Monthly Archives: November 2017

An Empty Mailbox Tells a Story


#sol17- November 28, 2017

Today I walked with a colleague through the faculty room and he stopped to pick up his large, white envelope. Contract day was yesterday, the Board had approved the details of the new employment package, and new contracts were ready for signing. Although every school does it differently at this school contracts are renewed for two years usually, with people who are trying to keep their options open opting for a one year renewal. Contracts were issued yesterday with a due date back of December 4. This is when the whispered conversations at may go into high gear. We already know who used the “early tell” deadline in October to get a $1000 bonus if they announced at that early date that they would not be returning next year. The interim period between then and December 4th is fraught with nerves. Some people know they are staying (always the great majority), but who would be seriously looking for a change vs who would be sending out feelers “just in case”?

This year I opted for “soft recruiting”- which meant I would be having a look around but was not willing to commit to actually leaving. I knew I could be perfectly happy staying another year at my current school, even though some people I really value were likely moving on (including a couple who used “early tell”). Recruiting in international schools is a huge process and starts with the decision of how you are going to look (there are various agencies you can sign up with that offer services that include hosting recruiting fair, giving you access to lists of schools with openings, online portals for references, etc.).

As luck would have it (and helped along by a colleague with some knowledge of my wants and needs) my short list was short (but so was my timeline as I was not willing to take a chance on a job happening after the contract due date at my current school).

So today, as my colleague retrieved his contract from his mailbox there was no white envelope for me. Two weeks ago I signed a contract with another school- my future home- and although it feels good and right, it feels a bit sad too for sure. It is a time of mixed emotions- some colleagues are still looking for their next job (and may decide to stay in the next few days), while others are already sorted (heading to other parts of Asia, North America, South America, Europe, and Africa), or staying right here happily. The good news is that this is all way in the future shifting and we have more than 6 months left together. But today my empty mailbox gave me pause and made me think about how much I need to cram in these “last 6 months” to soak in all the good that is here. I am not ready to be gone yet!

Pub PD Anyone?


#sol17- November 21, 2017

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I am a creature of habit (usually). On most Tuesdays after school I host “Book Love”, an after-school activity, then head to Pilates, then home to write my slice, well hold the presses- tonight I am shaking it up! I am skipping Pilates (insert guilt- I do soooo little exercise!) and after dropping off my school bag and making my overnight oatmeal to take to school in the morning I braved a monsoon (literally) to get picked up by a friend- we were off to #PubPDAsia.

The premise is simple- educators all over Asia were to meet in a pub, in the city where they live and take social networking back to face to face. We had a question scheduled every 15 minutes for an hour (all centering around student voice). For the first ten minutes (of every 15) we were to talk to the people with us and then tweet out our big ideas. In the end there were only four of us in the Kuala Lumpur location, but due to the set up we had a good discussion- both in person and online. Going out on a school night is rarely in my plans, but an hour was a perfect treat (although we then spent more time at a great local Indian restaurant). It was fun to “see” friends (and former colleagues) checking in from all over Asia all chatting about the same topics. We are already making plans for the next meet up and thinking about a more convenient location (KL has so many schools in a big area and horrible traffic, so location is everything). I am grateful for a PLN- live and online!

Sharing the TC Love


#sol17- November 14, 2017

While I am a self=professed PD junkie and I love to share what I learn I shy away from sharing at more formal opportunities. When I lived in Germany I did present a few times at the Association for German International Schools Teacher Conference, but I warned all my friends and colleagues away. I have also presented at a few EdCamps and nErDcamps, but those felt okay. We have a tradition (off and on) at my current school of TTTs (Teachers Teaching Teachers sessions)- some years there are whole school versions and I even did that once (again, asking friends to stay away- one disobeyed). This year the elementary school has revived these sessions at the ES campus, and since it was partly at my insistence I felt like I should offer a workshop. Last summer a colleague and I both had the opportunity to attend the TC Advanced Writing Institute so we could share together. We signed up in September and were assigned the first spot- in November- comfortably far in the future.

Fast forward to last week and we were scrambling to find times to get together to plan this week’s share.  We met twice (complicated by me completely forgetting one meeting due to meeting overload) and decided on a “Top Ten Takeaway” format, with each of us responsible for five, as we had attended different sessions and teach different levels. When planning separately we found our ideas built on each other’s well and it seemed manageable- after all, it is report writing season and our colleagues would be grateful if we kept it short and sweet. The TTT sessions are optional, so we knew we would not have a huge crew there, but still, I maintain that presenting to colleagues is the most intimidating kind of pressure. I assumed Araceli was a confident presenter because she is so outgoing, but she admitted her apprehension as well.

In the end, we had had about 15 colleagues show up, including our principal and vice principal, ESL teachers, LR teachers, and classroom teachers from grades 1-5. We shared our takeaways, answered questions, and then breathed a sigh of relief- we had a very supportive audience (and we were done). As we spoke briefly afterward we both appreciated the experience- it had helped us remember what we had learned and spread some tips we wanted to share. It had also pushed us both outside of our areas of comfort, which is almost always a good thing (in fact Araceli says she wants to present again).




Zhi Hong (student from last year) keeps slicing and would love some comments!

Joy Writing (and Reading too!)


#sol17- November 7, 2017

My afterschool activity has morphed this year and it has been so fun to watch it evolve. For the last few years, I have offered an ASA I call “Book Love”. The premise is that we start with a read aloud and/or some book trailers and then we read or write (or both). Usually, most of the students have read.

This year I have 18 students from Grade 2-5, 12 boys and 6 girls. Six of those students were in my homeroom last year (and one of them said sweetly today, “I really miss this room!”). This year more of the students than ever before are choosing to write – the numbers being more or less even. What I notice is that many of the boys are enjoying writing collaboratively- either planning a series together and writing separately, or choosing an idea and each writing their own spin. What I also notice is that some of these students really want to share their writing (and sadly today we did not have time for this in the end- that will be corrected next time). I love listening to them as they write- talking about the influences on their writing (“You know, just like in the book…”) or what they will write next. There are lots of great graphic novels being created and many other forms as well! One little girl (who is a prolific writer) spent the entire hour without putting a word on the page once she made her book, but she was busy the whole time, watching others, engaging in the conversations, and thinking.

Then there are the readers, often sprawled out on the floor, calling out thoughts as they come (“Why is this line, ‘I am your father’ so well known?”, “Do you have the most recent one in this series?” “Did you get Dog Man back yet from whoever had it?” ). A few of the fourth grade boys take turns having “The Pigeon” sit by them as they read.

I love this no stress hour each week where we can come together as readers and writers and just do what we want! It is easy to see the joy.



*** Zhi Hong and the emergency room.