can show them the value of our content while valuing their opinions and exploring why they may feel that way. Maybe they had a bad reaction to Shakespeare or mac and cheese for that matter. By asking them to explore their feelings, we can validate their experiences and provide the rationale for learning the skills we aim to teach through our content.
Tonight, I placed some pizza on Brooks’s plate, knowing he would devour every tiny bite. But I haven’t given up on the classic mac and cheese. Sooner or later, he will try a bite of creamy cheese and soft pasta shells he likes. It may take many more attempts, but I know I can show him what he’s been missing. But if he doesn’t love it, that’s okay too.