500 Words At A Time: As A Teacher, Part 15

Cutthroat Chopped started today. Each semester the capstone students receive random competitive challenges that they are judged upon. The student who wins the overall competition wins a big prize, such as an exemption from the exam. Given that the challenges put the skills that they are supposed to be learning to use if they win they have demonstrated what the professor is looking for.

There are other purposes to the challenges, getting the students used to the idea that work can come out of nowhere, make no sense, but need to be completed to the best of their abilities. To get the students thinking in creative ways. And for the professor, to motivate the students to do more than they are doing.

This year’s competition started off with a couple of twists. Each student received 100-points to spend on sabotages or advantages for themselves…just like Cutthroat Kitchen. At the end of the competition, students keep the points that they had leftover plus any that they win as a running total. The first challenge to create a poster for the competition itself. That doesn’t sound too bad…

…and on the surface it isn’t, but what the students learned is having a time limit is stressful, that attention to detail will make or break a really cool idea, defending your work is as important as the work itself, and that life has a way of throwing wrenches into your plans-those who can adopt will succeed or crash and burn.

The first sabotage: the winner chose a theme for their poster and handed out themes to the rest of the students. Because this was the first time this happened it was a non-event until…the third sabotage when two students had to switch seats and complete each other’s posters. The second sabotage was the student had to print in black and white. This sabotage actually kept the student from coming in third.

The first place poster was an original creation using a sci-fi theme. The student used their time well, creating a lot of subtle effects that we wowed over. The student paid attention to the details and that was the difference between first and second place.

Second place was a stunning poster in black and white. Unfortunately, the student did not pay attention to the fine details. The silver lining was that I was able to use that as a lesson to the student for their print portfolio. Had the student’s poster been printed in color a lot more would have been called out as wrong, such as the color of font against the color of the background image.

Third and fourth place were the students who had to switch seats. Unfortunately the sabotage got the best of one student…they shit the bed, but were honest about it. The third place poster was hilarious and with more time might have taken first or second place.

First, second, and fourth place all learned something about themselves and we learned something about all of them. These lessons will be used in the subsequent weeks to motivate them and use the expectation bar that they just set to get them to achieve more.

Gotta love Cutthroat Chopped. 🙂


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