Healthy Eating, English Lessons, and some Awful Cake

One of the parts of working in an Ecuadorian classroom that has been difficult for me is the strict curriculum. Each student has a textbook (full of mistakes, might I add) and the teachers have to stick to it. We have to have a specific number of grades and assignments recorded for each semester, we have specific projects we have to complete, and the government even tells us which weeks we are allowed to give tests and quizzes. Personally, these are decisions I would like to make rather than the government. The government doesn’t know my students specific needs. It makes it extremely difficult for students who do have specific needs, which happens to be the majority of my students.

But anyway, this unit of the English textbook for grade 9 says that we need to teach about food vocabulary, and how to talk about healthy eating. It is not the worst unit, but there are so many other things I can think to teach that would be more useful.

In the past two weeks my students have studies the names of different foods, practiced speaking about meals and meal times, and then this week it was time for that project… In groups of four, my 9th graders had to find a healthy cake recipe, make it, and present the recipe and process to the class.

They all showed up on Monday morning with their cake in one hand and recipe in the other completely read to explain what they had made the night before. As the teacher, I was pretty excited. I was going to try all five of the cakes my students brought in! Sounds like a pretty good day to me, eating cake and grading presentations. Nothing could go wrong! 

Except for the fact that four 9th graders had to translate a “healthy” cake recipe. I really should have thought what could go right? A “healthy cake” is probably gross to begin with. Then add a bit of language confusion and a pinch of 14 year olds.

Let me tell you. Those cakes tasted more like horse food than they did cake. If their cakes were being graded on taste rather than effort they all would have failed. But I’m not that mean. Let’s get real though, whatever you were trying to translate probably wasn’t “apple juice”.

The idea of eating 5 pieces of cake immediately turned from a nice treat to a chore. I was shoving chunks that were visibly uncooked into my pockets and trying to hide my face from the chefs. I learned a lesson this week. Always check the translation before they go home to cook.

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