Monthly Archives: September 2019

The Irony is Not Lost on Me


For weeks my friends in Kuala Lumpur have been suffering from horrible AQI, due in large part because of the burning in Indonesia. Students there have had only a handful of days this school year where they could play outdoors. Finally, last week it got to such a level that schools were closed and several of my friends there fled town, mostly heading to Phuket.

This week I have a week’s break from school and, ironically, as I headed to Phuket myself for a few days of relaxing on the beach the bad air has reached here. Yesterday and today I only ventured out for short walks, which has done lots for my goal to read more, but little for my goal to spend more time outside. The view from my window looks like this:


Now the rains have blown in, so we may have better air tomorrow, but what about all of the people (and animals) suffering in Indonesia? It will take way more than a rainstorm to quell the fires there.


As I sit in my airconditioned hotel room enjoying the storm I am reading The Uninhabitable Earth  (or the doomsday book as my friends Sandy and Tom call it) and watch Greta Thunberg on repeat. I know it is not enough that I have turned off my ac, downloaded apps on my phone to alert me to how sustainable the palm oil in the products I buy is, cut way back on my meat consumption, and other tiny steps. One of my “jobs” while on break is to write a guest blog post on the earth friendly initiatives in Phnom Penh, and at this moment it all feels futile, but I am awed and inspired by Greta and the 15 other young people “from across the world are petitioning the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to hold five of the world’s leading economic powers accountable for inaction on the climate crisis”. I am certain that the young people we teach today will continue to take action to make the world a better place and I hope that they continue to hold us all accountable too because it is far too easy to think, “What can I do?”

Thinking about our next unit “Innovation” followed by “Children’s Rights”- I know some third graders in Phnom Penh who will lead and inspire.

Just my random thoughts today- definitely not a coherent slice.

Going to a Playground


#sol19- September 17, 2019


When the teacher next door told me that half of her class had never been to a playground I was surprised, but sure enough, in our class, there were a few students whose only playground experience was at school.

We headed off shortly after Morning Meeting (after the obligatory toilet stop) and piled into the bus (I love that the buses are smaller here, so it was just our class on the bus). The students were happy to be together, so even though we were stuck in traffic, we had plenty of fun- conversations about the forces they could see nearby (our new unit is about forces and the students were tasked with exploring forces at the playground).

The weather was perfect- overcast, so it was not too hot for all the running around. The students eagerly explored all that they saw-strategies were shared for swinging, climbing, monkey bars and more. Just when there was the slightest hint of impatience we decided to head back to school, but not before taking a class photo.

In reflecting afterward the trip raised many questions- what exactly were the forces there, could they effect change, how exactly did the forces work, and others. A great provocation for our unit- and a life experience- everybody should spend some time on the playground (well, perhaps not S., our teammate who broke a swing). I can’t wait to continue the learning.

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Following Through on a Challenge to Myself


#sol19- September 10, 2019

So, back in January when I chose my olw I knew part of being intentional for me was challenging myself. When I reflected after the first six months I noted that my major fail until then had been my lack of ukulele. Fast forward two months and still no uke. This week I got a further nudge when I walked into the music room one recess while a fifth grader was jamming on a ukulele with the music teacher. Danielle (the music teacher) mentioned that the student was so keen that she had even bought her own.

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

“Soundskool,” she answered.

“Ah, there is one right down the street from me,” I schemed.

“They are expensive there, about twice what you would pay in the US,” the teacher commented.

But after waiting so long to finally buy one, that seemed almost inconsequential. I made a plan to go over to the store the very next day.

Surprisingly, at least to me, I stuck to my plan (I am really good at backing out of deals I make with myself). Today after I got home I ambled over to the store. The woman at the desk was on the phone, so I explored the store myself. There were a few instruments on the wall and even as musically limited as I am I recognized the ukulele and took it down. Looking it over quickly (for what, who knows, as I have zero knowledge of what I could be looking for) I returned it to its space on the wall and waited to be helped.

After we greeted each other I was quick to say, “I’d like to buy a ukulele,” so I would not chicken out.

She walked to the ukulele, entered some information into her computer and reported, “We only have this one in this color if that is okay with you.”

“Sure,” I answered.

“Let me go get you a box,” she scurried off. She returned a few minutes later to update me, “We do not have the box, is that okay?”

“Sure,” I said, because really, why did I need a box to carry it a few meters.

So now I am home and I realize I have NO CLUE! I do not even know if my ukulele is in tune, how to tune it, or what I should do with it first. So now I begin as a real student in 2019- I search YouTube to find a teacher! I feel like I am off on an adventure and I really wonder how it will turn out. I have very little musical experience (playing violin for a year and a half in elementary school was not a big success) and no natural ability, but I figure it is worth a try. I am ready to try to make good on my promise to myself- taking my wish to the next step, now it is almost a plan. There is something a little exciting about embarking on a brand new project. Advice welcome!


It probably needs a name! 


Luckily I’ve Got My Team


#sol19- September 3, 2019

It is hard to believe, but we are in our fifth week of school already, and although the year is still feeling new, it is also feeling comfortable. Today we had just finished a learner profile reflection and we had about 20 minutes left in the day.

“I’m going to talk to you now as a teacher and a mom,” I said as the class sat down on the carpet.

“You ARE a teacher,” R. said.

“And a mom,” L. responded.

“Right, that is why I am talking to you about this with both perspectives.”

From there we went on to talk briefly about sleep- how much we need vs how much we get, as lately we are noticing some pretty tired third graders. It turns out that some do not go to bed until after 10, which is hard when school starts at 7:30.

From out of the corner of my eye I saw my teammate, Simon had just walked in.

“Eek!” I literally screamed.

“Wow, I really surprised Ms. Erika,” he said, “That was quite a reaction.”

But what I realized as soon as I saw him was that I was late, we were late, we were supposed to be together as a team practicing Peace Train for the Global Peace Project that I got us involved in. Videos are due next week, double eek!

Could it be that after we attempted to make our introduction video for our Global Goals project, that I was tired and forgot?! Yup! Tonight I better practice what I preach and get some more sleep.

Today I am grateful for our team- we are new to working together, but are really working to look out for each other. Happy to have a team (and a teammate who scares me when I am late) that is living #togetherwearebetter!