Author Archives: Ms Victor Reads

About Ms Victor Reads

I am a third grade teacher who LOVES reading! For most of my career I have been teaching internationally. I am a big believer in the workshop model of learning and enjoy integrating technology. You can find me on Twitter @ErikaMVictor

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.

Ordering Frustration


#sol18- November 27, 2018

Today was a busy day, as so many are, but after school, I had a meeting with two colleagues, and it went something like this:

“Let’s just get rid of this entire page.”

“No, we can’t get rid of that!”

”I agree, let’s just keep all of these!”

”But how are we going to trim $2000?”

“Ack, let’s just each take a page and…”

”I’ll highlight what I think must be saved.”

”I’ll cross off what we might be able to eliminate.”

”How about we take some of these down to 1?”

”How are we going to share these? The kids love these?”

“We cannot get rid of this- so many kids will only read this.”

Yup, our order was 100% books and it was killing us to delete any of the books.

It continued on and on like this and the internet and/or the website we were using was NOT helping! Eventually after much to-ing and fro-ing, and a few unuttered choice words (okay, a few may have been said aloud too) we were finished, sort of, but all left with a heavy feeling. Such is ordering season (for next school year). I can’t even get into what happened two minutes later.



Zhi Hong is still slicing.

Calendar Fuzziness


#sol18- November 20, 2018

You would think that after 4+ years in the tropics this time I would have it sussed, but no! Somehow the lack of real weather change makes me totally unaware of time passing. Couple that with not having holiday decorations in your face in every interaction and it just gets confusing. Some days I honestly have to stop and think as I put the date on the whiteboard, “What month is it?”

Somehow my calendar confusion is worse than ever this year- I blame it on the frenetic pace of acclimating to a new school. Usually, I map out my report writing dates faaaaar in advance because I know I write and type slowly. Usually, I allow one weekend for each section of the report, so it all gets done in time. Usually, I start early and finish in plenty of time.

This year my new principal requires our unit of inquiry sections to be finished shortly after each unit ends, so in theory, I had a running start as the first unit in mid-September. New teachers had to wait until a report writing meeting at the start of October to start writing, so I did. Eventually, I got my first unit reports in thanks to working on them over October break. The second unit ended at the start of November, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I got those comments written. They have now been peer edited and await the principal’s okay (and believe me when I say she reads them carefully) before I can put them in Managebac (a not so straightforward experience).

But here’s the thing- I have yet to start the other parts of my reports- that means the child as a learner, math, and language sections are all undone- not one word written. Which does not seem like a problem until I look at an actual calendar and see that math comments are due to the principal in just a week (which means they need to be written and peer edited before then). The language comments are due just 3 days later, the child as a learner sections are due four days after that. Which, now that I look at an actual calendar gives me all kinds of stress!

But then, there is the gift of time. Today is Tuesday, but it is a fake Friday. Here in Cambodia Water Festival is a three day holiday, so we have a five day weekend ahead. While other people are heading off on relaxing (or busy) trips, I will spend the bulk of the next five days here in my apartment-writing reports. While I am grateful for the gift of time I would have preferred to plan my time better (note to self- I have to write in my report writing weekend deadlines for the second semester now to prevent this frenzy next time). Tonight I will set up my work schedule (and plan in reward treats for myself for goals achieved). Darn calendar- time has flown, now it is time to get it done! How can there just be three weeks left in the semester when we go back on Monday?!?


Zhi Hong continues to slice.

Innovation Here in Phnom Penh


#sol18- November 13, 2018

We were feeling bad- we had not yet been on a field trip this year, so as we started our unit focusing on innovation we arranged a trip to a nearby spot- The Factory. If you read the linked article you will see the original concept and it has developed since then.

Just after snack/recess, we met our students at the edge of the field, piled into three buses and we were off. Happily, it was a short trip with no traffic, so we were there in just about ten minutes. We walked past active construction in our search for our guide, Kobe. In just under an hour we saw the coworking spaces, restaurants, performance/exhibition spaces, amazing street art, a trampoline park, a skateboarding area, and more. We learned about collaborations with groups that help street children, plans for the future (including a new art museum and more), and peeked into buildings not yet renovated where we glimpsed the past as ghostly remnants of the abandoned garment factory remained. All in all a perfect start of unit trip- many of the students had visited the trampoline park, but the rest of the place they had hardly noticed. As for me, I continue to be impressed by the innovation I see daily in Phnom Penh! Now I look forward to seeing where our third graders will go with this unit.



A slice from Zhi Hong.


I am a part of our school’s Elementary Leadership Team because I am the third grade team leader. As a team we meet each Monday and I really appreciate that we are co- create agendas, select readings, take turns as chair and minute raker, and more, even though it is extra work.

Once our principal announced she was leaving in June the search was on for her replacement. In the end the current assistant principal was appointed, which, of course created another opening- actually two because it was decided that the position would be split into assistant principal and PYP coordinator.

When it was announced that the ELT would have input I knew it would be a big job, but I was glad to be able to have a role. The principal and AP would cull the resumes, do the first round of interviews, and follow up on references, then we would do a second interview.

We started our part last week. Yesterday was a double header- an interview followed by our regular ELT meeting . Today we had two more scheduled.

Phnom Penh has been plagued by internet woes the last few days. While we tried various configurations to get Skype working one of the team kept mumbling “snacks.” The interview finally worked out thanks to a colleague using his phone as a hot spot, we debriefed with our principals and then had a bit of a break. Our snack craving teammate offered to go get coffee, but had no takers. Imagine our excitement when she returned a few minutes later with giant cookies for us to share! Just the treat we needed to keep going.

The internet proved even more problematic with the second interview but we creatively found a solution. At the second debrief we shared our thoughts.

It is interesting to go through this process. Three of the seven of us are new. It has definitely a bonding experience- we have shared lots of laughs, gone in more depth about our own philosophies, worked hard to come up with questions that could help us find the people who will lead us next year, and it has also helped us consider what the challenges and rewards are at our school.

The hiring is not decided yet, more work to do, but I already can appreciate the way our team has grown in the process. We still have most of the school year ahead to work together and most of the team will still be in place next year too. We definitely know each other better and that can only help us in our work. Schools are always talking about building community and this is even more true in international schools where so much of the community is living away from “home”. This process has helped us build our micro community.

A slice from Zhi Hong.

Butterfly Garden


#sol18- October 30, 2018

My first day visiting my new school back in July I fell in love with the campus for many reasons, but I have to admit the butterfly garden had me captivated! In Kuala Lumpur, there was a butterfly park, but I had never felt the urge to visit- it was not in my neighborhood and while I like butterflies, a trip there never made my must-do list.

Then there was the first day tour. I was a new arrival in a fairly busy city and the butterfly garden just seemed like an amazing oasis. I am terrible about taking pictures, but for weeks I have tried to remember to bring my phone while visiting the school’s garden. It seems like I always remembered after school and it turns out it gets locked after school, so several Tuesdays I jiggled the entrance door handle only to realize that I would have to think of another slice.

Finally, one day last week I remembered to take my phone with me and took a few minutes to visit during a morning recess when I had a few minutes. For the first few minutes I was the only person inside but then a few young students joined me and we marvelled at the beautiful butterflies darting around. Because I was pressed for time I did not manage to get any great shots, but I love knowing that there can be many next visits and maybe one day I will take a picture there that really conveys the peace and beauty there. Our ES principal’s office looks out on the garden and she says she has spied secondary students snogging there, but such are the hazards of a school for all ages.











It makes me happy to know that there is this lovely space just outside the building I teach in! Don’t even get me started about the fun I have watching the free range chickens!



A slice from a former student!