Pivot (Again)!

#sol21- February 23, 2021

On a “normal” night I would have already been in bed.

On a “normal” night I would have missed the news.

Last night I was up a bit later than usual emailing my principal a request to put something in Thursday’s daily bulletin about our Growing Kindness club meeting on Thursday. Just as I sent that email two things happened- I got an email response and a WhatsApp message from a colleague. The decision had been made- schools would move online for at least two weeks.

It was not really a surprise. Saturday morning I was in the doctor’s waiting room getting updates from a friend. It came out in the news that some people who were supposed to be quarantining after arriving in Cambodia had bribed a guard and left quarantine. Some condos were being locked down. As the weekend progressed more cases showed up as first someone tested positive as they were preparing to depart Cambodia. Over the course of the weekend it got a bit eerie, with Koh Pich (Diamond Island) being locked down and different “hot spots” being identified.

Still, Monday morning there was school as usual. I was missing five students as some parents kept their children home, but still we were going on “as usual”. At our leadership meeting after school there was talk that we might go online soon…

Just before 8:45PM, being near my phone later than usual it was announced- schools were to be closed for a minimum of two weeks. To be honest my emotions were all over the place- disappointment (I so prefer in person learning), gratefulness (that we had had a long stint in person), relief (it was sounding a bit dangerous now), worry (what next?).

This morning the kids were great! Most of them do not love online learning, but we talked about our understanding that we can do hard things, the strength of our learning community, our goals moving forward, and more and we got on with some learning. We are trying to take on lessons we have learned as teachers from our other experiences online this year and last and aim to do a better job this time. Yes, I am hoping this is just a short blip, and we can be in person again soon, but I know we may have to pivot again and again in this Covid time (and the only vaccines that are heading this way so far are the Sinopharm ones and so far they are reserved for high ranking government officials), so it may be awhile yet.

My fingers are crossed that acting pretty quickly will contain this round of community spread as the health care here is not up for a challenge.

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All Kinds of Strength

#sol21- February 16, 2021

School is not always easy for A., yet he has some super powers you might miss at first glance.

He is patient- he is pulled out throughout the week for occupational therapy, speech therapy, and extra reading support. He usually heads off with a smile and comes back in ready to slide into whatever is going on in the classroom- we could all learn how to transition from him.

He is brave. Last week when A. rushed down the stairs to lunch he fell and fell hard. As he lay in a heap on the floor a classmate hurried back up the stairs to alert me. After only a very few tears I was able to talk him into an upright position. I helped him to the nurse and he bravely fought through his fears and the pain of being cleaned up. His leg looked like it had been attacked with a cheese grater. As I walked slowly with him to lunch (while everyone else had moved on to recess) we chatted with the same classmate who had let me know of A’s accident and I happily served him four servings of noodles. He even managed to hobble around the playground for a bit afterward.

Today we had day one of the ISAs (International Schools Assessment). He was allowed to work in a different location and have extra time, but as a reflective learner he decided he could do his best work in the classroom- and it seemed like he made the right choice. His persistence through challenge (it was HARD!) impressed me.

This afternoon it was A’s turn to perform (we are wrapping up our How We Express Ourselves unit and each student has been working on a short performance). He chose to perform magic for the whole class. He began confidently and when one of his tricks went awry he kept his composure. The cards were sticking together and he could not get what he wanted to happen to work, but still he persisted. At one point he called for a pause (I was filming him for Seesaw) and then he cooly continued with a second trick and his ending. At this point the class applauded and I told him what a performer he was to keep calm under pressure.

I have the privilege of watching students. Patience, bravery, persistence, and keeping cool under pressure- so much to learn from this boy!

Social Media for the Right Reasons

#sol21- February 9, 2021

In the last 24 hours I have had two wonderful reminders of why I stay on social media, in spite of the negatives.

Last night a former colleague reached out via Twitter messenger for some ideas for an after school activity he is going to lead, based on one I ran in the school we had worked in together, that I called Book Love. Reimagining the activity for his reality of being virtual for at least some of the sessions gave me a good challenge to think about last night. I had fun researching different ideas and was happy to be able to get back to him quickly. Of course we also had a chance for a bit of a quick catch up as a result. It was nice to hear from him and I appreciated that we could still share ideas more than 9,000 km apart.

This afternoon once I got home I checked Facebook and saw a message request from a name that looked like a shortened version of a former student. Clicking on it I learned I was correct. B. had been looking through some of her elementary mementos and reached out to share a picture of us together with me. B. had been in my third grade way back in 2003-2004. Immediately, before even looking at the picture there was this spunky 8 year old flashing before my eyes. She was a confident chatterbox, always eager to share her thinking and she had strong opinions. I learned she had recently completed her university degree (with honors) in philosophy and is headed to law school next. Do former students know what joy it brings to teachers’ hearts to get these messages?!

This weekend I was making lists as I contemplated my principal’s belief that we have to teach different grades to grow as teachers. I realized I have taught in 16 classrooms, in eight schools in seven countries, across different grade levels. So many small moments that make memories. I am so grateful for social media that allows me to keep some of those connections going.

Some Days Just Require a Little Jingle

#sol21- February 2, 2021

I have got back in the habit of ironing whatever clothes I’ll need for the weekend, so I knew I was wearing my super comfortable purple and white skirt. I knew it was going to be a challenging day. Last night I got some challenging news and I needed some time to absorb it and knew that others at school might feel a bit off as well. As I got dressed in the early morning dark I mentally prepared for the day ahead and knew I needed a little “perk me up”.

I am probably the least fashion-conscious person you could ever meet and accessories are for others not for me. An exception is my love for purple- if I have a way to add on a bit of purple I just may do it.

Today I grabbed my favorite purple scarf. This old friend I bought in Mumbai about 14 years ago when I lived there (as it happens the skirt is from then too).

With this scarf swathed around my neck, I could hear a faint jingle wherever I walked today. I may have even swirled around the room merrily brushing the soft fabric as I walked by any innocent bystanders.

Between the purple and the softest jingle as I walked I felt my shoulders relax and a spring return to my step. That year in India was hard for personal reasons, yet I have such fond memories of that time and I know that even though today’s news may have been a bit unsettling some time in the (hopefully not so distant) future it would seem insignificant and I would be able to recall happy memories of flouncing around in my jingly scarf.

Sometimes a jingle is just the self care I need (perfect as my OLW is BELIEVE and February’s helper word is care- I can take care of myself too!).


#sol21- January 26, 2021

Today was the day I have talked about for so long! We were ready- we voted yesterday and the results had been announced. The anticipation was at at a fever pitch, with one student claiming she was going to stay up late last night to watch on her own. Yesterday I showed a small bit of last year’s video so they could get a taste of what was to come, but I explained that this year would look different, because, yeah, Covid.

First thing in the morning they asked, “When are we watching?”

“Just after math,” I assured them, “Soon!”

Math was fun, so time passed quickly. I had been unable to contain my own excitement and woken up early this morning and previewed the video myself, so I could show a few of the most relevant parts.

It was time for 3EV to watch the ALA Awards!!! We had our own Mock Caldecott over the last two months and had included 16 books in our study and our winner :

With honors going to:

We watched the awards where I knew the students would recognize some winners- there were cheers, shocked faces, and maybe even a few groans. A highlight for me was our TA at one point telling me, “I have goosebumps!”

Another highlight was students asking, “Can we order that?” and “Can I read that next?” depending on whether we already owned “winners” or not. In the end they were not disappointed that our choices did not match the announced winners, but instead were looking forward to reading more, and that, after all is the reason we have a Mock Caldecott.

I told our students that this day is such a special holiday for me and I think they get it! As a bonus, although Honeybee did not win a Caldecott, it did win a Sibert, and we are Zooming with the author/illustrator duo next week for World Read Aloud Day.


Looking for Lucky Signs

#sol21- January 19, 2021

Is it just me or does everyone invent their own lucky signs?

Maybe it started in childhood- I spent A LOT of time waiting for my mom—she was always late, so I would look away from the road and make up a number. She would surely be there before the time x number of cars had passed me. I would dutifully count the passing cars and wait for the lucky time when my mom would arrive.

It evolved as I entered the work world and had to get myself places. The one summer I worked at McDonald’s (usually opening) I would pedal my bike down the hill and then look right. On the grassy edge of the busy road if I looked carefully I could often see rabbits munching away. It was a sign that it would be a great day if I saw more than x of them.

Later, when I lived in Mumbai I was fascinated by all the animal life I passed on the way to school. I would count the animals. Dogs and cats were everyday, as were goats and chickens. Cows, well they were sacred, so they often were in the middle of the road and could hold up traffic. It would be the sign of a really great day to come if I saw the elephants under the bridge. They made me smile.

In Berlin I took the subway to the bus and then had a walk up the hill to school. During the (way too long) winter months I carefully walked in the dark as I imagined breaking my leg in a ditch. I was also on high alert for wild boar. Happily most of the times I ran into them I was not alone, as they are big and not known for their gentle touch.

Here in Phnom Penh I travel by tuk tuk and love my commute because of the views I pass and those that pass me. This morning I, of course, saw cats and dogs (at my first apartment here I decided if I saw 14 dogs on the way to school it would be a good day). Throughout Southeast Asia I see chickens wandering freely, so there were many of them to ogle. They always seem so content. The animals I would rather not see are the captive (or dead) ones. A motorcycle zoomed by me with a bouquet of chickens- about 20 chickens head down all with their feet bound together in a small bunch. While they were alive-ish I knew what fate awaited them even if they did not. Although I did not see it today, it is also not unusual to see a pig carcass or two astride the back of a moto. I guess I can appreciate how fresh the meat is, but some things are better left unknown (or at least unseen from my perspective).

Once I set foot on the campus it is a nature wonderland and I am spoiled for choice- some days I can count the bird varieties, or I may choose butterflies. After a rain there are many worms to spy. Lizards and geckos often cross my path. I may have to step over huge cockroaches. If I wanted to walk to the field I could visit with our chickens or bees. Head the other way and I would be in the butterfly garden. It is a great reminder to me that I can sometimes make my own luck. If I can decide that I will have a good day if I see x number of whatever I can probably take care of that on my morning commute.

In Person Again

#sol21- January 12, 2021

In Person

The dance back and forth continues,

As a community of learners,

we are asking questions,

seeking answers,

growing in our own ways,

connecting in new ways,

in person, together again!

Monday was our first day back at school in person since some time in November. We have been back and forth in all kinds of iterations of school this year and I feel pretty safe given what I know about Corona here. The joy in the class has been overwhelming. At the end of the day I asked what had been the best part and they all had ideas. “Everything!” V. said (this being only his seventh day this school year on campus). I had to agree.

Shaking Up a OLW

#sol21- January 5, 2021

Every year since 2013 I have chosen a One Little Word (OLW) and I really enjoy the process and usually see a benefit. This year, Christie Wyman, wrote on the Teach Write blog about the idea of choosing a monthly word. While I liked the idea I was still stuck on ONE WORD. I started a word list of potential words earlier this year and so I turned to that list. I looked for patterns and connections and decided what I could do was a mashup— I could choose one “umbrella word” and 12 helper words.

I spent a bit more time and then decided that I should be even more purposeful, so as I looked at my list of words I decided I could match the words to what I knew might be going on in my life. I also have (not shown here) a list of other words that may be subbed in if the word I have chosen in January do not seem to fit as time goes by.

Here is how it stands right now:

Some of my reason for choosing BELIEVE:

This year more than ever I choose to believe in science. We have to work together to control Covid 19. I look forward to being able to roll up my sleeve and get the vaccine when it is available here in Cambodia.

I believe in kids. Working with kids brings me such joy and I have such an amazing class. I believe in them and all that they will accomplish this year and beyond and I want to keep doing better for them.

I believe in myself and know that I can do hard things — this year will require a lot of this self belief.

I am a questioner and often a rule follower, so for me to believe I research, so for me to believe I have to do lots of research.

I will stand up for what I believe and I will choose how/when to use my voice.

These first few days of January have been peaceful days for me— three weeks off of school and not many obligations have allowed me lots of time to reflect and set goals and I think believe in conjunction with my helper words will push me in a good way. I look forward to challenging myself this year.

January 1 started another round of #100daysofnotebooking, so that is already helping me to grow as a writer.

If you are someone who chooses a OLW what word have you chosen for 2021?

Who Knew Back on January 1 That Moxie Might Really Get a Workout in 2020?

#sol20- December 29, 2020

Way back in January of 2020 that my OLW would get such a workout?!

I announced on January 1 my OLW as moxie. I wrote:

I want to show more moxie as I strive to align my actions and beliefs. I want to be a positive model of a lifelong learner and will push myself to learn new things (bullet journal workshop already signed up for as a start). I also signed up for the #100daysofnotebooking (thanks, @mhaseltine) and that is already pushing me to try out new things (and get back to writing regularly). I avoid confrontation but hope that my focus on moxie will encourage me to stand up when I should. Much to my mother’s horror, I am a rule follower, but I am trying to make sure this does not mean I compromise strong beliefs. Living alone, I tend to be a hermit in my free time- so I will use moxie as my reason to get out and about more. I feel like it is an extension of my word from last year- with a sprinkling of joy.

Some of it played out as planned… I notebooked all year (except one day that I totally forgot). I definitely tried to make sure my beliefs and actions were better aligned (until Covid, where everything I thought I knew seemed to be challenged). Moxie did not get me to push past my hermit ways, but again, I blame Covid, as I spent more time at home than ever before. I did branch out into new (to me) virtual communities including Teach Write and I applied for two weeks of summer professional development that my school paid almost entirely that I had long wanted to attend (TCRWP Reading Institute and Responsive Classroom Elementary Core Course). I loved that people who knew me knew what my word was- I think I talked about it more than I had previously. I also love that this year we chose OLWs near the start of the year and one of my students chose moxie for her own. I had to make sure I balanced moxie with sensible this year- I did not want moxie to mean reckless, so it was definitely 2020 moxie, which may have played out differently in any other year.

I was almost afraid to write a reflection, because I feel like this year has been governed by fear and I wasn’t sure that I would see enough evidence of moxie, but all things considered I am glad to have had the opportunity to live with the word this year to push me in small ways.

For 2021 I plan to choose one “umbrella” OLW and a monthly challenge OLW as well- that will keep me on my toes as I strive to keep pushing myself. I aspire to grow with Maya Angelou’s words: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know betterdo better.” Next week I will have the details of that more solid and what my OLW for 2021 will be…

Class Party- Covid Style

#sol20- December 22, 2020

It was the second to last week of school when we got word that we would be online the last week too, so we knew “class parties” would look a little different. Petra (our fab EAL teacher) suggested “Friday Fun Day” where we would each offer an activity in our Zoom and students from all four third grade classes could mingle. When Simon mentioned it to Sarah, the librarian, she said she would be happy to join in, so I boldly put out an invitation to all of the teachers who work with our team. Almost all responded that they would love to do it- they are generally not Zooming with kids as homeroom teachers are, so this was a great opportunity for them to catch up with kids (plus they are all super stars!).

Our plan was a 30 minute Zoom and we ended up with the students having 10 different choices- they could only choose one to attend. We had baking, pop up cards, snowflake making, watching funny cat videos, practicing tongue twisters in many languages, Lego challenges, squiggle challenges, fitness, virtual games, and time to write. Can you guess what I led? Some groups were tiny and some were large, but all were a chance to relax and have fun before the three week break ahead. I am constantly impressed by how these kids adapt to all of the new situations life is throwing at them, so this new kind of party was a welcome treat.

Now on to a nearly Zoomless 3 weeks! Who knows in what form we will start school in January, but I am trying to not give that too much thought. Reading and writing will fill my days (or not) and that is how I will see out the year and start the new one. Ahhhh!