Saturday, January 27, 2007

Last Meal

If you had to choose your last meal, would it be an easy choice? For someone who loves food the way that I do, it seems that that decision would be a toughie. Not at all, actually. For me, the clear cut winner is Veal Parmigiana with Raviolis from Spirito's Restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

According to my mom, I've been eating at Spirito's since I was 3 months old. Apparently I would gnaw and teethe on the end of a loaf of Italian bread while my parents ate their dinner. We passed that tradition off to Julie and Z...they've been going there since they were babies as well. When I was old enough to chew, Veal Parmigiana became my meal of choice. My dad would (and still does for tradition's sake) cut it up for me.

Going to Spirito's is like stepping back in time. The decor, the food, and the quirks (like no butter for your bread and no grated cheese provided for pizza) are exactly what they have always been with the exception of some new "old-time pictures of Spirito family and Elizabeth in its heyday." In addition, the surrounding neighborhood remains a snapshot of what the greater area of the town once was. I can remember passing a building en route to the restaurant that my dad tells me was his home for much of his childhood. (Third floor, right Dad?)

I always feel a connection to Elizabeth when I go there (which is not nearly often enough for my tastebuds!). It could be because both of my parents spent a large portion of their lives there and I sense the family history. It could also be because of the close proximity to my childhood home of Linden...we went to Elizabeth fairly often when I was a child. In either case, its gritty texture and strong sense of ethnic identity appeals to me. While I am not Italian, I love to see the small Italian social clubs on the street corners. The Italian ice shop still makes ices that are loaded with fresh fruit (watch out for the seeds!).

While veal may not be your meat of choice, I challenge you to take a ride to Spirito's some time. If the waiting line is out the door, don't worry because 1) it will move fast and 2) it will be well worth your time. At $14.95 there is no better deal in terms of taste. But no, my dad will not cut it up for you...he only does that for me! (It's an only child thing...)


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sitting on the Sidelines

For the first time in over fifteen years, I'm a teacher who is not teaching. (In the classroom, that is!) This semester I have a wonderful student teacher who I have catapulted right into the classroom.

Rather than having Denisse sit and watch, as she's done sporadically for the last 4 months, I decided that it would be in her best interest to get right into the classroom at the start of the second semester. I thought the transition would be better for the students and for Denisse since it would be a clean start. What I wasn't expecting was how it would affect me...

It is much more difficult than I thought it would be to sit on the sidelines. While I am involved in planning the lessons, assisting Denisse with time and classroom management and observing the evolution of a new teacher, I have decided that it's best for the situation if I have only minimal interaction with the students in terms of instruction. As a result of my inherent proclivity toward "doing things a certain way" (no, I've never been much of a team player!) I find myself biting my tongue constantly. I want to add comments, stories and mneumonics throughout Denisse's lesson but I refuse to sabotage what she is trying to achieve.

What I've learned from this?
* I've been doing this for a really long time (that's a rude awakening!).
* I like teaching a lot more than I thought (that's a pleasant surprise!).

Who's doing the learning here? I think it's me. As I reevaluate my career I find that with all the thorns, teaching is the best job for me. It's different every day, there's always high stress (being on time and prepared for class....the kids know if you are not and capitalize on that!), and I get to stay "young" by being around kids all day. That's not to mention summers off, Winter Break, Spring Break and hours that coincide with Julie and Z's school schedule. In addition, I get to mentor student teachers like Denisse who bring a ton of new ideas and fresh expectations to the table...ideas and expectations that I can consider adding to my repertoire!

I just hope tongues heal fast. Ouch!


Monday, January 22, 2007

New (and Old) Music

Most every semester, I ask my students to answer a battery of questions about themselves. Some of these questions have to do with politics and public policy, the kind of stuff I teach. You know, What is your party identification? What was your attitude toward the war in Iraq before it started? What is your feeling toward the death penalty for murder?

I also ask questions about art, sports, and personal habits. Who is your favorite artist? Who is going to win the Super Bowl? How often do you use the Health and Wellness Center?

Now, this is the part of the show where you get a chance to indulge your innate curiosity. What do you want to know about college students today? Send me a question (by commenting on this post) that you would like to have answered. So long as it is within reason, I'm game for it. One thing,'ll have to be patient, as I won't be surveying students again until May.

In the meantime, here is a question I added not too long ago: Name one song I should download to my iPod.

And here are some answers I just received:

Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye)
And She Said (Lucas Prata)
Banana Pancakes (Jack Johnson)
Change Your Ways (John Mayall)
Cobrastyle (The Teddybears)
Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
Game Theory (The Roots)
Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)
La Fille Danse (Damien Rice)
Layla (Derek and the Dominoes)
Suspended (Matt Nathanson)
The Seed/Melting Pot/Web (The Roots)
Theme Song to Top Gun (Van Halen)
This is Not an Exit (Saves the Day)
Transit (Richard Shindell)
Quelqu'un ma dit (Carla Bruni)
Questo Piccolo Grande Amore (Claudio Baglioni)
Um Good (Smokie Norful)

Happy listening!