September 30, 2007

Z is for Zucchini

I have had two big zucchini sitting next to the sink since Labor Day weekend when I scored some fresh garden goodness from my best friend's mom. (Thanks, Miss June!) I had more than two, but I made some zucchini casserole a few weeks ago. When zucchini are small, they are wonderful for stir-fry, but when they get too big, there are really only two thing I think you can do with them: fry them up, or make them into bread. I've been holding out for bread.

Finally, a weekend without a bunch of papers to grade or lessons to plan! And it just so happens this is the weekend something had to be done with the poor zucchini because they were getting tired and a limp on top from waiting around for me.

I wasn't sure where I'd find the recipe for zucchini bread, and I didn't feel right about calling my mom. For cryin' out loud! How could I have reached my age and not have a recipe for zucchini bread? I looked in some church cookbooks but didn't see quite the right recipe I had in mind. (I collect cookbooks, and those small-town Lutheran ladies do the best cookbooks!) Finally, I looked in my recipe box, which is where I found a recipe written in my mom's handwriting. For cryin' out loud! Of course I have a recipe for zucchini bread!

And it's a family recipe--from my Aunt Diana. If there was ever a woman who would have had a need for a zucchini recipe, it would have been my Aunt Diana. She always raised a HUGE garden, but then she did have seven kids to feed.

So, in case you ever find yourself the recipient of some large zucchini, please feel free to try my family's recipe. (In some parts of the country, zucchini just appears on your porch, whether you like it or not, in the middle of the summer season.)

Zucchini Bread

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups of sugar

2 cups grated zucchini

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

3 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon soda

Grate zucchini (unpeeled) on a medium grater. Do not mash. Add eggs, oil, sugar, orange rind, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and add to liquid mix. Mix well and add 1 cup of nuts if you'd like.

Grease and flour 2 medium size loaf pans.

Bake at 350° 1 hour.

I don't know how my mother used to grate things like zucchini without a food processor. I don't think I'd have the patience. As it turns out, two large zucchini makes a quadruple recipe! I also added a carrot to the processor so the bread would have a little more color. You know, in case the green flecks aren't good enough.

Can you believe that this recipe calls for a whole cup of oil! Holy cow! I know you can replace some of that with applesauce, so it just so happens I had some jars of homemade applesauce (not too sweet) that I replaced about 3/4 of the oil with.

So, what do you do with a quadruple recipe? Well, in my family, we always freeze zucchini bread. It makes the best treat a few months later when you want a little something. You can easily cut it with a serrated knife when it is frozen, and you can either nuke it for a few seconds or eat it frozen. Seriously, we like it frozen sometimes.

I called my parents this morning to see if they knew about what time they'll be arriving on Thursday. Dad told me that it there was frost on the ground. Summer is over. He said that he didn't even get any zucchini--from his garden or anyone else's. Well, Dad, you'll never believe this, but I was the victim of a zucchini gifting, and we'll feast on zucchini bread next weekend! I'm putting a loaf in the freezer just for Dad.

September 24, 2007

Bleah. Monday.

It was a painful one.

I could have been a little more prepared to deal with the fact that my midterm grades had to be entered into the system at both schools today.

There was nothing I could do about the three meetings I had to attend today. THREE!

September 18, 2007

Does This Mean He Thinks I'm a Cool Teacher?

Here's a new one:

Just before class ended last night, one of the students caught my attention to tell me the bell was about to ring.

"Baby, class is almost over."


I thought that was hilarious, but his girlfriend, who was sitting next to him, didn't think it was as funny. She smacked him while I was rolling on the floor laughing my head off.

Poor guy. He'll never live down that one.

September 17, 2007

Stepping In It

Did I really tell my supervisor that I would do a two-hour writing workshop? Traits. Passing state exam. How to encourage inspired writers while training them to take the test. Stuff like that. Bit by bit I reveal ways I'm capable of being useful at my school, but why? I could be flying under the radar right now.

It's been a while, but I have done PD workshops before. Two hours is nothing. On writing? I actually know something about that. My only problem is focusing all the random bits in my brain into something that sounds intelligent.

I sat in a one-hour Renaissance (Accelerated Reader) workshop today. I saw how my colleagues acted toward the end of that mere hour. Tired, restless. (But then, most of us in the room have been to Renaissance conferences and didn't learn anything we didn't already know today.)

The best I can hope for is that the people who attend my workshop don't know enough about it to be bored. Come on, though! Writing is exciting! We're going to have fun! Or at least I will.

And if not, next time I'll keep my big mouth shut about alternative solutions when we can't get outside trainers to come in.

September 14, 2007


"Miss, what if I was in jail?"

That came completely out of nowhere. I walked over to the student, who the night before called me a bucking fitch*, wondering what in the world he was talking about.

"Would you like me to come visit you?"

"No I don't want YOU to come visit me, " he said with a teeth-smacking/gawd sound.

"Then, why do you ask? What are you getting at?"

"This assignment." He points to the warm-up from the first night. (Yea. I know. First night! Don't get me started.) "I was in jail."

"Well, if you recall, we talked about how 'My Summer Vacation' is really a lame topic, so you are actually supposed to write a lie. Write about what you would have liked to have done instead."

"So, I don't have to write about what I really did?"

"Did you spend the summer in jail?"

"Yea, and I DON'T wanna be writin' about that."

I joked with him a little, "Are you sure you don't want to write about sitting in jail all summer?"

"No way!"

"I'm sure you can come up with a lot of things you wish you could have been doing instead."

This exchange might sound like a typical exchange I have with my high school students on any given night as I help them brainstorm on their writing topics. Yes, I am on my feet around the room and on my knees at their level giving them encouragement all night long, but this particular exchange wasn't about the topic of the warm-up.


It was a judgment test for the teacher. That is, it is a test to see if I am going to be another judgmental adult.

It's an interesting test I have to go through each year. Students reveal things about themselves that I would not have been comfortable doing when I was a teen. Then they stand back and observe my reaction. Some students are a little over the top and flaunt their "unique" qualities in front of the whole class. However, in general, most students are more discreet and reveal their tests to me in the form of writing or in side conversations between classes.

So far this year I've had two students come out of the closet and another reveal that her mother is mentally ill. (These were all my middle schoolers.) Granted, the two lesbians are already out of the closet to their classmates, but they assumed I didn't know. And I only kind of knew because I don't really keep track the love lives of students, except that one of the girls had some major drama going on last year, and we can't help but keep track of that. (You know, it scares us teachers when we see such young teens in dysfunctional relationships already.)

Oh! One of my students also revealed that he'd spent most of his summer at some sort of lawyer-in-training camp, too. That one was hard to swallow. Okay, I'm joking about that one. But in reality, I judged him the same as the others. For the most part. The kid who needs to be on a language improvement plan and spent his summer in jail worries me, but if he's taking his life more seriously, I only have hope for him--no judgment.

I'd like to say I never judge my students, but you know I do it all the time. I judge the quality of their work and their performances in my class. I question their reasonings and push them to consider different perspectives nearly everyday. I guess because they expect me to judge them in these academic ways that they think I might judge them in the personal ways that they are themselves trying to deal with.

I'm flattered that my students seek out my acceptance, but I'm it makes me sad to think that they are constantly feeling people out for acceptance rather just being who they are and living.

Easy for me to say, aye? I'm not a teenager.

*Edited for my dad. I know you might be wondering what circumstances would allow this kid to live--let alone come to my class again--after his affectionate terms, but I think a rant on that might subject might be too dooce-able. Talk amongst yourselves.

September 12, 2007

Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump

The other 8th grade English teachers are across the hall from me. Sometimes when I'm bored from doing hall duty between classes or if I have important business, I'll cross the packed hallway (probably about 30 feet long) to chat with the other teachers.

For some reason, this year every time I do it, I think of myself as Frogger. And I cannot get that thought out of my head. Sound effects and everything. And now that I've found numerous online versions, I fear I might feel compelled to practice.

(I wasn't even one of those kids who played a lot of video games, so this brain activity is extra weird.)

I confessed this Frogger thought of crossing the hallway to my new, fresh-out-of-college colleague, but then I realized that she probably didn't know what I was talking about. She assured me that she did, as she'd seen the Seinfeld episode. That made her cool, but it didn't make me younger or less insane.

I'm not totally cracking up yet, but if I start zipping around my classroom like Pac-Man...well, you're going to need to call someone to take me away.

September 7, 2007

My Weekend Plans

  • plans--something inspiring...maybe conjuring the old theater teacher in me...
  • Gathering and writing news lessons--something inspiring
  • Analytic Traits...writing traits...(aka get those kids to ace the state test) PD training planning
  • Format grade book
  • Enter grades for the first time this quarter
  • Attend back-to-school barbecue and walk the fine line between having a good time and being next week's topic of conversation

September 4, 2007

Gettin' Into the Groove

Oh! I'm terrible. I finally typed and submitted my lesson plans for the first week of school which were technically due August 23. Hitting closer to the mark, I also submitted my plans for this week. I'm barely into the second week of school, and I feel like I'm already two weeks behind.

Don't worry, though. I'm a trained professional. I may not have my lesson plans all typed with the six different required components, but I did have my main ideas scratched down in my planner.

I did feel a little better once I submitted those plans. Now, tomorrow I hope to tackle more items from my to-do list. Just a few weeks in, and that list is going to take days to complete. But then, does that to-do list ever go away? Maybe in June, right?

September 3, 2007

Real Friends Also Help Build Stuff

Last month I talked about how real friends pick up where they've left off. This weekend I traveled 400 miles to help build a shed in my best friend's backyard. Yep, went to a "shed raising" on my long holiday weekend.

If you thought you were missing something because you didn't expect this side of me, don't worry. I'm really no good at home improvements, yet she insists on recruiting my help whenever possible. I wasn't the only helper there--thank goodness, or we'd still be there--as her handy dad traveled a couple hours to supervise, and this time I took my husband to visit, too.

By the end of the day yesterday, after we'd finished everything except the vinyl siding on the front and the shingles for the roof, I admitted to my BF that although I'm no good at this building stuff, if I didn't have her as a friend, I would ever have an opportunity to learn about this handy home improvement stuff. I don't think I'll ever need to be able to identify or hang J-rail again, but at least I can say I have done it. Even it was only on an 8 x 6 foot structure. Not that I really want to know about any of this stuff, but she does bring a new dimension to life.

Once, back in 2001, I brought a new dimension to her life. She called upon me and another friend to help her buy some nice professional dresses with shoes to match. She always looks professional, but she thought dresses in some cheerful colors would be a nice addition to her closet. Uhm...yeah...that was an afternoon that we still talk about. The dress part went pretty well, but by the time we got to the shoes we all needed a drink. As it turned out, she wore each of the dresses exactly once during the course of a year and then never again. I'm glad my influence rubbed off on her, even if for a short time. (Anymore, I'm with her on this anti-dress thing. I think I've worn ONE in the last year.)

Sometimes I do wish I had friends who had more of the same interests that I do. Sure, most of them have a few common interests in the things I do, but more often than not, they aren't as extreme in their interests. Or, I'm not that into their extreme interests, either. I suppose it's not so bad, though. We are all individuals who are tolerant and interested in each others hobbies. Keeps things interesting.