Tag Archives: Chet Breaux

A College English Teacher’s Take on Last Chance U

My husband, Chet, and I recently finished season 2 of the Netflix docu-series Last Chance U. I think both seasons of this masterfully crafted show are compelling watches for anyone. However, as a college teacher, Chet’s perspective intrigued me. Here’s his take…

Located in super-rural Scooba, East Mississippi Community College is a near perfect microcosm of public higher education. EMCC has less than 6,000 students enrolled, but is thoroughly ensnared by the university sports machine and the slew of academic challenges that students, faculty, staff, and administrators face in this environment. When I first read the description of Last Chance U, I thought it was going to be another affirmation of student athletes that played hard enough to escape poverty using grit and determination. Last Chance U does feature some of that, though most often it begins following players after their meteoric rise and subsequent fall in the world of college athletics. Last Chance U manages to do much more. Through its portrait of players and coaching staff, it presents a surprisingly accurate view of contemporary college life.

In an early episode of the first season, Ms. Wagner (the academic coordinator for EMCC’s football team) is exasperated by a player who brings nothing to class- not even a pen. The scene is funny. We laugh a bit at Ms. Wagner’s expense, or at least I did. I laughed out of familiarity. As a teacher, speaking to a pen-less student that isn’t performing well in my class is a near weekly occurrence. As a former student, I laugh from familiarity, too. I did not bring writing utensils to Psych 100.

The players in Last Chance U have a love/hate relationship with their whole academic experience. They clearly love football, both the game itself and the opportunities it presents to many young players. On the other hand, they hate practice. They tolerate the school end for many of the same reasons. Good grades mean eligibility and the potential to play for a better school. It also means thinking and working in a way which is unfamiliar. It’s easy to look at the players and dismiss them. After all, why go to college if not to learn? These athletes are caught up in the same wave as most students. They have a vague notion of a career, and it’s often unclear how ENG 101 is going to help them achieve that goal. I spend most of my professional life working directly with students in the same position, and I think Last Chance U does a fair job of sketching the uncertainty that comes with a college education.

The real hero of Last Chance U is Ms. Wagner. She’s the academic coach for the team, but much more: a human planner, a motivation machine, a listener, and an open door. Academic counselors like Ms. Wagner are near ubiquitous in major athletics programs. They exist to help players maintain eligibility by navigating the minefield of a full course load for students working a “full time job.” Many schools are now using this kind of counseling for the entire student body, especially as state governments shift performance metrics to graduation rates.

What strikes me about Last Chance U is how close the experiences of the characters on this tiny campus ring true with my own. It’s easy to spot the problems in the show- the attitude of some coaches, the disengaged players, the placating staff- it is for better or worse where we are now.

Watch the trailer for Season 2 HERE. Seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix now! Have you seen them? 

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Recipe: Chicken and Sausage

Emotional ties to food have long been of interest to me. The way Chet talked about this dish; pining for it before he cooked it, savoring it while he gobbled it up, and re-hashing it’s glory long after the last drop was gone; I knew I wanted to share it with y’all. So that those who would like to can recreate it, yes, but also to share a small piece of what shaped him into the person he is. For him, the memories and comfort tied to this dish are just as important as ingredient ratios. This dinner may not be your jam but it’s creation is universal….a person, longing for a taste of home, steps into the kitchen…


 

Rice and gravy has been a staple of Cajuns since we started farming rice after arriving in Louisiana in the 1700s. It’s something I ate at least once a week growing up, and it’s a popular dish because of its simplicity and affordability. The method and cook time of the dish is good for turning otherwise tough or less desirable cuts of meat into an amazing meal that can feed a whole family This is a good Sunday meal because of the cook time involved, though the prep is simple.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Large chicken thighs with bones and skin removed
  • 1 lb of smoked sausage
  • 1 Large onion, diced
  • 1 Large bell pepper
  • Cajun/Creole seasoning (Tony’s or any similar brand should work fine, but you can also make your own by combining salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper)
  • 2 TBSP Oil of your choice
  • 2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup of rice

Bring oil to medium high In a large pot (preferably cast iron). Add chicken and brown thoroughly. I usually do this for around a half hour. Keep moving the meat around and it won’t burn. If the meat is sticking to the pot too much, add a little water.

chicken and sausage 1

After the chicken is browned, remove it and add veggies. Let the veggies cook down for about another thirty minutes. If they start to stick, add a little more water. Around 15 minutes in, your kitchen should be smelling really, really good. You should also begin to notice a nice yellow broth forming in the pot. That’s your signal to add the sausage.

chicken and sausage 2

Keep cooking down the mixture and adding water as needed. Once your veggies are soft and you have a fair amount of that yellow juice, return your chicken to the pot, add enough water to cover the meat, and reduce heat to low (if you’re using a cast iron pot, you could even set your range to warm).

chicken and sausage 3

Let it cook on low for a good 5-6 hours, stirring one every half hour. It’s going to reduce quite a bit, and that’s fine. Just add water as needed and let the meat cook down. Season to taste about halfway through.

chicken and sausage 4

It will be significantly darker when it’s finished, and there should be some oil accumulating on top. Skim off what you can and then serve over rice.

chicken and sausage 5

This dish is traditionally served with corn, and most folks like to toss it right in with the gravy. Enjoy!

Nostalgia aside this dinner was DELICIOUS. While I consider this dish pretty quintessential Cajun, there are similar meals and methods in many cultures. Do you prepare something like this? What dishes call up memories of home for you? What meals will you continue to pass down and keep cooking for years to come? Share below! 

The Case for Chromebooks

A few months back, as I twisted my laptop’s charger round and round for ten minutes patiently waiting to hear the beep letting me know it was actually charging, propping a pillow under the cord JUST. SO., and trying to work as motionlessly as possible to not upset this careful balance –I succumbed to the idea that it might be time for a new lappy. Putting old lappy out to pasture was a stressful notion…mainly because I feel hopelessly clueless about all things technology and have a terrible time making decisions (especially when they involve spending money). I didn’t want to live lappy-less for weeks on end as I waited to make up my mind. I also never necessarily believe that more expensive is better…surely there was a better option than dropping a few G’s on a machine. Thankfully, I received some much needed tech advice. And because I think the words of wisdom I received could be valuable advice for all of my budget conscious readers, I asked Chet Breaux to share it with y’all, too! It’s great to have a tech guru on speed dial. ; ) Enjoy!

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Chet: I’m writing this post using a Chromebook. What’s a Chromebook? You may have seen them advertised recently and thought “that’s just a tiny laptop!” You would be correct, but not necessarily about the tiny part. Chromebooks are a new kind of computer that runs the Chrome operating system. If you’ve ever used Google’s Chrome browser, the setup of a Chromebook will look remarkably similar. So what’s the big deal? Why should you care?

First, Chromebooks are inexpensive. They aren’t “cheap” as many tech bloggers have been quick to claim. My machine, an Acer A7, set me back just under 200 dollars. It has an 11.6 inch screen (small, yes), an Intel processor with Haswell architecture (more on this later), and a 16 gigabyte internal hard drive (tiny right?). How can I get anything done on this thing? It’s actually easier than you might think.

Google launched this project because they know a thing or two about the internet, and, more specifically, how people use the internet. Their analysis of Chrome browser users indicated that people were spending a whopping 90% of their time on a computer in the browser. Suddenly, a machine built around a web browser makes much more sense.

Let’s go back to my Chromebook, which seems to have very limited specifications. First, the size. It’s small. Is it a problem? Not really. I have very large hands, but I’m still able to type normally. The small size also means light weight, clocking in at about 2 pounds. This machine is perfect to travel with (no more super heavy bag). The Intel processor is slow, but that’s not important. Most desktop processors, and even many laptop processors, are overkill for what most people actually need a computer to do. The processor in my machine can easily run high def video and keep up with quite a few open browser tabs. Oh, and the small internal storage? Google will automatically give you a huge amount of cloud storage for free for a couple of years (don’t worry, that storage doesn’t cost much after your trial expires, and you are essentially paying for cloud backup, which everyone should have). You’re also getting a solid state hard drive. That means instant wake from sleep and about 20 seconds to boot.

Should you consider getting a Chromebook as your next laptop? Absolutely! Unfortunately, a lot of people in the tech industry have taken to bashing these machines and comparing them to netbooks. Dan Ackerman recently reviewed a new Chromebook manufactured by Toshiba. He’s making a lot of the same complaints I see in other Chromebook reviews. Yes, you have to be connected to the Internet, but so what? I’m not sure who they are speaking to with comments like these. I work at a University and have a home Internet connection. I don’t work in the middle of a field. Yes, it’s made of plastic. So is every other laptop under 1000 dollars. Yes, it has limited on-board storage, but that’s kind of a moot point in the streaming age.

What can Chromebooks do for you? Just about whatever you need in a laptop. Google has a suite of services that can easily take the place of word, powerpoint, and excel (plus all of your work is safe in the cloud and can be accessed from any web browser on any computer!) It runs Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora….In short, I’m not seeing any limitations with my machine, just convenience.

Why do I care so much about Chromebooks? As an educator, I often see students that don’t have easy access to technology, and, I’m sorry- college students NEED a laptop. A 200 dollar Chromebook is a lot easier to afford than an overloaded, overpriced machine that Best Buy normally tries to sell to the parents of college students.  They can succeed with a Chromebook in front of them. I’ve seen it happen. Oh, and if something happens to it, don’t worry. All of your work is safe, and once you can afford a new one, all that it takes is a Google sign in to restore your machine.

I purchased my Chromebook with Chet’s help and couldn’t be happier with it–all of my work is seamlessly saved through my Google account which allows me to pick up where I left off right from my work computer with no hassle, I’ve yet to find anything I CAN’T do on it, and it didn’t break the bank. Perfect lil bloggin’ machine, in my opinion. What do you think? Do you have a Chromebook? Would you buy one?