… To cafeteria food. Let me explain.
Most education specialists – speech therapists, Title 1 teachers, counselors, or otherwise, don’t always receive a typical sized classroom for their groups. I’ve heard horror stores about speech therapists having to meet in conference rooms or broom closets due to lack of space and lack of funding to provide space.
Being a Title 1 subject specialist, I, as well as the ELL teacher and the counselor, have a small room located off the gym/cafeteria. It works well for small groups, and I did my best to turn the gray brick walls into a place of learning, and the kids seem to really enjoy coming to my room – even if it’s just to hang out and say “hi” before the morning bell rings.
Due to the nature of my job, I have very fluid groups of kids that come see me for math intervention. Then, based upon formal and informal assessment data, they either continue with the intervention, or “graduate” from my group. The beginning of the year had a lot of movement, trying to figure out which kids in the school really needed the assistance, and who simply had a poor initial testing day. But after the few beginning switches, I had a solid groups of kids ready and eager to improve in math.
One of my favorite things about being a teacher is how each class kind of forms their own personality. They work together (for the most part), learn from each other, and generally mesh in a way that uniquely works for them. No two classes are ever the same. And at the end of the year, it’s always a little sad to see the class bolt out of the door, breaking that organic cohesive bond with each exuberant leap across the playground toward the summer ahead.
This year, being in this specific position, my classes are expected to change throughout the year. We recently finished another round of formal testing, and yesterday my classes did change – drastically. All weekend, I had this nagging familiar gut feeling that Monday was going to be like the last day of school, and the first day of school, all wrapped up into consecutive 45 minute periods throughout the day. And my feeling was correct. I was sad to see my classes change, the personalities of our groups evolving, but simultaneously extremely happy at the kids’ progress, and also nervous about the new dynamics of the brand new faces anticipating me as much as I was anticipating them.
With all that emotion, change, and newness, the day was already slightly exhausting my 11:00am. But an interesting twist came at lunchtime when I started to smell the familiar, comforting scent that really only comes around once a year. During a short break between my classes, I ran across the gym to the kitchen where I saw our lovely cooks furiously whisking mashed potatoes, and roasting giant turkey breasts with thick, rich gravy. Stopping dead in my tracks, I looked at them open mouthed (and maybe drooling), and they looked up at me, breaking out in laughter, most likely from the ohmygosh-this-smells-like-heaven-but-I’m-confused-because-this-is-an-elementary-school-cafeteria-lunch-and-aren’t-there-Adam-Sandler-Sloppy-Joes-stereotypes-about-cafeteria-lunches?-look on my face. As I happily relinquished my pride to the modern educational child nutrition Gods for improving what I remember as a cafeteria lunch, I asked a stupid question (for having worked at the school since August): “How do I buy lunch?”
Almost everyday I bring leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch. Bringing in things like Roasted Beet and Pear Salad with Spicy Pine Nut Butter dressing definitely draws some looks in the Teachers’ Lounge, especially next to the classic PB&J sandwich. But yesterday’s lunch was especially good. Sunday night, Rob was on duty and I had already brought over a Goat Cheese, Hazelnut, and Barley Salad for lunch, and a Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding for the next day’s breakfast. We wanted something easy, yet stylish for his Sunday night working dinner, so I whipped up a chipotle frittata, served withOregon Pepper Jack cheese, greens, and a lime-cilantro dressing all layered between toasted 9-grain bread. Holy cow – It. Was. Awesome. Knowing I needed a lunch for Monday, I saved half of my sandwich, already looking forward to having a treat during my lunch break.
But before I even got close to diving into my Mexi-Italian inspired meal, the cafeteria got me. Dragged me in. Left me with no mercy. Made me scream “uncle.” Ok, I’m being dramatic again, but it was my all-time favorite comfort delight: Thanksgiving food. I was more than happy with the lunch I had brought from home, but the simple familiarity of the Thanksgiving lunch was the perfect buffer to a day with so much change and uncertainty. Needless to say, as I scarfed down the buttery mashed potatoes, and tore apart the turkey breast (so tender the plastic cafeteria fork more than sufficed), and practiced a good deal of adult self-restraint not the lick the last bit of gravy from the plate, my gourmet Chipotle Frittata Sandwich took a back seat.
Staying true to my New Years Resolution, I balanced my unexpected lunchtime caloric intake with a 2 mile run/5 mile walk and a lovely Green Goddess Salad for dinner. But despite the extra reason to exercise, that lunchtime treat just made yesterday even more special. Sadly, I said goodbye to many students and gladly accepted their group hugs. Happily, I played 20 questions with new students, giving them the chance to break the ice and get to know me before I teach them the “tricks” of math. I’m challenged by the opportunity to help a new group of K-4 students improve in a subject they understandably don’t like, and it’s a blessing to do so. In hindsight (which is usually the best-sight), there was no real reason to stress about the change – it’s just a part of the job, and it’s a change that is so rewarding.
Today, almost every one of my former students came by to see me – it was so sweet. And it made me realize what an important day yesterday really was.
(I also learned how to put money into my teacher’s lunch account, so now, the next time the Thanksgiving lunch rolls around, I’ll be ready to indulge!).
Chipotle Frittata Sandwich (serves 2)
NOTE: even though I gave this up to eat our school’s cafeteria food, it is an awesome sandwich. Please trust me on this, try it out, and let me know what you think. 🙂
- 2 eggs, and 2 egg whites
- 2 tbsp half & half
- 4 chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, diced, seeds/veins removed
- 4 swiss chard leaves, washed and torn (2 leaves for each sandwich)
- 4 thin slices Pepper Jack cheese (Tillamook is my favorite at the moment)
- 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 4 slices of your favorite bread (although I love the nuttiness of whole grain breads – I think they add another dimension of taste and texture)
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
Mix the mayonnaise, cilantro, and lime juice together to create the dressing/spread. Taste for s&p seasoning (careful, mayo can be pretty salty on its own), and set aside.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a small (French omelet size) non-stick pan on medium heat. Whisk the eggs, egg whites, and half & half together, and add the diced chipotle peppers. Add mixture to the pan, and let sit for a bit to cook the bottom. With a spatula, gently pull the sides away from the pan, tipping the pan so some of the raw egg falls under the cooked area. When only a small amount of raw egg is on the top of the frittata, put a plate (or accompanying pan lid) on the top of the pan, flip the pan so the frittata falls onto the plate/lid. Then immediately transfer the flipped frittata back to the pan to cook for a minute more (or, if you are really fancy, just flip the pan saute-style so the frittata has an airborne moment, flips 180 degrees and lands perfectly back in the pan. Say “Ta-Da!” afterwards. But I recommend doing this over the sink the first few times, to avoid a grumbling significant other cleaning up half-cooked egg on the stove). NOTE: you can also cook a frittata in the oven at 375, just keep an eye on it as it can go from raw to brown very quickly.
Meanwhile, toast the bread slices. When frittata is done, transfer to a plate and slice in half. Layer the mayo dressing, the frittata, the cheese, and the swiss chard into a sandwich. Slice and serve.