Back to school time always evoked bittersweet emotions for me. The thrill of new clothes and pristine school supplies intermingled with the dread of un-popularity and whatever math class was required that year. We all can remember spending a lot of time evaluating the whole “home room” situation…what teacher you got, who was in your class, and what room you were assigned. Home room could make or break your social standing based on the mix of kids in the class. The room itself had an impact on your everyday comfort level as well. Was yours the room right above the boiler room, which meant you roasted all winter? So many factors had to align to create a perfect school year, but the most important factor of all was your teacher.
Teachers are the most undervalued people on the planet. Though a lot of bad teachers get away with mediocrity, the bigger crime is how great teachers go completely unnoticed and unrewarded. The few who are brave enough to take on a class of 13-year-olds deserve every kudo they can get. Most teachers use their own money to provide supplies for their budget-cut classrooms and don’t think twice about it. Creativity is an endless resource for teachers who skillfully find ways to bring balance to a room full of kids who may be undernourished, badly behaved, too outgoing or intellectually engaged. The good teacher’s plan includes the opportunity for everyone to learn, and the determination to make those opportunities happen every day.
So when I joined the PTO, teacher appreciation was high on my list. Raising funds for teachers’ assistants and making sure the enrichment programs remained enriched was paramount. But through it all, I realized that the most important contribution any parent can make is to simply put in the time. Spend an hour in the classroom, attend events, and check in with the teacher regularly. Create an open dialogue with him or her, even if it’s via email. If you like your kid’s teacher, support her in every way you can. Grade papers, cut out cardboard whatevers, decorate for parties, and create your own version of the gold star reward. Good teachers make kids great learners, and that’s something to be rewarded. After all, kids are in school 7 hours a day…why do you think they call it HOMEroom?
Giving teachers a taste of your home is a fantastic idea. It not only helps provide them with a glimpse of your kid’s life outside of school, it shows your appreciation in a very personal way. When you put some effort into it, teachers get inspired to return the favor and spend a little extra effort of their own. That’s how everyone wins.
Find out your teacher’s favorite color (have your kid ask). Then fill a lunch box with things that create calm feelings based around that color. For a teacher who loves purple: In a purple lunch box, add lilac scented bath oils, a purple candle, a cute stamp (something she may use on graded papers) with a purple ink pad, lilac infused eye mask, purple nail polish and blueberry or boysenberry tea.
Mix it Up!
Muffin mixes of various flavors in a mixing bowl, tied with a bow and wooden spoon. You can create your own mixes with just the dry ingredients of your favorite recipes sealed in bags with baking instructions, or use pre-made mixes decorated with stickers.
Offer your teacher a lesson about you as they learn about themselves over the year. Use the first page of a blank journal to write a note from you…including what a day in your house is like. Perhaps add your favorite recipe.
Fill a tote bag with everything apple. From a big red mug and a supply of apple tea to homemade apple butter and apple scones, Throw in some hand-crafted apple candy and apple scented magic markers and you have an awesome treat!
Easy in the slow cooker! Makes 4 pints.
5 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high one hour. Reduce heat to low and cook roughly nine hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. Uncover and continue cooking on low one hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, chilled
1 apple peeled, cored and shredded
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly. Add shredded apple and milk. Stir to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 8 to 10 times. Pat into two 6-inch circles. Place on greased baking sheet. Brush tops with milk, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Score each into 6 pie-shaped wedges. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, or until browned and risen. Serve warm with butter.
Sour Apple “Jollies”
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons apple (sour, or raspberry flavoring oil)
5-12 drops green food coloring
Clean kitchen scissors
Prepare a cookie sheet with sides by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a medium sized sauce pan. You want something big enough that the sugar won't boil over but also something that the candy thermometer will be able to get an accurate reading. Place the pan over high heat and stir it once or twice. Do not stir after that; cook the syrup till it reaches the hard crack and close to caramel temperature (310 degrees on a candy thermometer). The sugar will just begin to darken to a tan color. While you are waiting lightly oil one large or two smaller baking sheets. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the flav2oring and the food coloring and stir the sugar. Let it cool for just a moment, if it is to hot it will spread too thin. Pour onto the cookie sheet and wait for it to cool and harden so it can be handled. Quickly use your scissors and snip off bite-sized bits. Let bits rest and harden on the tray for about 10 minutes. Toss in powdered sugar, place in a cellophane bag and tie with ribbon.
Risa Friskey is a home gourmet and independent marketing/branding specialist.
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