final assessments

As a school with trimesters, the first set of final exams is upon us.  Classes meet for two out of the three terms making the month of February totally quirky.  Classes end, finals are given, but the school year is not quite over yet, huh?

As part of the school winds down, other classes gear up to start their second term. Balancing between the two is challenging. When I walk into halls, I often hear the infamous sound of the circus: Circus Theme Song.  Students run in and out of classrooms, teachers frantically search for time to meet one-on-one with students and I can almost image paper swirling through the halls and down the stairwells. No mater how we plan to manage the stress, reduce the workload, and help the students prep and organize for the finals, the stress and pressure hovers over the school like a dark cloud.

Finals in the history department are not traditional. Students do not come into class for a two hour sit down exam.  They are not asked to memorize dates, names, and events and then throw them down gracelessly onto a piece of paper. Rather, students are given a project to collaborate on which ultimately asks them to revise their course materials, remix their content, and use their own juicy brains to create something uniquely theirs within the parameters of the project. The first year of this assignment the student balked. Whining for the traditional sit down, they were reluctant to work on the project, to collaborate, and could not imagine that the time frame was enough to complete the task at hand.  Now, this project is a staple of the ninth grade year. Students look forward to their topics, believe in the power of collaboration, and are excited to “out do” their predecessors. While it is still hectic in the halls of the school, I like to think that this project is an oasis during an otherwise crazed time of year.

When they turn in their assignments after a  week of working together, they are so proud of their textbooks and I am so proud of their culminating work. It is always sad to watch this collective group of dynamic young minds “graduate” from our ninth grade history experience.

Your Task
Step One:

  • Write a one-page essay for each perspective on the event/conflict assigned to your group: 2 essays per event/conflict
  • Provide evidence (examples) to validate your perspectives
  • For each analysis of the event/conflict, make a connection with current events
  • Each student is responsible for writing 4 of the one page essays. Put your name on the sections you wrote & title your document.
    • For the groups with 4 students in order to have each member of the team responsible for 4 of the one page essays you will include a 1 page Introduction to your textbook and a 1 page Conclusion to your textbook
    • Also, two of the perspectives will need to be 2 pages in length instead of 1 page
    • Then all students in the 4 person groups will be responsible for writing 4 pages of writing each
  • Read, edit, and help your group members so the textbook flows together

Step Two:

  • As a group decide upon a title for this collection of differing perspectives on major American events.

Step Three:

  • Create a, iMovie, Website,, etc.
  • The Presentations should be within 3-5 minutes in length. Every member of the group must speak.
  • Present the evidence, facts, and arguments to support your perspectives: articles, quotes, videos, maps, examples as you pitch this textbook to publishers.
  • Be prepared to answer students’ questions.

Essential Questions: (Help you get started on writing each section)

  • How would your individual/group interpret the events and moments of each unit?
  • Which events would be most meaningful to your individual/group? Why?
  • Why would other events be skipped over by your individual/group?
  • What is your argument about the historical events you highlight?  How will you interpret them?
  • How can you connect the different events we have studied to a theme?
  • How can you present the different historical events we have studied through your theme?

You will present your textbook to the class on Friday, March 1 at this time you will also hand in to me your 12 page textbook.

Prepare questions to ask to the other groups about their perspectives

Assigned Groups, Theme, and Perspective:
Group 1:

  • Unit 1: Empire & Colonization:
    • Motivations for Exploration: Spanish Conquistador, & English (Jamestown/Pilgrim)
    • The Louisiana Purchase: Napoleon & Jefferson
    • Scientific Management: Factory Owner & Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
  • Unit 2: Conflict
    • French & Indian War: Native Americans & Colonists
    • Causes of the Civil War: Abolitionist & Pro-Slaver
  • Unit 3: Government
    • Great Compromise: Virginia Plan & New Jersey Plan

Group 2:

  • Unit 1: Empire & Colonization
    • Mercantilism: England & New England
    • Manifest Destiny: The Donner Party &  James L. O’Sullivan
    • Immigration: Jacob Riis & Vanderbilt
  • Unit 2: Conflict
    • Boston Massacre: Redcoat & John Adams
    • Dred Scott Case: Dred Scott & Supreme Court
  • Unit 3: Government
    • Constitution: Federalists & Anti-Federalists

Group 3:

  • Unit 1: Empire & Colonization:
    • Strategies of Explorers: British Settler & Native America
    • The Gold Rush: Chinese Immigrants & Mexican Immigrants
    • Industrial Revolution: Rockefeller & Lowell Mill Girl
  • Unit 2: Conflict
    • Declaration of Independence: King George &  Continental Congress
    • Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln & Davis
  • Unit 3: Government
    • 3/5th compromise: North & South

Group 4: 

  • Unit 1: Empire & Colonization
    • Regional Differences: Middle Colonies & Southern Colonies
    • The Alamo: Santa Anna & Sam Houston
    • New Technologies: Eli Whitney & Slaves
  • Unit 2: Conflict
    • Battle of Fort McHenry: Francis Scott Key & British Soldier
    • Union Strategy: General Lee & General Grant
  • Unit 3: Government
    • Electoral College: Founding Fathers & Opposition Today

Group 5: 

  • Unit 1: Empire & Colonization
    • The Triangle Trade: Slave & New England Ship Captain
    • Trail of Tears: Cherokees & Jackson
    • Industrial Consequences of Civil War: North & South
  • Unit 2: Conflict
    • War of 1812: New England Interests & War Hawks
    • 54th Regiment: General Shaw & African-American
  • Unit 3: Government
    • Constitution: Strict Interpretation & Broad Interpretation

what i read and what i thought

I can’t believe I just finished it!! Reading for pleasure during the school year is practically impossible, but when a friend passed along this book to me and said, “I cannot tell you anything about it but that is was amazing,” I knew I needed to make an exception. Each night I would come home with my stack of papers to grade and lessons to plan and stare at the book on the kitchen table.  When would I ever get the time to crack it open?

Then two weekends in a row the city of Boston was hit by tremendous snowstorms. I woke early these days to make my coffee, nestle in on the couch and begin reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

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As the snow fell in heavy flakes outside my window and as I emptied my coffee cup, the pages ticked off one by one. I wasn’t sure this book would capture my imagination.  The first few chapters were good but nothing that compelled me to want to dedicate my day to the story and to the protagonist, Nick Dunne. Early on I didn’t like Nick, so why finish his story? But, my friend had said this was the type of book that you should only read once you have set aside some ours to get lost.

It was about 50 pages in when I became hooked. As the story of murder, intrigue, and possibilities unravelled I found myself squealing with every new twist and turn.  Just when you think you have a handle on what is going on, the trajectory takes a sharp turn and leaves you biting your nails in anticipation. I could not gobble up the last 100 hundred pages fast enough. As I approached the last few pages, David called out, “You are almost there. You can do it.”  I was hypnotized by Flynn’s tale. Never a fan for CSI or Law and Order, I literally could not stop until the story came to its unexpected conclusion.  It was a twisted end and one I am still deciding it I really “liked” or not, but regardless I recommend this book to the next reader.  Enjoy the ride.

parmesan garlic baked chicken wings

Tonight is the Academy Awards show and David and I are pre-gaming the red carpet event with some delicious baked chicken wings. In Michael Pollan’s 7 Rules for Eating, he encourages his readers to indulge in junk food, as long as they make it themselves at home.  Instead of ordering in greasy fried chicken wings, we decided to make our junk food of the evening a bit more “gourmet” and a bit more “healthy” in our own kitchen.


Arrange chicken wings on the baking sheet (making sure the plump side it up). Drizzle with olive oil.  Season the with black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bake in the over 25 minutes at 425.  Meanwhile in a large bowl, add two tablespoons of olive oil, three diced garlic cloves, and a handful of chopped basil.  When the chicken is cooked through and the skin looks crispy add them into the mixing bowl.  Cover with aluminum foil and toss thoroughly.  Top with as much parmesan cheese as you like!

It is SOOOO good!

coq au vin

Mmmm cooking with wine is amazing.  The flavor is heightened and even a novice cook like myself can turn a meal into a culinary “masterpiece.”


This time of year is blur and cooking is often the last item on my never-ending to-do list. As the second term comes to end, students frantically finish projects, essays, and gear up for their final exams. There is a perceptible energy shift in the halls.  Once chatty social students, bury their heads into their textbooks while highlighting the whole page as important for their final. Quiet students begin to voice their nervous energy as they strategize their study guides with new found study buddies. Teachers who once stopped in the halls to catch up on life’s smaller moments, race pass one another on their way to and from the copy machine. At the same time that everything is in a flurry, the halls are also paralyzed by a pending sense of anticipation of the inevitable.  The piles of materials to be graded could tip over on my desk and crush me like an avalanche. As we enter this time period, I always wonder: How will I survive this mania?

The brief answer on Wednesday night was a nice glass of Côtes du Rhône and a new recipe for coq au vin. It was the best, most decadent decision we could have made the week heading into final exams.

Unlike more traditional recipes this was a quick coq au vin perfect for weeknights. Cut up the chicken into cubes into a bowl.  Coat with 2/3 cups of wine, one diced garlic clover, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Put in the refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile in a large pan, heat 3 table spoons of olive oil.  Toss in six or so shallots (cut in half) and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Toss in 8 pieces of bacon cut into strips and cook until they begin to brown about 3-4 minutes.  Add two heaping handfuls of sliced portabella mushrooms and a tablespoon of flour and mix together well.  Once the mushrooms have reduced in size, add in 1/2 cup of wine, thyme and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Take out the chicken and fry up in pan.  Once all of the chicken is cooked through toss into the pan with the shallot-mushroom mixture and serve….Voila!!

modified pasta carbonara

When I lived in Parma, Italy, I ate a ton of pasta. At first, I did not notice how much of the delicious starch I was ingesting. The wheels of the 757 skidded to a stop at the Florence airport and the walk off the plane was the first of many long walks through the streets. Wearing fancy sandals, the soles hit the pavement from one corner of the Renaissance city to the other. As such, I was convinced that in the early days of Parma, I was shedding the pounds.  Clearly, walking between 5-10 miles a day meant that I had earned a pot of pasta for dinner, no?  The irony of this situation is that until my body adjusted and became comfortable with this walking, I was losing weight and eating pasta for every meal. Unfortunately, after about month of adjusting to this decadent lifestyle, those miles each day were just part of the normal routine and the pasta eating caught up with me. Yet, even as my pants got tighter from the pasta, desserts, and countless cappuccinos, I never regretted a one! You cannot live in Italy and not enjoy the food; it would have been sinful!!

Guiseppe was my italian “boyfriend.” I met him one night while having drinks with some friends on Strada Farini. Being fairly poor college kids, we would cruise the bars for the “aperitivo” hour.  Bars between 6-7PM would put out delicious finger foods for anyone who purchased a cocktail.  Paying for the glass of wine, we would stay for the “free tapas” as we called it. That was were I met Guiseppe. He practiced his English with me and I butchered Italian with him. We hung out most evenings after our initial encounter and he would cook dinner while I sat back and sipped red wine from his region of Italy. It was romantic and silly. He was a tremendous cook and laughed at my American grilled cheese sandwiches calling them an abomination. I gobbled them down anyway when I was nostalgic for home.

My favorite recipe of his was a take on the classic pasta carbonara. I say his “take on it” because he usually tossed in anything that he had in his pantry and it was always delicious.  Who knows where Guiseppe is these days….but at least his pasta can still warm my belly on a cold night in Boston, haha!

To buy:



4 eggs

shitake mushrooms

parmaggiano-reggano cheese




To do:

Boil and strain the pasta. In a pan deep enough to hold the pasta when combined at the end, saute pancetta in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add pepper and salt. Toss in 3-5 cloves of garlic diced and one shallot diced.  Saute until pancetta is slightly browned and garlic and shallots become fragrant. Toss in the Shitake mushrooms sliced and saute until they reduce in size about half. Reduce heat of the pan to low, add the cooked pasta and mix well so that the mixture is evenly tossed.  Beat four eggs in a side bowl and fold into the pasta mixture.  Mix all of the ingredients well, making sure the eggs do not scramble. Turn off heat, toss in a heaping handful of cheese and a 1/4 cup, or so, of parsley. Serve immediately.