Friday, August 24, 2007

The Hot Item for 8th Grade Girls

Practically every other 8th grade girl who walks past me in the halls at school has a version of this bag. Apparently, it is the item to have. :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Aha! New Uses for Old Things

The magazine Real Simple typically has a section called "Solutions: New Uses for Old Things," in which an item intended for one use is given an "Aha!" use -- something new to do with the item. Here's an example, in which a shower caddy, originally intended to hold extra shower items, is given an "Aha!" use of holding extra laundry, pantry, or gardening supplies. They recommend hanging it on a doorknob. All that to say, I thought I would do my own "New Use for an Old Thing" (I must give credit to my mother for this suggesting that I post about this!)

For the last few years, I've had a giant leather school bag which I've used to tote books, papers, and supplies to and from school. Since I didn't have my own classroom, and the school didn't have much extra storage space, having a big bag to hold everything was essential. And I think my fellow teachers would attest that my bag was big.

Well, I don't need that big bag this year. Everything can stay in my classroom, and I'll only need to take home items that I need on that particular evening. So I was on the lookout for a new, smaller bag. I browsed for a while at Target the other day, and after wandering through the purse/bag section and then through the school supplies section, I ended up in the gardening section. And that's when I saw it. A gardening tote! It was adorable! And it had tons of pockets! (I think it's safe to say I was excited.) All those little pockets just charmed me -- a pocket for pens, a pocket for a calculator, a pocket for post-it notes, and on and on. The bag has 8 pockets in all around the outside of the bag. In addition the bag has a reinforced bottom, so it can bear the weight of the books I'll put in it without looking misshapen. So that's my new use for an old thing.

Solutions: New Uses for Old Things

Garden Tote

Original Purpose:
Keeping seeds, trowels, and gloves neatly organized as you dig around in the dirt.

Aha! Use:
Organizing school supplies (pens, pencils, markers, calculators, notepads, and, paper clips) in neatly separated compartments with ample space for books.

Organized teacher, cute bag -- it's bound to be a successful year!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Back to (a brand new) School

Well, brand new to me, that is.

I'm in the process of beginning a new teaching job at the Christian Academy of Louisville. I'll be teaching 8th grade Literature and Language Arts (these two classes are my only preps, though I have three sections of each class in the course of a day).This school is a change for me in many ways. My previous teaching job was at a classical Christian school, and while CAL is Christian, it's not classical. Right now I'm just concerned with following the curriculum maps (I'm quite thankful for them), but it will be interesting to see how I might be able to incorporate some broader principles as soon as I find my footing. I think many of those broader principles will correspond to standards already in place, such as Bloom's taxonomy. A second difference is size. I grew up attending small-ish Christian schools -- my senior class had 27, which was a large class (our school had about 250 students, K-12). And the school I'd taught at for the last four years (Ad Fontes Academy) was small as well. Christian Academy is a system of four schools in the Louisville area. The campus I'm assigned to is the largest, with approximately 1,500 students, K-12. Each of my classes will have 21-22 students. Because I have the same students for a literature class and for a language arts class (I have each set of students for two periods in a row), I end up with about 65 students, which is actually a fairly small number compared to other teachers who have either more preps or more sections.

Another key change is my classroom. Meaning, that I have one. All to myself. I've never really had that before. For the last four years, because of available classroom space, I've moved from room to room to teach my various classes. And because we rented space from local churches, I've taken my needed teaching resources with me to and from school nearly every day. It didn't necessarily impair my teaching -- I think you can get a great education with just a teacher, a student, and a book -- but it did get tiring at times. Now I'm a good ways closer to the opposite end of the spectrum. Here's your classroom with 23 desks, two student computers, your own desk, filing cabinet, computer, two windows, various cabinets, counter space, drawers, bookshelves, overhead projector, and bulletin boards. By the way, feel free to decorate however you'd like.

Decorate. Yikes. I've never realized how tiring it can be to decorate a classroom. Maybe that's because I've never done it before. Today was the first day (after a full week of teacher training, with lots of time in our rooms) that I left the room feeling that things were in order. That the walls didn't look too bare. That my desk area is starting to look like I have a personality. It wore me out. Don't get me wrong. I am so excited to have my own room. I loved walking out of my classroom today carrying one small bag because I could leave everything else in the room. But, my word, that room consumed a lot of my mental power this week!

I have a few more days of preparation before classes begin on Wednesday. I'm quite excited, a little nervous, but grateful that right next door there's an experienced 8th grade English teacher who's been at this school for a long time and who's willing to share any and every resource, lesson plan, quiz, test that she has. I'm also so grateful for my previous four years of teaching experience -- the fact that I feel busy but not overwhelmed is due to those four years at a small school where I saw daily that the only thing you really need for a good education is a teacher, a student, and a book.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Baked Eggs

I first had baked eggs (also called shirred eggs) at the bed-and-breakfast where Jeff and I stayed on our honeymoon. On two mornings we came down to find charming ramekins, each filled with an egg and herbs. Soon afterwards, I found a recipe for baked eggs in How to Cook Everything, and I've made them on several occasions, usually on a Sunday morning. We had them again this morning, and I thought I would post the recipe. I've adapted it somewhat from the basic version in HTCE.

Baked Eggs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Butter small ramekins or custard cups. You can also put a couple teaspoons of cream in the bottom of each ramekin. If I don't have cream on hand, I usually put a little half-and-half in the bottom.

Break 1 egg into each cup. You can bake them like this (fairly plain), or you can add some toppings.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • I usually put some fresh herbs on top of the egg. Today I used thyme. I've also used rosemary.
  • Grate some cheese on top. I usually prefer freshly grated parmesan. Jeff likes cheddar (and today I put colby on his).
  • Breadcrumbs -- I've used breadcrumbs from a box, which work well; today I had leftover hearty white bread from another recipe calling for breadcrumbs, so I pulsed one piece in the food processor and sprinkled the fresh crumbs on top of the eggs.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. I usually bake for about 10, otherwise the yolk begins to set, which we dislike, though we do like the egg white to be fairly set. 10-11 minutes seems to do it. The eggs keep cooking even after you take them out of the oven, so take that into account.

There are other variations listed in HTCE -- olive oil/tomato, spinach, onions. Anything that you like to have with eggs would probably do well. Let me know if you have variations you enjoy. I encourage you to try your hand at baked eggs. They're quite charming and quite good!

It amazes me that shirred eggs have fallen from favor: there is something so luxurious about them, and, although they take a little time, they are delicious.

~ Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything