Saturday, 15 September 2012

Lindsay marks first assignments, is disappointed.

I am marking my first set of Grade 9 assignments today and I am not impressed.  

(it turned out that this was fewer than 108 duotangs.  Read on)

The task was to choose three questions from a list of "get to know you" questions.  All work was to be placed in their Writing Portfolio and submitted no later than Friday.  I talked at length about being courteous to teachers (read:  me) and allowing them to get their work done (read:  my marking) in a timely manner.  

They had class time to make sure they answered these three questions.  They were free to complete the work at home if the time given was not sufficient.  I figure they probably had 25-30 minutes once I was done yapping.   We're talking about questions like "What is your favourite movie and why?".  Not "Solve this differential equation using a theory you developed and explain your thinking process".  

I had one student come to me yesterday and explain that he'd forgotten his portfolio at home.  To me, that's taking some ownership and showing respect to one's teacher.  I appreciated him for doing this.  I reminded my classes that I was marking their assignments on the weekend and that they were responsible for getting their portfolios in to me.  No one else came forward.  

Thus, when I marked my first class set of assignments this morning, I was a bit dismayed at the fact that six of the thirty duotangs were not in the pile.  By the end of the marking experience, I had also recorded four zeros:  students who had put their assignment sheet in their portfolio but had not answered any of the questions.  Two students also did such poor work that I couldn't justify giving their work a passing grade.  

I am pretty discouraged right now.  To me, this assignment was a gimme.  It contained some different choices for students to pick from.  There was adequate class time given to complete the work.   They were reminded ad nauseum that this first assignment was due and that it counted for marks.  So why did I only get 18 acceptable assignments?

If you're in Alberta, you have probably heard about Lynden Dorval.  I'm not condoning his insubordination and defiance.  However, I would personally enjoy my marking responsibilities a lot more if I could just sit down and get the job done instead of knowing that I now have to speak with twelve students from just one of my four Grade 9 classes about missing and unacceptable assignments.   Instead, next week assignments will trickle in and I'll spend time filling in the highlighted blanks in my gradebook.  It might not sound like that big a deal, but it takes time.  Don't forget that the next batch of assignments will come in and I'd like to mark those in a timely manner.   It's irritating to know that additional work is being created needlessly.  

And what do I do with what they hand in?  Do I  mark for outcomes only and give them the same opportunity to get a mark that reflects the work they did?  Is that fair to the students who got their work in on time?  Do I take off an arbitrary percentage for each day it's late?  What's enough?  What I'm leaning towards is adding a code in my electronic gradebook that says, "This assignment was handed in late".  When I e-mail reports home, parents will see the code and be aware of their child's habits.  If I track it and see a trend, I could include information about this in my anecdotal comments on the full report card (not til January this year).  

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Coucous salad

This is too yummy not to share.  It's good at room temperature or cold and keeps well in the fridge.   I made this earlier in the summer and then again yesterday.

1 English cucumber, chopped
1 1/2 cups of bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup of parsley, tough stems removed (I didn't chop it)

2 cups of dry couscous - prepare according to package directions.

1 cup of almond slivers, toasted in pan
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Let the couscous cool before you mix everything together.  Make a dressing of salt, pepper, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil.  Don't be afraid to use as much salt as they do on Food Network - it really needs it.

I topped mine with parsley and extra toasted almonds.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Chicken Parmigiana

On Monday night, I was watching Hell's Kitchen and the challenge involved making Chicken Parmigiana.  It looked good.  Really good.

I have made Mario Batali's chicken parm from scratch.  It involved making a tomato sauce that included carrots and three kinds of fresh herbs, butterflying and tenderizing chicken breasts and a host of expensive ingredients.

I wanted chicken parmigiana.  I did not want a Mario Batali or Gordon Ramsey experience.  Here's what happened next.


Flattened chicken breasts, spaghetti, panko, flour, an egg, parmesan cheese (shredded), provolone cheese (sliced, leftover from Philly cheesesteak experiment) and Trader Joe's marinara sauce.

First step:  wine selection.

I took a risk on an Italian wine instead of Cabernet Sauvignon from the USA or Australia.  I will not be buying the 2010 Mandrarossa Nero d'Avola again.  I should just stick to what I like.

Second step... make a breading station:

From left to right:  flour+salt+pepper, beaten egg, panko.

Once the flattened chicken breasts were floured, egged and breaded, they looked like this:

I then choose canola oil to fry in and heated it in a non-stick skillet.  I had olive oil, but it seems to set off the smoke alarm.  I fried two of the pieces of chicken at a time.  Look at the delicious crunchiness!  I love Panko.

While that happened, I lined a baking sheet with foil and decided to use a wire cooling wrack on top of the baking sheet so that everything would stay nice and crispy.  Once the chicken was browned, it was time to add cheese.  

(one slice of folded provolone, one sprinkle of shredded parmesan) 

I refused to pay $2.50 USD for a tiny bag of croutons today.  Keep in mind, most bottles of wine, by comparison, cost about $6.99.  That's for the good stuff.  This purchase refusal resulted in me making les croutons (aka, I chopped white bread and baked it with olive oil and salt) for the caesar salad while I baked the chicken, boiled the pasta and heated the cheater marinara sauce.  TADA.  This means that out of the whole meal, the chicken portions and the croutons in the salad were homemade.  I rule.  

Final presentation:

(ooh, what an artistically fallen tomato chunk)

Our table tonight:

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

If I taught in a high school, I would probably teach the novel Speak.  I had the pleasure of reading it this year after a few friends recommended it.  Speak chronicles Melinda's first year in high school.  She was the infamous girl who called the cops at a summer party.  The reason she called the cops?  She'd been raped.  Anyway, I enjoyed the novel.  It's well written and poetic.  [It's also a movie starring Kristen Stewart... no vampires, though.  Who knew?  Also, did you know that Kristen Stewart was the diabetic kid in Panic Room? Weird.  Thank you, IMDB . Maybe one day I will divide my internet "research" time equally between you and YouTube. ]

Anyway, Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Speak and she also wrote Wintergirls, which I read today.  Yes, I read a whole book today.  It happens.  There were some really creative elements to it.  Its protagonist is Lia, a young girl who has been institutionalized previously for anorexia.  Lia's ex-best friend dies prior to the start of the novel from complications due to bulimia, and proceeds to haunt Lia throughout the story.  Some of the creative things I noticed were the way the chapters were numbered (001.00 through 065.00, like a scale), the hotel where the ex-best friend dies is called "The Gateway", the irony that Lia loves baking and knitting but struggles to eat and can never get warm.  There are more, but I think they would be spoilers to those of you who would like to read it.

I probably should get around to writing about some of the other things I read this summer.  Here's a partial list that doesn't include any of the readings for either of my two courses.

  • Wicked (just getting into it)
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (ashamed)
  • part of a terrible Lionel Shriver one called Game Control
  • The Weird Sisters - Any Shakespeare buffs reading?  You'd like it!
  • Prisoner of Tehran, which was on the Canada Reads list?  Really?
  • Committed by Elizabeth-who-wrote-Eat Pray Love - yes, I finished this one.
  • Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast (yay, Mom! - good find)

And I'm going to throw this summer's television series in the ring:  Breaking Bad, how did I not know about you?  There might be some kind of Lost-esque ending in the works where we find out that the male characters are all parts of Walt's personality:  Hank is his sense of protection, Jesse is impulsiveness, Chicken-Man is the calculating side, etc.  And what is with all the purple crap at his sister-in-law's place?  She even wears purple most of the time.  Did I mention that I <3 Netflix?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Chop Suey (from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry)

I love Chinese take-out but usually do not have much success with recreating things like chicken chow main or ginger beef.  This recipe is an exception.  It turned out really well and I definitely will be making it again.  I had to use a can of bean sprouts because I couldn't find fresh ones at my grocery store but will be using fresh next time.  Here's how I made the recipe:

Make a marinade:  1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 2 tsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp hoisin sauce.  Mix together in a medium sized bowl that will hold your meat.

Add 1 medium pork tenderloin, cut into strips.  (I think it would work with chicken or beef... maybe even tofu).   Stir the mixture to coat the meat evenly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make a sauce of 1/2 cup broth (I used chicken), 3 tbsp hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp sesame oil and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.  Whisk and set aside.

Chop an insane amount of veggies:

1 small container of mushrooms, sliced
4 ribs of celery cut on diagonal
1 cup onions, chopped
1 head of bok choy, sliced (couldn't find baby bok choy, sadness)
1 red pepper, sliced  (Randall's addition.  Otherwise everything was going to be green and brown)

You will also need 1 small package of snow peas, 1 can of bean sprouts (drained) and 1 small can of water chestnuts (also drained).

Take a break and have a glass of wine.   You can also compulsively tidy your too-small/too-hot kitchen if you're me.

Heat your Ikea wok until the smoke alarm goes off.  Deploy your husband to fan the smoke alarm with a dish towel while you comfort the cats.  Finish your glass of wine.  Start with the meat and cook it most of the way through.  Remove it from the pan to a clean bowl and wipe out your pan.  Add 1 tbsp oil and the mushrooms, celery and onions.  Cook 5 minutes.  Add bok choy and red pepper and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Re-add your meat and the sauce you made earlier.  Throw in your water chestnuts and bean sprouts.

Garnish with chopped green onion and shredded basil.  Leftovers are excellent the next day.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mango-Chicken Curry

Yesterday I was ambitious after vacation and dug out the cookbooks.  I found a recipe in our Crock-Pot Cookbook and tried it out.  The sauce was a little thin, but we enjoyed it, and it was EASY.

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Add the following ingredients:

3 chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mango, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Combine the following in a bowl:
2 tsp minced garlic
6 thin slices of ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp cider vinegar

Pour liquid and spices over the chicken.  Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Top with cilantro and plain yogurt if desired.

This was made even easier by the fact that our grocery store sells 1 cup servings of pre-chopped mango.  The recipe calls for defrosted frozen mango chunks, which I couldn't find.  Fresh is best, right?

We had ours with basmati rice and whole-wheat naan.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Reading Fail Post

Because I waited far too long to allow myself to enjoy the literary pulpiness that is Twilight, I decided to get on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon early.  My book club is also discussing this particular novel in September.   I also thought that it would be something mindless that would contrast against scholarly readings that I am doing for my current course.  So there are three reasons why I downloaded something classified as an erotic novel to my iPad.  Actually - I just thought of a fourth reason.  I thought I would "flush" if I had to wait in line at Chapters to buy something from the erotic novel section.

I also shamelessly enjoy series of books.  Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who __________ ?  Devoured in summer of 2010.  The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay?  One weekend this fall.  And the before-mentioned Twilight, Eclipse, New Moon Breaking Dawn?  Not only did I barely sleep the weekend I read those - I don't think I showered.  More Edward.  Less hygiene.

Here's what my problem is with Fifty Shades of Grey.  

It's not any good.  Since it's based on Twilight fan fiction, I'll briefly defend Stephanie Meyer.  The Twilight series had a particular appeal to it.  I will admit this:  it was no masterpiece, but it had glimmers.  Briefly, here are some things that make me accept the series.  There were parts of it (the werewolf parts) that reminded me of Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road.  There were parts of it that had significant and interesting irony (Bella's father is one of Forks' finest.  Vegetarian vampires.  Jacob imprints on a half-vampire infant).  There were parts of it that made me laugh (specifically, the parts with Alice).  I would even watch the movie adaptations again.  

A friend of mine used her Kobo to count up the number of times the word "crap" appears in the first book of the trilogy.  93.  The word "flush"?   100 times.  Maybe the book was attempting some kind of self-satire?   Let's not forget the angst Ana feels while using his toothbrush or her repeated and constant insecurity with her appearance.  

Here's another thing.  What would I be watching, exactly, if Fifty Shades of Grey was on Netflix?  

I am off to peruse iBooks.  I'm not sure how I'm going to get through Book Club in September because I don't think I can talk about this book with people I work with.