Monthly Archives: July 2018

First Impressions


#sol18- July 24, 2018

Apologies for a short post and the lack of pictures- it has been such a busy week! This week is a Top 5 of first impressions (in no particular order) of my new life in Phnom Penh!

  1. The food- I had heard Phnom Penh was a great city for food and so far that is holding true, not just Khmer food, but all kinds of food! Fresh ingredients and thoughtfully prepared-win!
  2. My new colleagues- I have met many of the new teachers (not all yet) and I am enjoying them. One couple I worked with years ago in Mumbai, but the rest are new  to me- nothing like figuring out a new city together to create bonds!
  3. The hotel- we are staying at a lovely hotel for up to 10 days while we find housing and it is in a great location for exploring the city and so comfortable! I will miss the breakfasts for sure and the people could not be nicer! All this getting used to a new city is sure made nicer by the temporary home we have here!
  4. The school- I had my first view of the school the other day with of few of the newbies because two of them had family in town and wanted to see the school. It is beautiful and exciting- now, must find more bookshelves before my shipment arrives!
  5. Apartment hunting- everyone had said that apartments are in good supply here and it is much easier to get into an apartment quickly. I contacted an agent and arranged to meet him the morning after I arrived. I saw about 20 places the first day. Well, turns out I am not an easy sell- poor man took me out a few more days (with only a few places each of the following days) before on day 4 I narrowed it down to tow places. I then had to decide and when I finally did I was lucky and got my first choice. Another new teacher will be in the building, which is nice. I actually have ro pictures of the place, only some of her place, as I had looked at that one before she decided to take it. Bonus for the agent I used was on the last day I brought another new teacher along and he was able to help her find an apartment too (she actually moved into the building of my second choice apartment). I move in  on Friday- the day I have to be out of the hotel.

The days ahead will be busy, busy, busy! Orientation starts Thursday, my son is in this weekend for a quick visit, and it all get real soon. These first impressions are making me excited and happy here! Goodbye summer, hello new life!

A Busy Start

#sol18 July 17, 2018

Today begins my new adventure- flying from Boston to Detroit to Seoul to Phnom Penh. Although the first flight was domestic, I opted to get to the airport very early for my 8:50 departure, as I was unable to check in online. Of course, that should have set off my alarm bells, but…

I managed to fill all my time- the easy part was repacking suitcases so none exceeded the weight limit, and paying for an extra suitcase (grateful I planned ahead for this as my shipment is not there yet). The hard part- Delta said I had to have a ticket to leave Cambodia within 30 days, as I do not yet have my work visa. The airport WiFi was not great, so my first attempt seemed to not go through, so I tried again. Luckily I was coherent enough in my distress to purchase Phnom Penh- Bangkok, so the total was less than $100 and maybe I can get it refunded. Showing the ticket confirmation was enough and after along wait at Starbucks (not their fault, the line was sooooo long) I was just in time to board flight 1.

Here I sit on flight 3- the first flight was less than two hours, followed by a 13 hour flight, and now this one at 5. Happily all of my layovers allowed me enough time to walk a little, after all that sitting.

Tomorrow I begin the apartment hunt…

Zhi Hong (former student) slices here.

#cyberpd Week 2 Chapters 3 and 4

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Ooops, my time at nErDcampmi had me too busy to post until now, but, Sara Ahmed was there in person:) I am lucky to have learned from her in person several times by now. She gave a NerdTalk that focused on living a “hyphenated life”. By that she meant all the labels attached to us (in her case, one example being the daughter of Indian Muslim immigrants). She talked about trying to get it right on both sides of the hyphen. I might have cried.

In Chapters 3 and 4 I was once again impressed by Sara’s intentional language- I need to focus on this more! She is also great at teaching me more about accountable talk and how to amp it up for students.

I found myself being hyper aware of my own biases after reading this section and it really is something to notice some of them and then purposefully shove them aside.

I have done the drawing activities with students in the past, but now I can see that we can unpack the responses much more fully. (Side note- my pilot was female only because I have recently been reading about Amelia Earhart). I am wondering what texts I might use to replace the Diane Burns poem (p56), as I am not sure if it will be approachable for my students. I will definitely use the identity statements and can see them being added on to at various points in the year.

I like Sara’s reminder to push us to go from a student-centered to a socially minded classroom (p77). Connecting identities to our news is definitely an idea I have not used in the classroom, but I think third graders can do it for sure! Sometimes I am hesitant to bring up news as I know so much can be controversial based on the diversity in our classroom, but I think if it comes from the students it is naturally something that we should talk about, as it is on their radar. I like the nudge to push beyond initial thinking in a scaffolded way. I can see this as a possible kick starter to Genius Hour.

I really want my future colleagues to read this book! I think Sara is right when she says this is worth going through as a community of adults before working with students (and for that I am grateful that we have the #cyberpd community, so if my at school colleagues do not read the book I will be able to reach out to you!). I am glad I will have this book in my suitcase with me as I begin a new school year!



#sol18 July 10, 2018

I am writing this from my fourth trip to camp.

There are so many reasons I have come back again. Today I am in full mooch mode, however. In 6 days I leave for Cambodia and I am reveling in my time here to get in as much in person learning I can do with the many experts here. Admittedly it also is stressing me a bit~will I be able to get all the books I need for my yearly Mock Caldecott? Well, Carrie Davies and Kurt Stroh’s session helped me add to my list of books I have to buy before Monday…luckily, Lesley Burnap’s session on mindfulness, helped bring me back to my goal-soaking in all the goodness and brilliance of the people around me, while I can. I love being able to wonder in the company of all the brilliant minds! Now, off to another session!



Summer Time is All About the Timing


#sol18- July 3, 2018

Summer time is all about timing- what will you prioritize? I have four week in the US this summer and I am trying to cram EVERYTHING in (see last week’s post for example).

Yesterday I worked for hours to get caught up on my online math class, write a blog post for #cyberpd, do some professional reading, and get caught up on Jennifer Serravallo’s free writing summer camp, so today I was going to have a less structured day, with no plans until evening when I would meet my dad and stepmother for dinner. Instead, I had a somewhat sleepless night (food poisoning I think- yuck!). After finally waking up I had a text from my dad- his wife is feeling sick, so dinner was cancelled and he instead suggested a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts instead.

We made plans to meet in the early afternoon, yet I still wanted some time to fulfil some of my summer bucket list, so I headed off to get a bagel and visit an independent book store (Bagelsaurus and Porter Square Books respectively).  I was riding the T, so had time to kill and tweeted out my morning plan. Within a minute I had a reply from the lovely Victoria Coe and she was coming to meet me (we have met before and she knows I love her and her books). After grabbing a Trex at the bagel store I gobbled half on the way (after all, I had a “sensitive” stomach). We had a great visit to the book store and caught up a bit on each other’s life (book 4 in her Fenway and Hattie series is coming out in MAY!). What a bonus to my day! I LOVE that sometimes things just work out.


Let’s see what else will be in store in the next 13 days!

#cyberpd Week 1

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Every summer I have a secret favorite- a book that I hope will be the #cyberpd choice- this year my wish came true! I knew I wanted to read this book before it was published, had the luck to learn from Sara Ahmed in person right around its book birthday, and had it preordered and waiting for my summer visit to the US before the choice was announced- YIPPEE!

As I have heard Sara speak before I was familiar with some of the content, but the specifics and examples she gives bring it all to life so fully. I am rationing my reading of the book, so that I do not read ahead of the week we are on so my reflections are based on my first read, but I already know that this is a book I will return to over and over and definitely one I will be able to use next month in third grade.

I liked the reminder in the foreword to ‘muddle through these with your peers before you engage with your students.’ I have a feeling that I will want to continue this with colleagues at my new school! The book would be a great book study for a school.

I also loved the playlist in the acknowledgments- has anyone made a Spotify collection of this that I could follow (lazy me!)?

In the introduction, Sara’s reminder via Smokey Daniels, that “kids mirror the language and behaviors adults exhibit”, is so true- for better and worse!I also loved the comment about the health of a school depending on the number of elephants in the room- I have never thought about it that way before, but upon reflection, it sure seems like a great barometer! Her reminder that our strongest superpower in teh classroom is kidwatching- so validating in this time of increased pressure on data collection- this is our data!

Exploring Our Identities

This is the perfect time for me to be reading this book, as I am moving schools, which gives me the perfect opportunity to begin al of this inquiry work with a new group of students where I will have little background knowledge. The first days are soo important for community building and I will definitely do identity webs again (we made them last year, but did not go back to them enough). I love that she included possible books- several of which I already own. Her tips give me lots of ways I can improve from our first attempts. Throughout I also appreciate the examples of language to use with students- great models!  The “addressing tensions” sections also help.

The Stories of our Names section is interesting. I have done this work in the past, but not recently- time to come back to it. Teaching in Asia I have had many students who introduce themselves with an “English” name- a struggle for me, as I want to honor who they see themselves as, but it’s hard when they are one name at home and another name at school… I do love the idea of getting parents actively involved in this and can see trying to get this done at Open House (not sure yet how this works at the new school). Lots of what Sara talks about throughout are what I know as the “norms of collaboration”/ways of talking together and provide great ways to work on this with the class.

I have also done the “Where I’m From” poems in the past, but I think I could definitely emphasize the cultural influences more. It is interesting with international school students what they identify as their cultures and influences- highly subjective often. One reminder that really spoke to me was always making the thinking/learning visible- a great reminder for me.

Listening With Love

This chapter also reminded me of adaptive schools training and responsive classroom. Again reminders about making thinking visible and adding student names/initials to their contributions on group work.

I look forward to reading the next section, knowing I have lots to learn (and need reminders to come back to things I have used before). I can’t wait to read what others are thinking!

If you would like to learn more about #cyberpd and maybe even join in, look here.


PS I notice my Grammarly wants me to use British spelling throughout…