How to make the perfect sandwich

Well, here we are, back in lockdown, and I have to say that it feels harder this time around. I think it’s because we felt tantalisingly close to being able to get back out into the world; walking along the beach, eating at a cafe, visiting friends. And then it all just disappeared again. Not for all of us though, and that may be the other bit that’s harder. Last time it felt like we were all in this together. Now, in Melbourne anyway, it feels like we’re even more isolated, while the rest of the country, and the world, goes on without us.

For any readers with kids, you’ll know that remote learning is a really tricky beast. Teachers are absolutely doing their best, but for those of us with ‘spirited’ children, you’ll also know that without the ‘good’ peer pressure that comes with seeing other kids in the classroom following instructions and getting work done, it can be a HUGE struggle to get your kids to do the work that’s being set. I think it’s also fair to say that sometimes the work being set misses the mark, which makes absolute sense, because in a face to face environment you can pick up when a kid is struggling or needs clarification, where as in pre recorded lessons or through instructions with linked materials,** that isn’t possible. It’s left to the parents to do all the helping, clarifying, encouraging, printing etcetera. And if parents are trying to work from home simultaneously, well it can all just be way too much. (**I know some schools are doing live lessons which alleviates most of this, but it is not our remote learning experience.)

The messages coming through are ‘just do what you can’, and ‘wellbeing comes first’, and I wholeheartedly agree with this. But it’s hard to keep that at the forefront of your mind when you have to scroll through ALL OF THE WORK that hasn’t been completed in order to get to the new tasks. You can’t help but feel like a bit of a failure as a parent, and I only hope the kids don’t feel the same way.

All this leads me to my epiphany of today. My eldest child, a super sensitive and creative soul, was tasked with completing a ‘cold write procedural text’. For those not in education, that simply means he had one hour to plan, write, and edit a procedural piece of writing (most of us automatically think about recipes or ‘how to’ guides). The point of the cold write is for teachers to understand what students already know about the genre, which then informs what they need to teach them going forward. Because most schools still teach through genre, cold writes are a pretty common pre assessment task. I’m not into prompts because, as a writer, I know that I’m only ever passionate about ideas of my own, (although I do believe prompts can come in handy when you’re feeling stuck with your own work), but standardised tests like Naplan are all run with prompts, so schools often use them too.

The prompt for my grade 4 son was: ‘Write a procedural text about how to make a sandwich’. I wanted to cry because it was so boring but there was nothing I could do. My son set himself up in my office and wrote and revised for the expected 60 minutes. He came to find me when he’d finished and asked me to read it which is when I had my ‘a-ha’ moment. I read it and my first thought was – there’s no procedure in here. At no point has he told anyone how to make a sandwich. Then I thought, well, it doesn’t matter, that is the purpose of this task after all, to see what the kids don’t know and teach them.

I read his work again and what I saw, the second time around, was the most beautiful example of my son’s personality; his deep reservoirs of empathy, and his desire for the world to be a better place and I cried. I cried for having almost missed the exquisite innocence of his words because I just wanted him to get it done and ‘get it done right’.

Here is his procedural piece called, How to make the perfect sandwich

Ingredients: salami, lettuce, cheese and your choice of special ingredient. Mine is love or hard work.

It might be bad, it might be good. But i know if you believe in it it’ll taste like paradise.

It might have different ingredients but it has to always have a special ingredient! (But it can’t be trash.)

I hope you like your sandwich. Your special ingredient can help you smile and you’ll be happy forever.

Never give up or you’ll never succeed.

Have fun making your sandwich. It’ll be delicious. (I wish I was you)

And never forget to do your best!

Thank you

My kid 2020

When we were trying to take a photo to send it through to his teacher I asked if he was going to add a note to his document upload. ‘Yep’, he said and wrote in the comment box, ‘I am really proud of my work.’

With everything that’s going on in our important adults lives it is too easy to miss moments like these. I have no doubt that his pride in himself would’ve disappeared had I acted on my first impulse and said, ‘Buddy, you haven’t told anyone how to actually make a sandwich.’

And let’s face it – everyone knows how to make a sandwich, but very few people know the importance of the special ingredient.

I wish you all the very best right now, with whatever you may be dealing with. Go easy on yourself and your kiddos (if you have them). Definitely time for tea now xx

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