One thing I’ve found out so far in my service year with FoodCorps is that lesson planning is simply the worst. It’s terrible, and I hate it. I’ve asked teachers at my schools about it, and they’re with me. This is—truly–news to me. I thought, these people are pros, so they must always be prepared, right? Not the case. They still stress out about whether or not the lesson they have planned will be successful or not.
It’s not that they aren’t smart, creative people; they just know the horror that is a classroom full of thirty kids looking up at you with blank faces as you gush about something that you’re, just, like, so totally into—and that kids have no frame of reference for and therefor couldn’t care less about. It’s a pretty terrible realization that a few second graders have the ability to make you feel totally inept at your job. I think that’s where the stress of planning comes from, especially as a guest teacher: the fear that your lesson has to be the coolest thing they’ve done all day, or else they are going to look at you like you’re crazy.
Sometimes, the thing I’m excited about is pretty dumb to them. Other times though, the lesson I thought they were going to hate turns out to be a blast.
That being said, here are some of my major wins and fails in class:
Fail: Planting transplants, polar vortex style.
I had finally gotten several teachers sign up with me to go out in the garden. I had several classes ready to go out and plant. I had my transplants, and I had finally gotten a hose connected. I was stoked. Then the polar vortex rolled on in, and I showed up the day of the planting and the ground was frozen solid. We couldn’t dig, and it was 27 degrees outside, so I wasn’t about to give the kids watering duties (pro tip: they always spill on themselves. Always.) The best part? No back-up plan. I just had a bunch of cold faces staring up at me like, “Why are you doing this to us? What did we do wrong?”
Win: Three Sisters Garden posters
I wanted to teach a lesson about Three Sisters companion gardening to second grade because they were studying Native Americans, but it was too cold to plant those crops. So I brought in poster board and coloring sheets with corn, bean, and squash plants on them, and they made a class poster of their Three Sisters “garden.” I thought the kids would think the whole thing was dumb, but one thing I learned is that 25 out of 25 kids will lose their minds the second you give them coloring sheets, making you their favorite person in the world for at least the next 45 minutes. That love and adoration tripled when I told them they could use markers and crayons on the same page. This was groundbreaking for them. It was what they had always wanted, and more. Success.
Win: Kale Salad extravaganza
I wish I had taken pictures of the faces of my parent volunteers when I told my garden club that we were going to make kale salad by putting everything in a bag and then pounding it with our fists. They did not look excited that this was the day they had volunteered. The kids just wanted to go outside, didn’t want to eat kale, and thought my salad dressing recipe was disgusting. But after a few minutes of mercilessly pounding the dressing into the kale, they were ready to eat it. The toppings: honeycrisp apples, raw unsalted almonds (which they also got to smash), and craisins. The toppings might as well have been candy, the way they swarmed them. They inhaled the salad, and asked for more. Out of 20 kids, only one didn’t like it, and most asked for seconds. A few even brought kale salad for lunch the next day. It was a major win, and everything I could have asked for in a FoodCorps activity.