Lessons Learned From Jiro

One of the best films I’ve seen over the past few years is Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s a documentary that follows 85-year old sushi chef Jiro Ono and his two sons. More specifically, it’s a documentary that shows the incredible results delivered by a lifetime of passion and dedication.

Sweet, delicious dedication.

Jiro’s story is nothing short of amazing. He’s approaching 90, and still runs a Michelin three-star restaurant every day. The only thing that stopped him from continuing his daily early morning fish market trips was a heart attack suffered in his 70s. The attention to detail in his restaurant is mind-blowing; he adjusts his plating based on a customer’s dominant hand, he adjusts portions based on the size of customers, and cooks his rice every single time to a standard previously reserved for, well, the Gods.

What’s even more amazing that his impeccable eye for detail is the passion that he continues to show, at an age by which most normal people would have been long retired. Or dead. Eighty-five years old at the time of filming, and he still has the excitement of a twentysomething starting their first day at their dream job.

It doesn’t take a ton of imagination to take the film and think about it in a different context. There are lessons to be gleaned from the film for all professions, so naturally my mind drifted toward education.

Teacher burnout, especially the glut of young teachers leaving the profession, is a popular topic these days. The difficulty of the job, demanding hours, political pressures, and high-stakes testing can all understandably erode the passion of teachers. Every time I think about all the unpleasantness going around the field, I counter it with the thought of one of the maths teachers in my building. He’s been teaching nearly 40 years and still clearly has a great love for the profession and his student. Usually first in the building and last to leave. Our very own Jiro.

Maintaining that level of passion should be a goal for all of us. By the time I finally get the hang of this teaching thing (still a few years away, I fear), I want to make sure I’ve still got the passion to keep my students involved and engaged.

Attention to detail can’t be forgotten either. The best teachers I know make it a point to pick up on the almost imperceptible cues their students give. Perhaps a kid is struggling with a concept, or having a rough day. Our students aren’t always comfortable giving outward indications of those troubles, but excellent teachers pick up on them anyway. This helps form the strong bonds that allow those great teachers to deeply impact their students.

Passion and details make Jiro a great chef, and they are behind every great educator as well. I highly recommend the film if you haven’t seen it; it does not disappoint.

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The Trombonist's Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License