Written by: Jennifer Appel
I come from a family of bakers. My dad makes the best chocolate chip cookies you have ever tasted. My brother makes amazing pies at every holiday. And my mom can bake the best bread for every occasion. I grew up learning how to bake and it has become a part of who I am and I love to bake for others. Because of this love of baking, I bring cookies to about every occasion at work. When this happens I always get asked, "can I get a copy of the recipe for those cookies". And of course, I give them a copy. I have given out the recipe so much that I actually have it saved on my school computer.
After giving people the recipe I get this response a lot, my cookies didn't turn out like yours, I don't know what your secret is, but mine don't look or taste the same. For years, I thought, maybe people just aren't as experienced at baking as I am. Then after years of hearing the same thing, I put my teacher hat on and thought if my students are failing the test, I can't blame them, it is on me and my teaching. I didn't properly teach them how to make my cookies, I just handed them a "worksheet" with directions. I started to think about my recipe and realizing that I listed out the ingredients and have temperature, time, etc. but no details about what the dough should look and feel like before you bake it. To start with I use unsweetened butter, that needs to soften on the counter over night. Then I included details about chilling the dough for 1 hour and then you need to let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before you start rolling the dough. While you are warming the dough you need to preheat the oven and make sure it is warm at least 10 minutes before you start baking. The dough also has a silky feeling, if you don't put in enough flour, you must add some while you are kneading the dough, it is all about feel, even when you follow the recipe perfectly you sometimes have to add flour. After you have this silky texture you need to make sure that you roll the dough to the same thickness or you will have some doughy and some burned. You also have to make sure the cookie sheet is in the direct center of the oven, or they won't cook evenly. I have 6-8 minutes as the cook time, but I always undercook my cookies (you don't want any brown on your cookies), they are much softer and yummier. I also frost them and put them in the freezer, the frosting solidifies in the freezer and they are a perfect cookie that doesn't have gooey frosting! All of these factors went into my baking, that I never thought to tell people, why??? Because you should just know that????
Do we do the same thing with school culture? When students come to us we expect that they have been intentionally taught Character, Excellence, and Community. It is our job to show them exactly what that looks like! We need to preheat the oven by teaching them the house rules before they even enter your building. We need to make sure that our classrooms and hallways have the right feel, showing them through experiential training they are able get a better grasp on culture. How much instructional time do we need to intentionally infuse soft skills? This should be part of the "culture" of the school and happen EVERY DAY! Worksheets, role plays and fake scenarios are NOT the way to teach social emotional skills. School Culture can be a JOYFUL experience with KINDNESS, SERVICE, AND EMPATHY being the icing on top.
Award winning culture intentionally teaches students character, excellence, and community.
Jennifer is a teacher and coach at Enterprise Middle School. She has been teaching for 21 years. Her passion for education comes from growing up in an education driven family (4th generation) and wanting to help and serve others. She is now driven to create an environment where all students are able to learn and become passionate about serving others.
In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Jennifer has written blogs and lesson design for CharacterStrong. She was selected for the Washington State Reading Cadre and spent 10 years teaching graduate and undergraduate classes at Heritage University. Additionally, she’s spoken at state and national conferences on PBIS, Student Voice, and School Culture.
Jennifer is a part of the coveted Teach Better Speakers Network and presents at conferences, schools, and districts all over the country. Topics include: Creating an Award Winning Culture, Amplifying Student Voice, Student-Led Podcasting, and Infusing Servant Leadership through PBIS.
In 2018, Jennifer helped launch a blog about School Culture and helped roll out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, PodBean, and Libsyn.
Jennifer can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on twitter at @jennifermappel. Follow AWC on Twitter @awculture or @awcpodcasting on instagram @awardwinningculture. Follow Wildcat Nation on instagram @emsleadership. #WildcatNation #AwardWinningCulture
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.