Monthly Archives: October 2017

I’ve Got (No) Rhythm


#sol17- October 31, 2017

Today we looked at report card deadlines for first semester and I died a little inside. Sure, first semester does not end until December 15, but deadlines come much sooner than that. This first semester has been filled with holidays, which sounds nice in theory, but has wreaked havoc on my love of flow.

We started school on a Tuesday (August 8). Now I prefer to have the first week start on a Thursday (or a Wednesday), but all went well, so it was fine. That was followed by a complete week of school and we were starting to build routines. Malaysia is a country that has three main cultures (Malay, Indian, and Chinese) and then the holidays started.

Days off so far:

  • Thursday, August 31- National Day
  • Friday, September 1-Hari Raya Haji (the local Malaysian name for the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, “the Feast of Sacrifice”)
  • Monday, September 4- public holiday declared by the prime minister because Malaysia did so well in the South East Asia Games that had just concluded (this was announced just a few days before and a PD day that we had scheduled in second semester has been rescinded as a result)
  • Friday, September 8- King’s birthday
  • Friday, September 22- Awal Muharam (the beginning of the Islamic new year)
  • Monday and Tuesday October 9 and 10 (Parent Conferences)
  • Wednesday, October 18-Tuesday, October 24 -Deepavali (teachers had a PD day on the Monday)

So, last week we had just three days of teaching and this week we begin a stretch of 5 day school weeks (but only four such weeks, because December 1 we have the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and December 11 it is the Sultan of Selangor’s birthday).

Now if all this sounds peachy to you I ask you to consider this week. Today was Halloween and although it is not really celebrated here you would not know it from the malls! The students are allowed to come to school in costume although we are not allowed to have parties. Suffice it to say excitement was high! On Friday we have Deepavali Cultural Day at school, where the students can come dressed in traditional Indian clothing. We have an assembly highlighted by some dance performances and a time set aside to visit the “hallway activities” where students get to try treats, make crafts, etc. We also have a cultural day like this for Malaysia Day/Hari Raya (celebrated already this year) and Chinese New Year (still to come).

Lots of excitement happening here for sure, but it sure makes it hard for me to find my rhythm (and I know at least some of the students feel the same way). I am already getting stressed and nervous about all the semester one common assessments that have to be done in time for reports (never mind writing the reports). Holidays are a good thing and I love this multicultural country, but it sure has made for a choppy first semester. Anyone with timeshifting talents please feel free to send tips my way as I try to get it all done (and find my rhythm too)!


*Another slice from Zhi Hong (former student).

This Is Just to Say


#sol17- October 25, 2017

This is just to say,

I didn’t write yesterday,

even though I planned to.

Instead, I spent time with a good friend in a hospital,


once again,

how important,

how hard it can be to be so far away from family.

Feeling grateful that I could be there for her, with her.




Zhi Hong is still slicing (former student).

The Magic of Read Aloud


#sol17- October 17, 2017

This quarter has been tricky- lots of days off, which sounds lovely, but has made it hard for us all to find our rhythm. Today (Tuesday) is our last day of school as we then have a 6-day break (5 days for teachers) that spans Deepavali. After this break, we have a solid chunk of time teaching in the second quarter. Some students began their break early and most of the staff at school who are of Indian descent took leave today to prepare for their holiday. The excitement was definitely in the air!

Two of my colleagues were leaving right from school to catch a flight, so I offered to take their classes for the last few minutes of the day so they could leave quickly. In our classroom, as we finished cleaning up we welcomed the other students. As we waited for the last class to join us we talked about what we were reading and what we would read over break. My class had already had an extra book shopping time to load up their backpacks with some extra books to read.

All found a place on the floor and settled in for a story. I began the routine that my own class knows well- undressing the book, looking at the end pages and getting our minds ready for the story. Only one student knew the book already, yet they were all buzzing excitedly as we began. I told them that it was the first of four books with shared characters.


Throughout the reading, the giggles and groans told me that the students were totally hooked. As the dismissal bell rang we closed the book and gathered bags to go home. It was a perfect ending to a rather frenetic day and a great way to celebrate our love of books!


This I Know


#sol17- October 10, 2017

After two busy days of three-way conferences (parent-teacher-student), my brain is a bit sizzled, so tonight I reflect on what I know (or know again) after this round of conferences:

  • Some students are exactly the same at home and at school, so parents nod and smile a lot
  • Some students are so different with their parents there (some sillier, others more serious)
  • Most students took the conference really seriously and wanted to show their best
  • It is a different kind of tired after two days of talking to parents all day
  • Conferences should never be at the start of the week- we teachers are exhausted now and the kids have just had a 4-day weekend, so we are at a disadvantage in terms of energy levels
  • The reflections they wrote before were so honest and spot on- these kids know themselves well
  • It is harder to be a third grader now than when I was a kid (the level of reading, writing, and math they are expected to achieve really is remarkable, no wonder we teachers feel pressure too)
  • Many students are operating in a second or third language all day at school and they really have double the effort when they face home language work when they get home
  • Having the time to talk with parents gives you a new perspective on the students’ lives outside of school (on so many levels)
  • While the conferences set purpose is to reflect on progress thus far and set goals they also help me to know my students better
  • I am grateful I have this group of students this year- with almost one-quarter of the school year behind us we have lots to look forward to!


**** Zhi Hong (student from last year) keeps slicing!

Community and Faraway Family


#sol17- October 3, 2017

A few weeks ago I got an email from the mom of one of my students. Until that point, it had always been the dad who emailed, as he is the stay at home parent. She was letting me know that her husband was going to be back “home” for three weeks helping take care of a family situation. Living here in Kuala Lumpur, Canada is very far away,  but thanks to technology the father and son were able to keep in close touch.

This student loves to chat and often works his way to the front of the line at the end of the day so that he has extra talk time with me. Yesterday he was a little disappointed- his dad was supposed to be home on the weekend, but had to extend his time away.

Then last night I got an email from the mom- her husband’s father had died, he just did not recover from the heart surgery he had recently had. She let me know that her son would be in class today, but that they would then be flying to Canada and not return until after our October break. She said that she would work with him a bit on schoolwork while away.

In my response, I, of course, started with expressing my condolences. I let her know that I knew that family time was the priority at this time, but promised to keep her son informed. I also let her know that today if her son wanted some quiet time during any of the recesses he could just stay in class.

First thing in the morning he came on up. “Was it the grandfather that you write and talk about so much?” I asked.

“No, this was my other grandfather- he was my oldest grandparent,” he said and after expressing my sympathy I showed him how to access his email, Google Drive, and Google Classroom on a computer that he had not previously used (as his school computer stays at school). I promised him that I would write him from time to time and keep him somewhat up to date on what was going on.

As the day went on he kept dropping hints to his classmates that he was not going to be at school for awhile. “Are you sure you do not want to say anything?” I asked.

“Okay,” he said, “at the end of the day.”

Then in the next minute, he said, “Okay, you can tell them now.”

After I told the class the reason he would be missing many students commiserated and told him stories of their grandparents who had already died (and in some cases their unedited versions of how and why they may have died).

It was heartwarming to see the natural and open way the students spoke to him and the relief he seemed to feel after sharing his news. We will miss him over the next three weeks, but I know that the students will welcome him back when he returns. Although his biological family is in Canada, his school family is here for him too.



*** Former student, Zhi Hong, keeps slicing.