Each day that I start, I want to think of as a new beginning and as an opportunity. I am trying in earnest to make a point of acknowledging as many of the positive details in my day as possible, no matter how big or small. Some days are easier to do this than others, but this practice is especially key when you deal with mental health issues and mood disorders. At least it’s a step in the right direction.
In any case, this particular entry is not meant to be about my depression, but rather, reflecting on a recent event for which I am particularly grateful. At my school in Argentina, for the second year, we held a special day full of student and teacher led workshops and conferences. The idea behind this event is to allow those who teach the workshops to share something that they are particularly passionate about. Last year, I proudly led a workshop that dealt with breaking the stigma of mental illness. This year, I decided to share another one of my (more lighthearted) passions and pastimes: baking.
Baking (and cooking in general) has been one of my hobbies for quite some time. Back in my university days, I could barely boil water, much less figure out how to cook with it. Times have indeed changed. Chalk it up to necessity, curiousity, or finally just growing up and realizing that I could not very well order delivery every night to feed myself, whatever. The art (and science) behind food preparation grew on me.
My students and colleagues know me (amongst other things) as the teacher who likes to bake and bring in treats to share (hence upgrading my “cool teacher” status a few notches). So when I volunteered to host a baking session at my school last week, I have to admit that I was very pleased when the workshop quickly filled to maximum capacity within a few minutes at sign up (*mental high-fives and dabs for cool Ms. White*!). I delegated a former ELL student of mine in 8th grade to be my sous-chef assistant, borrowed countless baking materials, and purchased all of the ingredients in anticipation of the big event.
So I am sure that you are wondering: what do 25 young baking students, 3 and ½ pounds of butter, nearly 9 pounds of flour, and billions of colorful sprinkles look like?: Controlled chaos. As per usual, very little went as planned. But at least we had fun! Here is what went down:
Firstly, the baking workshop did not start on time. In fact, it had multiple (false) starts, as some students arrived far too early, others after the designated start time, and a few in between. C’est la vie. I had to explain more than once about the basics of food preparation before we were ready we to get down to business.
We then discussed the importance of washing our hands before handling food… Cross contamination? Hell, no! Adorable pocket-sized anti-bacterial hand sanitizers? Yasssssss!
Then we followed this simple, foolproof sugar cookie recipe in the following order (with photographic evidence, no less!):
- We measured and mixed our dry ingredients!
- We creamed our butter with sugar, combined them with our meticulously measured wet ingredients, and the incorporated our aforementioned dry ingredients!
- We formed a sweet, sticky dough! Mmmm… squishy!
(Side note: At this point, I had to (not so kindly) remind the students NOT to start eating the raw cookie dough… like, five times)!
After kneading the sticky dough by hand and flattening it on the lightly floured tabletops, we used a variety of cookie cutters (and later various colored sprinkles, food coloring, and other edible decorations) to form seriously cool-looking, imaginative cookies!
- The cafeteria staff at my school had to (begrudgingly) permit me to use their ovens (which overcooked and burned a number of our cookies). I could tell that they weren’t exactly thrilled with having two dozen bodies in their way. Before I was permitted behind in the back of the kitchen, I had to don a sexy lunch lady hair net (which I rocked, obviously)!
Last but not least, we enjoyed the fruits (err… cookies) of our labor, and ate and ate until we could eat no more. I was utterly exhausted, and good times were had by all!
Overall, in addition to the laughs and crazy times that I had with these kids, I know that it was a great experience for the students to see a different side of their teacher, to be able to see me doing something that makes me so happy. I am very proud of being a member of my school community, where students and staff alike have the opportunity to share their passions and have their voices heard and validated. I can only wish that this were the case for other schools.
— Vagrant Violet (A.K.A.: Ms. White / Baking Ninja)