Wow! This Is Really “The Rainy Season”!

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#sol17- April 25, 2017

The rainy season here usually ends by now, but wow, not this year!

Today we were on our way to Pilates after school- traffic was crazy bad and it was dry, so the rain could not even be an excuse. “What in the world was going on?” I wondered as it was just before 4 and traffic is usually okayish then. We knew the rain was coming- the sky had darkened and promptly at 3:45, when after school activities end and the kids have to head to the buses the lightning alarm had gone off.

We crept along the highway and then the skies opened up. Violent thunderstorms are the norm here, but this time the rain was pelting down too. My friend, Maggie turned her windshield wipers to high, but still struggled to see. Within seconds the road was flooded. Traffic really crawled then. During heavy rains the many motorcyclists often take refuge under overpasses, water was gushing down all around them.

Drivers do not believe in leaving distance here, so it was tight quarters. We edged onto the main highway again where 3 two lane roads merge into one two lane road- not for the faint hearted with all the rain! Then we passed some construction sites on the hill nearby and instead of water it was thick, sandy water cascading down the hillside and covering the road. Still her car battled through. Finally we got close to our destination- the roads were less flooded and the rain had slowed to a heavy storm.

Parking we heaved a sigh of relief to brave the walk to the fitness room. We arrive drenched, more than 30 minutes late, but with another crazy rainy drive under our bet. It took us more than an hour to drive the 6 km). Ready to exercise!

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This picture is actually from 2 weeks ago- different route. 

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Ah, the feeling of confidence as you drive by a mini van that is this deep!

 

Wait, What?!

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#sol17- April 18, 2017

It was still dark as I slipped into the back seat of the taxi (don’t judge- taxis are quite cheap here, traffic is terrible, they drive on the other side of the road, and I made the decision before I moved here that the world would be a better place if I did not drive here). I went on with my normal routine- checking email, Facebook, and Twitter, and catching up on the news on my 20 minute ride to school.

“Uh, oh,” I thought to myself, as Sharul, my sometimes morning driver pulled over to the side of the road. I wondered what the problem was.

“Police,” he said quietly to me.

I was surprised because I had not heard a siren (and I knew that here drivers do not usually pull all the way over for a siren, but edge over slightly and maintain speed). I have heard many stories of the police here pulling over people and expecting a bribe- so I wondered what was next.

Sharul rolled down his window as the officer approached. The officer spoke to him in Bahasa and he responded. The only word I recognized was “sekolah”, which is school. Then the officer left and we pulled back onto the road.

As we drove off Sharul explained, “Once I told him you were a teacher and I am taking you to school he let me go. Teachers are very respected here. Many people will even salute teachers when they see them.”

I explained to him that this was not my experience in general in other places, that often people do not often look up to teachers at all.

It was definitely not how I expected to start my day, but it was nice to know that some people think that our job is important. I often tell people that I have the best job in the world- and I mean it!

****Totally unrelated…A few of my students are still slicing. You can see their posts here as they arrive: Juliet Zhi Hong

A Fun Way to Spend a Saturday Morning

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#sol17- April 11, 2017

Saturday morning a group of us met for a coffee before walking over to a nearby “school”. This school was special- it is affiliated with MSRI (Malaysian Social Research Institute)- and houses a school for refugees. Teachers from my school were volunteering to teach workshops to teachers who work with refugees here in Malaysia. The teachers are not professionals, receive little training, and are trying to do their best for their students. Many of the “teachers” are refugees themselves and have aged out of the schools, so are now volunteering to teach. The teachers have expressed that they would love help with lesson planning, classroom management, building routines, and developing community. My friend, E. and I immediately thought of Morning Meeting (thank you Responsive Classroom) as it is how we start each day in our own classrooms.  A third teacher wanted to join us and we quickly planned our session.

This Saturday morning we taught our session twice. We worked with just over 20 teachers. We heard stories of their challenges with attention issues, learning issues, kids who are so tired and stressed. Although the students they work with are different from ours, we could readily see so many similarities too. It was great to have time at the end of each session for the teachers to ask us questions and we could brainstorm possible ideas. It felt like a sharing session and I know that I benefitted from hearing their stories and thinking more deeply about my practice.

As we were leaving the second session I caught up with one of the teachers. I recognized her from two years ago when her school used to come to ours one afternoon a month. Her school was for Somali refugees and some of our fifth graders worked with a group of teachers to plan activities for the visitors to help them speak more English. “Yes,” she said, “I used to be at the Fugee school, but I got too old, but my sister is still there.”  It is so hard to be a refugee here is what I thought to myself.

Opportunities to volunteer like this is part of why I moved to Southeast Asia- I am at a stage in my life where I have some extra time and I would like to be able to volunteer more regularly. I am glad that there are people at my school who help to keep opportunities like this on my radar so that I can get more involved.

The feedback to the organizers of our Saturday session was good. I am already starting to think about what we can share next. I am feeling grateful that in small ways I can be a part of the community here.

***Unrelated blogposts by slicers in my class who still keep slicing.

Juliet

Sejin

Zhi Hong

The Mystery of the Cold Floor

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#sol17- April 4, 2017

I live in Malaysia and you can bank on the weather being hot. I also live with a cat, so I leave the ceiling fan on in the living room during the day because otherwise, it is so hot I would worry about her. Imagine my surprise last week when I came home, took off my shoes and left them in the shoe closet outside my apartment door, and stepped inside to notice that a few of the floor tiles were cold- really cold.

I really thought no more about it, after deciding that maybe I had a new downstairs neighbor who really airconditioned their apartment to such a level that I was getting some benefit in my place. For the next few days I noticed the cold tiles again, but no problem. Then on Wednesday night, I noticed moisture on the cold tiles. It looked like condensation- lots of small droplets on the tiles, with nothing in the grout between the tiles and no obvious leak from above. Weird! I was puzzled and did not want the water to damage anything so I texted the air conditioning service person I had used in December to do my semi-annual air conditioning service visit, to make sure it was not anything air conditioning related. I discovered that cranking up my ac kept the water at bay.

Saturday morning he arrived with a ladder, some tools, and his assistant. After a brief check in the air conditioning above the water, he declared the system sound. He had a humidity reader that told him the level in the apartment was normal. He also had some kind of laser thermometer which showed that indeed the temperature of a few of the large floor tiles was a few degrees cooler than the others. He was perplexed. He phoned his friend, a plumber, who proposed that maybe there was a leaking pipe under the floor. Apparently,  sand surrounds floor pipes and is there to absorb some water. When the sand is “too full” of water it has to go somewhere. This sounded strange to me, but I am no expert, so I immediately stopped using water in the bathroom nearest the cold tiles and texted my landlord. I went downstairs thinking I might knock on the door and see if they had noticed any water issues, but the apartment had clearly not been occupied yet, as there was still plastic on the door. Then I wondered if the agent had perhaps shown the place recently and turned the ac on quite a low temperature to cool it quickly for visitors and forgotten to turn it off upon leaving.

After describing the situation to my landlady she said she would send “uncle”, a master plumber, over after lunch. Uncle is a term of respect for an older Chinese man here in Malaysia. I waited and waited, and just before 3 got a message that “uncle” was afraid to leave home since it was raining so hard near his home (I think because that meant that traffic would be bad, but…). I reinforced to her that I was worried that the water may end up damaging her property or the apartment downstairs and she promised that he would be by in the morning. I kept running the air conditioning at a quite cool temperature, so that gave me some peace of mind.

The next morning she texted me that he was near and then asked that I go down and meet him to get him past security. She told me that he did not speak a word of English and that I could communicate with him via sign language and call her for translation as needed. Uncle was indeed elderly and drove up on his motor bike. He carried no tools, no equipment- nada! After patting the tiles by hand he called the landlady. He told her it must be condensation from the apartment below because there was no sign of water damage on the walls (I think something must have been lost in translation here, but that is all she repeated back to me). She said they would contact the apartment management company early Monday morning to see if they could get someone to go into the apartment downstairs and see if the problem was there. I told her that I would keep my ac running to minimize the water, but she said there was no need (I ignored her- I did not want water everywhere).

By Monday morning my landlady had started a Whatsapp group for me, her husband, and their agent, so that we could all know what was happening. After they contacted management they discovered that a few other apartments had had similar issues. They would try to contact the owners or property agent for the condo. I told her again that I would leave the ac running and she responded with several confusing messages. Throughout the day my phone had many notifications. The landlord was frustrated that they could not reach the management company again (I could have told them that the company is like a black hole). The agent suggested a plumber she had worked with for another property and was ready to make an appointment when the landlord suggested we wait until we heard from management again.

Tuesday I left for work with some water on the floor, so reduced the temperature again. At the end of the school day, I had a message waiting- “…She has contacted the owner of the unit below, and the assistant came to switch off the aircond. It appears that the aircond has been left running for the past 5 days, causing dampness to the ceiling. Erika, let me know if the problem persists.”

Yippee- now I am hopeful that the “problem” is fixed. Of course, there is still the question of construction- how can the ac downstairs affect my apartment so much- that seems sketchy, but for now I am hoping that this is the last of the mysterious puddles!

 

 

********Totally unrelated: Some of my students wanted to continue slicing and wanted to share their slices- I promised I would link them on the bottom of my weekly slices, more may or may not appear throughout the day. Grade 3 Slicers: Zhi Hong did not know he would get some surprises!

Three Years Later

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#sol17- Day 31/31- March 31, 2017

As you know, today is the last day of the Slice of Life Challenge-whether it was your first year or your tenth, I am sure that you have grown as a writer this month. I did not think I would write a reflection for a last slice, but my slices have a way of just showing up on my computer screen (#pantser) , so here I am.

This I Believe (after a NPR podcast a friend just shared with me helped to change my format)

This year I only wrote one poem (or maybe not even one)- in past years I wrote more poetry. I did not vary my slices enough this year- I tend to write like a reporter-boring!

This year I did not make an idea list, but I saw that several people did and I saved them in case I ever needed an idea- turns out I never looked at them.

This year I was one of the welcome wagon commenters, as I was last year- I was lucky enough to have such a varied group to follow- several of whom blogged every day:)

It was great fun (and often very inspirational) to slice with my third graders and a few former students. Some of them are going to keep slicing.

It was great to have some colleagues try it with their classes for the first time.

I did not comment on as many slices as I read and I feel badly about that, as I know how important comments are.

I know from past experience that I will not feel like I suddenly have more free time tomorrow, just like I know that next March I will magically find time to squeeze the chaos in again.

There are a lot of amazing writers in our community- I know in the future I will read books and say, “I remember reading her/his slices.”

What starts out feeling like a chore, becomes a habit, and I have to try to maintain the momentum and write more regularly.

I will see you here next Tuesday.

I Don’t Want to Write a Poem Today!

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#sol17- Day 30/30- March 30, 2017

One of the things I struggle with in teaching is when kids “have to” do something. I LOVE the TC units of reading and writing and know they allow for lots of student choice, but somehow kids yearn for even more choice at times. I reconcile this in my own head by trying to have “Free Choice Friday” where students can have class time to read or write the genre of their choice.

Today was Thursday and D. said, “I don’t want to write a poem today, I just want to write a story.”

We talked briefly about what he saw as the differences and then I suddenly said, “It sounds like you have a beginning of a poem.” We had just finished a mini lesson focusing on rhythm and repetition, which had included some “back and forth”. I suggested he could start with “I don’t want to…, then go on to I just want to” and then see what came next. He liked this idea and then started brainstorming all the things he didn’t want to do, but what he’d rather do instead.

A few minutes into his drafting his friend came over to remind him that they had started a poem in two languages that they wanted to finish. They huddled together drafting in English, then Russian and Serbian.

When writing time was over and I called them to the carpet D. was the last one to come. “I just have three more words I want to write,” he said.

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part and for him, it was then hard to stop.

Tomorrow is Friday and there will be some time for Free Choice Friday. Who knows what he will write.

Last Slicer Lunch

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#sol17- Day 29/31- March 29, 2017

Our elementary campus runs on a 6-day rotating schedule (although we only have 5 days of school a week), so when I decided to do a weekly lunch with my third grade slicers I went for “Day 2” rather that a day of the week, so I would not have to reschedule when I have duty.  Today was our last slicer lunch. The thrill of slicer lunch is that they bring their lunch to the classroom and we talk writing. We have had as many as all students there to a low of 12/19 of the students attend. Today we reflected on the challenge and contributed to the class slicing share that Kathleen Sokolowski is putting together. They wanted to know if they could keep slicing, and I answered, “Of course!”

Today we reflected on the challenge and contributed to the class slicing share that Kathleen Sokolowski is putting together. They wanted to know if they could keep slicing, and I answered, “Of course!”

I showed them a few former students who still slice occasionally and are nearing their 100th slice. They know that I slice on Tuesdays throughout the year and asked if they could too. “Of course you can, but there is no special link up page, ” I answered. One quick thinking student suggested, “When you post your blog you could add a link to ours.”

One quick thinking student suggested, “When you post your blog you could add a link to ours.” I agreed that I would if they remind me. They also remarked that they could send their blog out to everyone they know. These kids have developed a taste for writing knowing that they have a real audience. It is funny because not as many kids have blogged as regularly as I would have guessed, but still, they like sharing their voice and what more could I ask for? I love our writing community.

*** Here is the link to our SOL blog.