Monthly Archives: March 2015

SOLC31- March 31, 2015 Wow!


March 31, 2015

I have to be completely honest- I never imagined that I would be able to slice for 31 days straight (and comment on at least 3 slices each day as well).

Some of my major takeaways:

  • It was more fun than I thought it would be
  • It was as much work as I anticipated
  • I still have lots of ideas written down for future slices (ha, that means I will slice in the future!)
  • I only drafted on paper a few times- I thought I always would because I am not a great typist
  • I loved doing this challenge with my students- sometimes we even tried the same ideas in our slices
  • Comments can help keep you going
  • There are so many ways to slice
  • I am a better teacher of writing because of this
  • I would recommend this to all (teachers especially)
  • I need to branch out into more genres/forms of writing
  • I got so many great ideas from this community (not just for writing)
  • I want to keep slicing throughout the year
  • I am going to be a little “lost” tomorrow- look for me on Twitter @Victortweets
  • I want to thank everyone who is part of the slicing community- thanks for writing, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting. Thanks especially to the wonderful organizers and veterans who started it all.
  • See you next Tuesday???

SOLC30- March 30, 2015 When Will I Learn?


March 30, 2015

When Will I Learn?

I keep thinking that after just over 8 months in country I will start being able to plan things better, but I am realizing that there are just too many variables that I can not predict to make my life ordinary and that is part of what I love and hate about life in Malaysia!

Today the air conditioning service man was due to come at 11. I arranged this last week and was even going to take him to the apartments of 4 colleagues’ so that we could all get our semi-annual obligation out of the way (personally I think the management company or owners of the apartments should sort this out, but that is another story!). I was hesitant to contact the service man via phone because I sometimes have trouble communicating clearly enough so I arranged it all by text and it seemed like we understood each other. I was really happy to get a text just before 11 from the man telling me he was on his way (I have heard many horror stories from others about service people who just never show up). Sure enough at about 11:20 two men showed up and after nearly an hour my air conditioners were serviced (what that means I do not really know- I did see filters being washed and a lot of banging was going on). We went on to the other apartments (3 of the 4 people are away on break, so I had keys and waited at each apartment). As we are all in the same complex the setup is fairly similar so the other apartments were quicker and just after 2:00 I was free.

I Skyped with my older son yesterday and had agreed to transfer some money to his bank account. I tried to do this online, but I had too many doubts about what to do, so I headed off to the bank. I congratulated myself on asking him 101 questions yesterday, including his passport number, Swift code, etc. I even thought to bring my own passport, having been turned away from various endeavors by not having my passport with me in the past. I asked  the front desk, was given a form to fill out, and a number to wait my turn. I waited and waited and waited and then they skipped my number! I flashed my number to the man who had taken the person after me and he told me to sit down and wait (hmph!). After finishing with that customer, I was helped and happily I had all the right information and documentation. I had to leave my passport and the form with him and return to me seat, to, you guessed it, wait. After a few minutes, he called me up again and asked for my profession, which I had neglected to fill in on the form. Once completing that I was given my passport and a receipt and apparently the money will be transferred. Fingers crossed!

After checking out the bookstore (of course) and grabbing a quick bite to eat I headed for the bus home. It looked like the rain had already come and gone, but, oh no- the traffic! I forgot about the after work traffic in KL! It took me less than 10 minutes to get downtown, but more than 90 minutes to get back. I was smooshed standing up, so I could not even read. The bus was so packed that I could not even get off at my stop, but got off shortly after and walked back.

Now I am back home and grateful that I am on break, so getting home later than planned does not really matter. I will keep the traffic in mind when I head to a concert tomorrow night. Really I could tell so many stories of surprising turns of events here, but this is just a snapshot of my day today.

SOLC29- March 29, 2015 5 Things I Loved About This Week


March 29, 2015

5 Things I Loved About This Week (in no particular order)

  1. Reading Plans- As is our habit before a break we shared our reading plans in class. This time I had them talk with a partner to share. Then I set them free to book shop. Usually they are allowed to keep up to 4 books in their book box at a time (and only one from the classroom is supposed to go home at night, more can from the school library). Today I told them that they could take home as many as they wanted- they just had to write the titles and their names on a sticky and try to read them over break. You should have heard the excitement!
  2. A New Reader- The parent of a new student shared that his child does not really read beyond the time that the parent reads with the child at night. This week I saw signs that this is changing. He took a few books for his book box the first day and read them, sort of. When he was ready to exchange books I walked over to the class library with him and introduced him to a few graphic novels. He tore through the Ricky Ricotta books that we have in the classroom and was ready two days later for more. I told him that one of his classmates had really enjoyed the series and also liked The Flying Beaver Brothers. He skeptically took one. Friday in our book shopping frenzy he took the other 4 in the series and he was really excited to take them home to share with his parents.
  3. 24 Hour Skype- Beverly Ladd, a teacher I “know” from Twitter had this idea that she would do a 24 hour Skype with her students to introduce them to students all over the world. We collaborated on a Padlet earlier in the year to introduce the two classes and Friday we were the 29th of 33 classes she had scheduled. It was an interesting way for us to spend time in the hour before break started (I was down to 13 students at that point from the normal 20).
  4.  Slice of Life Challenge- On an average day we have had 12 or so students slicing. I love the way it has encouraged us to try new formats and the fact that we are looking at everyday things differently. Many times during sharing a student will comment, “That sounds like a good slice.” I was not sure about jumping into this myself for the first time this year, but I am so glad I did and so glad that I encouraged my students to join in too.
  5. Spring Break = Change of Pace- Break started Saturday and I can already feel a change. I love having time to do what I love (reading, planning, catching up on Twitter). Yesterday I did not feel great (conjunctivitis due to allergies), but because it was the start of break it did not stress me out at all. I went and got medicine, shopped for books, did some reading and spent more time on Twitter than I have in weeks. I can already tell that I will return to school feeling refreshed and ready for the last two months of the school year. I love my job, but I also need my time away so that some balance is enforced.

Have a great week ahead!

SOLC28- March 28, 2015 Spring Break Plans or Not


March 28, 2015

Spring Break Plans

Today was the first day of Spring Break and I have almost no plans. I think I am okay with this, but I hope it stays true.

Here are my plans:

  • Read, read, read (#bookaday is my plan)
  • Go to two concerts (Tuesday and Friday night, both at the Malaysian Philharmonic. The first is the MPO with the YouthMPO playing together in a chamber concert- tickets were only about $15. The second is advertised as “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” and I love jazz.
  • Do a tiny bit of school work (nerd alert- I spent some time this morning sketching out our nonfiction research/writing unit and checking which books to use for mini-lessons. I will plan the reading lessons and mark two small assignments).
  • Book my summer flights-really must do this! Due to Malaysian tax laws I am here until July 2, but then I will head to the US for 3 weeks. I plan to attend nErDCampMI and the IRA Conference, so I can meet up with other book nerds and meet authors. I will be able to see most of my immediate family in Boston and a few friends too.
  • Get the air conditioning serviced in my apartment and those of a few of my friends’ too, as he is coming here (the only obligation of break).
  • Catch up on some podcasts I like to listen to.
  • Try out a few places to wander in KL.
  • Visit a few book stores (already was at one earlier today).
  • I should go to Ikea and get a few things- not sure if this will happen.
  • Get a massage or two.
  • I really should use the pool and gym here- have not been in either since moving here.
  • With any extra time read, read, read. I have quite a stack of books I want to read (physical and Kindle).
  • I think it sounds relaxing- just hope it is not toooo quiet.

SOLC27- March 27, 2015 Break Starts Now!


March 27, 2015

Break Starts Now!

Cleaning up my classroom (a little) and saying goodbye to colleagues at school it started to sink in- break was really here. I had put up with others blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc about their breaks for the last few weeks, but now it was my time!

Tonight was a birthday celebration for a friend to ease me into relaxation mode. I met up with a friend and we went over to the home of a lovely couple we know. We enjoyed a little bubbly and toasted the man of the hour on his special day! We then went to a nearby venue for drinks in a bar with a lovely view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. We sampled their signature drink- a chili infused mojito- very interesting. Then we moved down the hall to an Italian fusion restaurant and there we each chose our own dish. My seafood pasta was chosen on the waiter’s recommendation and was delicious. I noticed my friend talking to the waiter privately once or twice, but thought nothing of it. We shared the last bit of one friend’s lamb and eggplant canneloni, but not without incident. In the sharing a good portion landed on the clean, white tablecloth. A nasty stain was left behind, deftly covered by flowers left on the table. A few minutes later the chef came out to talk to my friend as it turned out she had asked the waiter to send him out. We complimented him on our meals and she mentioned that a colleague who writes a local food blog had sent us to his restaurant. A few minutes later we got a delicious surprise- the chef sent out a dessert chest for us. It had many shelves each holding tiny treats like macaroons, cheesecake, and a variety of other cakes. It was a delicious meal and a great evening with good friends. As we headed down in the elevator to return home S. remembered she had wanted to end the evening at the rooftop bar, so we headed back up. We walked around, but agreed we were too full and tired to have a nightcap. In addition the other three people are all travelling early in the morning.

The night was a great start to break and will actually be perhaps my only social get togther this week. I am not travelling over break and as is usual at international schools most other people will fly off somewhere else. As for me I plan to use lots of my time for reading. I have a great big stack of books just waiting for me!

Phew- it is break!

SOLC26- The Little Things


March 26, 2015

Today is the day Spring Break Eve Eve. As I write, it is Thursday at 4:30 after a great day at school. I have just spent time getting some things organized, reading students SOL posts, putting them up on a page, returning two huge stacks of books to the library (only to find another pile that will have to wait until tomorrow because the library is now closed, and now before I go home I want to write my post (because my internet at home is so sketchy).

Today four of my 20 students were absent. One has been out since last Thursday (extended holiday), but three others were out sick. When we had Morning Meeting the class felt so much smaller. One student reported that he had had trouble sleeping the night before because he was so excited for the March Book Madness results today (he had to wait until after morning recess to see the results- there *may* have been some shouts involved. In fact, all day long the class felt just a bit smaller and quieter, that is until near the end of the day. We have Math after lunch and recess and today was part one of a geometry assessment. After reviewing some big ideas together, the students set off to work. After  about 15 minutes, the first students tried to pass in their papers, but then dutifully went back to check to check their work. As soon as a few finished there was a bit more noise. One of our routines is that when students finish what they must do in math they can go on to math choices (reading about math, writing about math, math practice, or math games). The students all have their favorites, but today there were some excited game players. As more and more students joined in, the class definitely lost that small, quiet feeling. At the end of the day, two students reminded their classmates that they would not be at school tomorrow, as they were starting break early. I wonder how many will be at school in the end, what with illnesses thrown in the mix too (one student spent the last half hour at school resting in the nurse’s office because he had been feeling unwell all day and was just too tired). I can feel the energy in the class shifting- some so excited for the adventures ahead over break, others sad that they will miss their friends, but all feeling that a break is coming. It is hard to believe that we are already at Spring Break- this year has rushed by and I am already getting a little sad about this great group of kids moving on. We talked about this today as well and the students have begun talking about things we must do before the year ends. A special year is made up of many moments, but today I am thankful that it is Spring Break Eve Eve.

SOLC25- Reality and Not


March 25, 2015

We are finishing up a unit on ancient civilizations in third grade and each child has to create her own civilization and then compare their civilization to one we studied. The students all have a planner where they are taking notes and then they are deciding for themselves how they want to share their own civilization. At the start of the year, we created a poster about ways to share our learning, so as students finish their planners they drift over to the poster unless they already have an idea. We are lucky to have easy access to technology as we have a laptop for every student and a handful of iPads. It is interesting watching their projects evolve. Many students are using Google Slides, some are writing and sketching by hand. There are maps of sites being drawn, with complete keys, new alphabets being created, belief systems morphed, and so much more that shows their synthesis of their new learning. I am there to support when needed as students need supplies or technological advice, but more often they are getting support from their peers. They have criteria set out (that was constructed with them) and they have a deadline (tomorrow afternoon). Each one is completely unique, even when they are trading ideas back and forth.It is times like this that remind me how little the actual content matters. What is important is equipping students with skills and attitudes so that they can access what matters to them when the time is right. What matters is helping students see that their ideas have value and that they can make connections between what they know, what they learn, and what they want to do with all of this. I often wonder what students will remember years from now. I know what I remember from way back in third grade is limited. I remember a few key things and none of it is curriculum based. It is funny to think that in the future our life today will be one studied by those who follow us. I wonder what they will learn about the past by studying our today.

SOLC24- Field Trips Freak Me Out


March 24, 2015

Field Trips Freak Me Out!

Today we had a field trip and I realized that not everyone loves them as much as the students! I am a (bit of a) control freak, which is funny, because it might not be obvious at first. Field trips stress me because of the details. I like to have all my permission slips returned quickly. I like to have too many parents volunteer to chaperone so that we can add more on if plans change. I like to have my students well prepared so that they can get as much from the trip as possible. I like to leave on time so that we can get back because the being out and about stresses me, because you never know what could happen.

Some of my students are currently writing their own versions of Scaredy Squirrel  and today I saw myself in that character. I was all prepared- permission slips, parents, students. The kids came back from a snack and used the toilet and  then we were off. We boarded the bus and then waited, as we were going with another class. Well, we waited and waited and the other class finally came on board and we were off. Sometimes this would make me cranky, but today I was nice and calm.We were going close by, so after a few minutes we were at our destination. After walking the precarious path and crossing the small river, we were at the Klang River Gates. We were there as part of World Water Monitoring Day and the students were conducting various tests in small groups. I did not have a group so that I could help out all five groups from my class and troubleshoot as needed. I helped locate materials, redirected a few students, took one to the outhouse, helped a few cope with mosquito bites, and snapped a few pictures. When we were close to finished with all of our planned activities I had scrap paper for early finishers to sketch or write on. I checked in with the other teacher and her class was nearly ready to go as well. After cleaning up the site we gathered our materials and headed back to the bus. When we reached school I sighed deeply- all students were back safe and sound. Later one realized he left his hat on the bus and another dropped a test tube, but, all in all, the experience was what every field trip should be- a day filled with fun and learning. The parents sure helped, as they were all actively engaged. The students all were great- working cooperatively and focusing on the task at hand while still having plenty of fun. I can’t help but think that the trip would not have gone off so easily if I were not a bit freaked out at the outset. Like Scaredy Squirrel, I saw that sometimes being prepared is the best way to enjoy new experiences.

SOLC23- March 23, 2015- 10 Things About Me


March 23, 2015

10 Things About MeThis was going to be a slice where I wrote about my

This was going to be a slice where I wrote about my sister but that is complicated, so will have to wait for a day when I have more time! Today it is 10 things you should know about me (in no particular order).

1. I am a mom! I have two sons, ages 23 and 21 and they are amazing young men. It is still so weird to me that these grownups are the baby boys from what I swear was just a short time ago, but there you have it. It is hard to have them living so far away (one is working in Boston and the other is finishing up university in Washington, DC), but we stay in touch as best we can. Now I just mother my two silly cats.

2. I love reading! I read with any spare time I have and I love to share books with anyone who will show the slightest bit of interest. I am so thankful that I have discovered The Nerdy Book Club, so that I get more great ideas for books to read and also see that there are others just as book crazy as me! I prefer kidlit, but also do my share of other reading too. I feel one of my main jobs as a third grade teacher is to help students find books they love, so my classroom library is pretty extensive. If you have not read any children’s books recently just ask- I am bound to have a recommendation for you!

3. I feel like I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I think the deal was sealed in second grade when stubborn witch that I am I developed a genuine fever every PE day. The school nurse had to call my mom to pick me up and my mom left work to get me. She was a nursery school teacher that year, so I got to go hang out with the kids there. I had my spy phase (Harriet the Spy) and my detective phase (Nancy Drew), but I spent my afternoons and evenings babysitting as soon as I could. I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I headed off to college, but my dad insisted that I go in undeclared and even told everyone that I was likely to be a lawyer (because I like to argue). Well, needless to say, I graduated with a BA in Elementary Ed and have been a teacher ever since (except for 7 years off when my sons were young-see #1).

4. By Jewish law I am Jewish. My mom found out when I was 15 that she was Jewish (both of her parents were Jewish, but pretended to be Presbyterian because when my grandfather was just starting out as an architect it was harder to be a Jewish architect in New York). As it turned out my grandmother’s “best friend” was really her sister, but they did not admit this because my great aunt was Jewish. This all came out in the open twice- first my mother’s sister found out when she was getting married, but then she also kept it a secret until I was 15 and started asking questions about our genealogy. At this point my aunt told everyone and bit by bit much of the story came out. My grandparents had many stories, and I am sure not all were ever shared. Confusing, eh?!

5. I have moved a lot. When I was young I had lived in 3 apartments by the time I was 3 1/2. I have lived in 3 states in the US and attended 4 different elementary schools. I lived in the same house for junior high and high school (sort of- my parents got divorced, so I bounced back and forth between them). After university (which I did in two countries) I settled in to teach (one school, but three apartments in 5 years). Then I married my now ex and we moved from Maryland to Amsterdam to Hong Kong to Maryland to Warsaw to Maryland to Berlin to Mumbai. In India we split up and I moved back to Berlin and am now in Kuala Lumpur. I have loved everywhere I have lived.

6. In third grade I could beat everyone in the class in arm wrestling. I was quite proud of this!

7. Matt Damon and his brother Kip taught me how to watch baseball. I still remember watching the Red Sox on TV and them teaching me what it all meant. Their mom was a friend of my parents and lived next door (or upstairs?) from my dad’s wife (who was then his girlfriend).

8. When I was 13 I had half of my left lung removed. I had a cough that would not go away, so I had an x-ray to see if it was bronchitis or pneumonia. They saw a spot and could not figure out what it was- TB, cancer, something I swallowed… After lots of tests they decided they would have to operate and take out 2/15 of the lung. When they got in it was bigger than they thought and it was a congenital cyst that could have made my lung collapse at any point.

9. I love Twitter. I have found that it has opened the door to many opportunities for me and my classes and has provided me with lots of professional development.

10. I am pretty shy and do not take the initiative I should take to ask people to do things with me, so I miss out on some fun. I wait for others to invite me to do things and am not as brave as I would like to be so that I do more things on my own.

There you have it- not necessarily the most important things about me, but definitely some insights.

SOLC22- March 22, 2015- 5 Things I Loved About This Week



March 22, 2015

5 Things I Loved About This Week

1. We welcomed a new student- It can be hard joining a class at this time of year, but the “old” students are really stepping up and helping J. get settled. J. also helps himself by being open and doing what he can alone and asking for help when he needs it. He has already started blogging!

2. Authors and illustrators- It is clear to anyone who knows me at all that I LOVE books. Lately, the children of a colleague have taken to hanging out in our classroom before school starts to read, read, read. One day recently they decided to make quick sketches based on the books they were reading. I tweeted the pictures and tagged the authors/illustrators. Within minutes, we had responses from them and the two young illustrators went out the door with an extra bounce in their steps. Their work had been seen and enjoyed by people they admire so much. This is a story they will hold on to forever! Thanks to Ame, Dyckman, Zachariah Ohora, and James Burks!

3. Wolfie the Bunny- I love Ame Dyckman and when I heard that she had a new book coming out I preordered it right away. A friend who has moved back to the US has offered to have her husband (who still lives here) carry stuff to me when he flies back to Malaysia, so I had the book sent to her. Sadly, it did not make it in time to come back with him at the end of February, so I did what any normal book lover would do- I ordered another copy from a local bookstore. Weeks ago, before the book was published I showed the trailer to my after school activity group (it’s called Book Love, so you know we are a fun group!). Every week since they ask me if the book has arrived. Finally, on Tuesday I could share it with them. It was lovely to see 25 second through fifth graders enjoy this new book (yes, one of those book lovers was one of the fan artists mentioned in #2).

4. The writers in the class- As I have mentioned before my students were invited to join in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge. I am amazed at how many of them are slicing daily and how they are taking risks and trying new things as writers. We have used mini lessons I “stole” from other slicers and the students bravely tried new forms. I am also impressed with how they are growing as readers through the challenge. They are making more thoughtful comments on blog posts and trying to help each other grow.

5. The One and Only Ivan- We are coming to the end of this fabulous read aloud. On Friday, as I finished up the section for the day I heard:

“Oh no, can’t you read more?”

“How is this going to end?”

“Ms. Victor your face is all red.” “

“Ms. Victor you have teary eyes.”

“You had tears in your voice as you read that part.”

“I don’t want this book to end.”

A great book is meant to be lived and it is safe to say that the 20 third graders in 3EV are a big part of this story. They are blogging about what is right to do with animals, what it means to be free, keeping promises, friendship, and more. Thank you Katherine Applegate!

We will finish this book on Wednesday and I can already predict that the moment we finish will make my top 5 moments for next week.

Have a great week!