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Back to School Guide 2012

Back to School Guide 2012


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The Daily Meal helps you get your lunchbox game into full gear for the new school year

Thinkstock/iStockphoto

Back to School Guide

Along with backpacks, school supplies, and uniforms, there’s always the constant rush to get back into a regular eating program when the school season starts. To help you through your lunchbox woes, The Daily Meals’ Back to School Guide is loaded with tips, ideas, current events, and recipes to help you get your lunching skills into tip top shape.

Looking to get your kids eating healthier? You’ll find easy and healthy snacks for your kids to enjoy during and after school, as well as 12 new creative ways to sneak vegetables into your kids’ lunches – without them even knowing it. For the parents who can’t seem to get their kids to eat breakfast, we offer quick and nutritious ideas that’ll give them the morning boost they need to have a successful day, and we also have fun ways to get even the pickiest of eaters to chow down.

World-renowned chefs offers tips on how to get your kids not only eating more but how to get them involved with what they’re eating. Beyond easy and helpful cooking tips for the back-to-school season, you’ll find relevant and newsworthy content that’ll keep you posted on what schools are serving these days and the role the government is taking in making our schools a better and healthier place to eat.

We’d love to hear from you as well so share any back-to-school tips or suggestions with us on our Facebook wall and don't forget to submit any of your back-to-school recipes.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce


Your guide to back-to-school shopping

Computers
Coffee Makers
Headphones
Toasters & Toaster Ovens

Whether your kids are starting kindergarten or taking their first steps into college this fall, send them back to school with the right gear and most helpful advice. Our guide will help you get the best deals on electronics equipment, small appliances, new and uses cars, and much more.


Welcome Back to School, Recruits — Worst Cooks in America

Chef Bobby Flay and elementary school students taste the healthy and kid-friendly cafeteria food made by the recruits in the Cooking for Kids Challenge as seen on Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, Season 3.

Photo by: Janet Rhodes ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Janet Rhodes, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

The school bell rang in the seventh episode of Worst Cooks in America, and the remaining four recruits dealt with some of their toughest critics yet: 30 second-grade students with impressive palettes. Each recruit was tasked to create their own healthy spin on a cafeteria classic, as well as a veggie side dish. Anne's team took on chicken tacos, while Team Bobby tried their hand at quesadillas. While these dishes may sound easy, it's a struggle for cafeterias across the country to make meals nutritious.

One rule that was strictly enforced: sanitation and dealing with raw chicken. Bobby had no problem with the recruits getting him sick, but he was adamant about maintaining food safety and avoiding cross-contamination for the children, making Melissa bring her sauce to a boil to destroy possible bacteria after she cross-contaminated her spoon.

While both teams were successful in satisfying the children's appetites, not everyone was successful in seasoning and bringing the concept of nutrition to life. With only one episode left, we're still seeing the recruits over-salting and over-cooking their meat. David also decided to make fried greens beans as his side dish. They were lightly battered, so this brings me to ask this question: Do you think fried green beans are healthy?

Chef Anne Burrell and elementary school students taste the healthy and kid-friendly cafeteria food made by the recruits in the Cooking for Kids Challenge as seen on Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, Season 3.

Photo by: Janet Rhodes ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Janet Rhodes, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

As if school children weren't hard enough to cook for, Bobby and Anne decided to bring in the big guns: the recruits' families. Remember, these are the people who nominated the contestants as "worst cooks." The pressure was on. Each member cooked a meal for their mentors and loved ones, but with one twist: The family members didn't know who made what. In the end, Vinnie from Team Bobby and Kelli from Team Anne made the final cut.

Tune in for new episodes: Sunday at 9 pm Eastern/8 pm Central


Six top tips to get the first class off to a flyer

1) Arrive early and prepare the room That includes seating arrangements. You're striving for active engagement from the off.

2) Start to learn names Take a register and, when someone has a question, ask him or her to give their name first.

3) Hold the admin until week two Instead, set an interesting task to whet their appetites and then guide them through it.

4) Engage the students with the material A real-life exercise to discuss is a great way to do this.

5) Set ground rules implicitly The concept of andragogy suggests that when rules are created (or negotiated), they are also explained.

6) Give out the module handbook at the very end Ask students to come back to the next session with two questions each about it.

David Atkinson is a lecturer in journalism at Glyndwr University and a freelance writer – follow him on Twitter @atkinsondavid

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more articles like this direct to your inbox, become a member of the Higher Education Network.


Back To School Party


During the waning days of summer, when hot, humid afternoons give way to chilled autumn breezes, a sense of nervous anticipation fills the air. Although fall signals the beginning of the year’s end, September is all about beginnings. The school year ahead is full of promise, like a blank sheet of paper or a newly opened box of crayons — the kind with fresh, pointy tips and a deep, waxy smell.

There’s nothing quite like the first day of school. Early in the morning, youngsters will wake up, excitedly put on their shiny new shoes, and go out to wait for the yellow school bus. It’s a day of familiar faces and new introductions, of freshly cleaned chalkboards and the feeling that anything’s possible. Although many of us are now well beyond our grammar school years, it’s never too late to relive those fond childhood memories. Come with us back in time as we, through a Back-to-School-themed party, celebrate the magic of this wonderful time of year. — Max

Also, be sure to check out the shopping guide at the bottom of this post for all of our back-to-school favorites!

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Above image: Bouquets of sharpened pencils (à la Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail) decorate a charming serving table filled with all the necessary back-to-school accouterments. The absolutely delicious candy apples are from Williams Candy in Coney Island. The confetti was created using construction paper and a hole punch. A wall painted with black chalkboard paint makes the perfect backdrop.


Above image: Using school supplies that can be picked up at any dollar store, we crafted invitations that capture the delight that comes with passing notes behind teacher’s back. Using standard-sized graph paper, we printed out four typed invites per page, leaving a little bit of room at the top of each. We used a typewriter font in bright pink to mimic the look of an analog typewriter, but feel free to use the real thing if you’re feeling adventurous! Above the invite information, we wrote a simple “You’re invited” in pencil and added gold star stickers to the corners. A+!


Above image: Another pencil bouquet — this time in color! A metal school bus toy accompanies building blocks from Todd Oldham’s Kid Made Modern line at Target.


Above image: Classic addition flashcards make wonderful party decorations, whether you hang them on a wall, prop them up on a table or build a house out of them.


Above image: Using some twine, circles cut from craft paper and letter stamps from Curiosity Shoppe for Target, we crafted some cute and totally school-appropriate garland for stringing around. Simply glue two stamped circles together every inch over the twine and voilà! See below for the finished product!


Above image: For some added flair, we dressed up standard juice boxes with a bit of gift wrap, craft paper, crayons and stickers. Achieving this look is stunningly simple — just trace all four corners of your juice box onto craft paper, adding a little extra as a tab to tape down. Beginning with your tab, tape the paper to all four corners of your juice box and hold down the flap with a simple strip of plain masking tape. Decorate to your heart’s delight! The dinosaur approves.


Above image: Party guest Julie Mollo has certainly dressed the part!


Above image: Eeboo’s Alphabet Wall Cards look fabulous strung up with some twine or framed on the wall.


Above image: Tough spelling words written onto index cards make an entertaining and brain-building party game. Playing cards decorated with Charley Harper art perfectly complement the theme.


Above image: These lined-paper cupcakes were as easy as 1-2-3! Using standard recipes or pre-made mixes for vanilla cupcakes and sugar cookies, simply frost your cupcakes with vanilla frosting and top with a sugar cookie decorated with pink and blue cake decorating frosting.


Some more items for partying “Back-to-School” style year round . . .



1. Academic Planner from Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store | 2. Tourne Eraser from Brookfarm | 3. Red School Chair | 4. Italian Pushpins from The Curiosity Shoppe | 5. Spencerian Penmanship Copybook | 6. Memo Notebook Tray from Fishs Eddy | 7. Drei Stern Chalk from Dry Goods


1. Gus Modern School Chair | 2. Vintage School Clock | 3. Periodic Table Wall Chart | 4. Vintage Glucose Molecule Model | 5. Manual Pencil Sharpener | 6. Wooden Abacus


1. Vintage School Chalkboard | 2. Sectional Paper Globe from Acorn | 3. Building Block Set from Acorn | 4. Wooden Folding Ruler | 5. Vintage Red Marquee Numbers | 6. Apica Notebook from Spartan


Рецепты

Tacos without all of the mess. If you like Taco you have got to like Taco Pie and it is really easy to make. Enjoy.

Glenn
марта 2013
Начинающий 57 голосов

THE Bacardi Rum Cake. adjusted for today's box cake mixes

Several years ago Bacardi’s Rum Cake recipe used an 18 ½ ounce cake mix and box of instant vanilla pudding mix.…

Salad Foodie
дек. 2012
Профессионал 10 голосов

Adobong Atay-Balunbalunan (Chicken Liver and Gizard Adobo)

An exotic recipe enjoyed by many filipinos and very tasty!

ShaleeDP
июня 2013
Средний 1 голос

PF Changs Chicken Noodle Soup Copy Cat

I found this recipe for PF Changs Chicken Noodel Soup - which I Love! I made it this week adn it is pretty…

Lisa
февр. 2011
Средний 14 голосов

Killer Hogs Dry Rub Recipe

This is the recipe we use in competition BBQ contests. It's a simple dry rub, but it gives your meat the exact flavor you need to produce…

Malcom Reed
окт. 2010
Профессионал 4 голоса

CEVICHE!

My buddy, Ed, of Puerto Rican descent, spent his time in the Air Force in Central and South America. Ed's favorite dish: ceviche! He tells endless…

Amos Miller
янв. 2012
Профессионал 7 голосов

Buttered Corn and Carrots

I like side dishes and this is one of the many that i like.

Tuyo (Dried Fish)

This is a typical Filipino viand, It is known to be food for the poor. However, I like eating them every now and then. It is a sun dried salty fish…

ShaleeDP
мая 2016
Средний 2 голоса

Simple Pan-fried Fish with Indian Spices

This is a simple dish I throw together with fresh white fish fillets (typically Swai, Tilapia, Catfish, or…

John Spottiswood
нояб. 2012
Продвинутый 20 голосов

My Old-Fashioned Delicious Red Velvet Cake

The colorful history of red velvet cake recipe dates back to the 1940s. It is said that the recipe was actually…

Nathan Willow
марта 2012
Профессионал 3 голоса

Easy Sour Cream Biscuits

Quick to the table because there's no cutting of shortening into flour mixture. Just stir in sour cream, knead lightly, pat out, cut and bake.…


Back-to-school time in D.C.

A gaggle of fifth-graders lined up silently Monday outside Room 12 at the John Burroughs Education Campus in Northeast Washington, their 10-year-old energy muffled by first-day-of-school shyness.

Their new teacher, Hope Harrod, greeted them with a bright “Good morning!”

The city’s challenge is to transform its long-struggling school system. To do that, school leaders are banking heavily on teachers such as this 11-year veteran, whom they call one of the District’s best. Harrod’s challenge on this morning is to begin creating a world inside her classroom where these preteens can — and want to — learn.

Despite the heavy responsibility, Harrod said she no longer gets first-day jitters.

Except for right now, about 8:45 a.m., this moment before kids file inside to take their seats, when everything is yet to come and feels a little awkward and when lofty goals — inspiring kids to think independently, articulate their ideas and, above all, develop a love of reading — recede behind something more mundane.

To kids, this day might seem like a rapid-fire series of introductions and ice-breakers. But really, it’s about teaching routines — for entering the classroom, storing backpacks, going to the bathroom, moving around the room, turning in homework, joining in group discussions, using shared markers and glue sticks — that the kids will soon do automatically, as if breathing.

“These systems are not meant to limit them — they’re just to help them understand how to navigate their world, navigate the classroom,” Harrod said. “This way all they have to focus on is learning. They don’t have to be stressed out about making a mistake and doing something improperly.”

Five years after then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) took control of the D.C. schools, student achievement has risen and more than a dozen crumbling buildings — including three this year in Ward 8 — have been overhauled, giving kids new and gleaming places to learn.

Still, fewer than half of the District’s public school students are proficient in math and reading, and the future contours of public education in the city are far from sure. The 45,000-student system cannot afford to continue operating so many small and under-enrolled schools, Chancellor Kaya Henderson has said repeatedly. More than 40 schools have fewer than 300 students each, and neighborhoods are bracing for school closures.

There are also uncertainties about how to strike the right balance between traditional neighborhood schools and the fast-growing charter sector, about what the teachers’ union will and won’t win in the next round of contract negotiations, about whether political scandals surrounding Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will distract from or derail reform.

But as kids shouldered backpacks and headed to class Monday, their teachers faced a more immediate issue: What exactly do you do on Day One?

“The first week of school is probably the most important. It sets a tone,” said Frazier O’Leary, a longtime Advanced Placement English teacher at Cardozo Senior High. O’Leary dispenses with formalities on the first day.

Instead, as kids walk into class he hands them a copy of an Edward P. Jones short story about a young girl’s first day of school. Right away they are reading the story, puzzling over its literary devices, writing their own versions of first-day stories.

Most of them are seniors. O’Leary wants them to realize that there is no time to waste.

“I want to hear, ‘You mean we’ve got to work on the first day?’ ” he said.

Students watch teachers carefully that first day, forming impressions that will shape the next nine months. Is she fair-minded, a strict disciplinarian or a pushover?

Emily Lawson, chief executive of D.C. Prep, one of the District’s top charter schools, said her administrators spend extra time in classrooms at the start of the year, offering help when teachers struggle to set clear expectations or maintain control.

“We can make sure that they don’t get into a rut, which is really hard to get out of,” she said.

At Burroughs, setting boundaries was part of Harrod’s work Monday. Her voice never rose. But it sharpened when, in the middle of one activity, a boy and a girl — perhaps fearing cooties — refused to work together.

“That is what makes Ms. Harrod most upset, when we decide we are not going to participate,” she said. “We are not boys and girls in this classroom, we are people, and we work together. We are a team.”

But the focus remains largely on setting daily routines that allow classrooms to hum smoothly, leaving time and space for thinking and learning.

“Systems are major,” said Burroughs Principal Mary Weston, who traveled the school’s hallways Monday in a blur of troubleshooting, smiling motion.

Shortly before dismissal, Harrod introduced the homework system: a purple folder to serve as the one and only vehicle for transporting assignments and communiques between teachers and parents.

“You will have homework every single night, including on weekends,” she said, her students’ eyes widening.

The systems seem to work at Burroughs, as does its focus on project-based learning about science, technology and engineering. Students here made significant gains on standardized math and science tests last school year — a notable jump for a school that serves mostly poor families.

Enrollment is up, too, despite a proliferation of nearby charter schools that draw neighborhood kids.

The school's progress earned a visit from Gray and Henderson, who talked with students over lunch. Henderson praised the principal’s leadership and energy, the teachers’ expertise, the parents’ involvement.

“There is good stuff going on here,” Henderson said.

Shortly before 3:15 p.m., the principal’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker, offering congratulations on a smooth first day and “huge shout-outs to all the boys and girls who came to school ready to learn.” And then it was time, in Room 12, for the last routine of the afternoon: retrieving backpacks and lining up on blue tiles to exit the school together, Harrod leading the way.

“This has been a wonderful day. Lots and lots of instruction, lots and lots of procedures,” the teacher said. “It’s been a long day.”

Yessenia Aguilar, who was packing up her homework folder, disagreed. “It was very short,” she said. “Too short.”


St. Edward's University

The financial aid is amazing. They were really able to help me afford to go to school. The campus is beautiful. The university programming board also holds free events, such as fairs, concerts, comedy nights, movies, and more. St. Edward's' small size creates the perfect community. You are able to easily meet people, make friends, talk to your professors, and make connections that help you in the future.

Extracurricular Activities

Residence life. I was a resident assistant for two years and also a resident event planner.

Favorite Eateries

Hea Cafe is a little Chinese food place off Ben White and is one of my favorites. We are also really close to South Congress with all the [food] trailers. It's a really eclectic area and has a lot of good food.

Survival Tips for Incoming Students

&bull Keep a calendar or a planner. It will really help you to keep organized and not to lose track of assignments and due dates.

&bull You may not end up being best friends with your roommate, and that is OK.

&bull Don't try to cram a lot of things into your room. It isn't fun when you have to move it all at the end of the year.

&bull Try to remember you are a poor college student and live as such. You are able to live off a small amount of money save it for more important things.

&bull Study abroad! It is much easier to travel for school, and you will really get to absorb the culture. You should travel as much as you can because it is such an eye-opening experience.


Your Country

S o you're a big shot now. A great big big shot, with plans and dreams and wanderlust and gas money. Look at you! Going places! Maybe you're moving away for college, maybe you're relocating for a job, maybe you're throwing a dart at a map just for the dick of it. But where are you going to go? What are you going to do? What are you going to wear? What are you going to eat? Who are you going to bang? THE UNITED STATES HAS SO MANY PLACES IN IT, YOU GUYS. Here's a little guide to help you get oriented, have fun, and fit in with the locals so you don't end up dismembered in a quarry because you used the wrong fork or something. Mind your forks.

The Pacific Northwest

Mascot: A dude named Jeff (he has a band).

Motto: "Hey, you should check out my band."

Main attractions: Kurt Cobain's house (Seattle), Bruce Lee's grave (Seattle), Crater Lake (Oregon), Space Needle (Seattle), whales (the ocean), that one vegan place with the kale chips (Portland).

This is that damp, green place up in the corner. The Pacific Northwest is the nation's leading exporter of trees, airplanes, vegans, software, serial killers, suicide bridges, polar fleece, octopus attacks, coffee-related smugness, bands, sad white people, sad white people in bands, and owls. All the stereotypes about the Pacific Northwest are both true and untrue. You will hear that it rains a lot—it does, but it rains more in Miami. You will hear that the people are passive-aggressive and cold—some are, but others aren't, because THAT'S HOW PEOPLE WORK. You will hear that everyone is always drinking a latte—FALSE, nobody drinks lattes. Normal people drink Americanos. You will hear that Washington and Oregon are both run by puppet governments controlled by Sasquatch. Yeah, that's actually true. Oregon has no sales tax. Washington has Dave Matthews. The eastern halves of both states are exact replicas of Wyoming.

Mascot: A clogged artery.

Main attractions: The Sears Tower (Chicago), the Gateway Arch (Saint Louis), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland), Oprah (OPRAH. ), corn (everywhere).

The Midwest is a wholesome place where everyone is nice, even the bad people (and there are several!). The sizable Scandinavian population keeps things Lutheran and bland. A typical Midwestern meal consists of feeding a cow potatoes and ham custard until it dies, then cutting the cow into steaks, stuffing the steaks with Jell-O salad, deep-frying the stuffed steaks, piling the steaks into a large mound or berm, smothering the whole thing with maple-beer-cheese gravy, and serving it all with a side of popcorn shrimp and "broccoli" (which is just sticks of butter carved into the shape of broccoli). Vegetables are outlawed. And for dessert: hugs!

Mascot: Tom Hanks.

Main attractions: The Hollywood sign (Los Angeles), Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), the Integratron (Joshua Tree), gays (San Francisco).

Los Angeles is where entertainment comes from. Northern California is a utopia of breezy marijuana fields and comically large trees. Southern California is Mexico with breast implants. The rest of California is flat and covered in cow poop. All of your favorite people live in California (Weird Al Yankovic, Joan Rivers, Snoop Dogg), but all of your least favorite people live in California, too (Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, the ghost of Ronald Reagan).

Motto: "World's Greatest Grandpa."

Main attractions: Area 51 (Nevada), the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Las Vegas (Nevada).

In the bottom-left part of the country, there is a big desert where tarantulas and crazy sand-sheep lived in peace with the indigenous human population for many billions of centuries. Then one day, an invading army of old people ran a garden hose all the way from California and turned the desert into a ludicrously unsustainable golf course, and all the tarantulas were like, "Whaaaaaaaat!?" and California was like, "I'm thirsty, bro!" New Mexico is like Arizona but with more hippies. Arizona is like New Mexico but with more old people and racism. Nevada is like Arizona but more prostitutey. Utah is like a church basement but with better national parks. New Mexico is like Mexico but newer.

Mascot: Delta Burke being chased by an alligator.

Motto: "We don't take kindly to mottos."

Main attractions: Civil War battlefields, Appalachian Mountains.

Okay, okay, so the South has had some public image problems over the years (rhymes with "blavery"—whoops!), but Americans are nothing if not forgetful. And the South really does have a lot going for it. First of all, SEERSUCKER SUITS. Second of all, BARBECUE. Third of all, SEXY VAMPIRES. The South might not be the number-one easiest place to move if you're a non-straight or a non-white or a non-vampire-hunter, but it's the 21st century and things are loosening up. Try big cities (Atlanta, Houston) and university towns (Austin, Chapel Hill), which tend to be more liberal. And full of vampires.

Mascot: Ben Affleck.

Motto: "Wheeyad yoo fahkin' PAHK the CAH!?"

Main attractions: The Statue of Liberty (New York), Walden Pond (Massachusetts), Irish pubs (fucking everywhere), lobsters (watching you while you sleep).

Vermont and New Hampshire are exactly the same, except that part of New Hampshire is a suburb of Boston, whereas all of Vermont is a village. Rhode Island exists so that Massachusetts can feel better about itself. Every state north of Massachusetts is where they wear flannel and talk slower. Connecticut is "more than just an extension of New York, damn it! We also have several hills and fences made out of stone!" Maine is a vast, unconquered territory of pine trees and bogs. New York thinks it's better than you, and it's kind of right.

Mascot: Ted Kaczynski.

Motto: "Get off my land!"

Main attractions: Snow, sky, geysers, Testicle Festival (Montana).

The mountains are where people go when they don't want to be bothered. So QUIT BOTHERING THEM. Colorado is full of great skiing and creepy Christians. Wyoming is whatever Wyoming is. North Dakota is flat and brown. South Dakota is beautiful and full of bikers. Don Johnson lives in Colorado. Huey Lewis lives in Montana. Literally nobody lives in Idaho. People look to the mountain states to fulfill their idealistic dreams of the classic American West—but, of course, that dream doesn't exist anymore, having been replaced by the classic American meth. Stay away from meth.

Mascot: A bear, eating you.

Main attractions: Bears (eating you), wolves (eating you), nature (eating you).

Alaska, at different times of the year, features both 24 hours of sunlight AND 24 hours of darkness (pick your hell!). There's tundra (actual tundra!) swarming with man-eating monsters, plus cities (not actual cities!) swarming with batshit right-wing separatists. Men grow woolly beards to keep their faces warm, and moose outnumber women 3:1. You can see Russia from there. The state bird is a cruise ship filled with fat people.

Mascot: A Hawaiian person laughing at everyone who doesn't live in Hawaii.

Motto: "WHY THE FUCK DON'T YOU LIVE HERE!?"

Main attractions: Hawaii (Hawaii).

Hawaii is a bunch of laid-back, chilled-out volcanoes sticking out of the ocean covered with beautiful sun-roasted people who just want to eat macaroni salad and have a good time, maaaaaaan. White people did horrible, violent things to Hawaii, but Hawaii still lets white people live there, because that's just the kind of cool dude Hawaii is. Hawaii runs on "island time," which means that all your shit is going to be fucking late. Because it's island time! Cute! Island time! Oh, also people in Hawaii looooooove huffing glue (I saw a documentary about it). The only thing they love more than huffing glue is surfing. Good times. Island times.

You probably know someone who has announced that he's not going to vote because voting is a sham and there's no difference between the candidates anyway. He used to be a Ron Paul supporter, or maybe he's really into the Occupy movement, but now he's just disillusioned with the whole media-fueled spectacle and trying to encourage everyone to drop out of the electoral process. This person is an idiot.

And what's more, this person is probably a white male. How did I know this? Because the truth is, if you're a straight white male, you're at the top of the heap in America, and you have much less to lose in the transition from a Democratic to a Republican president. The system is rigged to your advantage, and no president can take away the benefits bestowed upon you by centuries of race and gender privilege. So maybe for Chad—or what-the-fuck-ever his name is—the ballot looks like Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. But for the rest of us, it could be a matter of life and death.

Look: The truth is, unless you run for office one day, you're never going to vote for a politician who has the same beliefs and principles as you. And even then, if you do run for national office, you're going to wind up making a bunch of compromises. Because of those compromises—on national security, on financial inequality, on medical marijuana—there are plenty of reasons to not vote for Barack Obama.

But there are way more reasons to vote for Barack Obama, especially if you're not a white guy with a lot of money. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both want to defund Planned Parenthood, which would bar millions of women around the country from access to affordable family planning methods, cancer screenings, and other important medical care. Ryan believes in banning abortion even in the case of rape or if it's the only way to save the mother's life. The list is virtually bottomless: On every non-wealthy-straight-white-guy topic—immigration, gay rights, equal pay regardless of gender, the social safety net—it's imperative that Barack Obama win the White House for a second term. Vote. VOTE.


Back-to-school time in D.C.

A gaggle of fifth-graders lined up silently Monday outside Room 12 at the John Burroughs Education Campus in Northeast Washington, their 10-year-old energy muffled by first-day-of-school shyness.

Their new teacher, Hope Harrod, greeted them with a bright “Good morning!”

The city’s challenge is to transform its long-struggling school system. To do that, school leaders are banking heavily on teachers such as this 11-year veteran, whom they call one of the District’s best. Harrod’s challenge on this morning is to begin creating a world inside her classroom where these preteens can — and want to — learn.

Despite the heavy responsibility, Harrod said she no longer gets first-day jitters.

Except for right now, about 8:45 a.m., this moment before kids file inside to take their seats, when everything is yet to come and feels a little awkward and when lofty goals — inspiring kids to think independently, articulate their ideas and, above all, develop a love of reading — recede behind something more mundane.

To kids, this day might seem like a rapid-fire series of introductions and ice-breakers. But really, it’s about teaching routines — for entering the classroom, storing backpacks, going to the bathroom, moving around the room, turning in homework, joining in group discussions, using shared markers and glue sticks — that the kids will soon do automatically, as if breathing.

“These systems are not meant to limit them — they’re just to help them understand how to navigate their world, navigate the classroom,” Harrod said. “This way all they have to focus on is learning. They don’t have to be stressed out about making a mistake and doing something improperly.”

Five years after then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) took control of the D.C. schools, student achievement has risen and more than a dozen crumbling buildings — including three this year in Ward 8 — have been overhauled, giving kids new and gleaming places to learn.

Still, fewer than half of the District’s public school students are proficient in math and reading, and the future contours of public education in the city are far from sure. The 45,000-student system cannot afford to continue operating so many small and under-enrolled schools, Chancellor Kaya Henderson has said repeatedly. More than 40 schools have fewer than 300 students each, and neighborhoods are bracing for school closures.

There are also uncertainties about how to strike the right balance between traditional neighborhood schools and the fast-growing charter sector, about what the teachers’ union will and won’t win in the next round of contract negotiations, about whether political scandals surrounding Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will distract from or derail reform.

But as kids shouldered backpacks and headed to class Monday, their teachers faced a more immediate issue: What exactly do you do on Day One?

“The first week of school is probably the most important. It sets a tone,” said Frazier O’Leary, a longtime Advanced Placement English teacher at Cardozo Senior High. O’Leary dispenses with formalities on the first day.

Instead, as kids walk into class he hands them a copy of an Edward P. Jones short story about a young girl’s first day of school. Right away they are reading the story, puzzling over its literary devices, writing their own versions of first-day stories.

Most of them are seniors. O’Leary wants them to realize that there is no time to waste.

“I want to hear, ‘You mean we’ve got to work on the first day?’ ” he said.

Students watch teachers carefully that first day, forming impressions that will shape the next nine months. Is she fair-minded, a strict disciplinarian or a pushover?

Emily Lawson, chief executive of D.C. Prep, one of the District’s top charter schools, said her administrators spend extra time in classrooms at the start of the year, offering help when teachers struggle to set clear expectations or maintain control.

“We can make sure that they don’t get into a rut, which is really hard to get out of,” she said.

At Burroughs, setting boundaries was part of Harrod’s work Monday. Her voice never rose. But it sharpened when, in the middle of one activity, a boy and a girl — perhaps fearing cooties — refused to work together.

“That is what makes Ms. Harrod most upset, when we decide we are not going to participate,” she said. “We are not boys and girls in this classroom, we are people, and we work together. We are a team.”

But the focus remains largely on setting daily routines that allow classrooms to hum smoothly, leaving time and space for thinking and learning.

“Systems are major,” said Burroughs Principal Mary Weston, who traveled the school’s hallways Monday in a blur of troubleshooting, smiling motion.

Shortly before dismissal, Harrod introduced the homework system: a purple folder to serve as the one and only vehicle for transporting assignments and communiques between teachers and parents.

“You will have homework every single night, including on weekends,” she said, her students’ eyes widening.

The systems seem to work at Burroughs, as does its focus on project-based learning about science, technology and engineering. Students here made significant gains on standardized math and science tests last school year — a notable jump for a school that serves mostly poor families.

Enrollment is up, too, despite a proliferation of nearby charter schools that draw neighborhood kids.

The school's progress earned a visit from Gray and Henderson, who talked with students over lunch. Henderson praised the principal’s leadership and energy, the teachers’ expertise, the parents’ involvement.

“There is good stuff going on here,” Henderson said.

Shortly before 3:15 p.m., the principal’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker, offering congratulations on a smooth first day and “huge shout-outs to all the boys and girls who came to school ready to learn.” And then it was time, in Room 12, for the last routine of the afternoon: retrieving backpacks and lining up on blue tiles to exit the school together, Harrod leading the way.

“This has been a wonderful day. Lots and lots of instruction, lots and lots of procedures,” the teacher said. “It’s been a long day.”

Yessenia Aguilar, who was packing up her homework folder, disagreed. “It was very short,” she said. “Too short.”


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