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Priceless

 

1 school 22Another school year has started. It has been years since I taught school. My how things have changed! Often this change has not been for the good.

Too many of our schools, teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, and the public at large are failing our children.

We do not expect enough of our children.

We have dumbed down the curriculum. Any standards that exist are too often ignored, and children have few if any rules that are enforced. Dress codes are considered so passé. Too often Americans have a laissez-faire attitude about education and life itself under the misguided belief that children should have an easy life; at least easier than we had it.

Nothing could be more wrong.

”The soft bigotry of low expectations,” are making and keeping too many children dependent upon others to do what they can and should be doing for themselves.

Learned Impairment is what I call it.

When given a chance children will surprise you and do hard work even they did not know they could do.

My first real job as a teacher, as opposed to being a substitute teacher, started out poorly. I took over the class in January when the regular teacher took a pregnancy leave of absence.

The school was in the inner city. That did not bother me. It was where I wanted to teach. It was where I thought I could do the most good and where I could save the world.

The first few weeks were very difficult. The class didn’t want to work or learn and just wanted to play. They did not complete class work and few did any home work.

Toward the end of January when I gave a paper back to one child marked with a ‘F’ on it, he took the paper and said under his breath, “Racist.”

I said, “What did you call me?” He would not answer me. I repeated my question. The child refused to answer me. The entire class heard what he said. They immediately put me under a microscope to see what I would do.

If I ever hoped to really teach these children I had to say and do something.

“You called me racist didn’t you?” I said loud enough for the whole class to hear.

Again he would not answer.

I said, “You don’t know if I am racist or not.”

At that moment the bell rang to change classes and the children started getting out of their seats to go to their next class.

1 LO 8I said with my most authoritarian voice, “ SIT DOWN!!!! You are not dismissed yet! We are going to have this out right here and now, cause I am not going to put up with this the rest of the year.”

The children sat down.

Other children were lining up outside my door to come in for last period. I told them my class was not dismissed yet and it would be a few minutes. I knew the other teachers were wondering what was happening too.

I shut the door with emphasis!

I told my class that they didn’t know anything, nothing at all about me. I told them they did not know whether I was racist or not. I told them, “As far as slavery goes, I DID NOT DO IT!!!!! It wasn’t me. I had nothing to do with it.”

I told them that my mother and my father, and my grandmothers and grandfathers had nothing to do with slavery either. And as far as I knew none of my forebears had any salves.

“So don’t go blaming me!!!!! I said.

“Now, having said that I will tell you that I believe that slavery was wrong. It was morally and ethically wrong and evil. But I can’t go back in time and change it. I can not erase history.

“However, what I can do is change the future. And that is why I am here. I don’t have to be at this school. I want to be here. I asked to be at this school.

“There are still people who think you are inferior just because of the color of your skin or because of where you live. There are still people out there who hate you simply because of the color of your skin or because you are poor.

“It is a cold hard cruel world out there. When you graduate high school you will have to be two, three, and even four times better than white people just to get a job. That is not right either. It is not fair!

“And I can’t change that either!

1 LO 33“But………

“……….. what I can do is to teach you how to read and do basic math so that when you get out there in that cold hard cruel world you will be three, four and even five times better than any white job applicant and you will get that job. And then you will show and prove to every one that you are every bit their equal and maybe even better.

“So don’t expect me to let you get by this year. I am going to work you and you are going to learn to read and do basic math!

“That is my way of making up for the sin of slavery.

“Now get the hell out of here!”

I opened the door and dismissed the class.

The students got up and silently walked out of the room. You could have heard a pin drop. I couldn’t even hear shoes shuffling over the old worn warped wooden floor of that old school building.

I went to the middle of the hallway where teachers were supposed to stand until the hall was cleared.

I watched the children slowly, silently walk down the hallway. Then a clique of three girls, who had been giving me grief for weeks, turned around and walked back towards me. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do. They stopped right in front of me. Without saying a word each girl individually hugged me, turned around and walked back down the hall way to their next class.

While it did not happen over night; and while I still had normal misbehavior the class gave me a chance. The kids gave me a chance to prove myself.

But most important of all the class gave themselves a chance to learn.

They worked hard. They studied. They did class and home work. They learned. Grades went up.

And the angels must have been with me because a week or so after this incident I came up with and created some great, fantastic, and child friendly learning centers to teach basic skills.

From using pop songs to teach reading to using a black lite to jazz up boring practice in Math and English the class came to life with learning and helping each other.

The Lesson Learned

1 school 6Here’s the thing……..

You don’t help children, or anyone for that matter, by giving them an ‘A’ for “D’ level work. You don’t help children by dumbing down the curriculum. You don’t help children by telling them how wonderful they are twenty-four hours a day. You don’t help children by telling them how bad life or society has treated them.

You help children when you encourage them, when you challenge them, and when you make them reach inside themselves to see and learn what they have inside.

I believe in public education. I believe in education. The etymology of the word ‘educate’ is derived from the Latin, ‘educare.’

Educare means to ‘lead out’, ‘to draw out’ and ‘to bring forth.’

I have never believed education or teaching meant just cramming facts or knowledge into a child’s brain.

Education is at its best when we can draw forth the natural ability that each individual possesses inside themselves.

I had high expectations and high standards for the students I taught. I encouraged and when necessary made the children live up to those standards and to go as far as they could. I helped them to reach inside themselves to see and learn what they could do.

The most important lesson my students learned that year and every year I taught was that they had it within themselves to learn, achieve, and succeed on their own.

Priceless.

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Featured Recipe        Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

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I had some sorry-looking left over dates I wanted to use up before they were totally and completely waste basket bound. I hate to throw food away!

These delectable little morsels are good as hors d’oeuvres or as finger foods. They are perfect for tailgating parties too. And don’t forget Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are soon upon us too. Then next year there is New Years Eve, the Super Bowl, and Valentine’s Day to name a few.

This recipe has endless varieties. You could make a different stuffed date for every holiday and special occasion you can think of.

You can stuff dates with almost anything and everything but the kitchen sink.

You can make these with cheddar cheese, stilton, goat cheese, cream cheese, Parmesan, Gorgonzola to name a few cheeses.

You can also stuff dates with chorizo or jalapeños. You can stuff them with pecans, almonds, or walnuts. In Morocco they stuff dates with honey and cinnamon. YUM!

Some people like almond butter in dates and some people wrap them with prosciutto instead of bacon.

I have not made them but I think honey and pistachios would be divine in dates.

So you see, this is a very adaptable recipe.

This is what you will need for 17 stuffed dates:

17 dates

9 slices of bacon

About 4 ounces Honey Pecan Cream Cheese

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Here is what you do:

If the dates are not sliced and the pits removed, slice and remove the pits.

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Slice the bacon strips in half. Partially cook the bacon until it is translucent but not browned. This will take about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

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Using very small spoon stuff the dates with the crème cheese.

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NOTE: If I had left over pecans I would have chopped them and place one or two on top of the crème cheese.

When the dates are all stuffed wrap each one with a strip of bacon and secure with a wooden toothpick. I set up an assembly line to do this.

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Place the stuffed dates on a baking sheet that is lined with non-stick foil.

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Set your broiler to low and broil 3-4 minutes.

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Turn the dates over and broil another 3-4 minutes.

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Let the dates cool for a minute or two. Remove toothpicks and serve warm.

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Bon appétit!!!

Cost

17 dates                               $4.47

9 slices of bacon                   $3.25

4 ounces Crème Cheese        $1.40

Total cost = $9.12
Cost per date = $0.54

Quote of the Day

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

Robert M. Hutchins

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6 comments to Priceless

  • I cried a little on this one. This is exactly what kids need to hear. No abuse but no acceptance of mediocrity. They all deserve one of these bacon wrapped stuffed dates.

    • Roberta

      I should have made stuffed dates that day. Rats! Lost opportunity. 🙂 Glad the story touched you heart, Maureen.

  • Roberta

    I could just picture you doing this! Made me smile! Know you were a great teacher!

    • Roberta

      You know me too well. Part of the reason I like you so much, Roberta. Thanks for compliment on my teaching. You are still the best. 🙂

  • Wow. Powerful post. Not only do kids need to hear this, their parents, their community, the school district and the state and federal government needs to hear this. We don’t do anyone any favors by dumbing down our curriculum, by expecting less. You get what you pay for– if we expect more of our children and our communities people will rise to the occasion. They will exceed expectations. Thank you, Roberta.

    • Roberta

      Exactly, Julia. Children, and adults too, will rise to the occasion if you let them know what you expect. It requires leadership too. Thanks for the positive feedback.