Treating Myself


#sol18- June 19, 2018

For those of you who have read my posts in the last few weeks you will remember that this is guaranteed to be a busy summer- a combination of moving schools/countries, visiting friends and family, and several PD opportunities. School ended on June 8 and to put it mildly the logistics of leaving Malaysia were time-consuming and stressful. My past school was preparing to move to a unified campus and there was a stipend offered for people who would be willing to stay 3-5 days after school ended to supervise packers- sounded like easy money, but it played out differently. Turns out to get anything accomplished we teachers were packing for the most part while the packers were making boxes and taping them up after. It turned out to be hot and sweaty work, so the 5 days I planned on helping I cut back to 3. Couple that with many trips running all over town to get all kinds of last minute errands done (returning the modem to the right location after an attempt at another place is just one example) during the last days of Ramadan when the city is filled with tourists, empty of taxis, and devoid of many people who genuinely are so tired from fasting all month that they really do not have the energy to help you problem solve.

Just a few days before I was set to leave I got an email from the airline saying that I could upgrade the first part of my journey. My leaving school had paid for the flight, so, I rationalized, maybe I could spring for the upgrade, never having flown business class. The first flight was nearly 7 hours and left at 2AM, so the ad promising a flat bed for the trip was quite convincing.


Not me, but priority boarding, yes, please!


Also not me, but I looked at the upgraded menu on line…


Okay, not me again, these are all from the convincing email from Emirates. 

After conferring with my friend, Ellen, I did it, I splurged! Another friend told me she had yet to ever regret upgrading on any of her flights, so that sold me. I then got so excited that I tried to upgrade on the second flight (14 hours), but no luck- those seats were already sold.

I have to admit the trip in business class felt very decadent! I can not believe that for many of my students this is the only way they do long haul travel.


The side area of my seat- two different remotes for the huge TV (not pictured), so I did not have to stretch at all. 


Literally more than a thousand entertainment choices. 


My Bulgari toiletry bag!


Yes, there was a bar on board!

The good news is that I ate well, slept some, and was ready for the second flight after a three-hour layover in Dubai. 14 hours was long, but I think the luxurious first flight had relaxed me enough to be calm when nobody was there right away to meet me at the Boston airport.

Now back to reality as an intrepid traveller, as tomorrow I will take my next flight of the summer, this time to Chicago via Spirit Airlines where I was shocked to see I would have to pay for a carry-on.


Last Days by the Numbers


#sol18- June 12, 2018

The end of the school year is always the end of an era and even more so in schools where the population is transient (like international schools) and so many faces will be gone from year to year.

Today I was reflecting on the passage of time through some numbers:

  • 26– I said goodbye to my 26th class on Friday (I took off 7 years when my sons were young)
  • 12 and 29 the smallest and biggest classes I have had
  • 8– in August I will begin teaching at my 8th school
  • 9– next month I will move to my 9th country
  • 22– today I moved out of my 22nd home- yikes, with all that practice you’d think I would get better at it!

There’s a lot I miss by being so transient, but I know there is also so much I gain.  Today I am remembering all of the amazing colleagues I have taught with throughout the years. Leaving here after four years feel so short in some ways. Saying goodbye to friends here is sad.  Even while I am enjoying a string of “lasts” a tiny part of my brain is already whispering with excitement that soon enough I will be experiencing all kinds of  “firsts” yet to come.

The Things We Can’t Control


#sol18- June 5, 2018

The last few weeks of school are always a cauldron of chaos in one way or another. This year the angst has been amped up by the fact that I am moving (to a new school and new country- Cambodia), our school is moving (from two campuses to one shared campus that is not quite finished yet, and 4 or more students from my class are moving.

A long time ago it sounded like a good idea to volunteer to supervise packers at the school for five days once school ended (good money and it did not sound too onerous). I booked my flight home accordingly, with two completely free days left to run around KL after my obligations and before my flight. But that was before my son got his summer internship in Chicago and I decided to combine visiting him with attending the Scholastic Reading Summit, which meant I would only have a few days to stop by my mom’s in Boston and ditch two suitcases. Still not too bad. This meant I had to pack out of my apartment and school before school ended (school ends this Friday and my stuff left Saturday- luckily the condo is furnished). That felt crazy at first, was crazy in the midst of it all, but now feels great that it is done. Turns out there are way more hoops to jump through to leave Malaysia than I would have guessed and although the light is shining at the end of the tunnel it still feels like there are miles to go.

Today I had to be out of my classroom for the whole day to work on some curriculum planning/writing (ugh, sub plans!), which meant that I could not use snatches of free time to take care of administrivia.

I may have sobbed a little after school on the phone today trying to get a big thing dealt with- as yet unsuccessfully. I did, however, easily get back the moving deposit I had to pay at my condo (in case the movers damaged anything while here). I also successfully changed my dentist appointment to one of my totally free days.

I rewarded myself by buying a frozen pizza for dinner. It was not until I popped it into the oven that I realized I would be eating it off an old cutting board, as I do not have any plates left in the house. Ah well.

Tomorrow we will make our summer writing notebooks, I have my last duty of the year, and we have our faculty farewell party. I am trying to keep my focus on the third graders and truthfully, if not for this I might be even more of a mess! Definitely lots of emotions swirling around.

Today Was Very Necessary


#sol18- May 29, 2018

It is the second to last week of school and in true Malaysian, as luck would have it, today was a holiday- Wesak Day. Public holidays are a chance to catch up on life and today it was so necessary. Reports were due yesterday to the principal, so today was my get stuff done at home day since the movers come on Friday and Saturday. Friday the students have a holiday while we teachers do some organizing at school (the school is moving to a new campus this summer). After school my movers will come to school to take away my gazillion books and assorted other things that will move with me. Saturday the movers will come to my apartment.

Yesterday it seemed like my plans might go up in flames. Friday when I walked in the elevator in my apartment building I saw a sign saying that the Management Office would be closed Saturday, June 2 for Nuzul Al-Quran. Now I know that buildings here only allow service trucks in for half a day on Saturdays, but if it was a holiday the movers would not be allowed in at all-PANIC! I had arranged all of this weeks before- nobody mentioned a holiday. I had even gone into the office and told them that I was moving that date and they had given me a form that had to be turned in two days in advance. I emailed right away, knowing that the office was closed. Saturday I got a response saying the administrative assistant would have to check with the boss and let me know on Monday.

By Monday afternoon (yesterday) when I still had no response I was truly in a tither. I hurried home from school (truth be told during the month of Ramadan there is no hurry in the afternoon because there is so much traffic). Luckily I got there before the 5PM closing, but the person I had to talk to had already left for the day.

I explained my situation and the man, who did not speak much English passed me on to someone else. She listened to my story and said, “No, it is a holiday, so you cannot.”

“I have to,” I said. “It has all been arranged for weeks. I told your office and nobody said I could not. I did not even know that it was a holiday until I saw the notice in the elevator.”

I then showed her the email from the administrative assistant telling me I would get a response that day. At this point, she handed me the form to fill out for permission to move. I filled it out as completely as I could and handed her the deposit (about $75 to cover any damage the moving company might cause). I repeated that there really was no alternative (I am actually still going to be in the apartment for two weeks afterwards, as it is furnished, but the chances are that I would not be able to schedule another moving day this late). She talked to someone in the back room, took my deposit, and handed me a copy of the form to show the guards on Saturday.

When I got up to my apartment I heaved a giant sigh of relief! I then responded to the moving company, as when I was in the office I had called them to try to find out the license number of the truck that would be moving me (a required part of the form that she let slide). The moving company was telling me that they had just realized that it was a holiday and that usually, buildings do not allow moving on a holiday, so I should check with my management office-hmm, better late than never. Luckily I could then report that I had the necessary permission.

So, after all that, today was a calm down day and a chance to begin (yes, I said begin- it is a busy time of year) organizing for the move from the apartment I have lived in for the last four years. I made a list of all the jobs I had to complete before Saturday morning and successfully completed four of the nine jobs before escaping to a friend’s house for an early dinner.

I have to practice pack (pack the two suitcases that I will take with me), sort out three closets, and my desk before Saturday at 9:30AM (and on Friday get all my school stuff ready to go for afternoon packing and pick up), but at least in 4 days it will all be done- one way or another. Then I can “relax” and enjoy the last week of school (and likely berate myself when I find things that should have been packed from home or school).

Phew, I got this! Thank goodness for the gift of time today!


Zhi Hong (a former student) slices too.

I Plan on Not Checking Out Early, But…


#sol18- May 22, 2018

I am determined to not be one of “those people” who “checks out” way before the end of the school year, especially as I am moving on at the end of the year. My school is moving on at the end of the year as well- going from two campuses to a brand new unified campus, so some of the end of year chaos is magnified because of both of these things.

Today one of my students told me that Monday is his last day. I assured him he must be mistaken, as I had not heard anything from his parents. I mentioned this to the teacher next door who teaches his twin brother and he sent a quick email to the parents. Turns out the mom had sent an email to the office a few weeks ago indicating that this was indeed the case.

Now I feel like all of my “keep it going” until the end is going to be too bad for this boy. There are so many end-of-year things that I plan to do in the last days that he will miss. On the one hand, I do not want him to miss certain things and I am tempted to reschedule some, yet on the other hand I feel like that will make the days after he leaves filled with “dead space” as we then will have done lots of our ending things (like making our writing notebooks for summer, creating our reading plans, etc.).  We have four students in the class who will be leaving the school – it is a shame for him to miss the farewells to them as well. I say all this knowing that the family really did not have a whole lot of choice about their early departure. Their house is provided as part of mom’s job and the remodelling that is planned (not by them) starts on Tuesday so they can not be in the house after that date.

Further conspiring against me is the school’s plan. June 1 is a teacher work day to work on some of the packing and organizing required for the school’s move. Our last day of school is June 8, so a week before seems too early to really take apart much in my classroom. But because of this I have scheduled my moving company to come to school after school that day to take my personal things (which includes sooooooooo many books- my entire class library). The next day the movers will pack me out of my apartment (it is furnished, so there will still be basic furniture and major appliances).

It will be super weird to have the last week of school without my class library (we will have a small selection of books from the school, but not the boxes and shelves we are used to having). I now realize I will also have to figure out read alouds for that last week… I will miss our library too!

I  think as I reflect on all this, I will keep on going as best as I can. Yes, this boy will miss many of the end of year activities, but better to keep the last days as “ending well” days for the rest of us. It will be all of us trying to do the best we can as the landscape around us changes.

So much to do!

Third Graders Today!


#sol18 May 15, 2018

Today I was out for a professional development workshop (Apple Innovator), which sounded great two months ago when it was arranged. Last week we had three unplanned days off (one for the election and then the two days afterward were declared holidays), which sounded great at the time (and allowed me to get lots done on report writing), but added mega stress when we were back at school yesterday (units are supposed to be assessed, the end of year is looming, etc., etc.) while I scrambled to write sub plans for today- trying to get the balance right of work that a guest teacher could deliver easily, would be useful to the students and would help me meet some of my “this time of year” goals.

Yesterday I shared the plans with my students (they gave it a thumbs up), sent the plans to the teacher, and felt good about the day ahead.

Fast forward to this morning and while waiting for the workshop to begin I checked my email and learned that the counselor would not be in for our end of day lesson. Plan B is what I emailed to the teacher next door to pass on to her.

Now it is evening and after a full day, I am wondering how the day at school went. I was able to get a tiny window into the day two ways. I left two assignments for the students to complete in a half hour before recess- a survey and a Flipgrid. I just looked through both and learned so much! I already knew (of course!) that these kids love books- they had lots to say about their recommendations for summer reading (sometimes so much that they got cut off). I could also see and hear lots going on in the room… The survey was an inspiration a few days ago- I wanted a quick way to get some feedback from the students to add some of their voice to their reports- I got that for sure!

The end of year is full of busy, that is for sure, but today I got a reminder of the joy and community too! With only 15 1/2 student days left I better soak all of that up too!

How Do They Say Thank You?


#sol18- May 8, 2018

I am preparing to move and my to-do list seems endless as moving coincides with the end of a busy school year, of course. A few weeks ago I received a lovely email from our class mom, asking for ideas for an end of year gift for me from the class. The tradition at our school is that the room parent sends an email out asking parents who want to contribute toward a group gift the room parent will organize to send in x ringgit. My awkward response made it clear that I hate that kind of question. I basically reminded her that I would soon be packing up everything, so what I would really love was notes from the students.

This afternoon I received a second plea:

“sorry to bother you again about this but I have received a substantial amount and I really would like it to be well spent!
Can you please think of something that you still need or that would make you happy? Books, gift cards, wine, new toaster, anything?
Or maybe you can use the donations for something you still need to get/do?”
Now I am torn. Of course, there really is nothing I “need”. My default is always books, it is really an integral part of who I am. Realistically, the books I want are not available here yet. I thought about a gift voucher to buy new books in my new country, but from what I hear my book buying frenzy may grind to a halt there, as there just isn’t much access to new English books in Cambodia. I then thought of Room to Read, an organization that I have been happy to support over the years. Will the parents understand that a donation in our class’s name really would make me so happy? What more could anyone want than to spread literacy and a love of reading? I know I could also ask for it to go to an Amazon gift voucher that I could use this summer while in the US to buy a few of the professional books on my list of summer self-directed PD. In the end I think I will pass on these ideas to her and let her decide, but before I do, I wonder if any of you have great ideas of what I should do?