Foodie Friday #6–Holiday Food

It’s been a while since I wrote a foodie Friday post so I figured one about holiday food is a great way to bring it back!  Growing up Greek, one of the things I looked forward to more than anything else each holiday was the food!!!  I had my favorite dish that each relative made, and since some of them were “holiday only” foods I got more and more excited for them the closer we got to each holiday.  One dish I especially looked forward to every year is something I had never had until meeting my stepmom’s family.  Her one aunt makes what is called chestnut stuffing, but is a side dish, and is ground meat and chopped chestnuts (and wine, chicken broth, cinnamon, and other delicious add ins).  I have the recipe, I’ve made it each year now that we don’t live near family, but for some reason I only make it for Thanksgiving because that’s what I was used to growing up.  I’ve never made it for Christmas or for any random dinner during the year.  It’s weird, because as much as I love the dish, I think it would be strange to eat it on a Tuesday night in April.

I love baking, I really do, and I have a few go to holiday desserts that I always make, but I’m also a gigantic fan of Tate’s Bakeshop (no affiliation other than I happily order desserts from them each Thanksgiving and Christmas).  We always get their pecan pie, chocolate chip cookie pie, and sour cream coffee cake, and this year we also tried their crumb squares and pecan squares.  Thankfully our local “fancy” supermarket sells Tate’s chocolate chip cookies (BEYOND amazing) so we eat have those year round.  Well, like with everything else we’ve ever had from Tate’s, the squares did NOT disappoint.  I felt a little bad for not making German Chocolate Cake or my husband’s family’s “goosey cake”–though I had made it for Thanksgiving–but sometimes it’s worth it if you spend a little money and save a little sanity, especially when the end result is guaranteed to be as delicious as Tate’s is.  Luckily for my husband, his birthday is in a couple of weeks and I will make a German Chocolate Cake then–I’m sure he’ll be happier getting it then rather than at Christmas, he won’t have to share it with anyone 🙂

I hope you all enjoy your favorite holiday dishes this year too!!!

holiday deliciousness!

holiday deliciousness!

Why My Students Will Always Be “My Kids”

my kids.001

Every year without fail, by the second week of school I’m referring to my students as “my kids” to my friends and family.  It almost happens without my realizing it, because to me it’s totally natural.  I never really gave much thought to it, then I started seeing memes/e-cards about teachers calling their students their kids (thanks pinterest), and it got me thinking about it, a little under the radar/subconsciously, but I was thinking about it nonetheless.  Then over the summer when I was going back and forth about starting a blog and mentally drafting posts, I kept this in the back of my head for a potential post.  Well, here it is.

A teacher friend of mine (whom I look up to immensely both as a fellow teacher and military spouse) once told me that I will never forget my student teaching classes (so so so so so sooooooo true!!!!–I can even remember who sat where in each class period from my student teaching semester) and that I will always refer to my students as my kids, even when I was only 5 years older than some of them, and certainly when I reached the point where I was old enough to be their parent (and unfortunately in my most recent district I had more than 1 pregnant sophomore and more than a few students whose parents were my age or younger than me (and I was 30-32 at the time!).

Anyway, here are 7 reasons why I think of my students as my kids (both before and after having my own daughter):

1.  it’s a measure of how much I truly enjoy teaching…yes, even when I have *that* student, I still couldn’t see myself doing anything else…if I didn’t enjoy being a teacher so much I wouldn’t feel so connected to my students

2.  “students” typically sounds too impersonal to me…it’s always going to be a long year, no matter what, and we’re in it together so we might as well build a positive/supportive rapport from the beginning

3.  I might subconsciously become even more invested in their success and failures than I already am if they’re “my kids” (yes, failure will happen, and I can help them get through it and improve)

4.  they ARE still kids, as much as they don’t feel like it at time, they ARE, and anyone can be a student at any age

5.  I absolutely take partial responsibility for the types of adults they turn into

6.  I do take on the role of mom to some students and treat them like my kids (helping them through social situations, giving advice, giving them a safe place to spend their time before and after school, bringing in food and toiletries for my homeless students, etc)

7.  we become a family in my classroom…what more reasons could I need to think of my students as “my kids”

Keeping Students Engaged with Christmas Break in Sight

xmas blog pic

An unexpected perk of teaching home schooled kids is that I can have them do holiday activities next week!  I have never been able to do so before because as a high school teacher we had so many boxes to check in December in terms of content, prepping for finals, and spending 3-4 days actually taking finals, Christmas activities were never able to find their way into the schedule.  We couldn’t even spend a day on the Christmas Truce of WWI because we had covered that before Thanksgiving!

I can all too easily imagine how not into school the kids will be next week, so I asked the director if I could push the actual content material back till after Christmas Break.  Thankfully she was fully on board with this, eager for me to do what I needed to to keep the kids focused on something…anything other than bouncing off the walls.

Since many of my kids overlap in the Tuesday and Thursday class, I knew I wanted two different activities.  I made one myself: Christmas Around the World and Over the Years where they kids will pair up and try to match a Christmas tradition to the country it originates from, and then they will switch pairs and rank a list of historical events that happened on December 25 throughout history from earliest to most recent.  I think it will keep their attention because they LOVE competing with each other, so the whole “I want to get it right first” mentality will kick in and keep them on point for the duration of class.  Oh and of course we’ll have a quick conversation after each segment to fill in any blanks and make sure all the matching/ranks are correct(ed).

For the second activity I found this set of writing prompts.  I think (hope) my kids will like learning about traditions observed by kids their age around the world, and then trying to think outside the box in order to respond to some of the prompts such as: “In Greece, people don’t usually put up Christmas trees. Instead, they have a wooden bowl with a piece of wire around the rim. A cross wrapped with basil is hung from the wire. Create your own Christmas symbol and tell what it symbolizes” and “In Denmark, there is an elf named Nisse who plays tricks on people during Christmas. Nisse wears a red bonnet, red stockings, white clogs and gray woolen clothes. Illustrate a picture of Nisse and write a story about the tricks he plays during Christmas.”

My plan for this activity is to give each student a different country/tradition/prompt.  They will respond to them accordingly, then they will pair up with someone they haven’t worked with yet, share what they wrote, then as a whole class we will discuss the traditions and the students’ prompt responses.  I might be a little ambitious with this activity, on Thursdays we usually end up having 45 minutes instead of an hour, but worst case scenario I’ll email the parents the prompts and maybe they can be incorporated into dinner conversation (another unexpected perk of being part of the co-op).

Especially on Tuesday since that’s when I have the wider age range, I’m not going to lie I’m a little nervous about the classroom management aspect of the day, but I am SOOOOOO looking forward to doing holiday activities, I might even more excited than the kids are about this.  If you’ve got a tried and true “how to survive the week of Christmas Break” tip” feel free to leave it in the comments 🙂  Good luck to all of us this week!!!

Newsletter for Secondary ELA/Social Studies Teachers

CLASS December

If you are a secondary ELA or Social Studies teacher, you should check out the C.L.A.S.S. Newsletter! It’s full of great articles, ideas, and freebies for secondary ELA and Social Studies Teachers! In this December issue, you’ll find “A Teacher’s Winter Holiday Jingle,” learn about using vision boards, and lots more!”  It is published every other month and features amazing TpT Teachers, resources, articles, freebies, and more (and ps this month one of my freebies was featured).  If you’re interested, the link to subscribe is:

Parent Teacher Conferences Part 1

As a high school teacher I never had parent teacher conferences.  I was never remotely jealous of my elementary school teacher friends that did have them.  Yes of course I communicated with parents (about both the positive and negative with their child) but I never had the multi-hour sit down.  Well, that’s all about to change for me.  I have parent-teacher conferences in 2 weeks and have to get my butt in gear for them.

For one thing, that means finally being 1,000% on my students’ names.  Yes I only have 10 in each class, but I have this particular pair of brothers who are as physically similar as identical twins without actually being genetically identical twins (plus the kids wear uniforms so their clothes are identical too!).  I actually think I finally figured it out this last week how I can stop second guessing myself when I call on them by name–the one who’s name starts with “I” has eyes that are just a smidge more lidded than his brother’s, so I kept telling myself “I’s eyes” and I think now I can tell them apart.

I need to find a generic information form that I can fill out for each kid so that I’m prepared for each parent and not trying to remember every detail.  That’s on my to-do list for Monday/Tuesday.  I want to seem more prepared for these and more confident about them than I might actually be.

In the few days its been since I started drafting this post, I think I’ve realized that these parent-teacher conferences will actually be more for my benefit than the parents’ benefit.  I email the parents a detailed syllabus every few weeks, their kids bring work home, and I see a few of them at the co-op so they know what’s going on.  So for me, I’ll finally be able to find out what the parents are focusing on at home in terms of the week’s topic, the sorts of activities they have the kids do, what they would like to focus more or less on, how they feel things are going at the co-op, etc.

I’ll be interested to hear the parents’ perspective on what motivates their kids, what the kid feels his or her strengths and weaknesses are and how that all lines up with what I’ve been observing in class.  I don’t know if a parent could ask a question I don’t have an answer to, but that’s my biggest fear going into this.  I won’t say I’m excited about this, but there’s a first time for everything and thankfully I only have to do this for 15 kids (some take both classes) and not 180!!!

Come back in a few weeks to hear how the parent-teacher conferences went!