Tuesday, May 27, 2014

10 lessons learned from a first year teacher.

1. When you feel like giving up, remember the student who told you he believed in his reading abilities because you believed first. Remember the student who called you her sunshine on a regular basis. Remember all the times you laughed at something together, or hung your Earth Day posters out in the hallway. Remember when they begged you to read outside, or eat with you, or hug you, or know more about you. Then ask yourself if you still feel like giving up.

2. In many ways, Wag! by Patrick McDonnell is the most perfect read aloud. It teaches a most profound lesson in the simplest, most beautiful way (we read it no less than 5 times).

3. Talk about your family and they will hinge upon your every word.

4. When comparing yourself to other teachers, don't.

5. Hold onto that one time you were all walking up the stairs after lunch and their eyes sparkled with anticipation over the next chapter of Matilda you were about to savor together.

6. Kids still truly love Reading Rainbow.

7. When you are thrilled to teach something, students will often be thrilled to learn about it.

8. In some cases, your classroom might be the most comforting safe haven a student has in his or her life. Therefore, please remember to tell each student how glad you are to see him or her every single day.

9. Don't forget to do something for yourself every now and then. Find a hobby that makes your heart sing. Do something that doesn't have any relation to the teaching profession. Bask in a life outside of your classroom, full of richness and love so that you can return to your classroom each and every single week day with enthusiasm in your heart and joy in your soul.

10. When you feel knocked down or low (which will happen more frequently than you'd care to admit), please know that you are doing one of the most important jobs, and serving in a way that is profound and meaningful. Know that the work you do has a great impact and that you matter to someone (a class full of someones, in fact). Tell yourself that you are important and wonderful and heroic, because you are. And when none of that works, give your students a hug, and you will feel the results of your work come flooding back to you in an avalanche of love and adoration.

Bonus (11.): Cherish the moments spent within the four walls of that first classroom. Hold onto them and keep them for later. When the door begins to close on that first year, you will feel simultaneously relieved, shocked (by how unbelievably quickly time passed), and deeply saddened. The mountain you chose to summit will be nearly behind you. You enjoyed the view and the fruits of your labor, and now you must hold it tight in your heart and never let it go. You did it! Congratulations. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

the dynamics of a classroom.

My students walk in the door in the morning and this is playing. Expectantly, my students start humming the tune before they've even hit the entry to our classroom. Most of them have breakfast trays, meticulously curated to meet their unique tastes: one has Cinnamon Toast Crunch and OJ and another has grits and toast. Without thinking, they pass the OJ to one of my students who has taken a particular liking to it. He has a pile of it on his desk (there's no way he could ever drink all of it, it's a gesture of kindness). Desks don't belong to individuals, but to groups of people. Papers are sprawled across the desks, a sea of homework congregating in the middle of the group.

"Did you turn in your homework yet?" A helpful reminder from one student to another. "Are you going to science night?" Conversation begins to spring up around the classroom until the humming, pleasant sound of kid voices harmonizes with the background music. The soundtrack has now moved to this.

Slowly and steadily, my students come streaming in, leaving their home baggage at the door and stepping into our cozy, supportive, welcoming classroom. We are a well-oiled machine, connected by the triumphs and obstacles we face everyday. Post-it notes are slam dunked into the green basket in the front of the room. Today's sticky note job: Write one interesting fact about the state you're researching. I hear murmurs, "What's your interesting fact? Did you remember to write your name on the back?" I hear helpers, I hear supporters, I hear genuine interest.

For a moment I sit back and marvel at this. How did we get here? How did we come to the place where we have learned to accept the differences of one another and the sameness we all share in some small way? I can tell you that it has not always been this way — still isn't always this way.

But on days when our little world is running in content and perfect harmony, my heart is full of pure love for the students that have learned, cried, laughed, cheered, smiled, worked, persevered, given up (plenty of times), tried again, disrespected, apologized, lived, loved, and created together in room 06-222.

We have built a world just for us, and it's a good one. And so, to my students of 2013-2014 (who will never read this), I am so very proud of you — your heart and your mind. Go move mountains.

Friday, May 9, 2014

cook the perfect brown rice.

The ability to cook brown rice has always eluded me. Every time I give it a go I'm left with half the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan, while the other half is part crunchy, part slimy. And my experiences with brown rice specifically have fared even worse. The other night, I combined all the information I had ever learned about rice into one super recipe, and it worked! The amount of excitement that ensued in my heart was a bit overdramatic, but I'm still going to share what I believe are the perfect steps to cooking brown rice. Enjoy!

As an aside, the water to rice ratio should always be 2:1 (i.e., 1 cup water, 1/2 cup rice).

1. Rinse the rice under cool water — twice.
2. Fill a pot with the proper amount of water and pour the rice in.
3. Bring the water + rice mixture to a boil.
4. After the water has come to a boil, bring it immediately back to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
5. Let the rice simmer for 10 minutes and stir. Then, leave the rice to simmer for 5 more minutes and stir.
6. Finally, uncover the pot and allow the rice to finish for 5 more minutes (sans lid).
7. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Voila! Perfect brown rice!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

life lately.

As a result of not blogging for months, I have a few photos to share with you! In November, Jeffrey and I took a trip to the mountains of North Carolina and were forced to leave early because of a snowstorm. In December, my sister and I spent a weekend in Savannah, Georgia. In March, Jeffrey and I went to Asheville to celebrate one year of marriage. And to celebrate the arrival of spring, we had a picnic with my parents on a beautiful evening! What a treat to relive some of these beautiful moments! xo


{ Exploring Cataloochee, which is filled with unbelievable beauty. }


{ Each and every elk sighting feels like a bit of a discovery. }


{My heart swells at the sight of these North Carolina mountains. }


{ The only photos snapped from our Savannah trip. 1 // Our home during our stay; 2 // Giddy excitement upon arriving at Back in the Day Bakery. }


{ My husband of one year. It still feels like quite the privilege to call him that. }


{Casual anniversary dinner at Ben's Tune-Up, in Asheville. (Although if you're looking for our true Asheville food recommendations, White Duck Taco Shop for savory and French Broad Chocolates for sweet.) We stayed at each of these homes via Airbnb, and recommend both highly (1) (2). }


{ Picnicking in the park with my parents. }


{ Our feast, from Mazzaro's Italian Market. Pasta salad made by my dad. }

Monday, May 5, 2014

my favorite face mask.


Hello, friends! Today's post is all about my favorite face mask, which is a luxury I allow myself every Sunday evening. I discovered Enkido products completely by chance and have since fallen in love with them. Not only are they reasonably priced, but they're also devoid of any undesirable chemicals and unnecessary fillers.

This mask does wonders for troubled skin and leaves my face feeling so soft after I rinse it off! I begin my face mask process by exfoliating my skin with a bit of baking soda (yes, baking soda!). After I rinse the baking soda away, I pat my face semi-dry with a towel. I find that my damp skin takes the mask in a little better than dry skin does. I apply a thin layer of the mask all over my face and let it sit for 10 minutes, or until the paste dries and becomes a bit tight. Then, I just rinse it off with lukewarm water and apply my toner and moisturizer. My favorite thing about this mask is that it soothes my skin and makes it feel so clean!

Also, I've found that Enkido's daily moisturizer is quite pleasant, and last week I blogged about my favorite face wash!

P.S. Do you recommend any face masks? I'm always in the market to try something new!

Friday, May 2, 2014

make the most of your smoothie.

Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to start the morning, especially if I'm short on time! I've been really inspired by Arielle's blog, where she talks about nutrition in a way that seems approachable and manageable to me. I'm not sure about you, but I often feel as though I can get easily overwhelmed by clean-eating blogs. Whereas the writer has probably taken months or even years to get to a place of beautiful, clean eating, in blogland it can seem like it's only taken minutes! I'm incredibly grateful for the wealth of information that's available and I'm so thankful for the people who share their knowledge, but simple and step-by-step works best for me.

Today I thought I'd share five of our latest favorite smoothie add-ins. They're perfect for adding a boost of nutrition in a simple and quick way!

1. Oats. I love adding oats into my smoothie, especially if I'm looking to bulk it up a bit. Especially delicious when combined with nut butter, oats pack tons of health benefits (high levels of calcium, iron, and fiber) and taste deliciously nutty, too!

2. Amazing Grass. This is a new discovery for us and we love it. Not only is this product filled with probiotics, but it also packs a ton of greens and sea veggies! While the recommended dose is a tablespoon, it does have quite a strong flavor, so we are starting with a teaspoon. The smoothie masks the taste pretty well, but it does leave a flavor behind.

3. Bee Pollen. A sprinkle of bee pollen is very beneficial for those of us who experience seasonal allergies. I typically just garnish the top of my smoothie with a bit of this, but it can also be mixed right in with everything else. (Bee pollen is not safe to consume if you're allergic to bees.)

4. Chia Seeds. I'll never forget the first time I tried chia seeds. My sister and I ventured into our local health food store and split a bulk container. I've been a lover of these little gems ever since (I wrote about them here). To get the most of these little guys, soak them in water first and then just add a spoonful to your smoothie.

5. Honey. Packed with antioxidants and antibacterial properties, honey is a delicious addition to a smoothie, especially if your sweet tooth is looking for something to satisfy it. A little less than a spoonful will do the trick!

I'd love to hear about your favorite ways to boost a smoothie! xo
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