9.6.13

Apple Butter Crumb Bars




WARNING: If you’re just here for the apple butter crumb bars, skip past my philosophical ramblings to the bottom for the recipe.

This is the post that I have been writing in my head and not writing down for at least three months.
See, I sort of wrote about the end of my teaching experience once already, and I really consider last year to have been my most successful year in the classroom.  This year has been different…and difficult. Well, difficult is sort of an understatement. 

After two years of teaching sixth graders (who I loved!) my principal decided to move me up to seventh grade. Seventh grade is THE worst.  This is a pretty much unanimous fact among all teachers I have spoken to, ever.   The little boys I had adored in sixth grade morphed into disgusting, perverted teenagers who looked for any possible opportunity to rebuke, slander, or jab with an insult or sexual innuendo. My girls lost all sense of sweetness and became experts at eye-rolling, sighing deeply and dramatically, and writing/hiding elaborate love letters under their textbooks.

I spend the last few weeks of summer dreading the start of the school year and rigorously applying for other jobs. I spent the first few weeks of the school year waiting and praying for a phone call from my dream job that I had interviewed for on the 3rd day of school.  (Never got the phone call.)

In my first two months teaching 7th grade, I wrote more referrals than I had in my two previous years combined. (Referral=majorly bad behavior that necessitates meeting with the principal)  I sent Adam numerous “I hate my life” texts, cried make-up all over several of his nice white work shirts when he got home, and generally whined more than I would care to admit. In January, a student hacked into my account and re-titled a document “Fuck you Ms. Ryan everyone hates you,” which, perhaps unsurprisingly, upset me more than the one that happened a month later, entitled “Fuck you Ms. Ryan you slutty bitch.” 

The administration continued to place all 7th grade newcomer ESL students into my team’s classes, which would have been wonderful if I had a newcomer-only class. Instead, the newcomer students were thrown haphazardly into my standard Language Arts classes (already filled with plenty of challenging behavior students), which produced the lovely side effect that in two out of my four classes, I had more students than desks. And no extra assistance or support. And sweet non-English speaking Burmese students in a class with kids who got suspended for smuggling Jack Daniels to school in water bottles.

In my particularly heinous second block, I would sometimes walk to the back of the room and literally imagine banging my head against a brick wall, as that seemed more desirable than being in my classroom at that moment.

Are you still reading? 


And YET….and yet…In March, something changed.  I’m not really sure what it was. Maybe the proximity to the end of the school year? The light at the end of the tunnel? Maybe some of my particularly difficult students started annoying me a teensy bit less?  Maybe I developed a more laid back attitude? I don’t know. But I came to a place where I felt thankful for this year and everything it has taught me.

Teaching seventh grade has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.  I think it’s good to do really hard things, to push yourself beyond what you thought you could handle. Now, to be honest, I think I would be physically, mentally and emotionally spent if I continued to do this job, but the tenacity and strength I have gained this year is something I will never take for granted.

Then, of course, there are the kids.  I sound very sappy and cliché when I say this, but I love some of them so much that it hurts. There a few students that I would adopt in a heartbeat if they ever needed a home, and Adam gets nervous when I say this because he knows that it’s true.  Because I moved from sixth grade to seventh grade, I moved up with about fifty of my students. I’ve seen them grow for two years. These are the kids that I thought about as I sobbed into the steering wheel on my long drive last weekend.  (“I’m leaving them! What will they do! What if they don’t make it?”) These are the kids I will never stop thinking and worrying about.

Seventh grade is a strange time. You are changing from child to teenager. Weird hormonal things are happening. You are trying to negotiate all these expectations and ideas of who you should be and how you should look and how you should act, and, except for when you’re trying to impress your friends, you put it all out there—the kind, the crazy, the dramatic, the cruel, the silly. You haven’t necessarily learned how to put on a mask to cover up all the quirky and inconvenient things about you, like the rest of the adults around you have.  

To make things even more difficult, my students are doing all this while living in poverty.

Throughout much of the past year when I thought of leaving teaching and entering law school, I thought, “I can’t wait to just be responsible for myself and NOT be responsible for 100 children. It will be so much easier.”  

However, what I have realized about teaching is that the thing that makes it so messy and difficult and frustrating is the SAME as what makes it rewarding and heart-wrenching and beautiful—the kids.  Any job in which you serve people all day long is going to have some component of this because, let’s face it, we are a flawed, messy bunch.  

I guess what I realized is that, whatever path my future career takes, I want this messiness in my life.


There is no easy segue into this apple butter crumb bar recipe, but I will say that I did NOT make it because of the whole apple/teacher thing.

I made it because we are moving in a month, and when starting the process of de-cluttering our fridge, I realized that we had two large jars of apple butter and two slightly soft apples.  Though this recipe was born out of desperation convenience, I will say it is one that we will be making again and again. In fact, Adam has already requested another pan since we finished it up last night.

This was my first time cooking with apple butter, and I loved the effect.  It raised this relatively standard apple crisp recipe to heavenly heights—extra moist, extra apple-y, and extra sweet. (If you want less for the sweet factor, reduce the brown sugar to ½ cup.)

Once you assemble the ingredients, there are essentially three parts: the crumble, the apple butter, and the chopped apples. Though you may have all the ingredients on hand already, I must add that it is absolutely necessary to run out to the store for vanilla ice cream to go with it.

The bars, as their name suggests, are wonderfully crumbly. If you really want to maintain the bar form, for traveling purposes, for instance, you’ll want to let them cool for at least an hour before cutting.  However, if you’re like us and just want some apple crumb deliciousness in your belly, you can scoop a serving into a bowl hot out of the oven and top with a large arc of vanilla ice cream.  Your choice.



Apple Butter Crumb Bars

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cups regular oats
½ to ¾ cups brown sugar, depending on your sweetness preference
¼ tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 tsp cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup apple butter 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Coat an 8 by 8 inch pan liberally with cooking spray.

Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar , ½ tsp cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in butter until until pea-sized clumps form. 

Spread half of the oat mixture over the bottom of the pan. Spread the the apple butter over the oat layer. In a small bowl, mix together the ½ tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, and cut apples. Sprinkle the cut spiced apples over the apple butter, then top with remaining oat mixture.  

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. 

Enjoy warm with ice cream or cool for one hour and then cut into bars. 

Adapted slightly from Three Many Cooks.

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