In the Sundance movie Ants on a Shrimp, René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, a Denmark restaurant, decides to risk everything to open a restaurant in Tokyo, Japan for a five week run. He moves his entire staff to Tokyo and asks them to reimagine a 14 course menu.
After weeks of preparation, the staff shares their new menu with Redzepi. He’s a harsh critique and reflects that they simply copied the menu structure from the Denmark restaurant and pasted it in the new restaurant. They were not able to think beyond the template that they knew. He reminds the team that they have customers with high expectations for excellence and asks that they get back to work and keep their new customers in mind. A review of the movie states that Redzepi pushes his staff “not just to look but to see” through a different lens to come up with a unique menu to meet the needs of Japanese customers.
As the new school year begins, I challenge each of you to cut copy/paste and templates out of your vocabulary and actions. In professional development workshops, I often hear participants asking for a template to use as they create lessons and long range plans. Our educational system has trained us to be good followers – to complete the lesson plan templates, fill out the evaluation forms, and follow the set schedules.
Old habits die hard, but we must change those habits and replace them with a design process that allows us to move outside the boundaries of what we’ve done in the past. We need to prepare our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. They deserve to have the opportunity to come up with unique solutions and express their creativity. Copy/paste doesn’t work if we want to develop cognitive skills in our students.
Taking another lesson from Redzepi, go outside of your school and classroom and immerse yourself in the culture of your community. Talk to business people about their hiring practices and what qualities they look for in applicants. Bring together a team of educators and brainstorm ways to bring a fresh perspective to your work. Ban the phrase “this is the way we’ve always done things” and make bold moves to prototype new, promising ideas that will prepare our students for the future they deserve.
I look forward to hearing your stories. Have an amazing school year!