Five years ago I packed up my car, and drove from Michigan to California to teach in Los Angeles. I wanted to impact the lives of inner-city students, and put them on a path to college. I was warned of the challenges that lay ahead, but nothing prepared me for what I face in the classroom. After five years, most stories don’t even faze me. I used to come home overwhelmed because of books being thrown across a room, forced urination on the floor as an act of defiance, students swearing at me, teachers quitting halfway though the year, or mice running interrupting my lesson. Five years of experience has not only taught me to be unemotional when ridiculous things happen, but has given me the tools to manage and lead a classroom to high quality work. Years 2, 3 and part two of year 4 were especially rough, but it feels so good to be at a point where I can teach and kids will listen to me! My classroom is far from perfect, and there is still much growth to be made. I don’t, however, have daily panic attacks on the way to school, my heart doesn’t start racing when I see my students walking down the hallway to my class, and I don’t hold back tears in class because the entire class refuses to sit down and be silent. Sometimes I just stop and smile when I see all my students silently reading, working collaboratively, or listening to me while I speak. It seems silly to appreciate focused students, but it is a reflection of four years of hard work.
This year was my first year teaching reading, and after the mentorship of Lelac at KIPP DC, I was ready to recreate her structure in my classroom here at KIPP LA. Alaina tested all 105 of our students to determine their reading level, as a school we rallied them around the goal of making more than one year of reading growth during this academic year, I stocked my classroom library with high interest books, and committed to the reading workshop model of teaching that included thirty minutes of reading in class everyday. It took time, but our apathetic readers turned into avid readers. As a final event to celebrate our hard work, and class average of more than two years of reading growth, we planned a reading marathon for students to take on the challenge of reading two hours straight without looking up. We were mean, and tried to distract them periodically during the marathon. Below is a video of them reading to The Beach Boys. The event concluded with a victory party. I made this Nutella Bundt Cake for the party, and kids were going crazy over the cake. Some of my favorite cake quotes include, “This is better than cakes from five star bakeries,” and “Can you make recipe cards to hand out in class? Nutella cake is the bomb.” I have to agree with them. Fluffy, nutella-ie, moist. This stuff is good!
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup Nutella
1 cup milk (whole milk will make the cake super moist)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer cream sugar into the butter until light in color and fluffy in texture, about three minutes. Add one egg at a time, then the Nutella. Pour in half the dry ingredient mixture, half the milk, the rest of the dry ingredients and the rest of the milk; mix until just combined. Spread the thick batter into a prepared bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes. Top with powered sugar.