Cosmic Cookie Class Recipe:
2 ½ cups community creation
3 teaspoons all purpose empathy into action
2 sticks of “story”
12 ounces choice
Directions: Preheat classroom with reflection and intentionality. In a large mixing bowl, add community creation. Combine empathy and action into community creation. Beat sticks of “story” in medium mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually combine creamy mixture with community creation and empathy into action mixture. Stir in choice. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto untreated learning pan. Bake for 9 months or until golden brown.
“Have you tried Mimmie’s Bakery? They have the most incredible Cosmic cookie!” My octogenarian neighbor recently reminded me of a child, as she hailed my attention while I rushed out the door the other morning. There was something heartwarming about an older person getting so animated about something many would consider so simple, a cookie. Her excitement was contagious and stirred in me a bit of curiosity.
What made Mimmie’s cookie recipe so different?
As the day went on, I seemingly couldn’t get the Cosmic cookie off or out of my mind. Instead of heading down to the bakery, I considered how I might transfer this idea of a perfect cookie recipe to what I care most about, teaching and learning. Could I “bake” something similar in my classroom?
Teaching very well can be just a generic chocolate chip cookie but in reality, it is so much more. And it has the potential to get people excited. In the case of children, “keep” them excited. I often remind myself, a big part of keeping students love for learning ignited, is simply not getting in their way. I think about how knowledge is cheap and with the web we are saturated in information 24/7. It is what we do with learning that matters most. After two dozen years “baking”in the classroom, I definitely have learned many lessons. However, an end-of-year student survey allowed for a sort of distillation or surfacing of a “recipe” for my own Cosmic cookie.
When eating healthy, nutritionists often say to choose those foods with the least amount of ingredients. I’ve boiled my recipe down to but four “ingredients.” It would be foolhardy to think I have perfected the recipe, though there are definitely ingredients and/or steps which I feel much more confident about. Yet, perfection? Even those cookies at Mimmie’s surely are a work in progress.
Summer is a time of much needed rest for educators, but I trust is also a chance for reflection. So much news in education this past year was about the abandonment of the noble profession. With a little distance this summer, I remain hopeful that many educators might remember back to why they chose (or were chosen!) to be an educator. And I hope there is a sense of rejuvenation and excitement. Moreover, if the “Cosmic Cookie Class” recipe is helpful to even a single educator, I will feel a sense of satisfaction.
Cosmic Cookie Class Breakdown
- Community creation: Community does not just happen. Intentionality is of extreme importance. The critical skill of learning how to listen but also how to give and receive feedback are at the heart of functioning communities. A “we do this together” sort of ethos exists. Routines definitely help. Ideas for implementation include:
*Class discussion and occasional fish bowl strategy
*Feedback loops changed up and in a variety of formats:
~Teacher to student
~Student to student
~Student to teacher (such a gift!)
~Parents (digital notebooks) and segments of conversations recorded with Mote
~Administration invited in at the start and during the process, not just in culmination
~Community (something I especially wish to improve)
- Empathy but also action: This begins with awareness. Several students commented how social studies class “was about becoming more aware of what is happening around our world.” Others suggested, “It is about joy, curiousity, and being inspired to create a positive impact that would affect people’s lives for the better.” And, one of my favorite pieces of feedback was how “the class is more a study of life, all subjects combined. Where we find solutions to problems in the world.” Three ideas for beginning to transition from empathy into action include:
~Start small and add a Virtual Reality experience or simulation
~Read aloud (a book well read and discussed is appealing to learners of all ages)
~Newsela articles citing students as examples of how youth are making a difference
*Bonus: Partner with experts in the field and they may even broaden your audience for students (eg: Inspired Citizens)
- Integrate the power of story: “Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution — more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to” (Lisa Cron). Be okay with being vulnerable as you become “known” to students. Someone who students can connect with. Sharing anecdotes can add not only “reality” to the classroom but also comfort. The intentional integration of stories, like the time I tacked a horse for a teen my age who had cerebral palsy. How I was gifted an opportunity to learn gratitude and grace from such an experience. A story like this not only connects with the equestrian lover in the classroom but anyone who might have a beating heart, if the story is one students can re-live with you as you tell it. Skills learned this past year from a migration project based on story-telling included:
~Slowing down and really practicing what it means to attentively listen. This can be difficult as habits need to be broken for students and adults alike. The digital age has sped us up in numerable ways
~As learners listen, challenge them to discern where a deeper “story” might yearn to surface. Imagine it breaching as a 150- ton whale!
~Developing questions and being prepared to interview but also to design questions on the fly
~Creatively “tell” stories through a variety of mediums (eg. video, stop animation, and podcast)
- Provide student choice: Choice boards can be helpful so there isn’t paralysis amidst a paradox of choices. Further, in an effort to help with scaffolding, suggested tech platforms, as well as process steps are offered as options to follow. The emphasis is always on process yet with sufficient time built in (a calendar proposed), along with feedback, a quality final product is ensured. Building in a sort of celebration and/or “real” audience helps up the ante and leads to more student ownership and pride of their learning. On my final survey, several students commented with regards to choice. One student shared, “I love how we get to express our creativity in our learning.”
Power to Make a Difference
It was Maya Angelou who said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What matters most in our classroom is this. How students feel. The four “ingredients” above contain tremendous power. Power to be rememembered? Yes. But more importantly, the power to make a difference.
Thank you for reading and for continuing to reflect and learn.
Enjoy the summer and happy “baking”!