Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Powers and Limits of Cookies

Today, in one of those random chitchats on the way to school, I said to my kids, "There are two things I know really well: education and cookies." Actually, there's a third thing I know fairly well: my limits. So I'm going to focus on cookies today--especially today, when many education opinionators from near and far are spouting off about Central Falls High School. I am not going to do that, other than to say that I want desperately for all of Central Falls' young people to get the education and support that they need and deserve, and that I wish the community of Central Falls the grace, strength, good will, commitment and determination to make that happen. I'll leave it at that, and write about cookies instead.

Yesterday, I wrote about how my kids and I are going to make holiday cookies to give as gifts to teachers and others. Tonight we're getting started, and as it turns out, there's a lot of thinking involved with cookie-making. Today, we're focusing on the mathematical properties of cookie baking. The guys are figuring out:
  1. how many plates of cookies we're going to give as gifts (bonus extra: thinking about who is important in your life requires a focus on interpersonal relations)
  2. how many cookies will go on each plate
  3. how many total cookies we will need
  4. how many different kinds of cookies we're going to make (bonus extras: this requires much intense cookbook scrutiny--reading!--and collaborative decision making--communication and learning to work in a group!)
  5. what are the ingredient totals, so that we know how much butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and other components to buy
  6. how much time we will need for each batch of cookies
  7. when we will make the cookies over the course of the coming week (bonus extra: time management!)
(Yes, I we're actually charting all of this. On chart paper. In the kitchen. What I really want is a kitchen with walls of whiteboard, but until then, this will have to do.)

Including the kids in the planning, before we even fire up the KitchenAid, is a key part of the process; it's the kind of informal, context-based, real-world teaching that many families take advantage of all the time, and for which we always need to be on the lookout. Yes, it would be easier to do most of the planning myself, but the kids would miss an awesome authentic learning opportunity and would be far less invested in the process.

The math ought to be fairly accessible to my kids--at least the older two--but the collaborative decision making? Oy. Not so easy. But all the more reason to brave it. They need to figure out ways to work together across differences, even if those differences extend only to the relative merits/horrors of walnuts, coconut, and raisins.

I have a mighty faith in the power of cookies, but even I know their limits. It's going to take a lot more than cookies to break through the barriers that students, teachers, families, and administrators are facing in Central Falls and in other troubled districts. But it would help, we would bake cookies for Central Falls' education and community stakeholders every day as a gesture of sweetness and belief in adults to overcome differences to do the right thing for young people and their community in a troubled and bitter situation.

1 comment:

  1. I remember when teachers baked cookies with kids...We're not allowed to do that any more.