What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

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


14 thoughts on “What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

  1. Great analogy.. we love the gourmet restaurant/classroom and know it is the best and will return there whenever we can – it feels like home….. However.. sometimes we want, or need a quick, cheap, impersonal and business like grab of food/knowledge so the fast food/learn outlet has its place as does the take-away and even home-cooking…. I reckon we judge all our food/learning quality against the best we have experienced….. so pity those who have never eaten in a good restaurant! Michelin Stars and Ofsted Outstandings? Enough of this comparison now

  2. Love the analogy! The gourmet restaurant paints a great picture, and many teachers I’ve seen strive to deliver this environment. Realistically it’s not always possible to deliver the whole experience, but maintaining ‘key elements’ of a gourmet service are perhaps worthy of a focus. These would probably be driven by individual teacher strengths/skills.
    So what do you think are the Top 5 elements that teachers should *always* display? I’m leaning towards:
    – The meals (learning) are well designed by experts who truly know what they are doing
    – Relationships with all adults and children are positive
    – ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
    – Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative
    – Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance
    Great topic!

  3. This is my absolute favourite post of the whole blog. It certainly rings very true! I have brought it up at staff meetings as a topic of discussion…

  4. Ummmm, so evidently none of you are teachers in today’s world….
    Analogies and theories are great, but the application is missing.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’m unsure what you mean by real world; as a teacher of considerable experience who applies his theories daily I believe I am in the real world. Perhaps if you’d taken the time to read our other blogs you would find a refreshing mix of theory, analogies and ideas about how to apply them daily. Also of note is the fact that our book will be out next year that has over 50 practical ideas.

      Perhaps then, “evidently,” your comment has no evidence to support it.

  5. Fantastic blog – I aim to be gourmet but it is worth remembering that the leadership team at any school can either facilitate or suffocate this approach. I left the school I had been at for 14 years as we were being increasingly pushed towards fast food. I have opened my own tuition centre now and am proud to say that I am wholeheartedly gourmet and have rediscovered my job satisfaction! Difficult to aspire to in many schools nowadays though.

  6. I’ve shared your analogy with people ever since you posted it and I’ve done it again and had a thought. It doesn’t happen often so here goes. There could be a link here with flipped learning – maybe something like ‘diners can access the a la carte menu via home delivery service’. (Think those little mopeds with the keep warm boxes on the back!)

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