I'm a huge fan of the television show, Monk. I love his ability to use his greatest weakness as his greatest strength. If you haven't seen the show, let me fill you in. You see, Monk is a private investigator that suffers from OCD. However, it's because of his OCD that he is able to notice details and find clues that no one else is able to identify. In doing so, he solves crime after crime. You may be asking yourself what in the world this has to do with education. Let me explain...
One of the things that Monk struggles with as a result of his OCD is allowing his food to touch. If someone brings him a plate, he cannot keep it if the food is touching in any way. Everything has to stay separate and everything has its place.
When I think back to my time in the classroom, I think this is how I saw my teacher plate before my mindset shifted and everything changed. I saw my content as the main dish with everything else happening when and if I was able to find a place for it on the plate. However, I didn't let my food touch. In other words, I taught my content each and every day, the counselor came in on Thursdays to address SEL, technology happened on Fridays when we went to computer lab, and life-ready skills were addressed through conflict resolution on the playground.
It wasn't until later in my career that I realized that I needed my plate to look more like my Thanksgiving plate than Monk's plate. When I began to let my food touch, I began to design real and relevant experiences that were meaningful for my learners.
It wasn't long ago that I was at my parents' home for Thanksgiving. As I went through the buffet line, I chose the things that I felt like would create that perfect bite that I had been waiting for all day. In my opinion, the perfect bite includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Looking at my plate after going through the line, it looked like a mess. My food was definitely touching and it was super full. I couldn't help but think to myself about teacher plates as I walked back to the table.
Even though my plate was messy, it included all of the things that I knew would create my perfect bite. Our teacher plates should include the things that we know will create the perfect bite for our learners. Letting our food touch allows us to carry more on the plate so that the learning we design is meaningful.
Consider the experiences that you design for your learners. In order to be meaningful, those experiences should include not only content, but also life-ready skills, social emotional learning, and anything else that will help learners make connections and reach a deep level of understanding - the perfect bite. I think of things like technology as seasoning for the experience. Sometimes we need it, sometimes we don't. It simply depends on the learner and the experience itself.
It's also important to acknowledge that my perfect bite is different from my husband or my sister's perfect bite. Knowing our learners well and letting them identify what they need off of the buffet for the learning to be meaningful is important as well.
Being intentional about creating the perfect bite can change everything. Experiencing the perfect bite will leave our learners wanting more. They will find meaning in what is being learned resulting in a willingness to invest.
Take some time to think about your teacher plate. Does it look like Monk's plate or does it look like your plate after visiting a buffet? What are some things that you might add to your plate to create that perfect bite and how might that impact your learners? How might you encourage your learners to think about their own plates and what their perfect bite might include?
Below are some things that you might want to consider grabbing from the buffet to weave into your learning experiences...