Best Bagels, Best Teachers

I vividly remember the first time I stumbled across a quote by George Bernard Shaw:  “He who can does; he who cannot, teaches.”

Boy did that ruffle my non-existent feathers.  I wanted to peck his little Nobel Prize to pieces.

I’ve been in education for over 20 years, and here’s what I know to be true:

Teachers find self worth by sharing knowledge, not attaining it.  Most people are rightfully proud when they master a concept or skill, but teachers aren’t fulfilled until they pass it on to others.

Most of my best friends are teachers, and they are among the most brilliant minds and caring souls on the planet.  I was an English teacher for six years before becoming a librarian, and a damn good one at that.

And you know what?  School librarians are teachers too!  I regularly teach lessons about censorship (hello MatSu Valley – thanks for the new content), research databases, plagiarism, and MLA citations.  I’m responsible for teaching some seriously boring content that I manage to make relevant to crowds of 36+ teenagers at a time who would rather spend the period snapping and chatting.

Trust me on this:  due to COVID-19, teachers around the globe are working harder than ever.  They are learning new technology, scrambling to modify crappy canned curriculum, and reaching out to families every way they know how.  They desperately miss their students and classrooms.

Those who are born to teach will find a way.  It’s in their blood, feeds their soul, and carries their spirit.

Perhaps that’s why our school’s orchestra teacher hosted a cooking class for our staff via Zoom last week?

The obvious:  Alison is an award-winning genius music teacher.  Every time I walk past her classroom my skin bursts into goosebumps.  Yes, middle school music can be that good.  She takes crowded rooms of newbies armed with strings and bows and creates magic, despite soggy ceiling tiles that sometimes drop on her students’ heads.  (True story.)

The not-so-obvious:  She moonlights as a baker who specializes in chewy, Brookyn-style bagels.  And wouldn’t you know, because that’s what teachers do, she offered to share her skills with anyone who wanted to learn.

I almost walked away after reading the intimidating recipe:

  1.  Two days?!  For bagels?  For reals?
  2. What on earth is diastatic malt powder and where am I going to find that in the middle of a pandemic?
  3. Flour is a precious commodity right now – did I really want to use 8 cups for a few bagels?
  4. I don’t even like bread!  So there’s that.

The thing is, I really like cream cheese.  And since it’s not appropriate to eat it from a spoon, bagels are the perfect vessel for cream cheese cravings.

So naturally, I was in.

Shopping for this recipe would have been easier pre-pandemic, but we all shared our bread flour and yeast and made it work.  Because teachers and sharing, you know.  It’s what we do.

The diastatic malt powder was the biggest challenge, as it’s not available locally and timely shipping was not an option.  Fortunately, Alison generously shared from her pantry stash.  She measured the required amount into little baggies, and placed them in a basket on her front porch.  We all cruised by and picked them up at our convenience.  (Thankfully her neighbors trust she doesn’t deal drugs on the side and this went off without a hitch.)

Day One:  We made our sponge ahead of time so it had time to rise, and gathered on Zoom after dinner.  We kneaded and kneaded and kneaded some more.  Alison shared some sciency stuff about yeast and gluten and reassured us we could not possibly knead too much.  (Clearly bagels are different than pie crust!) One by one Alison approved our dough balls and passed us to the next phase: rolling and shaping our bagels!  The evening ended with a bagel float test.  I was so proud when my little dough ring passed its swim test!  All bagels then spent the night in the fridge.

Day Two:  It was time for boiling, baking, and – finally – devouring!  We were all proud pupils, waving finished bagels in front of our webcams and texting each other photos of our masterpieces.  We made beautiful, delicious food!


(Pottery credit to Sam – he made that blue bowl in class this year!)

So take that George Bernard Shaw!  She who can does, and she teaches too!  The proof is in the bagels.

Eventually this pandemic will end and Alison will once again conduct her orchestra, which ironically is partially funded by bake sales.  I imagine people would scoff at the idea of paying more than a dollar or two for a bagel, having no idea the effort, time, cost, and love that went into creating them.  Some might want to standardize the bagels, which makes me sad because every bagel is special and unique in its own way.

Don’t you worry little bagels:  the teachers of the world know your true worth.  We will continue to help you rise, make sure you float, and let you pick your own sprinkles.  It’s what we do!


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