Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Gift of Time


#sol18- September 25, 2018

I am a firm believer in timing- there is a right time for everything (well, almost everything). We are in our eighth full week of school and honestly, I am feeling a bit ready for a break- not that I don’t love my job, but I can almost feel my energy reserves diminishing day by day.

Then along comes this week- Monday and Tuesday have been days off for the students and full days of PD for teachers. It is hard to get whole group PD “just right” Everybody will have different needs, background knowledge, etc. I am in my first year at this new school so I may have anticipated the days a little differently than colleagues who have experienced PD here before. When I heard it was focusing on inquiry I was hooked- this is my first year back in a PYP school and I figured it would give me a better handle on what inquiry should look like here. I also heard that our principal has known the presenter, Kimberly Mitchell, for a long time and that they had worked together to make sure the two days would be a good lead up to our team-level goal setting that will occur on Wednesday at our staff meeting.

So, here’s what I loved…

Honesty– She told us when what she said was based on first-hand experience, research, or experiences with adult learners. She did not try to sound like the know all/be all expert.

Planned– I LOVE agendas for PD because I can keep track of what is coming and when and although we did not always stick strictly to it, having one helped me be better focused.

Balance-Sure there were ideas I had heard before, but because we were trying out new things too it never felt like “been there, done that”.

Time– We had time to practice with many of the structures she was teaching us about. We had time to reflect on how we could use what we were learning. On Day 1 in the afternoon, she sent us away for an hour. Our assignment? “Do whatever you need to do to stay present.” Afterwards, a few of us shared out what we had done- ranging from exercising to classroom work to whatever. On Day 2 we had a large chunk of time (a total of 2 1/2 hours) to work with our teams on whatever felt useful to us. Before we went to a break we had to devise an agenda and inform Kimberly what we might need from her. As it turns out we were so amazingly productive in this time that we really got our whole agenda accomplished while still managing to have fun and a few off-topic discussions and extensions. It felt so great that we had time to work how we wanted on something that we could immediately see value in and our team was all pretty proud of our focus.

Respect- we were given lots of time and did not feel like we were being watched- we were respected and treated like professionals we are- something I do not always think is transmitted in every school.

Looking at Kimberly’s website while writing this it is so clear that what we experienced were what she describes as“the backbone of our work.”  We had time to “get personal” and I definitely feel like I got to know my teammates and other colleagues better. We were challenged to “stay curious” as we devised our own next steps. Kimberly modeled “ask more; talk less” as we worked- her visit to our team was less than two minutes and did not interrupt our flow. “encourage evidence” will come into play more tomorrow as we refine our team goal so that we can measure our success, but we also filled out several reflections that helped us define our own needs. The value of “extend thinking time” was so clear when we looked back at what we had accomplished. Early on in her workshop Kimberly reminded us of Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve– now our mission is to fight that by using this PD to make a real change.

So being the “PD junkie” that I am this two-day change of “routine” was just the boost I needed to get through the two weeks before our October break with renewed energy.


Slice from a former student.






A Few Shining Moments from My Day Add Up to the Tipping Point


#sol18- September 18, 2018

Today was one of those days where lots seemed to click- it all added up to me realizing that I have passed the tipping point- it is official- I LOVE my class!

Moments I loved today:

  • Students are taking on more ownership in the classroom- One student commented before Morning Meeting that it looked like the boy who was scheduled to do a Book Talk would be absent again and then promptly volunteered to step in.
  • Students are making connections– last week as we finished up a fiction reading unit we discussed author’s purpose- a big shift for third graders as they go from discussing what choice a character made to what choices the author made- today we were beginning a nonfiction reading unit and students were inquiring into author’s choice there as they looked at text features and what the author was doing to support readers as they read. The discussion was animated and the thinking on high.
  • As the students came in after recess one student reported that another was crying (and then went on to tell me that tempers had been fiery). When the upset student came in I asked him what had happened. “X kicked me,” he said. “What happened before that?” I asked. “I cheated because I was sad.” After a few minutes of discussion, he was ready to clean himself up and get on with his afternoon. He brought the moment up later in a personal reflection and his goal to be a good teammate. I was impressed that he felt safe enough to be so honest.
  • After school, I was putting the end of unit reflections in a Google Drive folder and keeping a list of whose work I had so that I could remind those who hadn’t shared their doc with me to share tomorrow and guess what??? I had everybody’s who was at school today. I was shocked- I do not think that I have ever had a whole class share correctly this early in the year (okay, it may have helped that there were three other adults in the room while the students did the work, so lots of support, but everyone, wow!). I am impressed and will be sure to mention it tomorrow.
  • Really there were many other great moments today but it all added up to my realization on the way home – I know we will have our ups and downs throughout the year, but we really have already reached the point in the year where I feel like we have a really good community and I love this class! Yippee!


Slice from a former student.


And Then It Rains!


#sol18- September 11, 2018

“The Wet Season
The wet season comes courtesy of the southwest monsoon which blows from May to October, bringing with it some 75% of Cambodia’s annual rainfall. Not surprisingly, the wet season is characterised by rain, and during the peak of wet season from July to September it can rain as much as two out of every three days. However, the rainy days are usually just a few hours of heavy downpour and not all-day rain, although the latter do occur.” Source

I have to admit I love the rainy season in the tropics. Which is lucky, as it lasts nearly half the year. I have lived here just under tow months, so I can not really note patterns yet,  but here is what I know so far- it seems to mostly rain in the late afternoon.

Today it was a race against time. My first choice for a slice was a peek at our school’s butterfly garden, but it turns out it is locked up after school, so I missed that. Next, I thought I would photograph all the amazing spaces our students have to play at recess but to be honest, I was too lazy to walk out to the field and since that is the biggest space it did not seem complete, so on to plan c (also known as I had no idea what I would slice about…).

As I hopped in my tuk-tuk on the way home I made a snap decision to stop at Super Duper (my closest grocery store) before going home. I asked Mr. Bo my wonderful driver) if he thought I would beat the rain and he laughed. The sky was darkening- I was not sure, but it was only 4:25, so I went for it. Bad luck for me the traffic was not great- we were taking longer than usual and the sky went from dark gray to genuinely black in places. By the time we finally reached the store, it looked like the rain was imminent.

Cruising the aisles I scooped up what I came for- bananas and moisturizer (okay a few other things may have jumped into my basket too, but I was in and out in five minutes). Now my dilemma- to take another tuk-tuk home or chance the rain and walk (realistically only about a 7-minute walk). It wasn’t raining yet, so I ventured out on my own.

Sidewalks are inconsistent (or non-existent) for much of the walk, so I skirted the traffic- a busy combination of motor scooters, tuk-tuks, and cars. I was halfway home when I suddenly felt a heavy plop- the first rain drop!

I continued on- relieved that no more rain fell. I made it to my street and it started sprinkling- no big deal. I made it to the elevator and boom- the first rumble of thunder and the sky opened- it was pelting down and I was glad to be indoors.

Just over fifteen minutes later the sky was clear- a beautiful sunset was just beginning and the puddles were the only reminder that the rain had come and gone-until tomorrow.

A slice from a former student.

Balancing Wants and Needs


#sol18- September 4, 2018

Here is what I have realized (again) this week- I am really an introvert and I have to force myself to be more social, rather than spend all of my time outside of school alone.

After school today we had a quick meeting (the three grade 3 teachers and the PE teacher who is collaborating with us on our current unit), but the meeting ran long. Then it was only a few minutes until yoga was supposed to begin… I already was ambivalent about it, but I felt like I needed some quiet time after school, and although yoga is quiet it is stressful for me because I am way out of shape and this instructor works us hard! After checking in with the teacher across the hall and finding out she was also feeling time crunched I felt better about skipping it. A few minutes later she reported that it was canceled anyway because the teacher was in an appointment- ah, now I did not even have to feel guilty.

Next, I decided that I could later attend the Trivia Night/Democrats Abroad Meet Up since I would now have some time after school to get all my students’ Seesaw posts approved and captioned. This ends up killing a few birds with one stone- dinner at a yummy place, meeting some fellow Democrats abroad, socializing outside of school (and possibly meeting new people), and pushing me to get school work done so that I can attend as a reward).

Then I got a text from another friend saying yoga was in fact on as usual-hmm, confusing, but I had already made up my mind for plan B.

So here I sit in a quiet classroom that is now filled with the voices of my students as they share their thinking about their reading, math, Quiet Time activities, and unit projects- the room does not feel so empty anymore!


A slice from a former student.