Tapioca Pudding and…First Week Back Melt-Downs

The day the primary school children return to the classrooms is the day the parents who linger behind at the school gates face one of their greatest moments of testing.  Firstly, because they are wondering which teacher their child ended up with and secondly, who else is in the class.

Tapioca Pudding with Palm Sugar Sauce

Some parents try to take control of the situation and before the end of the previous year they will make an appointment with the school’s principal and sit down to a one-on-one discussion of their child’s needs, the traits and reputations of the teachers on offer, and why they think their child would ultimately be suited to one particular teacher.

This process can bring a false sense of security that all is well and that the principal is going to do exactly as they have been instructed.  This is why on the first day back at school there can be more parents in tears than students.  Because the meeting with the principal has clearly fallen on deaf ears as their child has ended up in the class with the teacher they specifically asked not to be given.

Adding to the parents’ anxiety is the fact that some teachers, towards the end of the previous year, handed out sheets of paper to the students and asked them to write down the names of the children they would like to have in their class.  Imagine the horror some parents discover on the first day back when they realise their child has been separated from every friend they put on their list.

Tapioca Pudding decorated with fresh coconut

I was at the school yesterday afternoon and there was a parent who was not happy with the teacher her son had been given.  She said, ‘I’ve heard she yells too much.  And I went up to introduce myself and she said she was off to a meeting so didn’t have time.  I’m not liking the vibe I’m getting.  Have you heard anything about her?  Everything I’ve heard has been bad news.’

I explained I didn’t know any of the Year 2 teachers.  Couldn’t pick them out in a line-up even if I had to.

And then she wanted to know about the other kids in the class.  ‘You don’t think there’s any disruptive kids in there do you?  Like those ones with all the issues like ADHD?  Have you heard?  Do you know if any of them are disruptive?’

‘I don’t know.  Alfie’s not in that class, but there’ll be challenging kids in every class.’

‘What about ESL?  I’ve heard there are six new kids in the class.  Are any ESL?’

‘I’ve heard there are some from other countries and there is a boy from China who doesn’t speak English but he’ll do well in the Mandarin classes.’

‘I just don’t want Harry’s learning to be held back.  How many do you think don’t speak English?’

‘I think it’s three or four.’

‘Oh, that’s not good.  That will slow down the learning for everyone else.  Does Alfie have ESL kids in his class?’

‘No, they all speak English’.

‘Oh, you’re so lucky.  I wish Harry was in Alfie’s class.  And you got the teacher that doesn’t yell, too.  Did Alfie end up with any friends he put on his list?’

‘He’s got one.  A girl.’

‘My son’s been completely separated from his friends.  I don’t understand.  He was in such a happy and harmonious class last year.  This is not good.  I’m not liking this’.

And I kept talking to her because I was waiting for a break in the rain before dashing to my car.

As for me, I just never bother interfering.  My mother taught me, ‘You’re not always going to end up with the teacher you hoped for, you’re not always going to be in a class surrounded by your best friends and above all, life just isn’t always going to be fair.  And you’d better to start learning that now.’

I bet there are many teachers out there who wish parents were more like the ones back in the 1970’s.

I have wonderful friends coming for dinner tonight and one of them is a primary school teacher.  I can’t wait to hear the events of her first week back.

Are you glad you’re not a primary school teacher?

I’m cooking Thai tonight and I’ve found a Thai dessert I haven’t made before.  It uses Tapioca and I know that polarises people.  I haven’t had tapioca for many, many years and I’d like to re-visit this ingredient that has texture but no flavour.

Tapioca Pudding with Palm Sugar Sauce

A gluten-free and dairy-free dessert!

Serves:  6

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a very inexpensive dessert because the ingredients cost very little.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup tapioca or sago
  • 200g (7oz/1 cup) dark palm sugar (Pontiac brand from Indonesia if possible), chopped
  • 150ml (5 fl oz /2/3 cup) water
  • 200ml (7 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) thick coconut milk or cream
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 2 tbspns fresh coconut, shredded (optional)

Bring water to the boil and add the tapioca, stirring well to stop the grains clumping together.  simmer until just translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes, then strain, rinsing well under cold water.  Divide between serving bowls, then pour over the palm sugar sauce, followed by the coconut sauce.  Garnish with shredded coconut.

To make palm sugar sauce:   Combine the chopped palm sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Cool before using.

To make coconut sauce:   Gently warm the coconut milk with the salt until dissolved.  Cool before using.

This recipe is from Spirit House, Essentially Thai. 

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  1. One of my favourite desserts ever! 🙂

  2. I am glad I am not a primary school teacher. I remember being separated in Grade 4 from all of my friends – I asked to be changed into their class (with my mum’s help), but no go – I had to stay put. This pudding does sound tempting – although in the past I have not bene a fan of sago.

  3. After experiencing Prep as a mum I am most definitely glad I’m not a primary school teacher! I am most definitely going to try this dessert, it sounds so yummy and easy!

  4. I love the Spirit House cookbooks! And I love tapioca.

    I never went to a primary school big enough to have more than 1 class for each year!

  5. I’m crazy for tapioca and coconut cream-I know it’s not the most low fat dessert but who am I to stop at a mouthful? 🙂

  6. I so enjoy the stories you share. I am (sadly) one of those worrying mothers who frets as my girls disappear through the school gates. I have to make myself remember … they are just fine.

  7. I confess, I did request a teacher once for my daughter. Second grade. One teacher was a yell-er; I knew this from walking by her classroom the previous year. The other teacher was well known as a highly motivated, superior teacher. My daughter was very sensitive as a youngster. She once cried in kindergarten because the teacher told everyone to put their heads down to quiet them down. The teacher told me my daughter had to be comforted and reassured that she had not personally been naughty. I honestly didn’t think she could cope with a shouter. When our son got to second grade, he got the yell-er and I did not interfere. (And she was a fine teacher, too!) Sorry for the long story.

    The pudding looks so lovely.

  8. I used to love tapioca Charlie, but like you, I haven’t had it in ages. This looks like a lovely dessert and I love the little glasses you’ve served them in.

  9. Haven’t had sago dessert in a while…love the idea of serving them in a glass.

  10. That looks so tasty!!!

    And how funny to think about you all beginning a new school year, whereas we’re on the down-hill slope of ours! My 9 year old daughter did NOT get the teacher we wanted for her this year, and zero friends in her class, too. For the first time ever, I complained. 3 times. Nothing came of it. She’s having an ok year…but I am NOT impressed with her teacher. But then, nor am I impressed with what I’ve seen of the teacher I DID want her to have…so, I guess it all comes out in the wash, as my mom used to say.

  11. I can’t believe I never tried tapioca pudding before, but yours look so darn good. I absolutely love this .. perfect

  12. I’m glad those days are over for me. I love sago and tapioca.

  13. I so enjoy your stories and it is fun to get a glimpse into another country’s school system and routines.

    I love, love tapioca pudding, but haven’t tried it with coconut flavors before. Now I certainly will! Thanks1

  14. I cannot tell your the last time I enjoyed tapioca pudding but, I must say, yours here makes me wonder why it’s been so long. What an enticing dish!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I hope you do give it a try John. This is tapioca pudding with a Thai twist and the palm sugar gives a wonderful caramel flavour that is mellowed out by the coconut cream. And the fresh coconut on the top is a wonderful way to finish off the dish.

  15. Ah the politics of the school yard. I am not one of those mums that lingers just to see who the teacher will be. I am now at the end of my primary school days, I have seen 4 through the maze, and at the end of the day the kids are the drivers. It really does work out ok if they have a bad teacher one year. I have seen all spectrums of schooling. I have a special needs child, and the things that we have to endure with educating a child make the issues that stress out “normal children’s” parents pale in significance.

  16. Sounds like it’s all out of control. We had no say whatsoever about which class we were in or with who it was luck of the draw! I’ve never made tapioca before but tried it for the first time a while ago… might have to give it a go at home too.

  17. I’m loving the look of that freshly grated coconut – looks so lovely!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Charles, yes, the fresh coconut on the dessert added that extra special something. I was however glad to have a man in the house to crack that beast open for me and grate the contents – not an easy or swift task!

  18. I love tapioca! My mum used to make it for me to eat in the bath. No idea why!
    And I LOVE teaching Primary School. It’s amazing how much more resilient the kids are than the parents. I guess as parents we forget that in the real world, we can’t always choose our circumstances, the people we work with or for. Yet we can learn to get along with others and make the best of what life dishes out.
    Isn’t it amazing what you can do with an ingredient that has ‘texture but no flavour’ and is also ‘inexpensive.’
    Isn’t this life’s best lesson? To be creative problem solvers and to learn to deal with things that are hard.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      What a lovely comment! So glad the tapioca has brought back happy memories of your childhood. I’m really pleased you’re enjoying your teaching career – your students are blessed to have you!

  19. One of my favourites, better than chocolate cake any day!
    I always hung around to see what teacher and friends were in the class. I think its generally much harder on us parents than on our kiddies 🙂

  20. I hardly ever have tapioca but I love the texture. Anything with palm sugar though has to be good. So glad I dont have to have anything to do with Primary school any more

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, palm sugar adds that beautiful caramel flavour. I must say, this was a delicious dessert and there was absolutely nothing left over.

  21. I teach in a small school with only one class per grade from fourth grade up. It is getting bigger so soon, that is going to change and I wonder what will happen with requests.

    You are smart not to make many requests. As a teacher , I know the best thing to do is to save the request for when you really need it and it can be a for something a lot bigger than a teacher request.

  22. I have never used tapioca. This dessert sounds both intriguing and delicious.

  23. This sounds delicious. Here’s hoping next week will be a lot smoother!

  24. Yumm…love this recipe and love your presentation in the glasses! I think I could imagine a bit of alcohol in these too for a really nice adult dessert!

  25. Lmao I can relate to this post on so many accounts. I had phone calls fro stressed out friends last week that wanted to vent about their kids class situation. I am so not fussed, and I love the fact they get to make new friends every year when they are mixed up. I too get to meet some awesome new friends through the parentsof my boys classmates.
    Now you really got me with this post because I LOVE tapioca. My kids lve it but my hubby hates it. Says he had it too much growing up. For me as I am allergic to dairy, itis the perfect dessert. I add a tin of passionfruit pulp too. Yum mmm xx

  26. Oh oh oh this is my FAVOURITE malaysian dessert!!! I still haven’t had the chance to make it yet hehe its on my ‘must make’ list soon 😀

  27. i wonder if most parents are so overly protective of their kids, this sounds too stiffling to me! i donte ever remember mom requesting my teacher to change my class & i like to think i turned out ok! 😀 that tapioca pudding looks absolutely lovely… gonna try this out for sure

  28. I have so many of these parents in my year I am determined never to interfere. My justification is – what if I’m wrong ? I am not a trained primary school teacher – but the people creating the classes are. I moved 7 suburbs to send my son to the school I very carefully chose for him pretty much straight after he was born – I HAVE to place my trust in them. I watch parents with these incredibly “gifted” children whine about every aspect of school, which is by the way about 8th in the state list in terms of testing (but is non-selective), and meet with their teachers non-stop throughout the year making sure their childs path is very carefully smoothed in front of them. Like all the comments above, I think a few bumps and some unpredictability are good for a well rounded child. I totally understand gifted children, my son does test as one, but I DO NOT think this requires he gets the “best” teacher every year, have to attend weekend school, or be removed from the normal everyday challenges of making new friends or coping with disappointment.

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