Finding Empowerment
1 Mar 2021

Finding Empowerment: A Lesson from a Messy Kitchen

Before the pandemic, our family had a rule: if you cooked, someone else cleaned. But, during this time working from home, many of us have had to revisit systems and habits that had worked for years. Though being at home should give us back more time, the working from home realities often leads to working longer hours and to messier kitchens. So, in our house we changed the rule: if it is your night to cook, you complete the job start to finish. You cook, and you clean. This shift meant family members began cleaning up as they cooked, washing pans, loading the dishwasher, leaving only the plates to be washed at the end of the meal. Waking up each morning to a clean kitchen has made a real impact on our family’s mood and productivity. The cheerful chatter in the morning, as the coffee brews, now lights up the room. Even though we know the pandemic, and the road back to normal, is still a discouraging mess.

Cooking for the Classroom 

“Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.” ― Guy Fieri

As teachers, we’ve certainly been busy cooking this past year. Some educators have been taking what they know works and transforming it into something electronic. Some teachers, on the other hand, are embracing remote learning. We have chosen to use this opportunity to teach ourselves how to use interactive platforms. We’re learning online learning systems and a variety of exciting educational apps. Then, there are some, blending the old recipes with these new, engaging tools adding just the right spice to wake up their menu to make deliverable meals that are exciting to this technologically savvy generation of children. Some brave teachers are even cooking up lessons with their students, trying out Genius Hour or Passion Projects.

Get Messy

“Messy” is a word we use to explain a conflict with an expectation we had. Eliminate the expectation, and you eliminate the “messy”.” ― Steve Maraboli

All of this is very messy. Kitchens are cluttered from all the cooking at home. Homes are filling with books, computers, wires, masks, headphones, and interruptions! But messiness is an intrinsic part of education. We learn by trying new things, making mistakes, revising our plan, and trying again. As overwhelming as the chaos of COVID learning might feel, it’s actually a testament to the perseverance of teachers and students. So long as there’s curiosity to be tapped, students will always find a way to exercise their creative and critical thinking.

As with cooking, there is a secret sauce which can help us make the most of these difficult days: shifting the paradigm. Teachers can embrace being part of the solution to the pandemic itself, as active parts of the community. We can use what we’ve learned to encourage our students and help keep them healthy until the danger has passed. If teachers accept that the future will be complicated and reset expectations, perhaps we can empower ourselves by being a part of this clean up. Each morning, my empty sink and safely stored leftovers inspire me to imagine an end to this health crisis. Perhaps returning safely to my classroom this fall, to teach my full class of thirty or more fifth graders, is not yet a reality, but I am ready to wade into the mess and do my part.

A New Morning

“With a new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” — Eleanor Roosevelt 

In the days ahead, I will double mask, follow social distancing guidelines, complete local surveys, and get registered with the state for the vaccine. I will take what I have learned from this experience and share it with other educators. They can equip themselves with new ideas and strategies. I cannot wait to wake up knowing I am walking back into school. Returning to a room full of student laughter, or a staff room full of chatting teachers. I can almost smell the coffee with hints of copy machine, and it makes me smile.

Today’s blog post was written by Elena Jinzo, a 5th grade teacher and STEM advocate. You can find her on social media at @elena_SF_CA. Be sure to check out how she engages and empowers students in her project: Blue Apple’s The Dirty Truth

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources simply follow this link. If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t forget to subscribe!