Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sometimes there's much more to a classroom than education....

I fell asleep last night on the couch...early!! That's not a good thing for me because I don't STAY asleep which meant I was also up a little after midnight this morning...uggh!! It will make for a very long day, but it will also mean an early nap later on as well! :) I did attempt to go to bed and try to get back to sleep, but unfortunately I tend to toss and turn and my mind begins to think on things and I'm just better off to get up and get at it, which is what I doing.

Knowing the weather was taking an abrupt change for this weekend I had started some sour dough mix a couple days ago for making bread...I decided to bump up the production a few hours! :) So while my bread machine was doing it's thing I also decided I'd use up those over ripe bananas I had stored in the frig for making "nanny cakes" for the grandkids and those are now in the oven baking while I decide what else I might want to whip up in the wee hours of the morning!

It's pretty "Fall-ish" feeling outside my door, you'd almost expect a frost, although it's not quite that cold just feels like it...but that Fall feeling gets me thinking on pumpkins and all those Fall things I love. With the thought of pumpkins (which I'm hoping to pick up a couple later on today!), I was also thinking about making some pumpkin spice muffins and that of course led me to thinking about a happening at work a few days ago that also had to do with baking and pumpkin!

I have a young lady in my classroom this year; she's not new to my classroom, she was here her Freshman year for awhile, left, returned a week or so her Sophomore year and then left again. For the program I work in things like that are nothing happens...quite often. And to describe this girl as a "young lady" would be a far stretch of the imagination, not because she isn't young and female, but because she's as far from ladylike as a girl can get! She can cuss like a sailor, has anger issues that are readily detectable, and is not someone you'd be willing to meet with in a dark alley....BUT....I like her....I like her a lot! I do so because I see the potential in this child, and perhaps I also see just a tad of myself in her when I was that age. She's rough and she's tough, but only because she's had to be. No doubt circumstances beyond her control have made her that way in order to survive....that also saddens me because I see this every day in the kids I work with. I also know that her "acerbic" personality puts a lot of the other teachers off, that's understandable, but I think it also lends them to write her off as well. It's not because they don't care, it's because they have an entire classroom of students they have to not only teach, but control, and a student that can erupt at anytime is not one most teachers welcome with open arms. I'm lucky in that we have a much smaller population in our classroom, therefore I do have more time to spend with the individual and that's what I love about my job. I'm also lucky that God has blessed me with the ability to reach out to these kids and connect with them and for some of them, it's the only connection they'll ever get. Sometimes that connection comes in the form of something as irrelevant and minute as a recipe!

One day this past week my girl came barreling into the classroom, a tad on the cranky side (okay, she was looking for a fight, but I'm trying to be kind here!), announcing at the top of her lungs she had to "make freakin' muffins" for her Foods class. She'd missed a couple days due to sickness which meant she also missed out on the assignment in the classroom. In order to make it up the teacher had told her to find a muffin recipe, make them, and bring them in for taste testing. I spent the first few minutes just getting her voice level down and then proceeded to calm the beast within by telling her this was something very do-able. Now, I have to admit...I wasn't exactly sure it WAS do-able...I mean, this is not a child I would have imagined knew much about the workings of an oven, let alone preparing a food that might go in one, but as is her norm, she surprised me once again. Once we got passed her rantings of it had to be done THAT NIGHT and how hot my classroom was and how heat makes her angry and all the other CRAP (insert a different expletative, but know that I called her down for it!) homework she had to do, we went to work on finding a recipe!

Being somewhat calmer I asked her what kind of muffins sounded good to her that she'd like to make, her reply? Pumpkin Spice!! Because, you know, it's like Fall and everything, so pumpkin would be good right?!! Why yes..yes it would!! So I pulled up Google on my computer and went to search for a recipe for her. In the process she asks me..."sooo, what about some of that cream cheese stuff...for a filling, but how do you do that?" While I'm searching, I tell her about making cupcakes for my kids years ago that had filling and how I filled them, but I also told her since they were muffins maybe it would be better to just put a dollop on top and dust them with some cinnamon. After explaining what a "dollop" was she began to get excited, got her chair right up against my desk, and was watching the search...and that's when it hit me...I HAD a recipe of my own that would be perfect for this! I told her how I make muffins nowadays and that this particular concoction could be made in almost any form she wanted to make them in with just a change up of a couple ingredients....she wanted the recipe.

Now, when I say I had a recipe that's somewhat on the vague side...I tend to start with the base and then just toss a little of this and little of that and not really measure anything...if it looks like enough...stop...if it don't...add a little more! So the rest of our time was spent in me trying to explain what I meant and giving rough estimates of how much to use. What surprised me the most was her comments back...she got what I was saying...she understood the concept of what the dough should look like and what to do to remedy it if it didn't...including the instructions for the "dollop"! When the bell rang she went off with her recipe of instructions, a happy camper, a promise to bring me one for tasting, and me praying to PLEASE GOD let this work!! :) She was outside my door first thing the next morning with muffins in hand, complete with cream cheese dollop...they looked fantastic! And the taste? EXCELLENT!! I couldn't have been more proud of her than if she was one of my own kids! But the best part was the smile on her face! And yeah, she was a tad cocky over her production, but she deserved to be and I told her so.

Later that day we had her again for our tutorial and she informed me the Foods teacher not only loved her muffins, but had informed her she would now be the leader of their group!! Score!!! She also told me a couple of change ups she also made on her own and I could tell she was very proud and pleased with the whole outcome. We then yakked a little about changing them up to banana nut and just had an overall, calm, and intelligent conversation about was like talking to a completely different child, but it was THAT child that I knew had to be hiding in there somewhere and the one I've been trying so hard to drag out as the year has proceeded.

Don't get me wrong...I know that one batch of pumpkin spice muffins is not going to change her overnight. I'm well aware that there will be a day next week when we're huffing and puffing, ranting and raving in the norm. I also know that one batch of muffins might not be enough to keep her in school for the rest of the year...she may decide to cold cock someone before the week is out! What I do know is that she gained just a little bit of confidence in making those muffins. She also gained some pride in herself with being complimented over them, not just by me, but from all those she freely handed out muffins to. If I've learned anything at all about working with the kids I do it's that sometimes it only takes one little thing to spark their interest, one time of doing something "right" and being praised for it, just one moment of what it feels like to be "normal" in a less than normal world to make them want to feel that again and then work toward keeping that feeling. I also know, that with this particular student, she's came back this year with the willingness to apply herself and a desire to prove she can do it. She may still be teetering, but at least it's a start. She's very intelligent and a hard worker when she does apply herself, and she's got a great personality...yeah, she's a tad caustic, but she's also funny, when you can look past the layers of anger and self-doubt. Yesterday she told me she wants to be a's the first time I've heard mention of any type of future, let alone a hope of getting to it and I'm thrilled to know she at least has the thought. I did tease her though, that in doing chest compressions for a heart attack victim she couldn't just punch them and scream "DON'T DIE!" I got a belly laugh at that one and told I was a "hooch"!! Coming from her, that was a compliment!! ;)

I honestly don't know where this girl will end up, but I hope and pray it will be somewhere good. I truly pray that she will one day see the potential in herself that I see in her. I can tell her until I'm blue in the face of what she's capable of and what she can do if she sets her mind to it, but until she sees it for herself, nothing I say will ever stick. I've had former students tell me they would of never gotten through high school if it wasn't for me...that's just not true...they would of never gotten through high school if it wasn't for themselves. I might have set the spark, but they were the ones that kept the flame going. They have to seriously want better for themselves and find a reason within for working toward it, otherwise nothing I say or do makes a difference... I've also lost enough kids to know this as a fact. Even so, I will continue to use my arsenal of weapons...past experiences..."been there done that's", and yes, even recipes if that's what it takes to get them started. Getting a handle on their education is the least of my worries...helping them get a handle on life is my biggest.


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