Education, Life Lessons, Pasta, Recipe, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

Families are a Pasta Dish

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I had student-led-conferences last week.

SLC’s, as we call them, are different than your typical night of parent-teacher conferences; the students are required to come to them, and they are the ones who lead the conference, not the teachers.

One thing I dislike about SLC’s: Having a lengthy conference with families who are disrespectful, angry, cruel, or nasty to one another. This happens way too often and it makes it really difficult to have honest conversations about what is going on at school.

One thing I like about SLC’s: Seeing families together and parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/older siblings be proud of their students. I love sitting at a table with a family who is supportive, kind, and caring as their student reflects on their current learning.

There was one moment on the first night of SLC’s when I had three families in my classroom, all at different tables. At one table was a daughter and her dad, speaking English. At another sat a son, his sister, and their mother, speaking Hmong. Yet another table held a son, his two sisters, and their father, speaking Spanish. Two of the families were so supportive, so kind toward one another. They were gracious and caring, concerned and fully present for their children.

As I watched these conferences taking place, I felt honored to be entrusted with these parents’ children, these little gems whom they obviously love so incredibly much. I wished that I could capture these conferences on video, play them back for my students when they were much older and needed reminders of how much their parents supported them when they were in high school. I wished I could play these conferences for other families, to show them that family members are unique and different and so often not what we expect them to be, but that’s okay.

That’s the great thing about families – we’re different and crazy and we don’t always do what everyone thinks we should, but it’s all okay because we work together and we need each other and we love each other.

I couldn’t videotape those families, unfortunately, but what I can do is share a recipe for a pasta dish that is darn close to a family: all different ingredients, completely separate, but when they’re brought together with the penne they become something really unique, delicious, and craveable. All the individual ingredients are still noticeable in there; nothing is melded or blended or hidden, but it works. Oh man does it work. We should probably have a BLC (blogger-led-conference) to discuss it. I’ll bring the pasta!

Kind of like a family, there is no specific recipe or ingredient list that is essential to making this work. Families figure things out as they go. Pasta dishes tend to do the same thing.

Here’s what I used:

1/2 container whole-fat ricotta cheese

1 tbs. roasted (or fried) minced garlic

3 zucchini, peeled, halved and sliced thinly

1 carton grape tomatoes, sliced in half length-wise

1 lb. whole wheat penne, cooked

a couple handfuls of spinach

olive oil

1/2 tbs. kosher salt

black pepper

Here’s what I did:

Saute zucchinis, tomatoes, in a bit of olive oil, until tender and beginning to brown. Add spinach to the mix and saute for a minute, until wilted. Pour out into large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and garlic, until well mixed, and season with salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta and ricotta mixture to the large bowl and stir to fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Serve, eat, and hug your family. I hear they’re pretty cool.