This Is Just to Say

#sol22- June 21, 2022

This is just to say,

I am missing you, sleep,

You didn’t happen,

While I was traveling,

Across the world,

I would love to catch up with you,

But the people here have very different goals.

Today’s the Day

#sol22- June 14, 2022

I’ve made my list (three versions)) and I have been checking it (more than) twice. In a few short hours (okay about 36 hours from now) I will be landing in Boston for the first time in three years. There I will see my family and friends I have not seen in three years.

Before that, I will fly from Dubai to Boston, (13 hour and 55 minute flight. My mom will pick me up, but it is always a challenge to find her at the airport…),

Before that, I will fly from Bangkok to Dubai, ( a 6 hour 10 minute flight with 3 hours and 35 minutes layover there),

Before that, I will fly from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, (a 1 hour 15 minute flight, with 4 hours and 55 minutes layover in Bangkok…),

29 hours and 50 minutes from the moment I get on the first flight to when I land in Boston, but of course, before that, I have to go through all the rigamarole of checking in, etc.

Before that, I will jump in my tuk tuk (thanks, Mr. Bo) and head to the airport,

Before that, I will feel all ready to go and have to fill lots of time.

My first flight since BC. I am not usually an anxious traveler, but this time, yikes! I will be the one double-masked carrying my wipes and alcohol spray… I keep telling myself that it will all be worth it once I see those faces! A whole lot of new memories are waiting to be made.

Summer Has Begun!

#sol22- June 7, 2022

Today on the fourth day of summer break (54 more days to follow) I feel like I am really starting my break.

Today I had my yearly physical and bought my teacher summer notebook (shout out to Leigh Anne Eck). I have a few (okay, more than a few) items to check off my to-do list between now and next week when I will be traveling to the US for the first time in three years. I will see my sons, parents, and other family members and friends there!

This tweet by Shane Safir caught my eye:

This! This is how I will begin my summer notebook and it will allow me to draw a necessary line under this school year and give me the space to relax into the days ahead.

In short, the story of this year was a new grade level, starting the year online (again). A peak was having some students that I taught two years before and the chance to work with some amazing colleagues (in person and virtually). A valley was the personnel changes throughout the year. One important thing I learned is that there are other teachers at school who are also eager to work on DEIJ and other goals at our school and who want to know better to do better. I am different from one year ago because I have had the opportunity to do some powerful PD with colleagues I work with- having these shared experiences helps us all grow exponentially. A hope I am taking into the summer is that our school community is ready to take some important next steps together. #togetherwearebetter

Today, it is too late for me to ask students and colleagues because our school year ended on Friday, but this reflection is one I will personally give more thought to and would like to use again going forward.

I Am Not Good at Goodbyes

#sol22- May 31, 2022

I know I am not good at goodbyes, and it is not for lack of practice. I moved a fair bit growing up and even more so as an adult. As a teacher I have LOADS of practice (finishing up my 30th year of teaching)… but I never get better at it.

Two years ago on campus school ended on March 13, and the end of the school year was just so roller coastery. Last year we bounced back and forth between online, hybrid, in person. Then on February 23 we went online again and ended that way also. The car parade going by the school on the last day was nice, but between that and a final Zoom it just felt so anticlimactic.

This year I am in fifth grade and have five of those students in my first ever online class again. We started the year online (again), finally got on campus on October 21, and have been in person ever since (granted kids have been out for isolation periods and the last long-term online did not return until the end of April). It almost feels like we have had a “full” school year together if I don’t think too hard.

Tomorrow, it all gets too real. Tomorrow the grade 5 will have their Moving Up Ceremony. They have been key in planning it- what would happen in the actual ceremony, what we would eat throughout the day, and what else would go on. Speeches have been written (three, because a committee from each class wrote a speech that two students from their homeroom would deliver) and the choir will entertain us. The principal and director will also speak (hopefully taking their cues from the students and keeping it brief. Menus have been planned, a movie has been voted on, a pool party arranged, an ice cream social will end the day. There is only one part I am worried about- the part where I have to say each name and pass them their certificate. I am going to try to maintain my composure and not sniffle through it (let’s be honest, it’ll be hard, but we have another day and a half afterward where I can let the tears flow). In reviewing the plans again with the students this afternoon I did advise the easy-to-cry people like myself to carry a few tissues.

I am telling myself this is not goodbye- we have 1 1/2 more days after the event, but inside I know- it is a slow slide (or quick in this case) to goodbye and I am not good at goodbyes. I will fill the 1 1/2days after tomorrow with ways to ease the slide and give us time to reflect and look forward together, but the reality is that after Friday we will never all be together again in the same way. It is good, it is right, it is time for a break- and I guess the fact that goodbyes are hard for me means I care. This is a special class and I think this goodbye may be especially hard.

Note Catcher Surprise

#sol22- May 24, 2022

I have some skills that benefit me as a fifth grade teacher- one of which is I am pretty good at catching note passers. I don’t purposefully look out for notes, but I do notice them. Today I saw a green scrap of paper being passed and I walked over and held out my hand, “Noooooo,” A said.

I said nothing but held out my hand. I waited.


“I’m not going to read it yet,” I said as the scrap was dropped in my hand.

I walked across the room and put the note in plain view in a pencil cup on the counter and promptly forgot about it.

Later in the day, A was over by the counter looking guilty as he tried to retrieve the note. “Nope, that’s mine now. Leave it there, I said.

I promptly forgot about it again.

At the end of the day while packing up the note caught my eye.

I unfolded it.

” Do you like Ms. Erika?

Yes/No” it said with a column for respondents to add their name to the correct column.

Hmm, I thought, it is that time of year. We are all getting a little nostalgic about the year ending while feeling ready. We have 7 1/2 school days left.

Then I looked again. There were only about 6 names there and they were all on the “yes” side. I nodded my head. Yep, I like them too! Maybe it is lucky I caught the note before more names were added.

What a year it has been and I am ready for a break, but I really love this group! Sigh!

Making a List and Checking it Twice

#sol22- May 17

It is that time of year! I have to admit when I learned last year that I would be moving to fifth grade part of my wariness was spring. Spring in all schools at every level is busy- spring in fifth grade is next level. Between budding hormones, getting ready for secondary school, and the PYP Exhibition there is a whole lot going on.

This week a few more things are getting checked off the list- today was class placement. We (the grade 5 homeroom teachers, grade 5 EAL teacher, grade 5 learning support teacher, elementary assistant principal, elementary guidance counselor, and secondary assistant principal) all met and learned about the parameters of grouping, then began the process- checking for balance (gender, nationality, home language(s), needs, strengths, engagement level, and more. It actually went fairly smoothly- who knows what changes are still to be made. The secondary assistant principal said goodbye with this thought, “It was easy to see the care and knowledge you were using to make these decisions.”

This group is a special one and this was another check on the long list of things that has to get done.

We then went on to organize more of the celebratory checklist. The fifth graders are actively involved in planning their own Moving Up Ceremony. They have decided they would like to have students speak from each class to deliver speeches written by a small group. The ceremony itself will end with a smoke machine, as per their request. After a celebratory breakfast with the parents we will host different activities of their choice before a pizza lunch or sundae party (the fifth graders have to decide on one) and then a pool party in our school pool. We adults confirmed the details the students had set and made plans for how to get the next steps actioned. By the time that day is over I fully expect that almost all, if not all of the seemingly endless list of things we have to do to finish the year will be done and we will all be ready to celebrate our fifth graders, but it sure feels like there’s a lot to do between now and then (starting with tomorrow’s student led conferences, proofreading a teammates reports, copying and pasting my report comments into Managebace, etc., etc., etc.). Oh yeah, Thursday we start teaching our puberty unit:)

We’ve got this!

For the First Time

#sol22- May 10

Today, for the first time since March 2020 a group of parents were on campus,

66 proud fifth graders and their lucky teachers were there,

Covid restrictions have changed and we made it work,

Today for the first time, 1/3 of the parents came today- the rest will come in the two days following,

the day ended with students reading feedback shared,

before that fourth graders came to hear them present,

before that, some parents and mentors heard them share their learning,

before that our fabulous music teacher led them in an amazing opening song (“A Million Dreams”- some tear-inducing soloists- vocal, violin, ukulele, and keyboard),

before that, there were months of hard work where fifth graders explored their passions and interests, narrowed it down to six, then three, then one

matching their final choice to a transdisciplinary theme, a sustainable development goal, choosing a guiding question or central idea, crafting lines of inquiry- researching, researching, researching- deciding how to share their learning,

all leading up to today, for the first time,

we were almost afraid to plan for in person, after the previous two PYP Exhibitions were online,

today made it all worth the time and energy and Wednesday and Thursday will be the frosting on the cake as the rest of the parents and many more students get to celebrate these amazing fifth graders. Their topics were as varied as they are- gender equality, plastic pollution, coral conservation, street animal abuse, and so many more.

So grateful for our learning community!

Four Friends Reminiscing from Three Countries

#sol22- May 3

While I was teaching today I missed a string of Facebook messages. Maybe 5 years ago four of us went to Khao Lak, Thailand for a week. This week two of the group members returned to the same town, but a different hotel. What follows is the combined recollections of L, H, and M. L and H are there now, M has retired to the US, and I was teaching and ended my Tuesday laughing over these memories! I hope I can travel with them again soon- a fun time for sure!

L- It’s killing me not to know where we stayed. Not necessarily the hotel exactly but I’m curious to know if we are in the same area now. It looks similar but can’t tell if we were here and it has changed bc of pando or if we are 100km down the coast from where we were last time.

Questions: 1. Were we about an hour from Phuket airport? 2. Did we go to a night market? 3. Did we walk there or taxi? There is no market near where we are and I’m wondering if we were even here at all. 4. Were we definitely in Khao Lak?

Also I have no fb posts tagged from Khao Lak.

Mystery, indeed!

from H

Sundowning with sundowners #alliswell

L- Heidi found it! It was here!!!

L- Okay questions 2 & 4 have been answered.

We were here at a hotel up the street, which now has a new name

Anyone have memories of the market?

Alleged market.

M- We did go to a night market – I think. It was a very long walk as I recall. I think our hotel was at the end of the beach. There were stairs to get up to our rooms and the massages were divine.

L- And an elevator. And a ‘drag show’ at a sketchy roadside bar. Right?

It’s all coming together…

M- Yes!

L- We can NOT find that market. Did it have lots of shops and was on a street w cars and food, etc? An intersection also perhaps?

There is a small food-only market up the street now. Could be covid. Could be dementia.

I remember breakfast at the beachfront and talking about the tsunami.

M- Maybe we took a tuk tuk kind of transport back from there – it was on the left side of the street, down hill a bit. Wasn’t it close to the drag show?

L- And a tsunami ‘museum’ in a guy’s garage that had pictures and broken things.

M- We had a lot of salad for breakfast.

L- Impressive, Margaret.

M- Yes across the street somewhere.

L- Yes

And a smaller pool up by our elevator rooms that was made out of pink bathroom tiles!

M- Yep several pools. The one by our room was less crowded.

L- But the market. They’re saying the nearest is an hour up the coast. I can’t imagine the four of us agreeing to a two-hour ride in the back of a pickup truck.

M- No that night market must be gone.

Joy Ride

#sol22- April 26, 2022

Last Wednesday we had our faculty meeting- busy reflecting on this year’s units and making some preliminary plans for next year. It was a happy surprise when we got through the agenda, as there was a LOT to do. I walked out of school on autopilot and hopped in my tuk-tuk. The ever capable Mr. Bo was at the helm, so I settled back in my seat for the ride home (10-15 minutes). We only got a bit down the street when we stalled…

A minute later Mr. Bo had his moto going again and we went on our way again when…we stalled again. This time Mr. Bo got out a screwdriver, jiggled wires, and more, but no luck. Oh, no!

This being Phnom Penh, within two minutes another tuk-tuk driver pulled over, eager to scoop up a passenger (me). Mr. Bo was negotiating with him in Khmer- sorting out price, location, etc.

“Are you okay, Erika?” I heard a minute later.

It was Chett, My colleague, who was passing by on his motorcycle. He pulled over to check on me.

“Do you need a lift?” he asked.

“Oh, no, I am fine.I think this tuk-tuk can take me,” I assured him.

“Why not hop on here?” he said, patting the seat.

“Um…” I hesitated.

“I have only ever been on the back of a motorcycle a few times for a few blocks,” I said. “I’m too wimpy!”

“You can do it! I will drive extra slowly and carefully,” he said.

Mr. Bo nodded approvingly, he seemed to prefer this solution.

“You don’t have a helmet for me,” I reasoned- trying to gracefully extricate myself from this scary scenario.

“Oh, yes, I do,” he said, pulling his wife’s pink helmet out from the storage compartment.

A minute later and a quick strap adjustment and I was all kitted out.

“Bong, can you take our picture?” Chett asked Mr. Bo (bong means ‘brother’, but is slang for ‘guy/dude’).

Thus, I have a picture of me sort of smiling before taking off on my terrifying ride home. On reflection, Chett did drive safely (I assured him I was not worried about his driving, but the driving of those around us) and I was happy to pay him in mangos (Mr. Bo had given me 8 mangos from the province and I shared the treasure equally with Chett). I am grateful to have been rescued, but I am glad to not ride a motorcycle regularly.

before the ride
the sweet reward afterward

The Cull Begins..

#sol22- April 19

The things I do when there are things I don’t want to do… My procrastination can sometimes be productive- just not in the way that I should.

Today after school I could have done some work on reports, some planning, or so many other timely things-instead I weeded.

It started when I mentioned to our TA that I thought I could weed 200-300 books in June before the end of the school year.

She laughed.

“Remember in August, I culled more than 250 books,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but…” she doubted me.

I like a good challenge, but I DO struggle to part with books. I decided I would spend a few minutes “looking through” the nine boxes of books that do not even fit in my classroom. There is a shelf in our grade level piazza that holds fiction picture books with author’s last names A-G (That alone, may tell you, the struggle is real. I have a lot of books and it is hard for me to pass them on.).

I made surprisingly quick work of those nine boxes (filling 2 1/2 boxes with discards) and decide to “just do three more boxes in the classroom.” Well, three more morphed into 6, so it was another complete shelf (H-M, to be exact).

The total was 149 books!

“As soon as we can black out my name in all these books I will let teachers and TAs know that they can pick up what they would like,” I said. “Maybe Thursday or Friday after school.”

“Oooh, people will be so excited,” she said. “I have seen a few I would love to take home for Oscar,” she said (her son).

“Of course, you don’t have to wait!” I assured her.

Just then another teacher happened by and we told her about the number weeded. Of course, she wanted to have a peek (she has twin 3-year-olds who have finally stopped eating books and are really enjoying books of all sorts).

She ended up with a large stack and a big smile on her face.

“I better message W,” our TA said. “He’ll be so mad if he misses this!”

She is right. W is a huge picture book fan and often borrows books from me to read to his nephew over the weekend. I made her promise that she would let him know.

I actually will be surprised now if we will have any left to give away by the end of the week.

Before I left this afternoon I said, “”I have changed my mind. I’ll bet I can weed another 500 by the end of the school year.”

“Doesn’t it hurt your heart?” she asked.

“It sure does, but I want the kids to see the books they want to read, not just tons of books. If they are not reading them, I should pass them on.”

Of course, it is hard. I have so many memories tied up in so many of these books, but I have to be strong and try to not dwell on the money I have spent on these books over the years, but instead focus on the joy they have brought and can continue to bring, in another home.

Now I just have to wait until another afternoon when I have some tasks to avoid doing… Procrastination for good!