Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lunch Lady Cookie Bars

Another future teacher rant: This entire week, my cooperating teacher is out because of foot surgery.  This means that I have the opportunity to lead-teach for the week.  This is incredibly exciting as it means that I get to plan for the week and really learn about what works and what doesn't.  We are working on rational expressions and this week is all about adding and subtracting rational expressions.  We worked through the idea of adding and subtracting with like denominators just fine.  Then came the tricky stuff.  Adding and subtracting with UNLIKE denominators.  This means you have to first find a common denominator, then add or subtract, and then factor/simplify.  It's a lot.  That is why, according to my experienced cooperating teacher, we spend two days on it.  Today was the first day with unlike denominators and I can certainly see how two days will be helpful.

Today was really tough.  I started out with a warm-up that included adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators.  This is old news for these guys and they did just fine.  They also noticed that this is probably what we are going to be doing, but with rational expressions (aka polynomials for everyone out there who is completely lost on what this is).  Next, I introduced the idea of "LCM (least common multiple)."  Finding the LCM is a fancy way of saying, "Find the most simple common denominator."  This, conceptually, was just fine. Then, I handed out a worksheet that had practice problems for finding the LCM of two polynomials.  They were allowed to work with people around them.  Some students were getting it, but most of them struggled.  A ton of kids had questions, and I, being one person, was just unable to reach them all.  Also, as I walked around and helped students, I realized that a few of the problems on the worksheet incorporated concepts that the students had clearly not covered.  I did not realize they did not know how to factor cubic polynomials as I was not around when they were covering that type of material.  Oops! I did not bother correcting them on not factoring and focused on getting the idea of the LCM across.  After allowing them to work for a while and realizing that they were still pretty lost, I decided to tell them to hold onto the sheet for tomorrow and I would make a good, clear answer key that we would use in class to go over the ideas.  I then had to decide whether to introduce the idea of adding these rational expressions with unlike denominators, as that was the plan, or just focus on LCM.  The planned homework was on LCM and some basic addition.  I decided to quickly introduce the idea, but I stressed that they would have to read the section in the book to do the homework.  Then, the day was over and I was left wondering if anything I did was right.

I know that tomorrow is going to be a little rough.  I will probably have 30 teenagers stressing out over not knowing how to add rational expressions and probably a little peeved with me for making them do it.  I am already trying to figure out how to go over probably all the homework and get to the idea of subtracting rational expressions.  I also know that I am going to have to continue to teach LCM and let them know that it was my mistake for giving them a few problems that they were not prepared for.  However, I am so grateful that the schedule already accounted for the fact that this section is just plain tough.  We were already planning on spending more than one day on this section.  This is perfect because although they are currently confused, after another day, they should be in a much better place.  I am also grateful that I, as a student-teacher, have the opportunity to learn how to account for these types of struggles and work on fixing them on the second day.

In the school of education, your first year is spent as a "practicum" student.  You spend one semester observing in a high school and one semester observing in a middle school.  Today, I realized that, while observation is important, action is far better.  I have learned more in these past few days about myself and teaching than I have all year.  I have seen a lot of good teaching, but I don't know who I am as an educator.  This week is allowing me to experiment with that identity and figure out who I am.

Tonight, besides planning for tomorrow and trying to predict every possible scenario that might come my way, I am also baking for study night.  I am feeling fairly stressed out and so I was looking for a good/healthy/easy/comforting recipe.  I found it.  I have had these guys bookmarked for quite some time, and tonight seems to be the perfect time to make them.  Not only are they named after Lunch Ladies, which reminds me of school, but they look fantastic and use oil instead of butter.  I was also craving trail-mix and so I decided to mix that in instead of the chocolate chips. However, I was nervous that people who aren't craving trail-mix wouldn't be a fan and I made another batch with white chocolate and semi sweet chocolate chips...it was one of those nights.

I can't wait to munch on these guys while trying to figure out how to teach my students a fairly difficult concept without scaring them too much.  Any suggestions?

Lunch Lady Cookie Bars (adapted from Taste and Tell)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup trail-mix or other mix-in (I used Black and White Mix for one batch and white chocolate/semi-sweet chocolate for the other)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, combine oil, brown sugar and sugar.  Mix well.  Mix in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Stir in vanilla.  Slowly stir in the dry ingredients.  Mix in 3/4 cup of the trail-mix.
4. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan and sprinkle the rest of the trail-mix on top.  Bake for 18-22 minutes.
Enjoy :)


  1. The cookie bars look awesome!
    I have to say, kudos to you. I dont think I'd have what it takes to be a teacher.

    1. This student teaching experience has been truly eye-opening. My mom is always asking me if I'm sure I still want to be a teacher...the answer is still yes :)

  2. These cookie bars look and sound delish. I love your header. I'm a college student as well, and food is the one thing that keeps me going.

    1. That's so great to hear! Also, I love your blog!