Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Teacher musings:
For teachers, January is not so much a new beginning as a chance to catch your breath for the second stretch of a the marathon that is the school year. September is our real new year. It is our chance to start anew, make glorious (and often idealistic) plans and to also pause and reflect on our work and lives and strive for balance for both. With this in mind, here are my New Year's resolutions for the 2010-2011 school year. Some are more personal, some are more professional, but I hope they will all help me be a better teacher, mother, partner and overall person.
1) Make it work. So, the writing class you were teaching has too many kids? Or didn't really get scheduled right at all? Make it work. So, your long term plans get thrown off because of a last-minute district assessment? Make it work. Rather than worrying about all the things that make my job more difficult than it needs to be, I'm just going to turn around and make it work for me and my students.
2) Focus on reasoning. This year I want to really improve how I teach students to reason, both in their thinking and in their writing. I want to try new tools and provide a multitude of examples to help them do this. I also want to stay focused on this as my personal improvement goal so that I can do at least one thing well rather than trying to do 15 things adequately.
3) Gym twice a week, long run once and out by 4. More than ever I need to keep my work from completely dominating my personal life. So, I'm going to get up early for the gym at least two days a week, and I going to try and leave school by 4 whenever possible, so that I can make it home in time to nurse my son. Over time I've learned the hard way that you can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself. So, I'm taking care of me to better care for my son and to better serve my students.
4) Take time to reflect. I've always tried to be a reflective practitioner, and in that vein I have always set aside a few minutes every day to reflect on that days lesson, meetings, etc. However, like most of my life, this was a tightly scheduled time, and I'm starting to realize that, while this reflection does help me, true reflection may not look like that. My classes on creative thinking in grad school always discussed the way that our brains need downtime to work, and during that downtime our minds make amazing connections and creative leaps. Often our best creative thinking happens when we are doing something completely different from the topic we want to be thinking creatively about. After getting some amazingly great ideas while a)nursing my son at 5:30 am, b)biking to work and c)lifting weights at the gym when I forgot my mp3 player, I've decided I really need to stop seeing these times as down-time and instead see them as the times when I'm actually quite productive. So, I'm going to stop trying to minimize this down time, and instead relax and let those creative juices flow.

Yummy Stuff:
Well, dad is now fully in charge of our meals and meal planning. But I still help out now and again :) I am trying to figure out ways to bring lunches to school that are a)yummy and filling b)don't weigh too much (since I'm biking) and c)cold, since I don't have time to heat up lunch and pump breastmilk during my 20 minute lunch break. Enter - salad! But not your typical green salad - that has not been enough to sustain my milk-producing body. Instead, I'm going to be making lentil and bean salads, and putting them on top of greens (spinach and such) for my lunch. This week I will be enjoying Lentil-Bulgur salad from the Moosewood cookbook - slightly adapted to meet the veggies that were in our fridge and my love for kalamata olives. A big batch of this should get me through the week!

Lentil-Bulgur Salad - (go Moosewood!)
1 cup dry brown/green lentils
1 cup dry bulgur wheat
1/4 cup packed fresh minced parsley
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
(cucumber and/or celery and/or tomato if you have it, diced) - this is optional
3/4 kalamata olives

Dressing ingredients:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 TB of fresh mint leaves (this stuff grows really easily. Start some in your backyard today!)
1 TB dried dill
Fresh black pepper to taste

1) Place the lentils in a medium-sized saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, partially cover, and allow to simmer without agitation for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lentils are tender (but not mushy). Drain and transfer to a large bowl
2) Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of boiling water over the bulgur wheat and cover it and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes until the water is absorbed
3) When the lentils and bulgur wheat are all done, mix them with the rest of the salad ingredients.
4) In a separate bowl or glass, mix the dressing ingredients, and then pour them over the salad and mix well. This is best chilled before serving - or let it live in your fridge and pull out a little for lunch every day!