Archive for January, 2010

the weekend disappears so quickly…

January 31, 2010

Yesterday I spent the day training Destination Imagination appraisers in New Hampshire. I got to spend the day with a creative, wacky, fantastic group of adults!

Today, my parents were heading to IKEA. I wasn’t too far out of the way, so they agreed to pick me up. We had a really nice day together. I got some new lamps for our apartment–lots of light makes a huge difference!

When we got back, around 4pm, David and I bundled up and went on a walk in the freezing cold. I brought my new camera!

This was taken from the top of a parking garage.

This was taken from the top of a parking garage.

This was also taken from the roof of the garage.

I am finding it hard to believe that it’s Sunday night and I have work tomorrow…

new camera!

January 31, 2010

For Christmas, my parents very generously told me they would buy me an SLR camera. I recently picked one out and over the last week have slowly been experimenting with it. The difference in quality from my previous point and shoot camera is phenomenal! It’s really complicated, though, and I don’t really know what I’m doing yet…


Thanks mom and dad! xoxo!

more snowshoeing

January 23, 2010

Today David and I met my mom at the school where I teach to go snowshoeing. It was David’s first time ever! We followed a trail to the swamp, which has tons of birds’ nests. Last year I was told they were osprey nests, but I think they are actually blue heron nests. The swamp was frozen over (”Let’s let Emily go first and if she doesn’t fall through the ice…”) so we were able to get up really close to them. The sky was so blue and it was a spectacular day.

My snowshoes & David's

My mom, with my school on the left.

Mom, with my school on the left.

David standing on the swamp.

You can barely see me in the middle, towards the right. My mom is on the right.

Mom and David.

Afterward, we went out to lunch for coal-fired pizza. It was the best pizza I’ve had in a lonnnnng time.

Now David and I are going to work on planning our Iceland trip… Only three weeks!

snowshoeing instead of grading

January 20, 2010

I have planning the last two periods of the school day. Today, instead of grading or writing my report card narratives, I went snowshoeing on our school’s 200 acres. Lately, I have hated winter and the seemingly constant cold darkness. It was nice to be reminded about how beautiful winter can be.

Corn & Black Bean Empanadas

January 19, 2010

For Christmas, my sister gave me the BEST vegetarian cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. It is truly an encyclopedia of cookbooks. Aside from recipes, there’s a wealth of information in the book, from equipment to techniques to how to improvise dishes (soup, cookies, and more). There are dozens and dozens of charts on topics ranging from 17 ingredients to add to any yeast bread; to a chart on apples with information on what different varieties look like, their flavor and texture, and what they’re good for; to a chart on grains, their cooking time, a description, and forms and varities. It’s just shy of 1,000 pages!

I made corn and black bean empanadas last night, based on recipes in this cookbook. One thing I really like about the cookbook is that Bittman provides you with the recipe for the outside of the empanadas, then gives you a ton of possibilities for how you could make the filling, referring you to numerous other recipes in the cookbook.

Ingredients

Outside

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra*
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup-1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup-1/2 cup milk

*I would use less cornmeal flour next time and more all-purpose flour so that the dough is easier to work with and not so dry and crumbly. I’d recommend 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal flour. You could also just use all-purpose flour (2 cups).

Filling

  • 2 cans of black beans (3 cups of beans)
  • 2 cups of corn (I used frozen…fresh is not available in the winter in New England)
  • 1 cup of choped onion (one medium onion)
  • 1/4 cup corn or vegetable oil
  • Pepper/salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin (or more!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more!)
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

1) Mix the flour, corn meal flour, and baking powder together. (The recipe book recommends you do this step, and the next, using a food processor. I don’t have one, so I did it by hand.)

2) Add the 1/2 cup of oil, followed by the water. Add the least amount of water possible; the dough should be fairly dry.

3) Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes or more.

4) While the dough is resting, to make the filling, put the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook. Stir often until the onion is light brown.

5) Add the cumin, then the beans and corn. Cook until the beans and corn are warm and starting to get a little mushy. Add the cayenne, plus salt and pepper to taste.

6) On a floured surface, roll the 12 balls of dough into circles. Mine were approximately 5″, but would have been better if I’d been able to roll them thinner (more all-purpose flour, less corn flour!).

7) Divide the filling amongst the 12 empanadas, placing it in the center of the dough. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

8) Fold the empanadas in half. Using a fork, press into the dough to seal at the edges. Brush each empanada with milk and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

9) Cook for 20 minutes, until hot and golden brown. Serve with salsa.

Berry Bread

January 19, 2010

Over the past few days, I’ve made one loaf of raspberry bread and two loafs of mixed berry (raspberry, black raspberry, and blueberry) bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg (beaten with fork)
  • 3/4 cups orange juice (if making raspberry bread, I might try lime juice next time!)
  • Berries (approximately 12-16oz of frozen berries, or a pint of fresh berries). You can really use any berries you want. I preferred the loaf with just raspberries.

Directions

>>Preheat oven to 350 F

1) Stir dry ingredients together.

2) Add butter, egg, and juice.

3) Gently stir in berries.

4) Butter and flour a 9″ loaf pan. The flour is important, or the berries on the bottom of the loaf will burn.

5) Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a fork comes out clean.

Haiti relief

January 18, 2010

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

I donated to Doctors Without Borders, but there are many organizations that could also use your help.

Tomorrow after school, a group of teachers and students are meeting to discuss what our school can do to help with Haiti relief efforts. In the face of so much tragedy and loss, I really feel how astounding it is that I get to teach. I see how much potential I have, as an educator, to create change. Change with individual students, in our community, and in the world.

I’ve been reading a number of education blogs lately, and found that this post on Edutopia, “How to discuss the Haiti disaster with students” by Elena Aguilar really articulated a lot of my thoughts. Some excerpts:

“I thought about this today. The earthquake in Haiti is not a natural disaster; the disaster is the result of underdevelopment, poverty, and a complex series of political and economic decisions made by first world powers over the last 200 years. The earthquake has exposed Haiti’s desperate poverty; it is underdevelopment that is a disaster.

If I was teaching kids right now, I’d find some way to communicate this fact to them. It feels urgent. It makes what has happened in Haiti something that the world is responsible for — particularly the United States and France, Haiti’s former colonizers. But you’d have to understand something about Haiti’s history in order to understand why I’m saying that.”

“I’d help students think about what they could do to help others — what they can do right now to help Haitians, and what they might do one day to help others. I’m really big on the idea that everyone should contribute to the world, and I find that children are easily engaged with this notion. They want to be of service to people, or animals, or the environment. In my experience, kids really want opportunities to volunteer and help.”

“And so I’d use this situation to push this idea: We all belong to the same planet and have a responsibility to help each other. What can you do? What will you do?”

“It’s really about building empathy, opening our hearts, and expanding our notion of who belongs in our community. As an educator, I often feel like this is my primary charge — all I really aspire to do.”

One in 8 Million

January 14, 2010

My memoir course ends tomorrow. It’s going to be sad, but I suppose it’s a much better ending than if we were all ecstatic that it is over.

Starting next Tuesday, I will be teaching a new course, “Creative Non-Fiction.” (While memoirs fall under that category, I’m not going to be focusing on them.)

I’m trying to figure out how to use this in the course. It’s fascinating.

crossing my fingers

January 12, 2010

I just clicked “submit my application”!

Exhibition Night

January 9, 2010

Last night was Semester 1 Exhibition Night at school. It was an extremely exhausting week for me (it was about a 60 hour work week, counting work time both at school and at home, though most of the time was at school). School has been challenging for me lately. I really, really just wanted to come home and crash.

But Exhibition Night turned out to be just what I needed. I got to have really good conversations with students, a number of parents talked with me and said incredibly kind things (one parent of a 9th grader told me that I’m loved by students!), and I got to see what all this energy is going towards. Students’ work was absolutely incredible. It’s nice to be reminded of what we are doing–the big picture–because it can be easy to forget on a day to day basis.

In American History II, 11th grade students learned about the Progressive Era. They had to design their own ideal cities, trying to avoid some of the problems of the Progressive Era. Their models and papers were awesome!

Another model city.

Another model city.

A food web for 10th grade biology; this one focuses exclusively on local wildlife.

A food web for 10th grade biology; this one focuses exclusively on local wildlife.

More biology projects -- food webs and cell models.

More biology projects -- food webs and cell models.

In an 11th grade Environmental Science class, a small group of students are researching green rooftops. I was blown away during a conversation with one student by how knowledgeable he is! They are hoping to raise money to build on on our school's roof this year.

In an 11th grade Environmental Science class, a small group of students are researching green rooftops. I was blown away during a conversation with one student by how knowledgeable he is! They are hoping to raise money to build on on our school's roof.

11th grade Pop Art projects.

11th grade Pop Art projects.

You really just have to see this in person... it's ASTOUNDING! This is the work of two 11th grade art classes. They studied pop art and Latin American art, combining them to create this.

You really just have to see this in person... it is ASTOUNDING! This is the work of two 11th grade art classes. They studied Pop Art and Latin American art, combining them to create this. Unfortunately, a lot of the details are lost in the photos; plus, you can't see the videos!

A close up of the left altar.

A close up of the right altar.

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries. There were some phenomenal 9th and 10th grade art projects–I was especially blown away by a project that drew on students’ dreams–and lots of other amazing work!

Probably the best moment for me yesterday evening was listening to my 11th grade English students read excerpts from their memoirs. Their memoirs are the culmination of our class, “Writing the Self,” a course that I created and taught for the first time this semester. Here’s a brief description of the course:

Since the 1990s, the memoir genre has exploded in popularity. While recognizing the lengthy history of the genre, this course will focus on contemporary personal essays and memoirs. The class will be reading and creative-writing intensive; the majority of classes will be spent discussing the texts we are reading and completing writing workshops. Students will work throughout the semester on a major creative writing piece–their own memoir.

Throughout the semester, we will grapple with questions such as: Who are you?  What events have shaped your identity? How do your memories affect who you are? How can you tell your story?

We will question the ethical and moral dilemmas the genre brings up. Life stories inevitably overlap, but is it ever justifiable to share someone else’s secrets?  How can a writer find a balance between his or her right to tell a story and another’s right to privacy?

We will explore the value of memoirs. Why has the genre become so popular? What does a memoir tell us that a novel or a history text cannot? What compels someone to write down his or her memories, and what makes someone else want to read them?

We will also investigate the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction. How truthful can memoirs be? What are the “rules” of the genre? What happens when history becomes subjective?

While I could only convince three students to read (all of them were pretty nervous), they did a phenomenal job. It felt good to hear people say that listening to my students read was a highlight of the evening. I know that it also meant a lot to my students. To say that I received positive feedback is an understatement; I couldn’t do anything but beam. I feel lucky that I get to claim a small part in what they’ve created. I am blown away by their work this semester. We’ve grown close as a class; it’s been incredible to watch them–and their writing–transform over the semester.

Another hit was the website that I have created to showcase excerpts from students’ memoirs.

You can visit it at: www.innovationcharter.org/writingtheself