Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mumbai Magic!

As you know, I don’t normally get on my soap box about things but I do feel passionate about learning…and teaching. In my former life I was responsible for the continued professional development of around 60 staff. I was totally dedicated (obsessed) to finding ways for teachers to facilitate better learning. Knowing stuff doesn’t mean you can teach others. Being an expert in something is pointless as a teacher if you don’t have the skills to deliver. A little knowledge goes a long way when you are skilled in the art of teaching. I had the privilege of observing and giving feedback to many gifted teachers. I always felt sad when I sat in a lesson where learning didn’t take place…an hour of opportunity lost because of poor facilitation!
I had a recent ‘learning experience’ that made me appreciate this!

Here is a copy of the lesson observation notes carried out by an OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) Inspector who happened to be at a recent class I went to:

Lesson observation: Tuesday
Class: 15 students: 1 American, 3 Dutch, 11 British. (4 called Herbs, ‘erbs and were deemed as having special educational needs. On further assessment 3 were French speaking and so ‘erbs was acceptable)
(alleged) Aim of lesson: ‘The Spice of Life’ - the spices that go into Indian curry demystified. A cookery class.

Prior Learning:
 Participants had attended a 4 hour ‘beginners session’ in the ‘fundamentals of Indian cuisine’. The teacher described it as a ‘win-some experience’ on her blog. (winsome meaning ‘sweetly or innocently charming’) This wind-some introduction was targeted at the American market and did not stretch the British students who were already very familiar with the subject matter. Curry is the British national dish so rice and daal were well within the students’ capacity to cook alone and unaided without a step by step demonstration. By the end of the lesson the students were very familiar with the chosen university path of the teacher’s son, having listened to a 2 hour monologue but had not added to their curry repertoire.
Student A's own curry dish
During the Plenary the opportunity was given to provide feedback to the teacher, One student (student A) said she did not like the Paneer (cheese) and Spinach dish. Student B and C agreed. The teacher suggested it may be their western palette at fault. Students disagreed. It may just have been shite. The teacher asked for written feedback which student A promised to provide. (Student A did seem very studious- taking notes throught the session observed) Students were distracted by the teacher’s dog intensely licking her bare feet for quite a while. Student A was concerned about hygiene and wondered if the teacher had Paneer in her toes.

Start of the lesson sharing the big picture with learners… what they will do, how and why
The teacher was very thorough in ensuring everyone had paid… in cash and had signed a disclaimer against food poisoning, ceiling fans falling on their heads (as reported in a previous lesson), broken wrists, spontaneous orgasm, convulsions or slow and painful death by boredom.
Student A seemed to distract several other students waiting patiently for the lesson to start, causing one to snort as she tried to avoid laughing out loud (or LOL ), by teasing the teacher’s small dog and saying ‘Don’t lick me, I know where you’ve been.
The teacher asked who had done their reading homework, having pre-sent 30 emails with numerous attachments. Some students began whistling and looked at the ceiling. Student A whispered that the teacher’s dog at eaten her homework along with the toe paneer.
Connect and engage the class: lively and engaging start
The teacher said she liked to be entertaining so that students didn’t tune out. A lone note was heard. I name that tune in one: The high octave of chalk scratching on a blackboard. Either that or someone had not had asafoetida today.
The teacher spoke at the class for 1 hour. Wind-and-then-some.
Siting Doctor Oz and his American TV show as the basis for much of her research, the teacher spoke of the benefits of spices and Indian cuisine in a generic way, telling students that the mortality rate is lower in India (although she failed to say where she was comparing India with, to give students a perspective – perhaps Afghanistan or Belize). She said people in India did not suffer from Alzheimer’s and there was no Autism, just children who were a ‘little slow’ and would have to be looked after by brothers and sisters…or in her case, servants. Although not relevant to the lesson she mentioned having servants in India 17 times.
Not quite in line with winsome and wholesome aims she told students that Indian food kept the bodily fluids of blood, phlegm, vaginal and seminal secretions in balance. (there may have been other fluids but students were unable to hear after the first four because of student B snorting and student A howling).
She told the students that chilli intensified orgasm. It wasn’t clear if this was when ingested or through topical application. Student A referred to a recent article in Time Magazine that claimed 15% of females at the gym orgasm during exercise. Student B became concerned that when she got hot, sweaty and red at the gym it could be misinterpreted. Student A asked if any noises were involved. Gym students confirmed that they often grunted. Student C said she would no longer sit on the bikes at her local gym. Several students wished to discuss the merits or otherwise of chilli and exercise in assisting flow of the bodily fluids mentioned but the teacher did not allow the discussion to flourish and flower…A feeling Student A was familiar with, with regard to the subject matter.
5 students arrived 1 hour late. They seem to have purposely intended to miss the start.

Activating learning:
The teacher gathered the students round her cooking area (the lesson was in the teacher’s home. She preferred ‘homely’ to ‘professional’ kitchens). The teacher demonstrated cooking a potato and egg plant masala and a chicken masala. One student asked if some pre browned onions should be that brown. The teacher said it was very difficult to cook them correctly and that she was not a cook. Several students could not see from the back and began chatting amongst themselves. The teacher sharply told them to pay attention so they could listen to her reminiscing about her mother’s diabetic coma. I noted that several students also appeared comatosed. Several students went to adjust the air-conditioning which seemed to be set on ‘artic’. They did not return to the kitchen!
She recommended adding asafoetida to curries for flatulence. Student A asked whether it was to cause or prevent flatulence. Perhaps students would have been interested to know that asafoetida is also known as ‘devil’s dung’. Student A later said she had discovered the answer for herself. Coincidentally, there was indeed a distinct smell of dung.
Students were not given any opportunity for ‘hands on’ participation or to demonstrate their own learning. They eat the masalas for lunch while the teacher asked who would be attending the next session ‘Mumbai Magic’.  No one was available that day even though no date was confirmed. Win-some-you-lose-some

End of the lesson: Review and Evaluate:
The teacher gathered everyone back round to conclude the session saying she had many tales to tell which were bugger all to do with the lesson objective and spices. Student A said she had to leave very promptly with Students B, C and D. The teacher insisted she first share some of her knowledge of traditional Indian jewellery. She said it was always made of 22ct gold, from what was left after the British took it all. Describing the Mangalsultra necklace, the Indian equivalent of a wedding ring, she said they are given by the Mother-in-Law and often have huge phallic shapes on them. There was more LOL amongst the students. Student A, wishing to check if this was true, looked through pages of Google images of Mangalsultras without seeing one single willy shape. (although an initial mis-spelling yielded some shocking results!) The teacher told the class Indian toe rings were worn to activate a pressure point on the second toe connected to the Uterus. Student A looked from the teacher to the foot fetish, toe licking dog, horrified! Other students began playing with their toes.
Student A again said she had to go. The teacher said she could leave after carrying out group meditation. She asked students to close their eyes and cup their hands upward. She physically corrected student D, twisting her arms upwards. The student complained that the teacher was breaking her arm. Student B was alarmed and warned the teacher that student D had arthritis. Student A bowed her head, began convulsing and making sobbing sounds and appeared to lose control, all initially unnoticed by the teacher. Student B’s subsequent loud snorting attracted the attention of the teacher who then moved student A to the other side of the room. She gave student B a tissue even though it was student A who was crying and had black mascara running down her cheeks. Student A was able to see this when the teacher gave each student a little mirror at the end of the meditation so they could ‘look within’. The message was lost due to poor delivery and classroom control by the teacher. Several students were giggling uncontrollably with one particular student leading the disruption. The teacher should have dismissed Student A earlier. The teacher paused to allow Student A-D to leave, promising many more stories for the others. Students E-N also took the opportunity to depart!

The teacher largely failed to target the curry loving aficionado audience at the appropriate level and engage them in any meaningful way. Spices were not a mystery in the first place. The learning outcomes were not as intended. One unintended outcome was Laughter. Student A had a headache from laughing so much and banging her head whilst getting into the car for a quick getaway. Another unintended outcome is the sale of chilli, Gym membership and toe rings have gone up in the Houston area!


  1. Love it..................how's your head? :-)

  2. Assuming the worst of me - that I was student A?!!! :)

    Head is fine but the chilli really burned! I don't think I should have sprinkled that much on it!

    1. Don't forget to keep the toe ring clear of cheese

    2. Pander attracts small cheese loving mammals, adding to the over all pleasure of wearing a toe ring (apparently)
      I have cats who love cheese and have very rough tongues...
      Sorry - I'm making myself feel ill now!

  3. Great , If i did'nt already know I would have guessed who student A was. You should have been sent to detention.

  4. Student D with arms still intact!!!