August 19, 2008

My SLO Experience – Ovenless Cooking Club

Posted in SABIS/Choueifat tagged , , , , , , at 6:36 am by stephshimkooo

As an English teacher, I was looking for ways to get the kids to engage students into learning. I cook a lot, and I know a lot of simple recipes, so, I tried to start an ovenless cooking club. Students could learn by doing, and be proud of something they’d done and they would have something to show for their work.

The disaster of the cooking club I lay directly at the feet of the higher-ups in the SLO. I had submitted a

Delicious, Nutritious, and Educational

Delicious, Nutritious, and Educational

proposal, as I had done with the advanced reading club. I had submitted 14 recipes that could be made without an oven or knives (salads, no bake cookies, etc.) in less than 30 minutes to minimize any incidents or liabilities. They said they loved the idea, but did not provide any funding. They did not even reply to my multiple requests through my SLC (God bless her) until the very day of the first scheduled club meeting. I brought oranges, fruit cocktail and toothpicks and we made “fruit flowers” to get them started.

The room that was assigned for the club was not the kitchen – it was an unused classroom in an unused hallway under construction. I had to sanitize it every time we used it, and the utensils and bowls had to be taken downstairs to the office to be washed because there was no working bathroom on that floor. After the first week, the SLC told me that another room had been assigned for the club. When I went upstairs to check it out, it was under construction, literally. There was an entire wall of exposed cinder block, paint everywhere and no furniture at all. I disobeyed my directions and went back to the original classroom from the first week.

The size of this club was much more than I could handle. At its peak it had almost 60 students in it. Most of them had signed up for it, but a lot showed up after hearing that I was the teacher, that their friend was in it, or because they hadn’t known about it before. The SLC asked me if I could handle that many kids, and I told her at 35 that I could, but this was half because I knew there was nowhere else for these girls to go during this period. After that it swelled to levels much too high, and any girls that wanted to change, could. Over the weeks I kicked out a few for bad behaviour as well, but they always ended up back in the club because there was nowhere else to put them.

For three more weeks, I keep paying out of pocket for supplies because the SLO would not give a direct answer about if I would receive any funding. Truth be told, $25 would have bought most of the basic supplies we needed like plastic spoons, bowls, and plastic wrap. Around $100 would have bought all the supplies I would have needed for the entire year if we bought it in a timely manner. Some ingredients like sugar, flour, etc. could be used multiple times.

The AQC and the SLO suggested that I delegate responsibility to the students so they could learn responsibility. This would be fine in most normal situations, but this was not a normal situation for three reasons:

  1. It would end up being their parents’ responsibility, not the students’, and since I had not gotten any answer from the SLO regarding funding, the students and parents had not been notified of any financial obligation.
  2. The students didn’t always know what the ingredients were, even with a picture or a translation. Ingredients like “shredded coconut” and “tahini” aren’t things they or their parents are necessarily familiar with. It would have been much simpler for me to buy the ingredients with a budget or to be reimbursed.
  3. If ONE student did not bring in what we needed, we could not make the food. This is exactly what happened.

Every single week that the girls were responsible for bringing their items, there was at least one item that someone either “forgot” or “thought teacher would bring it” or they didn’t understand what they were supposed to bring. Some students didn’t bring anything because their parents didn’t want to help them or because they didn’t understand what to get. One poor girl came in tearful and scared because her mother said she never agreed to buy anything for the club and refused to take her to the store to buy what was needed. One girl was supposed to bring in oat flakes and came in with the box of Corn Flakes that her mother had given her.

Despite their unwillingness to help me, they began suggesting ways to “improve” the club by trying to implement the point system. Instead of using the 40 minutes I had for prepping, cooking, and cleaning up, they asked me to make it a vocabulary and grammar lesson by pointing out grammar points in the recipe, and by making them memorize the ingredients. In theory, this is a nice idea, but with 40 kids, 40 minutes, 3 tables, no sink, and no support, what ended up happening was a half-finished recipe and a bunch of kids running to their next class when the bell rang, leaving me with a filthy room and few resources with which to clean it. Two girls always stayed behind to help me, but I knew their next teacher yelled at them for being late, so I always told them to go. Thankfully, another teacher would come and help me when she could.

We Just Couldn't Cut it

We Just Couldn't Cut It

The club ended up being canceled after two months because for three weeks solid we didn’t cook anything. It was very disappointing on several fronts, especially since a lot of the confusion could have been avoided. Had the SLO given me a budget, I could have had everything ready every time they came into the room. Had they told me in a timely manner, I could have made a club money collection from the students, or gotten a group of parents on board. We could have sold the things we made to the student body, but SABIS denied me permission to do any money handling. Had they not interfered in the planning and stuck with the proposal I gave them, the students would have been able to finish what they started. The SLO team in the PPP is an absolute disaster, and sadly, for the most part it’s not the SLCs on the ground-it’s the executive staff that make a mess.

My club was also paraded around as a “SABIS success story” in the PPP, despite their treatment of me as documented in other parts of this blog. I have never received any recognition for my efforts. It is a crying shame, especially since the girls were immensely proud of what they did when they actually finished. It still upsets me to this day.

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1 Comment »

  1. Adam said,

    I feel sorry for you


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