Sweatbands and Naturalizer Flats

So I’m here at my parents’ house in Kokomo, lying in the same bed I slept in twenty years ago in high school. I keep looking at this God-awful photo of me, propped up against the wall, from twenty years ago.

Looks like a Sears catalogue pic. Like I would never naturally pose that way, slinging my Naturalizer flats over my shoulder.

And now that I’m thinking about it–Naturalizer flats for a high school student??? I have cooler shoes now, and I’m 38. Why did I even NEED Naturalizer flats–those are for people who are on their feet all day, and need to dress up. I probably just wore them to church or something.

All this talk about clothing reminds me of something that happened when I was teaching middle school for a year in Lexington, and all the students had a very strict dress code, which were basically school uniforms. I wasn’t very good at enforcing it, though. In fact, when I was hired to teach there, nobody mentioned the dress code to me. On the first day of school, as students were entering the building, I thought to myself, “Wow these kids all look really nice.” My second thought was, “Man, they are dressed a lot alike. Is this the Twilight Zone?” until my teaching partner mentioned there was a dress code.

I don’t even think I actually looked at the dress code policy until nine weeks into the school year. I was too concerned about my lesson plans and adjusting to teaching kids who had hormones and tried passing notes and cried at the drop of the hat. Enforcing the dress code was not at the top of my priority list.

So one day, a couple of my kids were wearing sweatbands on their wrists and around their heads (which apparently was a dress code violation), and the assistant principal walked by my classroom.

“Why are you guys wearing sweatbands? Is Mrs. Polanco working you guys that hard? Are you reading and writing so much that you’re breaking out into a sweat?” she asked them.

“Yes,” said Alejandro.

And for a minute, I was really proud, because I WAS working these kids hard. These were kids who had fallen through the cracks. Alejandro had been retained TWO times, which infuriated me, since he was now 14 and was in classes with 11 year olds. He was in sixth grade and could barely read–and I was determined to change that.

But everyone else seemed more worried about making sure the kids were wearing the “by the book” dress code.

Now don’t get me wrong here… I’m not saying I disagree with dress codes or school uniforms. What I’m saying is that when we get more concerned about making sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, than we are about the quality of instruction our kids are receiving–that’s a problem. And that was how I felt that day. Why aren’t you coming in here to observe ME teaching? I’m the critical factor here. I’m the one who is giving these kids instruction everyday–instruction that can make or break them. Come and watch ME. Give me feedback, because my role is important here.

What’s also important is that you try this recipe I made up. Well I took several recipes and adjusted them to make my own. It’s not a Thanksgiving recipe, so sorry about that, but haven’t you already figured out what you’re making for Thanksgiving anyways?

Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup


1 T. Olive oil or whatever oil you use
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, chopped (I used Aidells chicken sausage) … You can remove casings, but I didn’t because I didn’t have time for that crap
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 pound potatoes, diced and peeled
3 cups kale
1/4 cup half and half

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes.
Stir in garlic, onion, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in kale until it begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in half and half until heated through, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper to taste.


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