For 5 years, I taught religion at a church in the neighborhood where I grew up. (Shocker? Sometimes I can’t believe it, either.) It began completely by accident; the person who coordinated the teachers was looking to add a few volunteers to the roster and since she knew me from playing violin at services and I seemed relatively normal (ha…), she approached me one day and asked if I’d be interested in having a class. I was just about to begin my senior year of high school at the time.
Me? Teach religion to children? I had never thought about teaching anything, especially topics related to a religion I didn’t always agree with. But, because I always love a challenge, and thought I’d be able to teach kids how to be decent human beings, at least, I agreed, and that fall they put me in front of a room of 3rd graders, and at 9AM every Sunday, I was in charge.
I don’t remember much about that first year. I don’t think I liked it, though. Some of the kids were completely annoying and the subject matter was really dull for me and for them. After that year, I took a hiatus for a while when I went away to college, but since I lived close (I went to NYU and grew up on Long Island, a short train ride away), I decided to start teaching again a few years later, and taught 5th grade classes for the next four years. I gradually began to enjoy it more, but never completely fell in love with it.
There was one exception year, though. That year, about 5 years ago, I had the most incredible group of fifth graders in my class who were intelligent, passionate, sensitive, warm, and completely interested in everything I said. (Well, at least they pretended to be.) I loved teaching them, learning from them, and showing up every week with their eager faces looking up at me.
One day I spent an hour and 15 minutes talking about the Partition of India, Hinduism and Islam, and they were beaming the entire time. I’m not even kidding! They were so cute. I loved showing up every week and sharing with those kids because I felt like I was making a difference and setting an example for them. It was very fulfilling.
Two years later, the people in charge told me they didn’t need me anymore — probably because of my lessons on world religions instead of the sacraments and prayer memorization — but the overall experience, while it lasted, was one that I will never forget. It taught me an invaluable lesson about how important teaching really is and how it’s not something that should be taken lightly (summers off, woo!); kids are like sponges! Who knew?
When I stopped teaching religion and violin lessons (which I also did in HS and college), I realized I missed the experience of instructing and communicating with students even though I never really considered becoming a full time teacher.
I think that’s part of the reason why I began this blog in the first place. I had spent a few years reading tons of blogs before starting mine, and the nagging sense that I wanted to add something, instruct and inform others, and start conversations was the driving force behind this whole thing, I think. As I learn, I share, and as I share, I’m driven to learn more. I love when people comment and continue that conversation. And the best part of it all? The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know all that much!
But there’s more to love. There are the experiences in the kitchen where something really great is made when I least expect it to be so. I decided before the holidays that I really wanted to make fudge. It was something that always reminded me of the holidays and that wasn’t as over exposed as cookies were. I always expected fudge to be a difficult creature to tame with melted chocolate, precise temperatures, and proper texture to worry about so I braced myself and set out to make magic bar fudge and it turned out, much to my surprise, to be an extremely easy venture.
This fudge is something I would have gone nuts over as a kid. Its foundation is a mixture of semi-sweet chocolate, butterscotch chips and sweetened condensed milk, and it’s filled with graham crackers and walnuts and topped with toasted coconut. Amazing. It’s layer upon layer of really approachable, friendly flavors, and the contrasting textures give body to the fudge and keep it from seeming too dense.
It’s a treat that anyone will love. I shared it with some close work friends (not the mean ones) and everyone really enjoyed it. Plus, they thought I’d spent hours making it, but it didn’t take nearly as long as they thought it did. That’s a winner, for sure.
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