Myself and David (AKA the Thought Weavers) love to play around with analogies, sometimes they help us get a point across and at other times people look back at us with glazed eyes. However, we really feel this one works and will hopefully help you think about your practice.
So here goes.
We think classrooms are like (or perhaps even should be like) a good restaurant. However, this is not always the case, sometimes they are more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet’
Let me explain some of the classic features of a ‘fast-food’ model of the classroom:
- Pupils walk in with no-one to greet them
- Adults talk really quickly; they’re impatient and want answers quickly.
- The menu is always the same.
- A diet of uninspiring food learning is supplied daily. (it does however hit all of the APP outcomes)
- Pupils will never remember their favourite or lesson when they’re older
- Standards are high because the criteria for judging them is so narrow. The ‘fast-food’ restaurant makes and healthy profit and the classroom produces high ‘standards’
- The tables and chairs never move.
- All posters and displays are professionally made by adults.
- Differentiation is made by the words ‘small,’ ‘regular’ or ‘large,’ or in classroom speak; ‘poor,’ ‘average’ or ‘bright.’ (Although occasionally ‘G&T is on the menu)
- Sometimes special menus/promotions are created, in schools these are known as ‘theme days,’ this is the only time when the menu is slightly more interesting.
- Feedback is standardised and irrelevant. In the classroom this might be ‘Good Work’ or ‘Well Done’
- No tips are given; the children will never go the extra mile.
- Customers can never change the menu and ask for something a little different; in the classroom children get what they’re given.
- There is no overt way of expressing pleasure or disappointment at the service provided.
On the other hand, a gourmet restaurant (or perhaps country pub!) model for the classroom might read as follows:
- A friendly smile when you walk in.
- Small talk at the table with staff.
- The menu changes regularly and there are lots of daily specials
- The meals (learning) are well deigned by experts who truly know what they are doing.
- Great memories are created by the quality of service and friendly atmosphere.
- Relationships with all adults and children are positive.
- ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
- Standards are exceptionally high, because of the attention to detail at every step of the process.
- If something special is required or someone wants to deviate from the menu it is celebrated and explored
- Differentiation is the choice of the customer/pupils; there is a wide variety of activities/meals set out in a variety of ways.
- Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative.
- Plenty of tips! Children bring in masses of things from home because they’ve been inspired in school.
- Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance.
- Pupils are encouraged to think about their decisions; they have time to evaluate the menu before making a decision
And so on…
Let’s make it clear. Classrooms are not restaurants and certainly shouldn’t be run as a business; pupils are not our customers, they are learners and we should be proud to facilitate their progress.
But, we feel the comparisons can be made. We believe that too often, the standards agenda pushes schools into a ‘fast-food’ model of education. Children deserve better! Whilst a ‘Gourmet’ classroom means hard work, it does mean that the children are the most important people and they will remember their experiences.
So how do you make your classroom ‘Gourmet?’
The Thought Weavers