Friday, January 29, 2010

Memoirs of a First Year Middle School Reading Teacher

Today, all of the 8th grade teachers are gone to the PDC (the Profesional Development Center) downtown for a training day. That is, all of the 8th grade teachers except the 3 reading teachers. This means one thing: chaos. Substitutes are great, but the kids think (know) that they can get away with murder with some subs... this will be an eventful day, to say the least.

SO... instead of dwelling on the fact that today might just be a repeat of the end of yesterday (NOT a good rerun), I thought I would share some things about a GOOD day this week...
On Tuesday of this week, I was able to go and observe two other reading teachers in Denton ISD. One was an 8th grade teacher from McMath Middle School, and the other was from Harpool Middle School. Both were really great to experience. I very much respect the classroom management they have.
The second classroom was almost dreamlike for me. I have shared in a previous post that Nancy Atwell's aproach (along with many of others) is my desire for my classroom. The focus being the act of reading. There are mini-lessons taught at the beginning of the class, but they don't last more than about 15 minutes. The rest of the classtime is spent with the students reading THEIR choice of book. They are given this time so that they can actually get into the "reading zone", that place when you lose yourself in the book that you are reading.
I already implement a little bit of this approach, when I can, in my classroom, and yesterday my heart was so full when my 2nd period class (with many students who have been sent to the office before for falling asleep multiple times as we read in class) literally BEGGED me for more time in their own books before I made them take a few notes on genres. :) It was truly a time of joy for me, as a reading teacher, to see their passion for their books. One girl was so engaged in her book, that she kept gasping, and looking up at me as if to say, "WHAT?! I CANNOT believe that just happened!!!!".
I have had a handful of students who I NEVER would have guessed, come up to me and say, "Mrs. Power! I finished this book that you let me borrow yesterday! I read the whole thing last night, and it was really good!" One of the students that told me that just 10 minutes ago was the one who told me that he didn't get to read the chapters I had assigned to him to read over the weekend, because he was too busy working on his dirt bike. "I can't very well read while I'm lying under a dirt bike, Miss!" I guess he found something worth taking a break for? :) I love that.
The classroom that I plan to model my class after showed me that I can actually make it happen! She had her desks in groups of four around the perimeter of the classroom, and she had 2 large rugs in the center of the room. On one rug, she had a low-sitting beach chair, which all of the students recognized as the teacher's spot, and on the other, she had a HUGE pile of oversized pillows, beanbags, and chair cushions. The pillows were just old couch throw pillows and cushions that she had roughly sewn covers for in brightly covered thrift fabric. I LOVED it. I cannot wait to transform my own room. The only problem is that I need to find the means of getting rugs and more pillows and fabric and beanbags, etc. I have had a little success at garage sales, but rugs and beanbags get expensive, so all I really have so far are two cushions, two little foot rugs, and a runner-type rug that really just stays back behind my desk... I'm in the market for a lot more.
Since my biggest need is in the book area, I have been spending the money that I can on them instead of the decor-type things...but... eh, I have such high expectations for my classroom, and it's just frustrating for it not to be there yet. I know we all feel that way with things sometimes, and I'm still learning how to be patient, and live NOW instead of waiting for the future. What a waste to just always look forward to that future instead of enjoying the time the Lord has given me right now...
well, that's all for now, friends. If you do run across anyone who wants to get rid of rugs, lamps, beanbags, cushions, fabric, bookshelves, books, etc. please let me know? I'll gladly take them off of their hands. :)

your local first year middle school reading teacher.

p.s. sorry, that is probably completely scatterbrained writing. I hope you will forgive me :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Churros y Chocolate

As I was browsing a lovely new blog called Cannelle et Vanille (well, new for me!), I noticed a recipe for Churros and Chocolate. This imediately transported my mind to Madrid:

Set the scene: Caitlin, Katie, and myself strolling through the streets of El Rastro (a GIANT street sale they hold every sunday morning in Madrid, Spain) until we are dead tired and SO HUNGRY. We decide to check another "Thing we must do while we're in spain" off of our list. We must try the traditional Churros y Chocolate. Super rich, thick, thick, thick hot chocolate to dip your donut-ish pastry in.
Lesson Learned: Don't fill an empty stomach with Churros and Chocolate. They are super rich and thick and sweeeeeeet and filling - especially on an empty stomach... ;)
Anyhow, I felt the need to share the recipe with all of you in case you have the need for a Spanish experience anytime soon (or not so soon!). This is the recipe straight off of the aforementioned website. ENJOY!

The traditional hot chocolate served in Spain doesn't contain eggs. It is a thick chocolate cream usually thickened with a bit of cornstarch or made with a special kind of chocolate that contains thickeners. This recipe is a bit like a creme anglaise flavored with dark chocolate, coffee, orange, fresh ginger, cinnamon and vanilla bean. It can be served warm or even cold, but I really like the churros dipped in a warm custard.

Churros125 ml water
125ml whole milk
110 grams butter
pinch salt
large pinch sugar
150 grams flour
3 eggs
Canola oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar for coating

Place the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring this to a boil. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a smooth ball.Transfer this mass to the bowl of an electric mixer (or can do it by hand) and start mixing with a paddle attachment. When most of the steam has evaporated, add the eggs one at a time. Mix until it comes together to a smooth thick mass.Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (#5). In a wide pan that has tall sides, pour about 3" deep of canola oil. Heat it to 350F. When it reaches the temperature, pipe the batter into the oil and cut with scissors. Fry them until golden brown. Remove the churros from the oil and roll them in cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately.
Spiced Chocolate Bisque
500 ml heavy cream
200 ml whole milk
100 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange
3 slices of fresh ginger
5 grams cocoa powder
3 grams instant coffee powder
6 egg yolks
135 grams dark chocolate, chopped
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, star anise, cinnamon, orange zest and fresh ginger. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat off and let it steep for about 10 minutes. Return the mixture to a boil and add the cocoa powder and instant coffee powder. Whisk well.Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and temper the milk mixture into them while whisking. Return this mixture to the sauce pan and cook for a couple of minutes while constantly stirring until lightly thickens.Place the finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Place a fine sieve over the bowl and pour the custard over the chocolate. Mix until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth cream.Can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It will thicken when it cools.

Self Deception Revealed

As I sat, attempting to clear some of the space at my desk this morning, I came across a poem I wrote a while back. I thought I'd share it with you:

"Self Deception Revealed"

My dreams to betray
the ugly heart within.
Thoughts that I allow not
to the prominence of concious mind.
Awaking to reality
where from my dreams stem.
To recognize this truth
is to realize my blood of Eve.

Repentance Requires Action.

So I move.

love, denise.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I want to post a real post after last night (my sister's birthday/moving away dinner/visit), but for now, I don't have enough time for all that I'd like to say, so instead, I will just leave you with some old favorite photos that I just ran across on an old Myspace page. Remember that place?! ;) enjoy!Kelley Irwin and I (oh, and don't forget Sneaky Brent Bell!!) at the annual Gooch Family 4th of July celebration about 3 or 4 years ago i think!

Roomie Jen Holm and I (oh, and Slick Aaron in the back, of course!) about 3 years ago?

Lynnie and I (sister!) at Jennifer's 21st birthday party (GIRLS' NIGHT!!) in Dallas. When was that, Jen...3-4 years ago?

My hubby and I (back in our dating days... about 2-3 years ago) at Reiku Sushi at Mockingbird Station (LOVE THAT DRAGON ROLL!!!). YUM!! why can't I get my bangs (fringe) to do that anymore?! :)

Kelley Irwin and I at a Village Church gathering of some sort... I can't even remember what it was for... I think it was about 4 years ago?? Gotta love the Supersugar Red Icing Lipstick!!

Jen and I. Clearly hard at work managing Davanti Salon & Spa about 3-4 yrs. ago.

Lynnie and I at a random outing to The Cheesecake Factory

Me, Kelley, Jen
Yes. We are awesome. And Yes, this may be the most frightening picture I've ever taken. :)
Roomies 2007-2008

Rebecca Smith, Me, Jen Holm
Roomies (3 out of the 5 of us!) 2005-2006 (PEARL GIRLS!)
though, I think this picture was taken in 2007... this was Jordan Gooch's 21st birthday celebration night at the Ghost Bar in Dallas.
Anyhow, I hope you've enjoyed this trip back down Memory Lane. It was fun to see these photos pop up again, and I just had to share them with you :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

One Simple (yet not so minimalist-friendly) Love

There are things that we all love in this world. One of my loves is Book. Well, books. plural. The bigger the plural, the better. I adore bookstores. I covet the expansive collections in libraries. I could spend hours upon days upon years just browsing and sniffing and touching (followed by a good douse of Purel, of course) all of the books that are in used/half-price/thrift stores.
For the past few months, I have been compiling my Summer Reading List. Now that I have summers again, I plan to spend the majority of that time in the sun while devouring delightful book after page-turning adventure-keeper. Don't worry, it's mostly in preparation for work... so, technically, it IS work... and many of these books will be middle-school level-early high school level reads, but it just so happens that I am really excited to have an excuse to read all of the classic pieces of literature that I was never forced to (or took the opportunity to) as I progressed through school. I'm also extremely excited about re-living the adventures that I remember (or have forgotten) that I was so intrigued by when I was in middle school. For example, starting tomorrow, my students will be beginning units on Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Both great novels, and I've got some really fun (I hope/think?!) projects planned for my kiddos for the six weeks., this Summer Reading List. My goal for the summer was originally to read 100 books. However, once I ran the numbers, I figured I'll have about 10 weeks of no school from the end of this semester to the beginning of staff development for the next semester, so if I stuck with the 100 books in a summer goal, I'd have to be able to crank out about 1.5 books a day to accomplish it... Not realistic. Not with a whole new school year of lesson plans to tweak/write/find, a new home (hopefully!) to finish putting together, a garden to tend to (I plan to spend many joyous hours there!!), and a kitchen to continually dirty just to re-clean (all for the sake of delicious edibles that will TOTALLY be worth it). :)

So I adjust... I am trying to decide whether I want to stick with the 100 books goal, and just start now, or if I want to lower the goal number... I'm open to suggestions.

So, I leave you with a book that Aaron and I found as we browsed the books section of a local shop in Cape Coral, Florida just before Christmas. It caught our attention for being awesome, and we stood in the aisle and read it, in its entirety, together because it continued to be awesome. It's called Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea. I plan to own this book when we start having little ones. Count on it. If you have little ones, you need to be heading to the store to get your copy. :) P.S. You can click the picture of the book to see a YouTube video of the author reading the book :) i love it. :)
Happy Book Hunting!

love, denise