Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reflection and Confidence

Teacher Musings
Tonight was my grad school night, where I run out of school at 3:15 and take various forms of public transportation to UMass Boston. This semester I am taking a philosophy class, which has been really interesting and has been an enjoyable experiance since much of the "philosophical" way of thinking that our instructor wants us to engage in is very different from the real-world, pragmatic thinking I find myself usually engaging in. I don't know if it is this type of thinking environment, or just the fact that this is often my only time away from a computer and other distractions, but I often find myself reflecting on both my teaching practice and on my values in teaching during this class (especially when the professor, with his soothing, very, very quiet voice, talks for more than 20 minutes). I find myself really questioning if my actual instruction (such as my focus on theme in The Color Purple during the last two weeks) is matching my philosophy about education (that it should be both skills-based as well as driven by the learner/student). During these times when I have little else to do but doodle and let my mind wander (I'm not kidding about my professor's soothing voice) I find myself questioning both my actions and my beliefs in a way I have never done before. When I think about why I am engaging in this self-questioning now, I think there are several reasons. The first is having time in which to do it - it is rare that my attention is not diverted away from truly deep thought. However, I think the second is important - I am now more confident in myself as a teacher, which allows me to question myself. This might seem paradoxical, but to question my motivations and beliefs in this way my first or second year would have been the equivalent to asking myself if I was really cut out for this work, which was a much scarier thing to face. At this point (after a scant 6 years, I know) I not only know I want to be a teacher, but really feel like I AM a teacher. It is so intricately tied into my sense-of-self at this point that I can't conceive of losing it - which is part of what allows me to feel that my questioning is building me up as a teacher, not potentially driving me away from teaching. So, I am dedicating myself to finding more time for this type of deep thinking and reflection when this class is done - it might just be that I allow myself to go sit at a coffee shop with a notebook and think for thirty minutes - and I think it will be time well spent.

Yummy Stuff:
It is interesting thinking about my identity as a teacher, since I feel like my identity as a vegan has evolved in a similar way. I am now in my second year at a job where I have always been "vegan" and people just understand that is who I am. I also don't even think about being vegan much anymore unless I am eating out - its just how things are, and I really don't miss dairy, eggs and meat, even when I find myself using "substitutes" which I now like better than the animal-riddled versions. So, in that spirit, I thought I would share a couple of my favorite snacks that might seem like vegan adaptations but are really just some of my favorite goodies!!

Lately I have been really wanting nachos. I recently made a huge batch of salsa rice when my in-laws were over, so with that on hand I heated up 1/2 a can of vegetarian refried black beans and the rice. I put down a layer of chips on a plate and then spread the beans and rice combination over them. I topped it with salsa and sliced black olives. Really simple and really yummy, especially when watching football!

Fried Won tons
I used to love what my sister and I called "crab meat cheese fried won tons" at our local chinese food restaurant. I had never heard them called crab ragoons until I came out to the east coast. Needless to say, I don't put crab in mine. Instead, I mix vegan cream cheese with some chopped scallions and put about 1 tsp. in a won ton wrapper. Then I use my finger, dipped in water, to moisten all the edges of the wrapper, and fold it in half so that it ends up in a triangle. Finally, after heating some canola oil on medium for about four minutes I fry up the won tons - about 2 minutes on each side. When they are done I get all the yummy gooeyness of the cream cheese and crispy-ness of the won ton without any little crabs getting sacrificed - a good deal all around!