Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm Absurd for a Good Cause...and Baked Fiesta Cups

As you probably know, I teach 6th graders for a living.  If you've ever met a 6th grader, you know they are fairly ridiculous creatures.  For example, one of my students asked, "Why do I need to take English class?  I already speak it goodly."  In another class, a girl asked my colleague if people can get bad gas. She was speaking of the fuel, not flatulence, but her question didn't come out quite the way she intended.  This stuff is gold, and I couldn't make it up.  12 year olds are just this delightful all on their own.

Last week was a spirit week to raise money for Junior Achievement.  But I'm a rational, mature, intelligent adult.  Wearing pajamas to school is wonderful to the average 12 year old.  But to this rational, mature, intelligent adult, it's terrifying.  You've had those dreams when you woke up late on the first day of school, or missed your alarm, or shown up in your jammies, right?  I was a dork in middle school.  Popularity and coolness were not mine.  I was insecure.  So even now, when it comes to spirit days, I obsess a bit.  I'm always afraid I have the wrong theme on the wrong day and that I'll show up to work in my jammies on hat day.  Or I'll have the wrong week entirely.  Or, Heaven forbid, I'll have to stop for gas on my way to work.  In my jammies.

Seriously.  I know most of America goes to Wal-Mart in their jammies. is testament to that (and many atrocities more).  I don't get it, to be honest.  It takes, what, 30 seconds to put on pants?  So why not put on REAL pants before you head to the store? Or at least comfy pants of a solid color?  But NO.  Americans flock to Wal-Mart in their flannel print or character-adorned fleece jammie pants.  So when I had to go to the store on pajama day, I stopped home to change my pants first!  I couldn't do it!

Anyway, as an adult in the world of middle school, it takes courage to humiliate myself.  I have to be brave enough to humble myself and make an utter fool of myself.  I don't LIKE to do it.  But I like the results.  I was the only teacher in the whole school to participate in pirate day.  Did that bother me?  Yep.  It was like all those bad dreams, but in real life.  But as I walked to my classroom door from my meeting that morning, I heard a student say, "Phew, I knew she'd be in costume!"  I looked up into the face of a very relieved boy dressed in full pirate garb.  For a moment, I flashed back to all the insecurities of being 12 and realized that if I had been afraid to participate, he must have been nothing short of terrified.  Being 12 is hard enough.  It's an awkward time.  But when he got ready for school that morning, he knew Mrs. Powell would be even more ridiculous than he was, and that gave him the confidence to participate.

So, yes, I'm absurd for a good cause.

I've found that the bigger fool I make of myself, the better I do as a teacher.  This is true both when I'm dressed as a pirate and when I'm in a suit.  It's not about what I wear or don't wear.  It's about the fact that I'm willing to put my own pride aside and make my time at that school about my students.  If I sing songs about capitalization and punctuation, even though I can't carry a tune in a bucket with a really sturdy handle, they remember it.  If I chant about adverbs, even though I was never a cheerleader, for good reason, they remember it.  If I pantomime various over-the-top emotions for our show-not-tell lesson, they remember it.  If I dress as a pirate, they remember it.  I may be more than a little embarrassed on the inside, and the term DORK hasn't ever really left me, but it's worth it!

Here's Duck Tape Day!
 I braided three kinds of Duck Tape for the bracelet and necklace.
I made my hair pin by making triangular leaves in green and pink, then curled petals of the zebra print, then taped the whole thing to a giant bobby pin.

My challenge to you this week is this:
What do you need to lay aside for the sake of someone else?
How would your impact be different if you weren't afraid to make a fool of yourself?
What would you have the courage to do?

This week, try it.

Finally, a bonus feature.
I cook the way I teach.  I have an insistence about doing things my own way, blazing my own path, and I'm insatiably curious and creative.  And stubborn.  So I rarely follow a recipe.  When I cook, I often throw things together and see what happens.

I have a very patient husband.

He's also forgiving.

And if what I serve is remotely food-like, he's happy.

Sometimes my experiments work.  Sometimes they don't.  Here's one that worked!

I call these "Baked Fiesta Cups."
You can call them whatever you'd like.
When you cook, you can change anything you'd like about this concoction.  This is just what I did!

In a pot or crock pot, combine:
shredded chicken breast (I used the Tyson pre-cooked variety--one of my favorite time-savers!!); fully cooked if whipping this together on the stove; you can use uncooked in the crock pot
1 can diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime (I used the Ro-Tel brand)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
rice (minute or quick variety, brown or white)
1 packet either taco seasoning OR chicken chili seasoning (I used chicken chili--it's what I had!)
I also needed to add about 1/3 cup water for the rice.
You could even simplify this by using black bean salsa instead of the tomatoes and beans!

You'll also need tortillas, cream cheese, and cheese (shredded or otherwise) for later.

Heat the first ingredients through, then cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft.

While it's cooking, pre-heat the oven to 350.  Grab your muffin tin and tortillas.  Slice the tortillas in half and roll into a cone-ish shape, then fold/stuff them into the muffin tin to make little tortilla cups.  Mine kept trying to un-fold/stuff themselves, so I dabbed them with a little water to soften them and keep them in the cups.

Is your rice soft? Then stir in half a package of cream cheese.

When it's blended into the rest of the ingredients, spoon the mixture into the tortilla cups, top with cheese, and then bake until the cups start to brown.

Then eat!  Well, you'll want to let them cool a smidge first.  But then eat!

They were super yummy!  Hope you enjoy!

And if you don't, psssh!  Make your own recipe! Ha! :D

Now go be absurd.