A Strange Fall
This is one of the strangest Augusts ever for me. My friends are setting up their rooms, making their copies for the first day and revising their curriculum maps. My students are e-mailing me to ask about the opening of school and how my summer went. I’m only participating on the periphery of all of this, instead of being knee-deep in planning and prepping myself. Why? Because I’m taking a year of leave from teaching.
I know several people who have used a year leave of absence to do amazing things, like get a masters degree at Harvard or travel the world. I am also using this year to do an amazing thing, although it might seem a lot less adventurous to the untrained eye. I’m on maternity leave. I will be home with my two-year-old son, my infant daughter and my husband who is a stay-at-home dad. The whole family. All together. One whole year.
Normally, at this point, I would have developed my long-term plan for my courses, finalized my ELA toolkit, planned my first two weeks of lessons and pulled out my classroom library. This week I would have been setting up my room, meeting the incoming sophomores and planning for the parts of PD I’m responsible for. While I am facilitating some PD this week, there are others who are really leading that charge. What I’m really doing this week is working on getting my baby to sleep in something that is not a moving swing or stroller, making sure that I get my two-year-old outside as much as possible in this gorgeous weather, and keeping some semblance of order in the kitchen so that my husband and I are able to keep the family fed. With all these household responsibilities I can’t even conceive of trying to prepare for teaching. Also, my baby is only five weeks old, and I’m so happy that I’m not leaving her to go back to work yet. Yet today, the first day I would have actually been going into school to set up, it does feel a little like I’m missing something. It’s like that nagging feeling I have sometimes when I leave the house and I know I’m forgetting something, but I don’t know what it is. I have a strange sense that I’m forgetting something, missing something, that something is off. And that something is teaching.
What makes this all OK is that I love my family and really, really I love being with my kids. I also know that I will go back to teaching. This year is an incredible gift for me – time for my family that I will never get again. But I love teaching too. I love that first week when I’m meeting kids, that first month where there are a million things to do, and it feels like I will never possibly get them all done. I love these things in that unconditional way that means you can both love something and be horribly annoyed and frustrated by it at the same time. In some strange way I miss both the excitement and the stress. I think it is because they come as a packaged set.
I’m already compensating for the part of myself and my identity that is nurtured by teaching and the research, planning and focus it requires. I’m totally dedicated to getting my baby on a sleep schedule that meets her sleep needs, since she has been overtired. I’m working on several different writing projects. I’m trying hard to keep up with my workout program. I’m working from home on some assessments for my school. I’m lucky that my husband loves me for (and sometimes despite) this need to always be “working” on something.
This is not my year off. This is my year different. I’m working in the sense that raising kids is working (and trust me, it really, really is!) I’m also working in the sense that I’m taking time to write, reflect and step back a bit from the classroom. I hope to go back next fall both energized and a bit wiser from this time away. I won’t miss grading, I won’t miss staff meetings and I won’t miss lunch duty. But I will miss planning lessons, matching a kid with the right book, seeing a student write about a topic they are passionate about, even though I know I will be doing this all again in only a year.
I’m chronicling my “Year of Family” on my other blog, Vegan Mama. Check it out!
I’ve been really into baked tofu recently, both because it is yummy and because it is easy to make (although it does take some time and preparation with pressing the tofu and all). The other night we had some corn and beets to grill, so I figured it was a good chance to make some BBQ baked tofu. It was all quite delish!
Baked BBQ Tofu
- 2 blocks of tofu (about 14 oz each)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 ½ TB tamari/soy sauce
- 1 cup of vegan BBQ sauce. I made the BBQ sauce from Vegan Soul Kitchen, but there are also many store-bought BBQ sauces that are vegan. Just read some labels to find one that works. Or browse the internet. There are some great recipes out there, and you can always adapt to your own tastes.
1) Press both blocks of tofu for at least 15 minutes, but really for as long as possible. An hour is great if you have the time. This link shows a person using a book to press the tofu. I usually use a 28 oz can of tomatoes and another jar/can of something (artichokes, canned soup, etc.) to weigh down the tofu.
2) Preheat the oven to 425.
3) Turn each block of tofu onto it’s side. Slice each block of tofu into four wide slabs.
4) Pour the olive oil and tamari into a 9×13 baking dish. Put the slabs of tofu in the baking dish and flip them over so that all sides are coated with the oil and tamari.
5) Put the tofu in the oven for 20 minutes. Then, pull it out and coat the tofu with ½ of the BBQ sauce. Flip the slabs over and coat the other side with the remaining sauce.
6) Bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the tofu is the chewiness you want!