When I was doing VCE, Mum went back to study, so I ended up cooking dinner some of the time. When I say ‘cooking dinner’ I’m pretty sure I was just boiling some pasta and heating up sauce from a jar.
That’s often what cooking was when I left home and went to Ballarat for university. I can remember getting a reputation as a bad cook because I had a friend around for dinner and I started heating up the pasta sauce, then added mince into the sauce to cook.
When I moved back into Melbourne and joined the community at Credo Café, where I learnt from Tomsy, Gin, Karen, Mel and Neil how to cook big meals. I really appreciated the experience of being able to learn from people who had a lot of experience and had the time to teach others. Each week we’d all be rostered on to cook at least once. Cooking for 50 to 70 people every week for a few years gives you the confidence to cook for large numbers. Some of the staple meals were spaghetti bolognese (also known as Tuesday surprise), beef stroganoff, red beans and rice (you’ll want to eat a plate twice), pumpkin lasagne and chilli basil beef.
Last night we were expecting to have a lot of folks around for dinner. We had some pasta already cooked in the fridge from earlier in the week and lots of beef strips in the freezer. So I cooked up some beef stroganoff, a Credo classic that I hadn’t cooked for a long time. I also cooked some pumpkin pasta, which one of my fellow residents at Credo had said was what he cooked whenever they had vegetarians around – although it ended up pretty different because we just need to cook with what we have available any given day. It reminded me to appreciate the time other people took to teach me.
Over the last couple of years our household has started hosting learning circles. These have been informal events where we’ve opened up the house to visitors so that we can discuss things that we’ve been learning through the project. We’ve realised that because we’ve been a predominantly Christian household we need to be clear about making sure participants don’t presume everyone is Christian. I’ve found that a lot of the time Christians will presume that they are in a homogenously Christian space where their beliefs and values are taken for granted. I’ve been lucky to have had a couple of experiences of Christian spaces which I think did a good job of making space for outside perspectives. I think it’s important that we keep finding ways to create spaces where people with different worldviews can learn from each other. (I don’t have any problem with Christians having their own spaces, I just think there are already so many ‘safe spaces’ for Christians just to be around other Christians.)
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve just started doing the University of London’s ‘What Future for Education’ course through Coursera. I’m hoping that by doing this course I might be able to learn to become better at teaching, particularly in informal settings rather than in the classroom. One of the ideas that has already been presented is the idea that we aren’t always conscious that we’re learning. Sometimes we we might decide to do a class or seek another’s expertise in order to learn, but we also learn as we’re going about our everyday tasks. When I do laundry or cooking at home I have particular ways that I’ve learnt to do those tasks. When I hang out the washing I sort the items first so that the job of folding them will be easier later on. I don’t know when I learnt to do that – I must have just tried it one time and decided it was worth doing it that way. We’re always learning things outside the classroom, but I wonder about whether we can be more attentive to opportunities for learning in our ordinary everyday life.
I’ve just started doing the University of London’s ‘What Future for Education’ course through Coursera. For the first class we’ve been asked to reflect on a successful learning experience and an unsuccessful learning experience.
I think my most successful learning experiences have been when I’ve been able to learn in a way that is tailored to me as a learner. At my first high school I’d often get ahead of the rest of the class, at least in some of my classes. I can remember that some teachers would expect students to just sit quietly once they had finished, but I really appreciated when one of my geography teachers just allowed me to do the classwork at my own pace, and then gave me additional learning material to explore once I’d finished all of the required work. While I was at that school I also appreciated that they let me spend three months travelling around the country with my family, and saw this as an opportunity for me to be responsible for my own learning.
I contrast, I always found most kinds of mathematics really difficult. I found that when I couldn’t keep up with the class the teacher would move on without me, and there wasn’t time to help me get it. By the time I got to year 11 I was walking out of class because I didn’t have the sense that I was getting anywhere. I also didn’t have much of a sense of any purpose for understanding mathematics since I wasn’t planning to work in science or technology.
I’m wondering, what have been your successful or unsuccessful experiences of learning?