Thou shalt not judge

There was a knock on the door of the Teachers’ room. I sighed. I had just started grading and I was hoping to finish a certain amount of work before heading home. But hey, I was there, so I opened the door. One of my students, that actually missed my exam that morning, was in tears, asking for a colleague that had already gone home. When I told her that, she broke down completely and as I was the only one available, she shared her story with me. I was lost for words after that.

Last year she finally freed herself of an abusive relationship. Supported by her parents, intensely followed by a psychologist and with a few months of mental recovery at a specialized centre for young people in her case, she managed to get herself back together, trying to claim back her life and self-esteem. She came a long way. All was well and she was in a new relationship for quite some time now, with a boy that was in my class last year. A caring, gentle young man.

Her ex had managed to contact him though and now she was receiving horrifying messages from that sweet boy. She didn’t recognize him at all, was so disappointed that her ex once again had managed to slip into her life, trying to ruin everything she fought for.

The mascara was making her look like a panda at that moment and my heart was aching and I felt naive and completely unable to say anything useful. This girl, whom I didn’t think much of first, was hiding a battle that no woman should ever have to fight. She opened up to me, because she knew she had to tell and I was the only one there. I am one of her actual teachers, didn’t know a thing about her life, and still she found the courage to tell her story, knowing that she could not take back her words and I would keep knowing it until the moment she leaves school (and ever after).

I admired her while my heart broke for her. I encouraged her to call her parents and psychologist, to surround herself with people that actually loved her, as in a warm bath. She left, smiling, and thanking me for my time. I returned to my desk, feeling like I didn’t have a clue and being very very upset about the fact that people actually have to deal with this kind of situation, at such a young age even.

And it learned me, once again, I shouldn’t judge. Ever.

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Linking up with Titus2Tuesday

Three attitudes that will make you the best teacher ever.

Standing in front of a new group is always in some ways nerve-wracking. But as a teacher you have no choice but finding a way to cope with that. Here are some tricks that have helped me a lot.

Teacher_Attitudes

 

  • Decide to like your students. To love them even. Sometimes it’s as simple as that decision you make in those very first minutes you meet them. They’re your pupils now. You’ll be with them for the year to come. There will be struggles and maybe in some groups things won’t turn out as expected, but that simple decision, that conscious act, may just make your year.

 

  • Learn to laugh. You don’t have to accept everything but sometimes you simply have to admit their less polite remarks are funny. Why wouldn’t you laugh if you think it’s funny? Often a drop of humor can alleviate a tense or awkward situation. Besides, laughing makes you human. From time to time it’s good to remind your students that you’re human too. They’re inclined to think that your bed is somewhere beneath the desk and cannot even imagine you might have a life outside of school (hence the complete surprise when they discover you go to the same supermarket as they do).

 

  • Be yourself. It may sound incredibly cliché, but it’s the best advice you’ll ever be given as a teacher. It can be daunting to compare yourself with colleagues. Don’t. There are as many teachings styles as there are teachers. Know that it’s a good thing for students to have different teachers, your unique way of handling course material might be exactly the way that’s perfect for them.

 

Reflections on Sunday

  • First week of school and boy, it’s over already. Time flies! I have lovely groups this year and I feel like this is going to be a very good year. I feel motivated and enthusiastic, both things you really need as a teacher. I know most of my senior students from two years ago and honestly, I’m glad to have them back to write this last chapter before they go to uni.

 

  • My husband encouraged me to choose a me-time-activity for this year and I have been looking for yoga classes. I did that one year and I enjoyed them thoroughly, although I dropped out after a few months. This time I went for something less cheap to make it a real treat for me in a nice accommodation. It’s a very different kind of yoga. I’m used to hatha yoga, more focused on static poses. This is a Vinyasa yoga class though and boy, I can assure you I feel every muscle in my body.

 

  • It was my dad’s birthday today and as he asked me to cut. Time for my pasta machine to get used for the first time! I made ravioli with a great butter-walnut-sage sauce and invented a spicy pumpkin-chicken meatloaf to go with it. I think I still need some practice making my own pasta, but I was rather proud with how it turned out.

 

Blueberry_Muffins

 

  • One of my intentions for this year is to finally get the whole breakfast muffin thing – and actually bake decent muffins. I’m proud to tell you I managed to nail this lovely blueberry muffin recipe. There are six of them waiting in the freezer for next time. Next on my list would be a banana muffin, I think I’m going to go with the same base and just add bananas instead of blueberries.

 

How was your week?

Amalfi – Hooverphonic

In a beautiful series about or Belgian music scene on television, last week it was all about Hooverphonic. If you don’t know them, you really should check them out. Most of it is totally my style and I like how the group learned along the way to write songs that suit the voice of their lead singer. ‘Amalfi’ one of their more recent songs and it makes me dream.

 

Photo a day – one week into the new school year

 

I am still doing the FMS Photo a Day challenge, so time for my weekly roundup. I like the pictures put all together in a collage.

FMS_Photo_A_Day_Roundup_September_Week1

 

dessert – I’m not into desserts, but when it involves chocolate, you can count me in! I especially like heavy chocolate mousse, or something close to ganache. They used to have a brand at my local supermarket but for some reason it’s hard to find now, so when I do, I stock up!

 

near – The closest thing I could find was an old pair of 3D glasses (from the time we went to see Avatar). Little Boy loves glasses, but tends to strip them from their legs, which makes them totally useless of course.

 

10 am – Fruit shake time! We went for a watermelon-banana slush and it was finished with great enthusiasm. I love it when a healthy habit sticks!

 

in my cup – I do like my cup of coffee, especially in the teachers’ room, but I can perfectly live with a cup of milk. I used to drink a lot of it and now I’m rediscovering.

 

stripes – To be honest, this was not the soft shell laptop case I was hoping for when I asked my parents a colorful funny one for my birthday, but hey, they picked this out for me and I am rocking it.

 

button – These are on my pajamas. Both my mother and my mother-in-law gave me beautiful pajamas when I gave birth to our son. I really love them (my mothers and my pajamas :) ) and while I never considered actually spending money on something to wear in bed, I would totally do that now!

 

DIY – Nothing beats a home cooked meal. All new things last night – little chicken-tarragon bits wrapped in pastry, and a lovely beetroot-pear salad. Both were well received so I’m going to make that again.

 

 

Five things I’ve learned about entertaining a toddler

I already mentioned earlier this week that entertaining a toddler can be challenging. After that lovely long summer holiday, I wanted to share with you the things I learned that made it a little easier.

Five_Things_Toddler_Entertainment

Go outside.

I’m a real inside-girl. The things I love to do work best inside the house. Writing, reading in a comfortable chair, cooking,… it has always been like that, my parents had to chase me outside when I was little (and they did, they really did). Little Boy will play outside whenever he can. The look on his face when he stands at the window and see it’s pouring outside is simply heartbreaking. He does like variation though, a change of scenery from time to time. Think bike rides, stroller walks, playgrounds, local natural domains, zoo, … It’s a pity we didn’t have the sun-loaded summer days like last year, there was quite a lot of rain. So we really took advantage the sunny days.

 

Structure your day somehow.

From the very start of his life, I knew I was mother to a kid that appreciates structure. Even though I love lists, I am not a really well-structured person. I love the calm of my home, but I can fall asleep wherever and whenever I want, I can eat at different times every day and just follow my pace. Little Boy is different. He needs his naps, and he needs some sense of routine. Unfortunately, the first weeks of summer he was struggling with a change in his sleeping pattern – transitioning to one nap, very early mornings, difficult nights… We had to see it through and knowing it would pass once he settled for a new schedule. So we structured our days around the meals. I have a kid that loves to eat, so that was a good option. We have a bottle of milk, shortly after followed by breakfast, a morning snack (fruit or a milk shake if he didn’t have a bottle in the morning), lunch, afternoon snack, evening meal and a bottle of milk. I tried to drop the first bottle, but he simply doesn’t drink enough water during the day to make that possible.

Structured_Day_Meals_Rice

 

Forget you’ve ever had a clean house (as if…)

At first I tried to keep up. I can vacuum while LB is awake, but that’s about it. And it’s not an easy job, sometimes he wants to help, which is hard, sometimes he just takes advantage of the noise and sneaks away to do stuff he knows he shouldn’t. Dishes, preparing meals? Forget it, for him it’s just a sign to climb in his chair and demand food. I don’t even know why I had though for a minute that I could skip the cleaner during summer holidays. Bad decision.

 

Television isn’t so bad at all

I was one of those mothers that honestly wanted to try to raise her child with as little television as possible. I think, and I still do, children will get enough screen time in their life anyway. But then there was Studio 100. It’s commercial, I know, and it’s everywhere. But they have nice programs. And they play clips at any moment of the day. My boy loves it. And I simply couldn’t believe how much he learned from those things. I must confess: television is on a big part of the day, but Little Boy is not continuously watching. I can even say he actually watches less and less, even if it’s on. We first put on television when I had to leave early for school and my husband was still in the shower – it was a good distraction in those times he had to wait in his park or his seat. Now he’s watching for five minutes, and then goes find his cars or something else to play with. Television can be mind numbing, but, especially with Little Boy, it’s a great conversation starter too. We point out the things he knows, like ducks, or vehicles. Or we’re imitating dances, sing along with the songs, learn new words.

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Limit toy choice

I’m a sucker for toys. Sometimes I guess I buy them more for me than for Little Boy. Especially wooden toys are hard to resist. But I’ve learned that the more choice there is for my kid, the more toys he just gets out and the less he actually plays with them. So I set up a rotation system to keep things new and interesting. I wanted to add art supplies to that, so we could alternate playing with his toys with creating things, but my boy is not a pencil lover. He eats them. Every time. He knows perfectly how to use them, but he doesn’t find it a very interesting activity. Oh well. The thing is, when we spent a week at the beach and had only a very limited toy supply with us, it kept him interested and entertained for the whole week. Lesson learned.

 

What do you keep in mind when spending long periods of time with your toddler? Maybe you’re a stay at home mother and can learn me a lot? I’d love to hear it in the comments. 

Comforting mushroom-spinach cannelloni

One thing I did accomplish this summer is a pantry-purge. It wasn’t pretty, I had to throw out a lot of things. But it inspired me as well, as I found an old pot of dried mushrooms and half a package of cannelloni tubes. Normally I make spinach-ricotta cannelloni with tomato sauce, but the mushrooms just asked for a silky white sauce. This would be a perfect autumn dish.

Mushroom_Spinach_Cannelloni

 

For this recipe you’ll need cannelloni tubes (three per person should do), ricotta cheese, spinach (I used fresh, but I can tell you that frozen spinach works just as well), a shallot, dried mushrooms (If you have some fresh ones laying around, they could do too, but you’ll need some dried to use the rehydration liquid for the sauce), flour, butter and milk.

 

  • Rehydrate the mushrooms in some very hot water. How many is your choice, it’s the liquid that we’ll need to make a special white sauce, but I used some mushrooms in the filling too. Preheat the oven to 200°C (that’s my standard, I hardly use any other temperature, so if you know your oven, maybe you should play around). Butter a oven proof dish slightly.

 

  • Make the filling: welt the spinach and when it’s done, try to squeeze out as many of the moisture as you can. When using frozen spinach: defrost (maybe you can do that ahead and let it sit overnight in a sieve over a bowl) and squeeze out the moisture. Cooking isn’t needed, it will be in the oven later, time enough to cook!

 

  • Chop the shallot very finely and cook until translucent. When using a few fresh mushrooms, you can chop them very finely too and cook with the shallot. For the dried ones, no cooking required, but you’ll need to chop finely and squeeze out all the liquid. Don’t throw it away, but set aside. That brownish water with the distinctive mushroom fragrance is going to add some extra to your sauce.

 

  • Combine spinach, mushroom, shallot with just enough ricotta cheese to bring it all together and then just a little more. Season to taste.

 

  • Fill the tubes with the mixture. For me, a simple plastic bag works best. Put the filling in it, cut a tiny little bit of the corner and tadaaa, great filling tool!

 

  • Prepare the white sauce. First, make a roux of equal quantities of butter and flour. Cook it long enough to smell something nutty, then add a few spoons of the mushroom water to it (I suggest you start with two and then go on with the milk – it can get quite overwhelming taste wise). Continue with milk, constantly whisking until you have a lovely beige sauce. It can’t be runny, but make sure it’s not too thick either, because your cannelloni will have to cook in it. Taste! Season and add more mushroom water if you like.

 

  • Spoon a layer of sauce into your dish, arrange the cannelloni on top of it, and cover with the rest of the sauce. Put in the oven for at least 30 minutes, maybe 45, until your cannelloni are cooked. To me, it’s a very filling meal, but I would understand the need for something fresh to accompany it. I would go for a simple salad with a light, fresh dressing. Enjoy!