Noodle Expert Lisa Berghoff discusses what we can learn from Julia Child and the emphasis on relaxation in Italian culture.
Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?
I would choose the late Julia Child to be my teacher for a year. First of all, I love to cook and always want to learn more in the kitchen. I know that a year with Julia would be a hands-on, rigorous, colorful, and exciting adventure. She always had the right attitude about learning: to never be afraid of failure because if you don't fail you will never learn anything.
Watching her flounder in the kitchen on her TV show certainly helped many people gain the confidence to try cooking complicated French dishes in their own homes. She also had a wonderful sense of humor in a field where many people are very serious. Besides cooking, I would want to learn from her life experience. She turned her passion and into an amazing career, and I'd love to learn from her wisdom.
What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?
"Always be grateful and thankful." I got it from my grandmother who was always so positive. It's something that I say to my own children all the time. Whenever I'm in a challenging situation, I often find myself looking for those little things to be grateful and thankful for. I think that practicing gratitude helps me to be grounded and take a step back to gain perspective when dealing with tough times. In the world of education, we can become so detail-oriented, and it's important to remember to look at the bigger picture. At the end of my classes, I often say to my students "Thanks for coming!" I truly am grateful that they are with me during that time sharing their hard work and energy.
Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?
I would love to send my students on a trip to Italy. It's so beautiful there! I'd love for the students to get to experience authentic Italian food. I also think that there is so much to learn about the culture and overall attitude towards life. Italians are much more relaxed about life than we are. We can make our kids stressed that they must be participating in programs all the time. There is a sense that our kids need to always find ways to get ahead. In Italy, they appreciate family, celebrations, and know when to take time just to relax.
When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?
I started off as a business major in college. When it came time to take Accounting 101, I did not do well at all. I would go in for help, but didn't even know enough to form a productive question. I went in to see my academic advisor and my options were to retake the course for a better grade or find a new major.
It was the first time I realized that just because you think you want to do something, it may not turn out the way you expect. My advisor asked me about what classes I was taking that I really enjoyed. My psychology classes were fascinating to me and I got excellent grades because the work in the class didn't really feel like work. This experience helped me learn that following your passion is the best lens for planning for the future and also that change is a very good thing.
Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?
My undergraduate degree is actually in psychology and not education. I had planned to become a psychologist and work with at-risk youth. My first job out of college was working at a crisis shelter for teenage girls. The shelter had 14 beds and round-the-clock staff. I was a child care worker and worked eight hour shifts, sometimes at night. One of my favorite parts of the job was when I would pick up the girls from school. I would help with homework and organization. A lot of these girls had gaps in their learning and various challenges that made it hard for them to learn. I became friends with their teacher, who was in charge of their self-contained classroom at the local high school. She encouraged me to take some education courses and I absolutely loved everything that I was learning. The coursework and the work with those girls just made everything click for me and I knew that I wanted to be a special education teacher. I absolutely love helping students find ways to achieve their goals.