I’m going to get to this fantastic sesame and broccoli tofu dish here in a minute, but first let’s deviate from the norm and get personal for a minute.
Why? Well, the last few weeks have been ridiculously tumultuous. On top of the music load of preparing for Easter, my dog unexpectedly died, I had been under the wire to complete my teaching portfolio for licensure, I’ve been leaving home at 7:00 am and not getting back until 7:30pm or later due to playing keyboard for the high school’s incredible Wizard of Oz production, and I discovered that what I thought was acid reflux was actually a severe food allergy to beans (among other foods) causing anaphylaxis and esophageal irritation.
But I don’t want to dwell on those though. Rather, let’s talk about student teaching. This week was my last week at my current placement, and it was so bittersweet. My biggest philosophy when it comes to teaching students is that they don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. In the teaching world, we call this building rapport. In my world, I call it remaining inspired.
Over the course of the quarter, I learned more about the students than I ever expected to get to know. I like to ask students “what’s your story,” and let them take it from there. Some students had unexpectedly heartbreaking stories of overcoming insurmountable struggles. Others had dreams and ambitions that put mine to shame. I grieved with students when they faced tragedy, and celebrated with them as they found out they received good news (making All-State! getting into their dream school! Passing Science!). I don’t say that to pat myself on the back for treating them like normal humans, but rather to say just how surprised I was to learn how quickly I felt invested in their lives. These students didn’t feel like my teaching guinea pigs, but rather like my own kids– and that was after only 9 weeks of working with them! I got into this field because I wanted to make a difference. Until now, I never realized that a student can impact a teacher just as much as a teacher can impact a student.
When it came time to leave, I was sincerely moved at the student’s reaction. One class threw a (very successful) surprise party for me, complete with a cookie cake and home-made goodies. One student spent her allowance on getting me a giant cookie, and another had her grandmother make me a tres leche cake, since I had never tasted one before (update: it’s amazing. Picture if cake+ice-cream had a baby, and that’s basically what it tasted like). Another student compiled a scrapbook of documents showing how I had impacted their lives, complete with screen-capped conversations, photos students had posted on social media, and personal letters students wrote for me.
It was in reading this scrapbook, that I came to appreciate the full meaning of how actions speak louder than words. For example, there was a day in the middle of the semester as we were preparing for Festival that I felt that the students needed a pick-me-up. So I made a few batches of my now-famous chai chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies and gave it to the students. The number of students who mentioned this random deed that I had forgotten about was completely unexpected. In general though, reading their notes to me was totally heart-melting and I may or may not have shed a tear while I read them; I’ll be returning to this again and again whenever I need some affirmation.
Don’t get me wrong though; teaching (even just student teaching!) is hard. Like, really hard. Hours and hours and hours of prep work goes into each lesson plan, and it’s easy to see why teachers get burned out — especially teachers who don’t get to teach in a field that offers frequent aesthetic experiences. But teaching is, at its heart, about working with people. I consider myself to be a holistic teacher– I don’t just want to teach music; I want to teach the individual.
I’m going to miss these individuals, and how they let me grow into a conductor, teacher, and just a better overall person.
Thanks for indulging me as I shared that– some things are better when you can share them with others.
Kind of like this dish: broccoli sesame tofu. (Best segue ever, am I right or am I right?). It’s a dish I kind of stole from one of my favorite foodblogs: budgetbytes.com. What I particularly like about it is that it’s super quick, cheap, nutritious, and outright delicious without feeling like it’s weighing you down. Since the time that I made this dish, I’ve since learned, according to my blood/skin test, that I’m also extremely allergic to soy. Subsequently this may or may not* be the last time you see a tofu dish here until I determine if that test corresponds with reality.
(*Side note: food allergies are super nuanced, y’all. I’m pretty allergic to peanut butter apparently , but because I eat it pretty much every day I’m tolerant to it? What the what?)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- Block of Extra-Firm tofu
- Pinch of salt
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
- ½ lp broccoli florets (frozen or prepared)
- 2-4 green onions, sliced
- cooked rice
- Press the tofu. You can do this by wrapping the tofu in clean folded paper towels and lightly squeezing until the excess water has emerged, or by leaving a weight (a pot of water, etc) on top of the wrapped tofu for about 30 minutes to remove the excess water.
- While tofu is pressing, prepare the sauce by combining the ingredients.
- Cut the pressed tofu into small cubes and season with salt. Sprinkle corn starch over the tofu and toss to coat, or dredge the tofu in corn starch. Repeat until the tofu cubes all have an even coating of cornstarch on them.
- Heat a large skillet on medium high, and add 2 Tbsp oil. Add the dusted tofu cubes and pan fry them until they're golden brown. Don't forget to flip them from time to time! Remove the tofu to a clean, paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- Add the broccoli to the hot skillet to stir fry.
- Slowly pour in the sauce with the broccoli. Stir and continue cooking until the sauce thickens up.
- Last but not least, add the tofu and stir everything together.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.
ABBA is kind of my guilty music pleasure that I make zero effort to hide. I may or may not have broken into song and dance at a fancy Nashville restaurant with Scott when they played Dancing Queen. This is probably why I don’t get out much… 😉
Anyway, when I left, I wrote these song lyrics on the board for the students. There simply wasn’t a better way to express my gratitude for the time I spent working with them.
“So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me”