Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time to Breathe


#sol17- May 23, 2017

Today feels like my deadline day, although it is not really. Let me explain…

Grade 3’s report comments are due to our assistant principal on Thursday. On Wednesday during school we have our collaborative team meeting that takes up our whole planning block, so no time there. After school, the math team has our last meeting of the year at a restaurant nearer to home than school, so I will not go back to school to work after. On Thursday during our planning, we have a short meeting before a mandatory assembly for a retiring administrator. After school, we have a farewell party for her, which feels required.

All that means that today feels like the deadline for reports, even though I know I will have snippets of time, maybe, in the following two days. And here’s the other thing- our last day of school is June 9th.

Yesterday I made plans with a colleague to stay late today and slog through. We decided to work, work, work, and then take a quick dinner break as a treat before working some more. Later last night we got an email that our school server would be down for an hour or so from 5:45- ugh, change of plan.

This afternoon we convened for plan b. We decided right after school we would walk to a nearby coffee shop to get some caffeine and a treat to fuel our work, as we needed a walk first. The coffee shop is right near the school but sadly it was closed- maybe forever- it is hard to know, as there was no sign. Unfortunately the only option left was a convenience shop, where we grabbed a cold soda and chips- not really the treat we envisioned, but at least we had something to keep us going.

Today I am grateful to Jamie, for reminding me to breathe! 5:45 was our time to leave and we promised each other we would be productive tonight. So, as I impatiently wait for a taxi in the storm, I tap a few lines on my phone. I have my comments written and proofread, now I just have to cut and paste them into the separate sections of the reports and fill out what feels like 101 indicators for each student. Breathe- it WILL all get done, I remind myself. With any luck by the time I get home the system will be back up and I can make a bit more progress.




*** More from third grade slicers who keep going: Zhi Hong, Sejin

Comfort Foods


#sol17- May 16, 2017

Today I am not feeling well- I have a bad cold that is likely also a sinus infection. I knew I was tired walking in. Combine that with a long music rehearsal (for 6/19 of my class) that was smack in the middle of my writing tie when my students are supposed to be planning for their end of year on-demand writing assessment. Suffice it to say the day was not easy. Although I wanted to curl up into a ball and go to sleep at 3:00 I forced myself to mark a math fact assessment,  clean up a bit, and head to Pilates. We got to class early (a shock if you have read some of my recent posts), I survived all the contortions and calls of “tummy, tummy, tummy,”, so it was time for a treat.

I had to stop at the store for bananas and milk, so I headed to my favorite pizza shop. They were still out of anchovies (it has been weeks since they’ve had them), so I settled on another combination (pepperoni supreme- beef pepperoni, mushrooms, bell peppers, and tomatoes). Heading home with the pizza in hand I knew I was set. My day might have been hard, but my night would be okay with a happy tummy. Pizza is one of those foods that can almost always make me feel better! This started me thinking about comfort foods and wondering what foods bring friends comfort. I know that my next step in my evening is a soothing cup of hot tea- good for my throat and head. Topping it all off with an early night sounds like a recipe for the path to wellness.

*** Third graders who keep slicing: Juliet, Zhi Hong

Getting Stressy


#sol17- May 9, 2017

We have hit that crazy, busy it is not quite the end of semester, but we have to get common assessments, report writing done time of year! It is a domino effect of sprinting to the end of the year and it is never a straight path.

A few weeks ago my son (the one on South Korea) informed me that he would stop here for the weekend on his way to Thailand. He knew it was report writing time, but hoped that I could arrange my work so that I could spend time with him. What mother could resist that?! I started my report writing early and thanks to a few well placed local holidays I was feeling okay with my progress when he arrived Friday evening. My plan was to sneak in work when I could (he has always been a late sleeper, but he told me this is not the case when he travels).

Saturday morning I woke at 5:30 (darn that internal alarm- on school days I get up at 5:15, but really would love to sleep later on weekends) and jumped out of bed to do lesson planning. I worked more efficiently than usual, as I was unsure how much time I would have. To my surprise, I did the bulk of my planning before my son (who I maintain is part vampire due to his sleeping habits) finally got moving. We eventually went out and did some touristy things and had a great day.

Sunday morning, same scenario-5:30 wide awake and I jumped out of bed. This time I decided to work on reports (which I really did not think I would get to during his visit). I managed to write the language arts section for all but one of my students before he was ready to head out the door (truth- we did not get out the door until after 2:00 both days, hence my productivity).

This weekend reminded me of a few things:

  1. Jason’s idea of not sleeping late and mine are different (he will say he was awake, but definitely not ready to go anywhere).
  2. It is better to go into time with him without an agenda- when I have tried to plan ahead in the past I always get frustrated by his lack of timeliness- this time I took it as a gift of time.
  3. If I am up against a deadline I work better- I was more efficient writing and planning this weekend than usual.
  4. I enjoy my sons!
  5. With a weekend visitor and the upcoming weekend being a weekend workshop/pd I have really put myself under pressure to get things done.
  6. I will get it done!

Tomorrow is Wesak (a Buddhist holiday) and my son left yesterday so I will use lots of the day to get math comments written (of course all of these comments will have to be tweaked as common assessments get done in the next week or so). One foot in front of the other after an early night tonight!



*** Some third graders keep slicing! Zhi Hong

Service with a Smile (on a Holiday)!


#sol17- May 2, 2017

Yesterday I was so grateful for a holiday (May Day=Labor Day here) It is report writing season and next weekend my son will be in town and the following weekend I will be out of town for a workshop, so I really needed this extra day to “get ahead”.

I woke up in ready to get an early start. I turned on the computer-no wifi. I did not panic- this often happens, especially lately, so I went over to restart the modem. When that did not work I was still calm and pressed the reset button. Still no wifi. By now I was feeling a little discouraged, but I knew I could work around the issue. My plan was to open Pages on my computer but use the 4G on my phone to check the data I needed for math and ELA to make some notes in preparation to write comments. As I opened Pages I noted that I must have had a similar issue last year at this time because there were math comments from last year in the Pages folder. Oh, dear!

I decided to report the issue to my internet company, but since it was 8:30 on a holiday morning I was not at all sure there would be anyone on duty. After listening to my options in English, Bahasa, and Mandarin (this is Malaysia after all) I ended up with more buttons to press to get to a “reporting an issue” waiting queue. Imagine my surprise when less than a minute later I was speaking to a real live person (bonus that she spoke English well and was patient and kind). She suggested a few fixes for me, but sadly I had tried them already. Then she tried to reset things from her end, no luck. She asked me to type in a set of numbers on my computer (even though I explained I had no ethernet option with my Mac Air) no luck there either. She then said she would fill out a report and that a technician would work on the issue the next day. If the “fault” was external it could be fixed without entering the apartment, but if it turned out to be internal an appointment would have to be fixed. If it turned out that a new modem/router was required I could pay on my next bill (about $50) or sign a new service contract and get the replacement for free. Ah well, I had not really expected anything could be done on a holiday anyway. Taking a chance, I asked whether it was possible for a technician to come that day but was told that due to the holiday it was unlikely. After thanking the kind woman I went on with my plan b of working with Pages rather than Google docs.

After writing for a bit I was surprised when the phone rang. The man on the other end identified himself as a technician and asked if I was at home. As I was, he said he would be there in about 15 minutes. Now time is a nebulous thing here- in part because of the horrible traffic, but it also seems to be a culture of “no rush”, so I started working again. Less than 10 minutes later my doorbell rang.

Once inside this young man busted all my previous preconceptions of how this service call would go. First, he took off his shoes before entering the apartment (yahoo!). Next, he was friendly, spoke English well, and was kind to my cat (who seemed to fall in love with him- surprising because she is usually very wary of strangers). After working on the router for a few minutes (trying to restart and reset) he deemed the router kaput, whipped out a replacement, and installed it. Within two minutes he had entered my username and password and I was good to go.

After thanking him profusely I was back to work- cutting and pasting from Pages into Google docs and appreciating my new wifi connection (which actually, come to think of it seems faster than before). My day to get work done was back on track.

Later I received a survey about the service call. I rated both the woman on the phone and the technician a “10”. I had imagined a push and pull of setting up appointments and rearranging my schedule to be home for service calls that may or may not have actually happened. This was such a win! I LOVE when a problem is easily solved!

*** Slices from 3rd graders who just keep writing! Sejin, Juliet, Zhi Hong

Wow! This Is Really “The Rainy Season”!


#sol17- April 25, 2017

The rainy season here usually ends by now, but wow, not this year!

Today we were on our way to Pilates after school- traffic was crazy bad and it was dry, so the rain could not even be an excuse. “What in the world was going on?” I wondered as it was just before 4 and traffic is usually okayish then. We knew the rain was coming- the sky had darkened and promptly at 3:45 when after school activities end and the kids have to head to the buses the lightning alarm had gone off.

We crept along the highway and then the skies opened up. Violent thunderstorms are the norm here, but this time the rain was pelting down too. My friend, Maggie turned her windshield wipers to high, but still struggled to see. Within seconds the road was flooded. Traffic really crawled then. During heavy rains the many motorcyclists often take refuge under overpasses, water was gushing down all around them.

Drivers do not believe in leaving distance here, so it was tight quarters. We edged onto the main highway again where 3 two lane roads merge into one two lane road- not for the faint hearted with all the rain! Then we passed some construction sites on the hill nearby and instead of water it was thick, sandy water cascading down the hillside and covering the road. Still her car battled through. Finally we got close to our destination- the roads were less flooded and the rain had slowed to a heavy storm.

Parking we heaved a sigh of relief to brave the walk to the fitness room. We arrive drenched, more than 30 minutes late, but with another crazy rainy drive under our bet. It took us more than an hour to drive the 6 km). Ready to exercise!


This picture is actually from 2 weeks ago- different route.


Ah, the feeling of confidence as you drive by a mini van that is this deep!











***A few slices from 3rd graders who can’t stop!


Zhi Hong


Wait, What?!


#sol17- April 18, 2017

It was still dark as I slipped into the back seat of the taxi (don’t judge- taxis are quite cheap here, traffic is terrible, they drive on the other side of the road, and I made the decision before I moved here that the world would be a better place if I did not drive here). I went on with my normal routine- checking email, Facebook, and Twitter, and catching up on the news on my 20 minute ride to school.

“Uh, oh,” I thought to myself, as Sharul, my sometimes morning driver pulled over to the side of the road. I wondered what the problem was.

“Police,” he said quietly to me.

I was surprised because I had not heard a siren (and I knew that here drivers do not usually pull all the way over for a siren, but edge over slightly and maintain speed). I have heard many stories of the police here pulling over people and expecting a bribe- so I wondered what was next.

Sharul rolled down his window as the officer approached. The officer spoke to him in Bahasa and he responded. The only word I recognized was “sekolah”, which is school. Then the officer left and we pulled back onto the road.

As we drove off Sharul explained, “Once I told him you were a teacher and I am taking you to school he let me go. Teachers are very respected here. Many people will even salute teachers when they see them.”

I explained to him that this was not my experience in general in other places, that often people do not often look up to teachers at all.

It was definitely not how I expected to start my day, but it was nice to know that some people think that our job is important. I often tell people that I have the best job in the world- and I mean it!

****Totally unrelated…A few of my students are still slicing. You can see their posts here as they arrive: Juliet Zhi Hong

A Fun Way to Spend a Saturday Morning


#sol17- April 11, 2017

Saturday morning a group of us met for a coffee before walking over to a nearby “school”. This school was special- it is affiliated with MSRI (Malaysian Social Research Institute)- and houses a school for refugees. Teachers from my school were volunteering to teach workshops to teachers who work with refugees here in Malaysia. The teachers are not professionals, receive little training, and are trying to do their best for their students. Many of the “teachers” are refugees themselves and have aged out of the schools, so are now volunteering to teach. The teachers have expressed that they would love help with lesson planning, classroom management, building routines, and developing community. My friend, E. and I immediately thought of Morning Meeting (thank you Responsive Classroom) as it is how we start each day in our own classrooms.  A third teacher wanted to join us and we quickly planned our session.

This Saturday morning we taught our session twice. We worked with just over 20 teachers. We heard stories of their challenges with attention issues, learning issues, kids who are so tired and stressed. Although the students they work with are different from ours, we could readily see so many similarities too. It was great to have time at the end of each session for the teachers to ask us questions and we could brainstorm possible ideas. It felt like a sharing session and I know that I benefitted from hearing their stories and thinking more deeply about my practice.

As we were leaving the second session I caught up with one of the teachers. I recognized her from two years ago when her school used to come to ours one afternoon a month. Her school was for Somali refugees and some of our fifth graders worked with a group of teachers to plan activities for the visitors to help them speak more English. “Yes,” she said, “I used to be at the Fugee school, but I got too old, but my sister is still there.”  It is so hard to be a refugee here is what I thought to myself.

Opportunities to volunteer like this is part of why I moved to Southeast Asia- I am at a stage in my life where I have some extra time and I would like to be able to volunteer more regularly. I am glad that there are people at my school who help to keep opportunities like this on my radar so that I can get more involved.

The feedback to the organizers of our Saturday session was good. I am already starting to think about what we can share next. I am feeling grateful that in small ways I can be a part of the community here.

***Unrelated blogposts by slicers in my class who still keep slicing.



Zhi Hong