Monday, September 25, 2006

Talking to Myself

I continue to substitute for a yet-to-be-hired special education teacher, although the precise nature of the unfilled position continues to change. I've been at three different schools and I'm uncertain how many students I'll be working with next week. (I assume I will be working next week.)

Although the heavy lifting is over, and I am no longer physically exhausted when I get home, my daily activities still interfere with my writing habits. While my students have little in common with one another, there is a certain continuity. Most of them have difficulties processing spoken and written language. Whether they can't take in verbal information because their brains are different from most people, or because they are too angry, too anxious, or too distracted by ambient noise, they don't attend to what they are told. I speak slowly. I say simple things. I repeat myself. I repeat myself. I REPEAT myself. If a teacher fell in the classroom, would there be any sound? I come home with little faith in the whole process of communication. It seems more interesting to can tomatoes than to write.

On the other hand, this is reminding me just how amazing it is to be able to read. A visual representation of speech--how did someone come up with this? The non-reading adults I've worked with have completely different ways of thinking about words than readers (even poor readers). They are unaware of rhymes in song lyrics, incredulous that words can be broken apart into component sounds, and skeptical that a word and the thing it names can be separated. Several of my young students are struggling with these same concepts. Most people participating in the magical world of written language have forgotten they ever lived anywhere else. It's a gift to be reminded of that other condition, and the hard work involved in crossing that border.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Where I've Been Lately

The week before last, I got a call from the school board office asking if I was available to start the school year as a substitute teacher. They are advertising for an autism teacher, and need a substitute until the position is filled. I travel between two schools and have four (soon five) special needs students. There are no lesson plans, no schedule, no real classroom, and no instructions on how to procede. I won't know the job is over until they tell me "Don't come in tomorrow." Of course I said, "Sign me up!"

So far, the job includes much heavy lifting and some sprinting down the halls and sidewalks. I come home very tired each night, and have not made blogging a priority. I like these unanticpated opportunities, and so far, I'm enjoying the work. Interestingly, I'm already in trouble. Thursday afternoon, an irate parent marched into the principal's office complaining about my treatment of her child. I don't know the nature of her complaint, but I did hear she was roaming the hall threatening to "whup me," or some part thereof. The fourth day of school seems a little premature for complaints--I usually don't get criticism until I've actually done something. Still, you must admire a parent that cares enough to offer a pre-emptive "whuppin'."

The Last Barbeque of the Season

This summer, we've been searching for the ideal barbeque sauce. In honor of Labor Day, here are some things we've tried that we liked.

Michael Chiarello's Babyback Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce
Espresso Barbecue Sauce:
4 tablespoons mashed and minced garlic
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups ketchup
2 cups honey
Grey salt
2 demitasse cups espresso (or about 1/2 cup of strong coffee or instant espresso)
Fresh ground black pepper

Mash garlic with the side of a knife and then mince finely to release oils.

Add olive oil to a preheated saute pan. Add the garlic and saute until it gets light brown, about 1 minute. Add cider vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and honey and stir well. Add a pinch of grey salt, then whisk in the coffee. Add freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.

Let cool and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1/3 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until sauce thickens and flavors blend, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill.)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Bon App├ętit, July 2000. Steve Raichlen

Kicked Up Barbecue Sauce with Variations
2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup minced onions
5 large cloves garlic, minced

Mix together all ingredients. Use immediately.

Asian-Style Barbecue Sauce
2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix together all ingredients. Use immediately.

Raspberry Barbecue Sauce
2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
1 package frozen red raspberries in syrup

Mix together all ingredients. Use immediately.

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
1/4 cup bourbon

Mix together all ingredients. Use immediately.

Mustard-Style Barbecue Sauce
2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
1 cup yellow mustard

Mix together all ingredients. Use immediately.

Here are some other barbeque sauce recipe collections.