June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:12 PM
"Remember when you were a kid, playing let's pretend? Well, I'd like you to play let's pretend with me for a few minutes today. Here we go.Let's pretend that it's a Wednesday morning in September, about 9 a.m. During the past half-hour, 25 kids have been dropped at your doorstep, where they are expected to stay, like it or not, until about 3 in the afternoon. You will be their primary caretaker and contact during those hours. Most of them are happy to be there; a few are indifferent, waiting to see if they're going to like it there; and a couple of them clearly don't want to be to be there at all. They sit, sullen and prickly, armored with an attitude that says Lay off me, before you've even exchanged two words. It's obvious, after you start to get acquainted with your visitors, that there's a wide discrepancy among the kids in basic attitudes regarding group behavior, self-discipline and respect for authority of any kind. One or two of the kids are already exhibiting disruptive behavior, hoping to create power for themselves right off the mark and show the others how little they care about you, your authority, or the opinions of the others. Over in a corner, several others have have pulled their chairs all together in a tight little knot and are whispering to each other, clearly indicating their chosen circle of friends and making it plain that no one else is welcome to pull up a chair and join them until and unless invited. And two or three sit apart from everyone else, each surrounded by a small space of isolation, quiet, uneasily watching the scene and obviously trying to figure out where, if anyplace, they might fit in. It's going to a long day. Most of us could handle it, however, for a day or two, right?Well, now let's pretend that, after today, all of these kids, barring a few minor changes, will be showing up at the same time five days a week, week after week, entrusted by their parents to your care and nurturing until sometime next June. Oh, and did I say 25 kids? Well, actually it could be 28 or even 30, but what's a few kids more or less to a babysitter.But wait; you're not being paid just to be a babysitter, although it's apparent a lot of that will be necessary. Your job, if you do it well, is to transfer into the heads of these kids a certain body of material covering several subject areas, with the tacit understanding that they all need to get a grasp of this material before they can successfully continue on to whatever stage is next in their lives. You're also expected, though it's not written anywhere, to boost their self-esteem, make each of them feel successful in his or her learning experiences, empathize with their problems and, somehow, make each one of them want to come back to your place every day, or at the very least not hate the thought. It's also part of your job to communicate, on a regular basis, with the parents of these kids; to make sure they know of both progress and problems, even though you know that in some cases, the parents don't care and won't communicate with you no matter how hard you try. You have 180 days in which to accomplish all this, even though you're already aware that a few of these kids can't read the books you've been given for them to use, a couple of others lack a substantial amount of some basic skills they'll need to hang in there at all, and a few others will almost certainly be bored within two weeks if you don't find something more challenging for them to do. But, hey, you've just had two-and-a-half months off so you could take a couple of refresher courses in how to handle just such situations, and of course, there'll be all those nice holidays and days off when you can lie around watching TV while someone catches up on your paperwork and creates some exciting lesson plans for you, right? Aren't you glad we're just playing let's pretend? Who'd want to take on a job like that in real life? RecipesHow I wish I had some recipes in a file entitled How To Make School a Success for Each and Every Kid, but I haven't. For 13 years, I faced that classroom filled with 25 to 30 individuals and tried to figure out how to make every day a positive, productive learning experience for each one of them. It's darned near an impossible task, my friends. So, here, as a meager substitute, are a couple of recipes for either lunch sack or after school munching, that might at the very least add a sweet note to the day or make homework palatable.If you have trouble getting breakfast down your kids (or yourself) during the morning rush, make a double batch of these high-fiber, low fat/low calorie cookies that can be taken along in a pocket and eaten on the bus or in the car. Cookies for breakfast! Cooky power1/3 cup butter (or margarine, if you prefer), softened1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar1 T. water3/4 t. vanilla1 egg1/2 cup flour1/4 cup whole wheat flour1/2 t. baking soda1/4 t. salt1 cup quick-cooking oats (uncooked)3/4 cup bran flakes cereal, crushed a bit1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit of choice such as apricots, cut into small pieces)3 T. unsalted sunflower seeds1. Cream the butter; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add water, vanilla and egg, mixing well.2. Sift together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture, stirring well, then add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.3. Drop by level tablespoons onto an ungreased nonstick cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven about 5-6 minutes, or until just golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely before storing, loosely covered. And here's another version of breakfast in your pocket, snack in a sack, whatever you want to use them for. My grandkids wouldn't eat oatmeal on a bet but they'll march off in the morning with 3 or 4 of these stashed in their packs somewhere, emergency fare. These are chewy, not-too sweet and a comparatively healthy munch.Oatmeal Pick-Me-Ups1 egg1/2 cup melted butter1/2 cup honey1 cup whole wheat flour1/2 t. baking soda1/4 t. salt1/2 t. cinnamon1-1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking kind)1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nut of choice, or sunflower seeds or raisins1. Beat the egg; add butter and honey and blend thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats and nuts.2. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased bakins sheets and bake in preheated 325 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until just golden. Allow to sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes then remove to rack to finish cooling. "