Monthly Archives: December 2018

Time Travel


#sol18- December 18, 2018

Today I am writing from Berlin, Germany (well, actually Kleinmachnow, a small town outside of Berlin). It is so strange to be here- I lived here for a total of 11 years spread over 12 (with a year in Mumbai in between), but have not visited for 2 1/2 years. I have some very good friends here and we are all cozied up (with others coming from Atlanta, Georgia and myself from Cambodia). It is a funny combination of familiar and new. So far we have visited our favorite massage place (highly recommended respite after a day of travel) and eaten doener. We have spent time chatting, cooking, playing games. Later today we will visit the school I taught at to be a part of their end of term holiday party and I look forward to seeing old friends and colleagues (and hopefully seeing some former students beforehand too). Wednesday is the last day of school for my friend still teaching here and then we will have even more time together. I am so grateful to be here being a part of this group- but still feeling mother guilt that I am not spending time over the holidays with either of my sons… Yet, I know it is important for me to be here now too. My friend here is juggling lots, as her husband has ALS.  I am grateful to be able to spend time with this amazing framily (friends + family) who supported me so much through all my life’s trials and tribulations when I lived here and continue to be such an important part of my life. It will be a different kind of Christmas, but one that reminds me of the importance of togetherness, traditions (old and new), and celebration. Family comes in so many shapes and sizes.

Here’s hoping you all have time travel opportunities over your break.

Checking in with My OLW- Challenge


#sol18- December 11, 2018

I chose my OLW (one little word) because I knew I would need it. I knew I was making another move- and by the time I chose my word I knew where I would be heading, but there was still so much unknown. I had visited Cambodia once before but had never been to Phnom Penh, only Siem Reap. Everybody who had been to both only told me how different they were.

Moving is always a challenge and although I have done it many times it is what it is. Moving from a country can be tricky- and there were hoops to jump through leaving Malaysia, but mission accomplished. Challenge accomplished!

Moving into a new country is its own challenge, but I have to say the school did lots to make it easier- including greeting us at the airport with a sim card. Sure there are aspects to living in Phnom Penh that are challenging, as there are in any city, but I have to say Phonm Penh has far exceeded my expectations- I love it! Still sure to have more challenges, but…

Finding housing was supposed to be easy- turns out I had a lot of expectations- I saw more than 25 apartments before choosing the one I am in. It is great, but I would like to be in a more centrally located neighborhood. Am I up for the challenge of house hunting again?

Settling into a new school is bound to be a challenge- and it was, but I was lucky to have a super supportive team to help me along the way. Happily, I love my students and that makes every day fun! I know the challenges in getting used to a new school will ease up bit by bit, but it is a challenge I chose and I am all in. Challenge ongoing.

Traveling alone has continued to be a challenge for me. I traveled alone a few times this year and continue to find ways to make it work for me. More challenges ahead!

I think that having challenge as my word helped me to see all the change as a chance to challenge myself, which helped me to focus on the positive. Having the word as my computer screensaver has helped me to remember this focus and concentrate on the positive aspects of the word meaning.

I am already mulling over words for 2019. Which word will be the one to move me forward in new ways? I always share my OLW with my class and in January they will pick a word each as well. This reminds me that I should look back to see what I have chosen in the past to have them all in one place!



Zhi Hong currently.




#sol18- December 4, 2018

Our current unit in third grade is part of the theme Where We Are in Place and Time and has the central idea that innovation creates change and can lead to new possibilities. It was a new unit this year and looked like the perfect time for our students to really inquire into an idea of their choice. We started by looking at a few innovations and considered the positives and negatives of each. Students then considered their interests and identified a question or problem they wanted to address. Then they had time- time to research/investigate, develop their ideas, create, and evaluate- often toggling among all of these in the course of a few minutes.

Flash forward a few weeks and here we were today! The students probably had 10-12 hours to work on their innovation. I loved the variety of their ideas and the forms they took. We learned about global warming and the need to buy local, saw contraptions to make students feel more comfortable in their high bed, learned how to make bags from used t-shirts from a student concerned about too much plastic and more. Other students were also clearly impacted by our previous environmental focus and made baskets and chairs from cardboard, designed a combo trash/compost bin, reused markers, and tried to teach about the importance of not wasting food. Other students considered their own interests or needs and came up with a podcast to help you sleep, a book to teach about how to cope with stress, an umbrella hat with a soda can holder, taught more about various animals, made a prototype of sunglasses that morph into binoculars, combined an interest in Yoda with teaching children about bullying prevention. There were some boredom busters, ways to make your room more beautiful, and toy ideas for children who do not have much.

This is the kind of unit that I think will stay with the kids. They have had so much independence and really were so engaged. Their reflections were honest and sincere and their work was 100% theirs! As for me, I learned a lot too. Not only did I learn more about their interests, but I really saw their work ethic, perseverance, problem-solving, and more (sometimes less admittedly). This is definitely a unit we will keep for next year (and hopefully find ways to make it even more awesome).

Now to find ways to get that innovator mindset into more of our days!


Zhi Hong slices.