Are you a Cupcake or a Muffin?

Last week a 5th grade student came up to me at recess and said, “I’d like to share a letter with you between a cupcake and a muffin.” The letter is as follows:

Dear Cupcake,

That frosting you smear all over your face says a lot about your self-esteem.

Love, Muffin

Immediately my Food Network brain went to red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. What would the red velvet be without the buttery cream cheese frosting? All afternoon I thought about the letter and how it applied to everything we do in life. I wondered how something so simple could be so complex.

At first, I was sure I was a cupcake or at least I wanted to be a cupcake. As I began to discuss and defend my choice, it became clear that sometimes I am a muffin and other times I am a cupcake. Mostly though, I am a muffin – plain and simple, yet complex flavor with originality. To me, a muffin is vulnerable and willing to take risks. But that is just my thinking.

Here are some responses from other teachers…

“What if you are all frosting and no cake?”

“Given enough frosting I could rule the world.”

Cupcake because they are the same…Ingredients for cupcake: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, shortening, milk, vanilla, eggs. Ingredients for muffin: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, milk, vanilla, eggs. The difference is the frosting. Frosting is fun. For me, frosting is ENGAGEMENT. It is the hook that gets them in to participate in the activity. If the activity seems ‘fun’ or ‘cute’ – engagement is a no brainer and my kids are ‘set up’ to learn.”

“I think of myself as more of a muffin. The muffin is supposed to be healthier and better for you and yet so many muffins are more like cupcakes: sweet, fatty and full of junk – yet taste so good. I am always looking for the depth and meaning in my lessons, I want the kids to walk away with something and be something more because they have stretched their minds. Yet the cupcake side of life is so important – to get the engagement and buy in. It gets the curiosity stirring and sweetens the learning. So I guess it boils down to calling myself the unhealthy muffin. I am supposed to be good and healthy for you, but I am full of the junk that makes life of so much better. I will be the chocolate, chocolate chip, super fatty, moist muffin.”

“Cupcake – a small cake baked in a cup like mold. Muffin – a quick bread baked in a pan having cupcake molds. The mold is the same. It’s the ingredients that make a difference. The ingredients for physical education are to provide my students with the tools to be lifelong physical activity consumers. I provide them with a variety of different activities. If they find an activity they like and continue to be active in the future, that is just the ‘icing on the cake’! So if I have to choose just one, I have to go with a cupcake!”

So are you a cupcake or a muffin? Why?


Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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