Tuesday, 21 April 2015

At OCEA There Is No 'TRY', There Is Only 'DO'. Teaching the Teachers. Channel Your Inner Yoda!!

Most of the time students and teachers labour far from the public eye. It takes time, patience, perseverance and an internal demand for perfection to build skill that is reliable, consistent and demonstrable.

OK ... that's the 'daily lesson' over with ... you can take off your tinfoil hats and let's get on with the fun stuff!

Learning to make Coq-Au-Vin was fun for us all. Tyler demonstrated beautifully last week,
the students practiced well and we are going to feature the skill while working at the end of May for a large civic charity. Shhh ... can't say who it is now! Stay tuned ...

Chef decided that it was time to show off his great students a little, with purpose. The annual OCEA (Ontario Co-operative Education Association) conference was coming up and he threw his hat, along with a co-op teacher friend, into the ring. Chef volunteered to try and re-create, for other co-op teachers, the experience of being thrown into something you really don't know about, and where you're expected to produce really fast, follow instructions you may not understand fully and do procedures that you're unfamilliar with. This is exactly what our students face when they go out for their early days in their co-op jobs.

Chef volunteered to have his students become the teachers, and teach a whole roomfull of co-op teachers, under time pressure, to make coq-au-vin!

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the long and the short of it is "They Came, They Participated and They Ate!"

Volunteering for this event was completely open ... it took place a long, long way from school or the Monarch Park area of Toronto, so participation by the students was completely and entirely voluntary. It required a lot of parental time and automotive support. Grace managed to talk her Mum into driving her out so she could participate and be our student representative. (Mum came into the demo / show for fun and watched her daughter with proud eyes!) THANK YOU, Grace and Mum!!

Chef's co-presenter was Sandy Mahr, the one-and-only co-op teacher from Vaughan Road Academy. Sandy is normally a very stylish teacher, the very model of professional dress. Chef is ... less so. (To be honest, Chef usually shows up at school dressed like a bit of a mess because he's rather colour-blind, but puts on full whites for all kitchen work, so who can tell?)
Chef 'dressed' Sandy in a Chef's coat and high hat (see photo). Grace, Chef and Mrs Chef all wore full chef whites also. (In the photo, from L -> R we have Chef, 'Mrs Chef', a.k.a. Gail Aller-Stead, student Grace Lott and Sandy Mahr.)

Chef's partner, Ms Gail Aller-Stead, came in from work to spend a day with the students assisting in the demonstration.
("Mrs Chef", as she has been called, works in Regina.) Gail ran the door and the room and acted as support staff to keep the wagon on the rails and us all moving along. Gail is also a superb cook in her own right, focusing on South Indian and Thai foods, while Chef is more Mediterranean in focus.

Before the demo started, Grace and Chef prepared the lardons and reserved them, and cut up most of the chicken breasts.
Our 'volunteers' only had a bit of prep to do. We did this to assist with our time management ... we only had 80 minutes from when the doors opened to the absolute end of our time in the room.

Sandy did introductions and offered the chance to be a participant. Hands just shot up and we quickly chose 4 volunteers from the group.
We had 40 people signed up for the demo/seminar, but ended up with about 55 in the room according to Gail. Gail, Grace and Sandy got our volunteers togged out in high-hats they got to keep and aprons and side towels.

Chef invited everyone in the room to get up off their seats and crowd around the demonstration tables ... get right into the experience, he said, and take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Everyone was encouraged to take pictures. Sandy shared the structure of the lesson in meta terms, and Chef and Grace taught 'the lesson' in micro terms.

Everything smelled absolutely delicious!!!

Chef gave some basic instructions and the cooking began! Fat was heated up, chicken bits braised, then a flambe for each team!
(We had two teams; team black and team white.) Herbs were added, a little flour dredged in, temperature controlled and a sauce started to be built.

Wine and stock were added, then the whole thing, in each pan, allowed to reduce for about 25 minutes while our demonstrators cleaned up.

Sandy kept the larger conversation roaring along, suggesting not only to look at the small things or actions,
but the larger load of learning that was embedded in the lesson, so every teacher could take away a model of useful lesson planning and understanding of what our students experience daily.

The power failed twice ... we had to deal with unexpected changes in equipment. That is all part of being a good co-op student and teacher.

Then ... it was time for samples.

OMG! Yum! Fabulous!

But Chef and Grace heard a lot of "I can't do this at home". Why not? We challenged. Why not? What is REALLY stopping you?

Turned out that the main ingredient lacking was courage. What if it doesn't work? What then? What do I eat? What do I serve?

Chef used to be a biker. There is a rule everywhere in the motorcycle world: "Fall down Seven times, Get up Eight." Do not give up on yourself. Do not quit. Do not beat yourself up and do not let others' sarcasm, doubt or ignorance throw you off your chosen course.

We all fail at times. Failure is a great teacher. Learn from failure.
Chef used to work with a most fabulous co-op teacher, Ms Karen Thompson, who said "there is no try. There is only do." Karen was So right. Be not afraid to attempt ... then you will DO. Karen is a true hero to generations of students at Monarch Park Collegiate, and it was Chef's pleasure to work with her for many years.

In the long run, the only thing that will get in your way is YOU, yourself.
Get out of your own way and DO, said Chef. Just like Yoda said ... there is no 'try', there is only 'do'.

Nurture your inner Yoda.

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