It is break here (Pchum Ben, which celebrates ancestors). I never had an autumn break until I taught overseas and at the one school that did not have it I kind of felt like I was not getting the right rhythm. I need that pause.
October break used to mean taking time to notice the changing seasons (and dreading the winter to come when I lived in cold climates). When I was a single mom it was a time to reconnect with my sons. We did not travel because money was tight. We enjoyed local jaunts.
Since moving to Southeast Asia as an empty nester October break has meant consulting maps- is it rainy season there? Too cold? Are the flight times okay?
Since COVID I have not traveled-— at all. It is the longest stretch I have gone in my adult life staying “home”. I almost traveled this break, but I didn’t – still feeling a little leery with my Sinovac hitting the six month mark.
Instead I am traveling another way- in books. It is the fourth day of break and I have already finished four books. I am using the time to do my own ancestor work as I continue to learn more about racism and antiracism.
I am about halfway through a course “So What If We Are Teaching Critical Race Theory?” and it has really pushed my thinking over the last few Sundays (we have a theme each week and resources to explore and then get together for an hour each Sunday evening on Zoom). Combine that with an inspiring day long conference a few weeks ago that focused on DEIJ in international schools and I know I have to move beyond reading and thinking to doing. I have so many plans…
I am a planner. My strategy for the last few years has been to strategically grow my class library. The class discussions we have had have been amazing and the kids give me hope for a better future. We have delved into all kinds of topics and students have had the opportunity to have books that were windows, mirrors, and doors (thanks to Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop for introducing me to this concept). We have a new unit centered around where we are in place and time with the central idea “What is happening in the world can cause a shift in thinking and inspire change” that we will combine with some opinion writing and nonfiction reading to uncover author’s purpose and bias, among other things. That central idea is guiding me over this quiet break to make my own action plans as the unit begins- it always feels like the units of inquiry teach me as we go, which is part of what I love about this way of learning.
Now I am on the hunt for some great mentor texts that can inspire these thoughtful grade five thinkers. Writing will take us new places.