“Tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life.” He floated off to bed.
He was talking about school. Sometimes, with everything we read, we can be hard pressed to hear a student speak that way about attending class. But he was full of hope and promise about what a good day it would be indeed. He was beyond excited.
What are the conditions that had created this situation? How did they come to be? Who created them?
It was a chance occurrence. A brief encounter at a local fresh food market. The twelve-year-old was shopping with his mother and picking out what he needed for his latest creative endeavour in the family kitchen. Some young woman was there shopping too and it turned out it was one of his teachers. For students, it can sometimes feel a little odd to run into a teacher someplace other than school; it serves as a reminder that a teacher is a normal human being and has ordinary chores just like other human beings.
After short introductions, the teacher turned to the student and remarked, “You know, we should have you teach the class how to cook something. Would you like that?” And at that moment, I think stars exploded in his eyes.
The next few days there was a lot of thinking going on. “What should I make? It has to be something different.” The mother offered help, suggested researching some cookbooks but the twelve-year-old was dismissive. He had watched enough Netflix cooking shows, read enough cookbooks and already experimented enough in the kitchen.
The mother wasn’t sure it would come to pass but the teacher remembered. And the boy with stars in his eyes prepped, made a list of ingredients, practiced and then planned out the instructions so the classmates could prepare his dish in teams.
He gave the teacher a list of ingredients. He was bringing some. She offered to go shopping at an Asian store for the rest. And then she lost or misplaced his list. So, he had to tell her again, off the top of his head. This was actually quite funny as it is the twelve-year-old that forgets, frequently. “She forgot, mom. I had to tell her again.” How wonderfully human and for a moment she became just like him.
He was dropped off at school early with his basket of ingredients, a backpack of frozen things, his portable blender and a clean typed copy of his recipe. “Can you get her to take a picture?” the mother asked. Quickly, he vanished into the library—his favorite place—to wait for the start of classes. The mom was pretty sure he would forget to ask.
Suddenly, “How was school today?” took on a whole new meaning. The mom drove him to the community garden so he could water his plot hoping for a more detailed response. “Did it go okay?” Did it turn out?”
After some initial teasing on his part, “It was a disaster,” he finally recounted his morning. “I think it went well. Not all the kids tried it.” But, he did say he got “some rave reviews from a few of the staff.” And the teacher, yes, that same teacher that remembered, she said, “When you are older, you should open your own restaurant.”
“So, what were the downsides? What would you have done different? Was it more fun than art class? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate it?”
He paused, thoughtfully, “Well, I would give it a 9 or an 8.5 because we didn’t have all the right ingredients. I wouldn’t use the wasabi again. And we didn’t have fresh ginger. She bought pickled ginger. It was the wrong kind. But it was still good.”
“Mostly, though, I didn’t get to do the actual cooking as I was showing people how to do it. I like to do the actual cooking. Next time, I want to do the cooking, too.”
And with that, we harvested his garlic scapes, watered his garden and went back home.
Thanks to those teachers who create the stars that explode in a student’s eyes, that touch their hearts, and help them live their dreams.