It is Saturday morning and it is time for pancakes.
My son is 5 and he wants a stack of pancakes. I just flipped a couple on his plate and he said, "I can cut them myself." He got out a plastic knife and fork and began to cut. He paused, "I can't really do it with two pancakes".
I finished cutting up his pancakes and he ate while I was sitting here preparing to post this morning. I knew there had to be a story and an analogy here somewhere. There are several things that come to mind so be amazed at how we can learn lessons from pancakes!
- When it comes to pancake stacks, our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs. My son could only eat half the stack. When it comes to teaching and working with kids and what I want children to accomplish, I usually want them to digest more in one trial then they can handle. I am learning to break down my objectives into smaller chunks - like the chocolate post I wrote in December - so goals can be accomplished with success.
- Instant isn't always best. In pancake mixes the "just add water type" usually are easy to make, but never taste as good as the "made from scratch" kind where you fluff egg whites to stir in, add real buttermilk, etc. How often do I choose the ready-made or simple tools instead of custom adapting materials or equipment to fit the exact needs of my students? I am learning to slow down and take the extra time for specific accommodations so the fit is better the first time around. This saves every ones time in the long run and the student ends up the winner!
- If you get preoccupied, pancakes burn. How many times have I made my son the first pancake and then have poured the next into the hot pan - only to get caught up in his butter, syrup, cutting and puring milk - and then smell something starting to burn and find my pancake's first side is a chocolate brown? I get preoccupied at work and things can sit on the burner too long and start to burn. Sometimes this is pondering over an adaptive piece of equipment - like a bicycle light that needs a battery interrupter put in and a way to mount it on a chair with a switch for a student to use for a help beacon during the day. (That one is a story in itself I will save for another day!) I can stew in my mind over a project so it is perfect until it never gets put in place - or takes way too long. If we get side-tracked on the path of goals with kids - focusing on the small stuff can start the main stuff to "Burn in the pan". Let's try and stop getting caught up in that cycle.
- Pancakes taste better when you add fun things to the batter. I like to add applesauce to my batter. Sometimes I add a really ripe banana, some vanilla and salt. I personally don't care for it, but some people like chocolate chips in theirs. My wife has a recipe for waffles that has part of a can of pumpkin, pumpkin pie seasoning and is very satisfying. In your teaching and adapting curriculum for students, try doing the same thing as you would do to pancakes. What in a lesson would be the equivalent to adding chopped walnuts to banana pancakes or chunks of peaches and pecans. The sky is the limit and I guarantee it will be a lot more fun!
- When it comes to cutting stacks - kids can think they can, but need guidance to learn how. I was glad to see my son have the confidence to try and cut his own food. Do you know how long we have been cutting up his food into bite-size chunks? This was a landmark for me today! When he said he really couldn't do it with two pancakes, I should have helped him to do it. Instead, I took the utensils and did it for him. He had the confidence to try but I didn't do the follow-through. It was just faster to do it for him. When I am out in the schools I see a big issue that probably goes on all over the country. We have thousands of assistants employed to work with disabled children and they are doing everything for the student. They are well-meaning and motherly, but there are some tasks that students need to learn to do on their own even if it is a struggle to perform. If at all possible, these assistants need to help them "cut the stack of pancakes" instead of doing it for them because it is faster. I have been more aware that time is one commodity that the disabled have a lot of. Why not allow them to use it doing something for themselves - even if we have to endure watching it take 5 times as long as it would take us to do it.
O.k., I could go on, but I'll stop for now. I think you get the point. I hope you have a great three-day weekend as we approach Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday. I hope you can take some time to analyze your work with children whether it is as a teacher, specialist or parent and find out where you are with these "pancake principles". And while you're at it, make up a crazy combination and share it with your family. Then share it with us!
All the best to you!