Thursday, 20 March 2014

New Insights: Role of the Instructor

Role of the Instructor

What is the Definition of an Instructor?
1. A person who teaches something
2. A college teacher ranking below assistant professor.

Over the last month reading many articles on the role of educators and more specifically, instructors I found that they all came back to the same key points. Many of which I certainly relate to as an instructor (in my first full year of instruction) but also relate directly to my profession as a Pastry Chef and leader in the hotel industry for many years.

A great deal of roles encompass that of an educator, and more specifically in my case, an instructor. Besides the obvious role of teacher some of the roles that I believe are extremely important are:

  • Enthusiastic Educator
  • Repetitive Role Model
  • Empathetic Counselor
  • Amusing and Engaging Group Leader
  • Guide and Filterer of information 


As an instructor and I have the greatest job in the world. In a profession that I truly love I believe that is so important to enthusiastic about what you teach. Having the ability to want to pass on the information that you have learned from years in a chosen profession to students each day is extremely fulfilling. Not only should the instructor be enthusiastic about what they are teaching but also want to learn themselves. To me this is one of the best parts of my job. Each day I am tasked with showing students how to make pastry and each day I am able to practice myself as I pass on my knowledge on the given subject. What better job than being able to receive an education every day on your the profession that you love so much. For a person like myself who, each time I make something my mindset is to make it better each time I make it in the future. Passing on this enthusiasm and passion to the students is really the best job in the world.

Repetition in the culinary world is something that we deal with every day and in some cases this is a positive and others, perhaps a negative. Role models in the culinary classroom need to continuously repeat information that is so important (there are endless examples) to the success of a kitchen. A good example of this is kitchen cleanliness. One of the fundamentals of a great kitchen is its ability to stay clean and this comes from the ability of the leader to continuously monitor and create the correct environment and  mindset of all individuals involved to keep it that way. A culinary educator must insist on a clean kitchen and do so as a role model to the students as well as educating them on the possible negative repercussions of an unsanitary environment.

One thing that I learned as a leader in the hotel industry (I am sure this is the same for every industry and business) over the years and one that transfers very well to that of an instructor is that you must have empathy and understanding of individuals needs. An empathetic leader and educator will earn the respect of the staff or students long before one that is lacking (honey and vinegar?). As in instructor we deal with people who of course, not unlike any other profession, that have individual needs and sometimes we must be flexible to meet the needs of that individual. Do not give up.

A bit of humor can go a long way. Studies have shown that lectures where more likely to be remembered when they were interjected with humorous situations about relevant topics. Of course the bottom line is for the student to learn but if it can be done in an enjoyable environment then there is nothing but a positive outcome. Certainly students make mistakes but using certain situations with a bit of humor can certainly point out a mistake but can also create a memorable situation that will hopefully be a lesson for their future. 

After reading my learning partners blog on social media it got me to thinking about how instructors need to filter information from many sources. Quite often students will bring in pictures and/or recipes that they have acquired from family members, books and very often the internet. Unfortunately, more often than not I must be the bearer of bad news and refuse their use in most situations because, though your grandmother made it her whole life, these sorts of recipes do normally equate to good professional kitchen recipes. Information from the internet is abundant but that does not necessarily mean that it is good and neither are the recipes. So as an instructor I must be able to filter through what I believe is the best course  to sail through the sea of information provided to me.

These are just a few of the many, many roles that I tackle each day. It is important to continue to educate myself to educate just as I continue to educate myself as a Pastry Chef. It is exciting to touch on just a few of the roles of the instructor and think of the other roles as they come and the challenges, positive and negative, that the future holds.

Each day at some point all of those roles come into play and hopefully we can impact students in a positive way to prepare them for our chosen profession.

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