Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teacher Retirements: Good or Bad?

Over 26 years of working as an instructional assistant, I've watched teachers retire in waves. Retirements never cease, but there are particular moments in the U.S.'s education history when retirements peak.

One of my first memories of witnessing a peak was when the school I was in changed to "blended classrooms". Blended classrooms were a big trend at that time. We were told about all of the educational benefits, but (I believe) the real reason was to level out the student numbers. Very helpful, when you have grades with big discrepancies in enrollment. Sadly, not all students are independent learners--an enormous advantage if you're a student in a blended classroom. Plus, it requires most teachers to scrap their foundational curriculum and teaching methods.

Can you imagine? Starting over whenever those in charge want to try something new? Change is good, but excellent support during those changes would leave fewer folks wanting to jump ship. And jump ship is what teachers do, when they feel the extra emotional cost and number of donated evenings and weekends is more than they can handle. So they walk out the door to begin the next stage of their lives, taking all their accumulated experience and knowledge with them.

We tell ourselves these retired teachers will be a community resource: coming back to substitute or volunteering where their experience and desires lead them. But once gone, they're cut off from the flow of new ideas. And the rest of us have lost our resource: an experienced insight into the so called new ideas that come around every few years. The retirees lose their status in the education community, as well.

What spurred me to write this post? One of our school's most charismatic, vibrant, resources is leaving at the end of this school year. My belief is that this teacher is still young (by today's standards) with much left to share.
But that's just my opinion.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

A popular local eatery, Word of Mouth, is constantly finding new ways to tempt customers in for breakfast. When I read their morning special that featured, cottage cheese pancakes, I was curious enough to look for a recipe to try at home.

Smitten Kitchen, one of the sites I trust as a recipe source, uses an adapted version of the Joy of Cooking recipe. Warning: they're pretty danged tasty. Another reason to keep cottage cheese in the fridge.
The following is Smitten Kitchen's recipe. I didn't make a single change.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

I am not sure if my last, overly-confident post about how to get pancakes right every single time came back and bit me in the, uh, griddle, but I seemed to have one mishap after another–burning, sticking, dark but raw in the middle–before I begrudgingly switched to a nonstick. Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I did with the pan of your choice, but if you have a nonstick, well, it might be worth it to just use that first.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk
1 cup full-fat or low-fat cottage cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cups finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup dried currants, plumped (optional)

2 large egg whites

Pure maple syrup or honey, or plain yogurt (optional, for serving)

Lightly butter, oil, or spray your griddle–nonstick works best with these, if you have them–if needed, and preheat it over medium heat. If you are using an electric griddle, preheat it to 350 degrees F. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F if you do not plan to serve the pancakes hot off the griddle.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon or nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cottage cheese, butter, egg yolks and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. Stir in the walnuts and/or currants, if using them.

Beat the two egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter.

The batter will be thick and bubbly – similar to cake batter. Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake, nudging the batter into rounds. These are thick and might take a little longer to cook than most other pancakes. Cook until the top of each pancake is starting to dry around the edges – you will get a few bubbles here and there – then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. These will keep in a 200 degrees F oven while you finish making the rest, but they are best served immediately, when they are at their lightest and puffiest.