Monday, April 27, 2015

Commencement


I love this time of year. Yes, it’s true that springtime is beautiful, the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, and the grass is green once more. But, it’s much more than the splendor of spring. It’s graduation time throughout the nation. Kindergarteners are graduating, eighth graders are graduating, and high school seniors are on their way to a brave new world.  Some continue on and attend college, and there too comes the day of graduation. As a professor, I enjoy watching the hectic machinations of our soon to be graduates as they anticipate their final days as students. Yet, their smiles are at the ready when they discuss final exams, end of the semester papers, and the up and coming graduation. This is the time of year when students, faculty, and staff realize the tangible proof of the demanding work they embraced.

Commencement means beginning. The term implies a new beginning, a time when we let go of the past and commence a journey on a different road, one less traveled. Commencement day begins, I’m sure for all of us, with a flutter of activities. Students might be purchasing their regalia, attending to last minute details for the after graduation party, and checking their directions, times, and tickets. They may have last minute calls to family and friends before they leave their “old” world behind. Faculty also deals with challenging demands. Though all paperwork for seniors is complete, there remain final exams and research papers to grade for those not graduating. They too check their clock and directions. And staff, well they’re always involved in commencement, if not to set up, then to assure a successful evening.

When graduates leave the podium with degree in hand, and the cap is energetically thrown toward the heavens of their future, faculty walk away with heaviness, for another group of students will commence their lives. Another generation will carry on the torch with the skills and knowledge they have earned and learned. As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” for as we watch them leave, we know how wonderful life will be for them, and how sad it is for us to watch them go.
© Natala Orobello

Friday, April 24, 2015

Gratto: Italian Shepherd's Pie


This is comfort food. You can add or remove ingredients, depending on your favorite filling. You can make it totally vegetarian or add a different meat. It's up to you, but regardless what you do, you will find this recipe absolutely delicious!!!

Ingredients: 
2 tbs. olive oil
2 lbs. of chop meat
1 onion (chopped)
parsley - chopped
2 cups baby peas
1 cup cooked and sliced mushrooms
2 cans of tomato sauce (8 oz.)
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes
1 cup of 1/2 seasoned bread crumb and 1/2 grated Asiago (combine well)



Directions:
Place olive oil in frying pan, saute 2 lbs. chop meat till brown - remove from heat
saute chopped onions till golden and translucent, add parsley, peas and mushrooms. Add tomato sauce and cook for one hour at low heat.
Spray a glass baking pan with PAM, place 2 cups of mashed potatoes on bottom
Add filling
Complete the topping with last 2 cups of mashed potatoes
Sprinkle top with Cheesy Bread Crumb mixture
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
© Natala Orobello

Monday, April 20, 2015

Teaching IS a Profession


Some people believe teaching is a vocation like becoming a priest or nun. It isn’t. It’s a profession. Teachers are professionals who have mortgages, car loans, insurance policies, and dozens of other expenses like other professionals. A priest, nun, pastor, etc. usually have allowance for room and board and are provided the necessary health insurance, travel, and finally retirement. Teachers do not. Yet, we are most often than not treated as though we get so much handed to us. We don’t. 

Teachers attended post secondary education and received at minimum a Bachelor’s degree and more often than not a costly PhD. It is true we do not work summers and have many days off a year, but here is what we down behind the curtain (for we truly are on stage when in the classroom). We design assignments that will take our students away from their cell phones, ipads, iphones, tablets, etc. We design assignments that will incorporate technology, so we can offer challenging lessons.
Assessments created by a teacher truly collaborate between curricula, life, and interests. Teachers do not design assessments that do not involve critical thinking skills. We KNOW what is important for our students and what is not. We search to find interesting books, so our disinterested readers will get hooked. We get to know our students the way administrators can never get to know students. We see them on a daily basis, know their particulars, understand their challenges, appreciate their hardships, and rejoice in their successes.

Faculty, regardless of grade level they teach, are faced with amazing odds. Picture a classroom of mixed intelligences, moods, problems, challenges. Now, imagine you are required to bring every single one of them to the goal line. No, it doesn’t matter that there are variables. If you are to be viewed as a successful teacher, then all students must show some form of success. Easy? Think again. Even in A.P. or Dual Enrollment classes, faculty is faced with students who are too tired from having worked the previous night to perform well in class. Some students are there because the parents want them there, so they do not have the motivation or inclination. Imagine students with social, cultural, or psychological stressors. Imagine the mix.

Every year, teachers are required (in most states) to attend professional development. In some cases, the expense comes from the teachers own pocket. And, there are other expenses as well. We spend our own money to award students for good behavior and good grades. We spend our own money to supply them with notebooks, pens, and pencils. We spend our own money to decorate our classrooms, so our students feel welcome and safe. Our post secondary education not only prepared us to teach our subject but also prepared us to understand student behavior.

Yet, as the school year comes to a close or as the school year opens and negotiations approach, teachers hear the same story year after year. “We do not have the money for the percentage you ask.” Every year, faculty is made to feel lucky that we have a job. We are made to feel lucky if we get a 1, 2, or 3 percent raise. It does not help a teacher’s appeal when the majority of the population agrees with the school boards or the administrators. As an educator for the past thirty years, I would like to be witness to a time when teachers are respected for the professionals we are. I would like to hear people say, “thank you for working with our good students as well as our difficult students.” Or, “thank you for all the years of professional development you pursued, so my child can continue to grow, mature, and excel.”
© Natala Orobello

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Prison in the Mind


The mature woman believes the child
Has grown up, evolved into a new form
It is not true

The hard, rough, cruel stone
That had been thrown into the innocent pond
Disturbed its peace forever

The ripples reverberate from the child to the woman
They disturb her sleep
She stands still

The untouched do not know
They believe there is much ado about nothing
And yet there has been a transgression, a sin

And through the years, the criminal has always been free
The prison door opened to close on the mind
Of the innocent child.
   © Natala Orobello

Friday, April 17, 2015

Shrimp Scampi

Why is it that people will go out and order one of the easiest meals to make? I can understand some meals are exceptional at a certain restaurant, like the German restaurant we frequented when we lived in Long Island, but some dishes are so simple and inexpensive, it's easier to make them at home.
Shrimp Scampi is one of them.

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 lbs. large shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Parsley flakes - sprinkle to desired amount
Oregano - sprinkle just a little because this is very strong

Directions:
Clean shrimp but leave tail on, so there is less shrinkage. Melt butter in deep frying pan at very low heat, add chopped garlic and braise till translucent. Add shrimp. Add 1/4 lemon juice. Add pepper flakes. Add white wine and extra virgin olive oil. Simmer for about 5 - 8 minutes till shrimp is pink through and through. Add parsley and oregano.
In the meantime, boil water for either thin spaghetti or linguini if you want to serve with pasta, or you can serve as is with a crusty loaf of Italian bread.
© Natala Orobello

Monday, April 13, 2015

Phone call to God


Ok, those of you who have been reading my blog know I am sometimes all over the place with posts. I'm trying to improve, somewhat. Anyway, last week I was praying in the car on my way to work. I realized I looked pretty odd talking to myself. I've always thought about what other people think, always. It's one of those on my list to fix. Well, I decided to place a call to God. Really, I did. Here's how our conversation went.

"Hello, God?"
"Who's this?"
"Oh, you can't fool me. You know who this is. Do you have time to talk?"
"Well Natala, to tell you the truth, I'm very busy."
"I know, I can imagine, what with all the chaos going on down here, but I really need to talk to YOU."
"Ok, ok, what's the problem?"
Here's when I tell Him about all my issues, starting with my friends, husband, family, etc. etc. etc.
"I really wish you could make them change."
"What about you changing?"
"Me? What's wrong with me? I'm the one that's trying."
"Is that true. I can think of some areas where you might improve."
"You're not helping at all. I called you so you could assure me, I'm fine and they're not."
"It doesn't work that way."
"How does it work?"
"Think about how you might be able to show you love each of those individuals even if they may not show you all the time how much they care about you."
"Yeah, that's all well and good, but how do I get them to care a little more?"
"By caring a little more yourself."
"We're going in circles aren't we?"
"If you say so."
"Ok, I'll think about all of this, and I'll call you on Monday."
"Sounds good. And, Natala, I love you."
"I love you too, God."

I know what you're going to say, "you were still talking to yourself." True, I might have been, but I felt a thousand times better when I hung up.© Natala Orobello

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Linguini with Clams


Easy as one, two, three. You can make this anytime you want because it literally takes a half hour from beginning to end.

Ingredients for four:

One large can of chopped clams from either Sam's or Cosco
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 lg. cloves of garlic - chopped
1/2 sm. onion - chopped
salt and red pepper flakes
reserved clam liquid from can
1 lb. linguinig
grated cheese
One dozen steamed clams (Little Neck are perfect).

Directions:

Boil water for linguini.
In the meantime, place olive oil, garlic, and onion in deep frying pan. Cook till translucent. Add clams and chopped parsley. Sprinkle a little salt and red pepper flakes. Add about one cup of clam juice (keep the remainder in case you want more).
Add pasta to mixture and mix well, adding grated cheese as you mix. Add more liquid if needed. Serve with steamed clams on top!!
 © Natala Orobello

Friday, April 3, 2015

I The Truth



Today I wonder my truth
I wonder my beliefs on topics too large
To contemplate the meaning of life.

From the oceans of my mind
Undercurrents trap thoughts 
Swimming forward, finding concreteness.

I speculate my nurtured beliefs      
For I have not questioned 
The God within me and the one in Heaven.

I have not thought enough on the topic
So, what will happen to me
When I die as a Christian.

Yet not truly understanding
The finality or infinitude of my end
Of speculation and I ask,
what have I done 
to show the truth of who I am?
© Natala Orobello