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

Travel Is Weird (and Wonderful)

#sol19- November 12, 2019

When my older son moved to S. Korea just over three years ago we both envisioned we’d see lots more of each other now that we were on the same continent, but it turns out life is busy, 6+ hours of flight time makes it less likely, our holidays infrequently aligned, etc. He last visited me a year ago August (my first weekend in my first apartment in Phnom Penh, so not ideal timing, but we made it work). So, now it was my turn. We thought about the summer, but his free time was not going to work for me.

So here it is Water Festival in Cambodia and a 5 day weekend so I ventured off for a visit, careful to keep my expectations low, because I knew things are never straightforward when visiting with Jason as our body clocks could not be more different.

Traveling solo continues to stress me, but I knew all would be well.

“I’m going to pick apples with friends on Saturday, so maybe we can meet up for dinner,” he said.

So I found the “airport limousine” (aka bus) that would take me to my hotel, managed to buy my ticket, find the bus, ride, and find my hotel with relative ease.

Via text he assured me he would let me know when they were leaving the orchard. Time passed and since I had missed lunch I was hungry, so I took the easy way out and ordered room service.

Sure enough a bit later he wondered if I wanted to get dinner “soon”- it was 8:20 and I was tired, so no. Originally he was going to share my hotel room Saturday and Sunday night, but he said he’d be over for breakfast Sunday (which meant about noon).

We had a good afternoon and evening- chatting, playing Phase 10, sightseeing, and eating. He’s applying for a new job, still teaching English, but more like real teaching and less like getting kids to fill in workbook pages so we also talked about teaching:)

Monday was back to work for him, so just a quick lunch and a belt purchase (yes, mom could not have him go to the job interview coming soon with the best up beat up belt being the only one he owned). Happily he took me to the bus ticket booth so I could sort out my ride back to the airport and know exactly where to pick it up across the way.

After a little late afternoon shopping for an upcoming baby shower I made the easy choice to buy kim bap to take back to the hotel for an early night (my son does not finish work until 10PM, so we said our goodbye after lunch).

So now I am on my way back home- Seoul- Hong Kong (where I currently wait)- Phnom Penh. Two flights, two time zones, and a who knows when we will next see each other. This parenting adults is a series of heartbreaks- I miss my sons more when I have just seen them, is that weird? Son #2 comes to see me in just over a month…

Challenge Completed! What’s Next?

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#sol19- November 5, 2019

Last Friday was the first day of November and consequently the completion of another 3EV challenge. I had heard about Inktober  in the past and talked about trying it out way back in August when the school year just began. As I got to know my class I knew it was a challenge many of them would like and so September 30 I finally got around to talking about it with the class- no surprise many were interested. We have 10-15 minutes of Quiet Time each day just after lunch, so I proposed that time as a time people could work on the prompt of the day if they wanted. That night I hurried off to a stationery store to buy a bunch of pens (and later in the month I bought a few more widths). I made plans with the art teacher to have a book binding celebration when the month ended.

It turns out that every student tried it at least a few times so once we walked across the hall to the art room last Friday we spread all the papers on the floor and the kids gradually collected and ordered their pages. Dana taught them five different ways to bind their books and invited them to use their own way if they were so inclined. We spent a glorious 40 minutes putting together our own books with time spent admiring each other’s work and interpretations of each word. The words themselves had been fun vocabulary builders and really allowed the kids to try out new ideas. Our EAL teacher was amazed when a group working on long vowel sounds offered “frail” as an example- they really remembered the words they had illustrated.

It was heartwarming to watch them tuck their books inside their backpacks with pride.  As for me, it was a challenge indeed for me-art does NOT come easily to me, yet I stuck with it and every single day in October I gave myself permission to try something new (and hard) for a few minutes. My book is now at home on my bookshelves- my first ever Inktober souvenir. I feel like the Inktober experience might make more of the kids willing to try out the SOL Challenge this year- we shall see!

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Walk On!

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#sol19- October 29, 2019

It was a bit of a hard week and I realized that lots of our read-aloud books lately were ones where there was a challenge to us- lots of SEL focus. It was the last hour of Friday afternoon and we needed a laugh. I chose Marla Frazee’s Walk On!

It was just what we needed and lightened the mood. I closed the book and posited, “This book is about learning to walk. Could it be about anything else?” To be honest, I had not really thought about this myself, but I knew we had read at least a picture book a day and these kiddos had really grown in their abilities to think about their reading, so it was an honest question.

“It’s about trying new things.”

“It’s about trying hard things.”

“It’s about not giving up.”

“You can learn from failure- it’s never really a complete fail if you learn something from it.”

“We all have our own way of learning.”

And so it began- students who had seen the book as being about learning how to walk were furrowing their brows and reconsidering parts. We went back to a few pages to look again.

Reading aloud is one of my favorite parts of the day- I love sharing books with kids and I love learning from them.

Later my fabulous TA confided, “I was just thinking it was a book about learning to walk.”

Our EAL TA had been in the room and she told me the same thing. We all reveled in the joy we have in learning from our students. We really have the best jobs in the world.

Why I (Sometimes) Write

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#sol19- October 22, 2019

It’s October and life is feeling a bit hard, but reading a few posts for inspiration I see I am not alone.

Sunday was the National Day on Writing and although I am not living in the US the last few years we have commemorated the day in class. We started by reading A Squiggly Story. 

“Yesterday was the National Day on Writing,” I said, and I want you to take a few minutes to reflect on why you write.”

“You can do this in any way you like. You can write in sentences or not, use color or not.  If you need more space use the other side of your paper, but we only have a few minutes before recess.”

There was a flurry of excitement (maybe because I said ‘recess’) and I was peppered with a few questions.

“Can we write whatever we want?”

“Of course, if it answers the question.”

“”Can I write just one reason?”

“Sure, if that is your one reason.”

“Can I write that I write because you make me?”

“If that is the reason you write.”

In the end, I loved the variety of their thinking and the way they presented their work. The picture does not do their words justice.

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Sorry, you can not really read the words here…

Later, I reflected on my own reasons for writing and noticed that I have lots in common with my third graders. Sometimes I feel like I only write because someone makes me, but that someone is me. This year I am not writing nearly as much as I’d like and there are 101 reasons why- I have too many projects on the go at the moment and I am not juggling my time as well as I would like. When I looked at my reasons for writing I remembered why I like to write, and so here is a nudge to myself to make it more of a priority going forward. We are just two weeks away from starting a poetry unit and that will be just the push I need.

 

 

It makes me so happy that Zhi Hong (a student from 3 years ago) sends me his slice every Tuesday. If he can show up, then so can I!

When Students Take the Lead (Agency in PYP Speak)

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#sol19- October 15, 2019

Something I love is sparky kids- kids who think they have ideas worth sharing and who want to make a change. In the last week or so I have been struck by many examples right in our classroom.

Last year we participated in the Ed Collab Global Kind Project and it is still having ripple effects. A week ago Friday the Growing Kindness Club, run by two students from that class, organized a Do Something Kind Day, with several activities planned for interested students from K-5 to participate in. It was successful beyond their hopes and they are eagerly planning their next event, Mix It Up Lunch Day, and this week several of the club members filmed a video to promote it that will play on the school weekly news program on Monday. Others in the group were working on making a stack of colorful cards to keep on hand when we notice someone at the school needs their day brightened. These students are making the school community a kinder place day by day (and it is already an awesome place to be).

Last week a student in the class was excited to share her Quiet Time project with the art teacher. The art teacher made space in the art room and M. was thrilled! This inspired her classmate to create an idea jar in our room for people who want ideas for what they could do during Quiet Time.

This week two students created a poster offering their services- they love to clean and organize and recognized that some of their classmates might not, so had a sign up for people who would like them to clean out their book box. They explained their sign up and privately told me, “We are growing kindness too and making our classroom a better place also.”

We were in the library last week when a student brought a book to me that she thought we should read for our #classroombookaday. It was All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant. After she read it to herself she asked if she could be the oen to read it to the class (this is a girl whose first experience in an English school was partway through last year). Without reading it, but trusting her and Cynthia Rylant, I said yes, of course. A few days later she was ready to read to the class (and needless to say there are other students who now want to read a book to the class- win-win!).

Yesterday two students came back from recess very excited. They had another plan. They wanted to start a group to read to younger students during recess. They quickly made a poster and asked if they could share it with the teacher who runs the school news program. To save him a step I volunteered to film them sharing their idea to share with him that way so that he does not need to schedule a time with them, so that will happen tomorrow.

I am thrilled with the way students are taking action and looking for ways to make things better. I love that they know that their ideas matter and that they can enact their plans. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next (and a future unit focuses on innovation-what will happen there?!).  #kidscanteachus

 

Another Project (or Two)!

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#sol19- October 8, 2019

Life sure does go in cycles. For years I was the cook (note, not chef- I am an okay cook, but nothing special). I had two hungry sons who would eat almost anything and my younger son is actually a great cook (the older one…). Over time they eventually both moved on to university and have settled far away so I have ended up cooking less and less- after all, it is pretty boring cooking for one and I do not love leftovers. Fortunately for the last 5 years, I have lived in places where takeaway is not unreasonable (in terms of cost and health). I drew the line at delivery-until I didn’t. Once a week, Maybe more. Discovering that fresh food could be delivered here for not much extra made me remember my cooking days with a little fondness.

Fast forward to March and the discovery that I had high cholesterol- changes had to be made and I knew what that meant. Cooking, me. Also, I had to think more about what I was putting into my mouth. Bit by bit I have started cooking more and I am trying to get over my disdain of leftovers (lentil soup is one of my new go to dinners- it makes a lot and then I can change it up by adding different vegetables on different nights and it freezes well. I am trying to go lighter on the carbs, and that is hard!).

Eating more homemade food has made me want to try making some more of my own basics. Every morning I eat overnight oatmeal- the only yogurt that I like here is full fat. Maybe I could make my own yogurt? By strange coincidence, my friend, Danielle, brought me some homemade yogurt last week-it was yummy, so I quizzed her on her process. It sounded hard! In the dim recesses of my mind I remembered that my mom had had her yogurt making phase once upon a time and if there had been yogurt makers way back then, they must still exist, but would I be able to find one here in Cambodia? Danielle was pretty sure a colleague had bought one here, so I went on the hunt on Saturday. After looking at two stores at the faraway mall I was losing hope. I posted on an expat forum, no response. meanwhile I was getting more and more excited about making yogurt- I even decided I was going to try making my own oat milk or almond milk to use in the yogurt. So, I needed a “nut bag” I learned, to let my milk drain. Hmm, another challenge. In mentioning all this to the art teacher across the hall Monday morning, she was pretty sure that cheesecloth would work (and also sure that her husband who owns two bar-restaurants would know where to get this (or even have an extra for me).

Monday after school as our leadership meeting ended I asked two colleagues if they had any idea where I could buy a yogurt maker. “I have one I am not using anymore,” Courtney said. “I wasn’t eating it fast enough and on Saturday mornings when I ate the last jar I noticed that I was getting a stomach ache.”

Somehow that did not put me off. On the way out the door, I also caught Janet and asked her about her hummus recipe (snacks at our meeting are new this year). She insisted that her “Magic Bullet” made it easy. After she texted me a picture of that, I had my next kitchen tool wish. I must hunt for that next Saturday.

Today my “new” yogurt maker arrived magically in my classroom and I can hardly wait until Saturday to try it out (which may give me enough time to investigate and make oat milk first) or blitz up a batch of hummus to scoop up with carrot sticks.

As with many of my projects, we will see how long this cooking binge lasts, but for now, bon appetit! How did I end up cooking again?!

 

 

Challenges Are for Teachers Too!

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#sol19- October 1, 2019

Contrary to what I usually think about myself, I have learned that I love a good challenge (if I want to do it- conversely I really do not like challenges that I feel forced into). For the last five years, I have taken part in the March SOL Challenge (and have always invited my students to as well). I think that last year was the first that I really heard much about Inktober, and while I appreciated the drawings I saw, I knew it was not for me- I am not artistically inclined.

But fast forward- I picked “intentional” as my olw for the year, and part of my rationale was to challenge myself (I even bought a ukulele– and I am NOT musical either). Not long ago I participated in a webinar about sketchnoting and I actually enjoyed it (I LOVE pens, so the actual trying it out was fun, but I had a low bar for the artistry). Then one day I was speaking to our librarian and Inktober came up- a seed was sown. I spoke to the art teacher and told her I might give it a try with my class (and she was very encouraging).

Last week was break, so the first day back was the last day of September- I mentioned the premise to my class and shared the prompt list. They were excited! I consulted with the art teacher (thanks, Dana!) and realized that I needed to actually buy some pens. I took pictures of her recommendation and set off to a stationery store after my after school meeting. We also discussed the positives of working on loose paper versus a book, and I proposed that we work on loose paper and at the end of the month Dana could teach us how to bind them into a book (and she was all in!).

I LOVE stationery stores and I spent some time looking for the pens she recommended-oops, they only had one size. So, I was all alone in my search and chose a pen that came in more than a few tip widths. I realized that it would not be financially practical to buy as many pens as I would like, so settled for buying about 10 pens for each table in a variety of sizes (at $72 total this felt like the most I could do). When I collected all the pens I went to pay and eventually made my way to the front of the line only to have the cashier scan each pen one by one. Then my debit card did not go through (twice) and sadly I did not have enough cash. I left the pens behind, but I HAD to buy the pens- the next day was October 1. I battled traffic and crossed the street to an ATM, waited my turn, and voila, I had the needed cash. Sadly, there was a large tour group from Australia in the store and by now they were all in line in front of me. I went to the shorter line and when my turn came the other cashier who rang me up used the quicker way to scan the pens, by grouping the pens (I helped- at this point, I would have done anything to speed the process). Success!

Walking outside it began to rain, within a minute it was an absolute deluge (thank goodness for my fabulous tuk tuk driver, Mr. Bo, who zipped down the rain covers and away we went.

While the class was at recess I set out the pens- the students knew that Inktober was an optional challenge they could join me in or not. In the end 19 of the 20 students at school today gave it a try on day one. I LOVED the variety and the excitement as they worked. Quiet Time is our daily time where the students can do anything they want to as long as it is independent.  The time after recess always gets them settled for the rest of the day- it had a special energy today.

The students who wanted to share have their picture posted below. I can’t wait to see how the month progresses (and I figure that having the experience of being a part of a month long challenge might really set them up to take part in the student slicing challenge later on this year).

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The word of the day was “ring” but a few students wanted to do day 12 (dragon) instead.

PS I had fun!