Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blooming Trees . . . and Teens

Teacher Musings:
On my bike ride home today I thoroughly enjoyed my jaunt down tree lined streets. The trees and bushes here in New England are starting to bloom and the bright pink, white and green leaves are just gorgeous. However, in my backyard our previously massive and full canopy from our Norwood maple has been turned into a scraggly mish-mash of branches and lonely buds. It is all for the best - the tree was getting too large for such a shallow root system, and my husband really wants a vegetable garden and a lawn for our son to run around in. So, the tree had to be pruned, and it will probably look funny this year. But the other option (according to my husband) was to cut it down entirely, which I want to avoid.

Every once in a while I see something in the world (like these trees) and it helps me realize and/or remember something about my students. Lately I have been really, really worried that my students reading and writing is not up to par, and that they are not on track to be successful in college, which really scares me. I start to worry that I have to slow down, force them to do more skills work, etc. But today, when I saw the trees, with their multitude of branches turned in so many different ways, I remembered that my students also have many different strengths, issues, things they care about, etc. And my students are mostly 15 and 16. Like the trees in the spring they are just starting to bloom in many ways. While I want my students to flourish and grow like the trees will as spring and summer progresses, I also know that my students need some guidance. While I encourage them as they develop their thoughts and understandings about the world, I also know that they need to learn to express these deep thoughts through writing and that they need to learn to read and think about the deep, complex, thoughts of others. Sometimes this requires me to push them, and even critique them or nag them a bit. This is like the pruning my husband did to our tree. This critique (it feels like such a dirty word) is as important as the encouragement in many ways, but a lot of critique can be more damaging then helpful, much like too much pruning.

I hope I can do enough pruning to allow them to express their deep and valuable thoughts to others.

I am scared of pruning too much and loosing who they are in the quest for "academic competency."

Yummy Stuff:
I cannot get enough kale lately! I chopped and washed a bunch of it this weekend, and we have a couple kale-featuring dinners planned. I know it is better to prep greens right before you eat them but between grading, planning, starting a new unit and chasing after a toddler as soon as I get home, my husband and I both recognize the need to have some produce prepped and ready to go. Here is what we had last night - a pretty-damn close version of Udon and Kale in Miso Broth from the AWESOME Veganomicon:
Udon and Kale in Miso Broth
5-7 dried shitake mushrooms
7-8 oz package of udon noodles (we use the "fresh" ones, not dried, from the great local Japanese market, Ebisuya)
1 red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
4 cups of chopped kale
1 heaping TB of garlic, minced
1 TB of ginger, minced
1/4 cup light miso
2 cups of water
2 TB of canola or vegetable oil

1. Boil water and pour it over the dried mushrooms. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes, while you prep the rest of the ingredients. When the mushrooms are done, slice them into thin strips.
2. Boil a pot of water and cook the udon for about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside
3. Heal the oil in a saute pan and saute the onions and mushrooms on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. The onions should just start to get soft.
4. Put in the garlic and ginger and stir for about 1 minute, until fragrant
5. Pour in water and put in miso. Stir until the miso is fully mixed in.
6. Put in the kale and use tongs to stir/flip it around until the kale is wilted (about 5-7 minutes)
7. Put in udon noodles and stir carefully. Let them sit in the broth for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Serve in bowls! Trust me - it seems basic but it is awesome!


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful entry! I too am a bike riding teacher from new England who is enjoying watching the trees, and her students bloom. It is nice to know there are people like us out there. :)

Ms. L-P said...

Thank you so much! So nice to hear from another bike-riding teacher :) I also enjoyed checking out your blog - keep up the good work!