What Brings Us Back?

There’s a Thai restaurant and bar that I go to whenever I’m in Melbourne and, for those who don’t know Melbourne, there is no shortage of good restaurants and bars so what is it that keeps me bringing it back to this one place? I’m asking this question because I always like to provide a good educational experience for my students – one that they keep coming back to – so lets start our exploration by looking at something that I keep coming back to.

  1. The food is excellent. The core role of a restaurant is to provide good food and the Thai is fresh, tasty, authentic and reliable. I’ve never had a bad meal here. So it’s consistently what it should be. But lots of Melbourne restaurants are like this so that’s not my only choice.
  2. It’s always busy but it’s never so crowded that it’s overcrowded.it’s a popular place and, sometimes, you might have to wait for a short while but the space is set up so that it’s well compartmentalised and offers a range of dining/drinking experiences. Now there are many spaces that meet this requirement so that’s not unique either.
  3. The waiting staff are helpful and friendly and can either get you what you want or can help you to work out what you should have ordered, had you known.
  4. This is an interesting point. I know the food menu well enough that I’m happy to self-navigate but the beer and wine menu changes, with the “on tap” items changing very frequently. If I put myself in their hands then I get good recommendations and advice.

  5. I don’t feel like a stranger. the first time I went there, I felt I was getting the same excellent experience as everyone else. People I have sent there remark on this. Without resorting to false camaraderie or obsequiousness, you feel at home very quickly.

Let’s distill this: reliable quality, good use of space, good advice and open staff, and a feeling of belonging. It’s no surprise that I keep going back, is it, and if I offered this kind of experience in my classes, it wouldn’t surprise you if the students kept turning up. Obviously I’m not running a Thai restaurant, more’s the pity, so how can I do this educationally?

Well, firstly, I need to know my stuff and prepare for every activity. The only way to deal with the ups and downs of life is to prep well and be ready for the unforeseen especially in terms of time consumption. Next I need to provide an experience that will make the best use of my student’s time and space: rather than talking at the during a lecture, we can use that time to take advantage of the fact that they are all sitting next to each other for an hour, with me hanging around. Of course, to address the next point, I need to get to know my students to work out how to advise them so that I always give them good advice and I need to be available to actually answer questions and give them advice. Finally, they need to feel like they belong at the Uni, in my class, and that they can explore, learn and ask questions – which is all about paying attention, encouragement and working out how notice when students need me to ask them how they’re doing.

That’s a lot of stuff to do but if I want my students to seek out and stay in my classes, the way I’m guaranteed to spend at least one meal in Melbourne at this restaurant, I can learn from some of the things that I like and try to emulate that to get the same results.

Food, no pun intended, for thought.

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