Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What the End of Summer Really Means...

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again.  The end of August is fast approaching, and with it bringing the end of days in the sun, fun at the pool, relaxation and the beginning of back to school, sports and hectic schedules.  But what does the end of summer really mean...for teachers?

Recently on social media I've seen several posts asking teachers not to post things that make going back to school "sound like a negative thing."  People making comments about how teachers posting things like "end of freedom" or "school's starting again this week...can't believe it's time already" were making them feel as if teachers were "dreading" this time and didn't feel that was right.  I thought for a while about how...or if...I should reply to any of these comments and finally decided I should write a little something about what the end of summer really means, from a teacher's prospective.

For those of you who don't know, I was a teacher for 7 years of my life before my first daughter was born.  I left the profession after she was born for a number of reasons.  I would not have traded those 7 years for another profession at all.  I am proud to say that I was a teacher and looked forward every year to a new host of "kids" I would think of as my own.  But I also remember quite vividly what the end of August meant for me when I was teaching.  I'm hoping that this perspective may make people be a little kinder to teachers around this time of year.


The end of summer meant that I went from spending 10-15 hours a week planning and prepping for the school year to spending 30-40 hours a week (outside of the school day) planning and prepping for the days ahead. 

The end of summer meant that $40 I used to pamper myself with a mani/pedi went to buying school supplies that my "kids" desperately needed.

The end of summer meant saying goodbye to casually waking up, enjoying a cup of coffee and my breakfast while watching the news and saying hello to alarms going off before the sun comes up and hurrying out of the door to make sure I had enough time to get everything ready for the school day.

The end of summer meant going back to working two jobs...instead of one.  (That's right, teacher's don't have summer's "off").  Most work a second job all summer if not all throughout the year to make ends meat...on top of the training and workshops they go to for school.

The end of summer meant not being able to focus completely on my family at night but share that time returning emails and grading papers and worrying about children who are not my own...but feel like they are.

The end of summer meant the end of sunshine...since I went to and from home work in the dark most days...instead getting my sunshine from the sweet smiles of my "kids".

You see, summer really isn't a traditional vacation for teachers.  But a time to try and rejuvenate and come up with new and fresh ideas for the next year since your new group of "kids" may not respond to things the same way your last group of "kids did.  Trust me, you won't find any teacher I've ever met chilling on the beach from mid June through mid much as we would want to!

Think about it this way.  How many working individuals out there haven't at one time or another felt just a little bit of disappointment when a vacation does end and you have to get back to your regularly scheduled program.  We all have.  It doesn't mean you don't love what you do.  It doesn't mean you put any less into your job.  It doesn't make you any less of a professional.  It makes you human.

Teachers everywhere are going back to school this week.  Teachers who care and love their jobs deeply are plunging head first back into the classroom to make sure everything is perfect for our children's school year ahead.  They will spend countless hours this week making sure everything in their classroom is perfect...or at least making it look like it is!  Trust me when I say, they love their jobs.  I haven't met a teacher that stays in the profession unless they love and are fulfilled by their position.  The "true" job of a teacher wouldn't be worth it unless that were the case.  It is one of the most important and under appreciated jobs that exist. They will get told multiple times this year, if not each month, each week or each day what they can and cannot say, what they can and cannot do, how they can and cannot teach. They take it in stride, most of the time with a smile. Give them this last bit of “freedom”.

So here is what I ask of you, dear readers.  The next time you see, hear or read something from a teacher about going back to school that may have been said in a moment of frustration, sleep deprivation or a good ole fashion need to vent, let it slide.  Don't take it personally.  Don't take it as a sign that they don't love their job.  Don't take it that they aren't looking forward to the new school year.  And most importantly, don't take it as they don't love your child.  They do...even if they haven't met them yet.  Let it slide.  Because one day soon that same teacher will let something you say out of frustration, sleep deprivation or a good ole fashion need to vent slide.  Remember as the summer comes to a close, there are a lot of emotions in a teacher's life.  Remember you are on the same team.  Remember you are in this together for the greater good of your child.  But most importantly, remember teacher's LOVE coffee and chocolate :)

So with that in mind, I give to you my (should be world famous) brownie recipe.  I've been making these delicious squares of chocolate heaven since I was about 10 years old.  It's one of the very few things I ever baked growing up.  They take 30 minutes, start to finish, and can be easily hidden in your desk to munch on once the kids are gone for the day.  Or just call me, and I'll bring them to you.  I can even deliver them disguised as some healthy alternative if you don't want to share!  Enjoy!

The Best Brownies EVER! (adapted from Hershey's)
Makes 16 brownies

1/2 c butter; melted
1 c sugar
1 T vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c AP flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 - Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating each well. 
2 - Combine flour through salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture, stirring until combined.
3 - Spread batter out evenly on a well greased 9x9 glass baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Welcome Back Solider!

Around the time we moved into our house last year, our neighbor's son joined the military.  I am, as always, eternally grateful for those in the service.  I know I don't have it in me to join so am thankfully for those that do! 

For the better part of the year, my neighbor's son has been in training and then stationed out of state.  She contacted me to let me know he was coming home and if I could make them a yummy dinner for the night.  I was more than happy to help her out.  After all, she needs to worry about spending time with her son and not slaving away in the kitchen! 

She chose for their dinner an extremely delicious and healthy Asian Chicken Salad.  When I posted the pic on social media, everyone thought it look phenomenal and wanted the recipe.  Mom and son both thought it was super yummy and spent the evening enjoying the good food while sharing some much needed quality time together.  So throw together this quick and easy salad and share a healthy meal and some quality time with your loved ones!

Asian Chicken Salad
Makes 4 servings

¼ c soy sauce
3 T fresh ginger; peeled, minced
¼ c canola oil
3 T hoisin sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 tsp Sriracha
2 large chicken breast
¼ c rice wine vinegar
½ lb Napa cabbage; thinly sliced
½ lb radicchio; thinly sliced
2 carrots; grated
6 green onions; thinly sliced
1/3 c fresh cilantro; roughly chopped
½ c slivered almonds
1 T sesame seeds
salt and pepper as needed
1 T sesame seeds; toasted
1 – In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce through Sriracha. 
2 – Season chicken breast on both sides with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a ziplock bag and pour 1/3 of the soy sauce mixture into the bag. Seal tightly and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
3 – Whisk in rice wine vinegar to remaining soy mixture and reserve as dressing.
4 – Toss together Napa cabbage though cilantro. Season salad with salt and pepper, toss again and reserve.
5 – Remove chicken from the marinade and discard remaining marinade. Place chicken in a baking dish and bake at 475 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Slice the chicken into thin strips.
6 – Lay strips of chicken over salad. Top with cilantro, almonds and sesame seeds. Serve with reserved dressing.