Finding the Teaching Frame
[This is one in a series of blog posts written by Charlotte the Intern. Tune in daily to find out about what she’s been up to, what she has been learning about, and all of the crazy things she does as part of the Manna from Devon team.]
Phew. Another weekend of bread courses under my belt, and I can feel myself starting to get the hang of things. Stretching, folding, kneading, shaping. Timing and dough feel. They’re all little bits of memory that are slowly becoming embedded in my mind and muscles. But the next step will be even more challenging: now I have to actually teach a course!
Yes, me, the same girl who had never even made a loaf of bread 6 weeks ago will be teaching the Family Bread course here at Manna From Devon in only a couple of weeks time. Am I excited? Yes. Am I terrified? Absolutely. Luckily, I have two fantastic teachers right here, so in an effort to not be overcome by stage fright, I’ve been watching David and Holly even more closely these days as they go about their courses (in a way that’s hopefully not as creepy as it sounds written out right there).
Of course, the more I watch, the more I realize the incredible level of skill, knowledge, and finesse that goes into running a home cooking course. First of all, there are the brass tacks: you have to know your subject inside and out, a level of expertise that takes years of study and practice to attain. But really, in this context, knowing your subject is probably less than half of the battle. The other much bigger and harder part is figuring out how to make that subject appeal to your audience, and how to keep your audience happy, attentive, and engaged for 5-7 hours. In the end, each type of cooking or baking has a story behind it, and teaching those techniques successfully is about figuring out which part of the story to tell.
The degree that I’m working towards right now is a Masters in Communications, Food Communications more specifically, and one of the sort of foundational tools that we have used in our discussions is the concept of the “frame”. As in, when you’re telling your story, which parts of it will you choose to keep inside the frame, and which parts will you choose to leave out? Which details are important?
I was thinking about this concept a lot, oddly enough, after we made the damson korvapuusti for last month’s village bread box. For anyone who has joined the blog since then, “korvapuusti” are a rolled, sweet Finnish bun, not unlike our own cinnamon buns, but with a healthy heap of cardamom thrown into the dough. For last month’s “sweet bread of the month”, owing to a glut of damsons on hand from damson picking earlier in the month, David and I made damson-filled korvapuusti: a Finnish treat with an English twist.
They were delicious, but we burned a couple of them because we over-filled the oven in our baking frenzy. The ones that burned we pulled aside to keep for ourselves, and it was funny because they looked perfect from one direction, but were totally black on the other. It’s all about how you frame it.
I could tell so many different stories about the same korvapuusti. From one side, it’s a hybrid treat combining two different cultures, an example of globalization, or part of a story about cookery writing because it came from a local author’s cookbook. Or it could be a story about foraging because we picked the damsons ourselves, or a story about how you can adapt any recipe to be what you want it to be when you understand the ratios behind different doughs and baked goods (that’s the story I ended up writing). Or, from the other side, the burnt side, it can be a story about baking on a professional scale in a domestic oven, or what happens what you try to rush too many things into too small a time, or what happens when your intern oversleeps (ahem), or how sometimes the best-intended experiments end up being more unwieldy than you thought they’d be. All those stories are there, in this tiny little bun. You just have to pick which one to show.
As you can imagine, teaching is all about that: effectively communicating the important parts of the larger story. This is no simple task, and I have gained an even deeper respect for Holly and David’s ability to take a whole bunch of information, and distill it into smaller bits that are manageable and accessible. Now I have to figure out how to do it myself! If you want to see how it all goes, sign up for the Family Bread course here at Manna From Devon on 29 October. It will be tons of fun, sprinkled with lots of awkward moments from your truly. Not to be missed!