Category Archives: Uncategorized

Saying Goodbye


#sol18- January 16, 2018

Some people are dog people, some cat people, some both, and some neither.  I am definitely #teamcat when the cats are the best cats!


Named by my boys- for their love of soccer and the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano,

acrobat scaling tall curtains in the blink of an eye,

though unable to jump for years,

furniture shredder, closet lover, not a fan of new people,

adopted by our peripatetic family,

moving again, and again, and again,

loves to snuggle- always at my heels,

happiest by my side,

sadly failing, time is fleeting. appreciating your love all the more,

hoping I will know when it is the right time to say goodbye to you.



*Slices from former students- Juliet and Zhi Hong.






My Weird Premonition!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h#sol18- January 9, 2018

It was a case of bad timing- when I booked this trip months ago I thought I might be leaving Asia this summer and I was desperate to visit India again after 12 years away. I will be honest- it never occurred to me that it would be cold in the north, but it was! By the end of the trip I was feeling happy, but tired- so it was time to head home. My flight was to leave just before 10, which meant a 6 AM departure from the hotel, but all was well, there was zero traffic, so we made it super quickly.

Checking in was easier than anticipated (I had been told all bags had to be wrapped and carry on had to be airline tagged, but nothing like that was happening in my line). I double checked that my luggage would go all the way through, as I had a short layover in Singapore. The man gave me the traditional Indian head nod/bob, so I took that as a yes. I was thrilled to kill some of my time in a Starbucks and the whole airport was spacious and easy.

I knew the timing of the layover would be tight, so when the pilot on the first flight announced a delayed departure due to fog (surprise, on the cold days there the fog is thick until early afternoon) my stomach clenched. I had it all planned- I was to arrive home at the airport in KL at 8:45PM and then rest up for my catch up day on Sunday before returning to school.

I leaned in to the delay- only supposed to be 15-20 minutes, I could do that. “I will still make my connection,” I said to myself, as I opened my Kindle to catch up on some reading. Sure enough, it wasn’t much longer than that and we took off.

Fivish hours later I changed terminals and hustled to my gate with only a few minutes to wait before boarding, so I did not stop to buy a snack (why does travel make you so hungry?). A few minutes later the food cart rattled down the narrow aisle and imagine my surprise when the cart mysteriously stopped right by me and my name was called (sort of- she said Victor Erika, but I figured she meant me). She handed me a maple muffin and a small bottle of water- just enough to quiet my rumbling tummy. Only one other person on the flight had food delivered- I have no idea what I did to merit the food, and although I enjoyed the treat it also filled me with a strange sense of foreboding. Was this a recompense for my bag not making the second flight with me?

Immigration was busy once we landed and as usual, I picked the slow line even though I actually counted the number of people in a few lines and chose accordingly. I hurried off to carousel 8. The signboard flashed “last bag” but there were still a few more bags arriving while a helpful porter pulled off the bags. I looked at the bags in the lineup-no luck. Then I made small talk with the porter. “There will still be a few more bags to come, right?”

“Nope, that’s it,” he replied and I may have whimpered- after all I had had that premonition. In a shocking show of efficiency, he whisked me off to the lost luggage room and helped me fill in the required paperwork. It was too late for anything to happen by then he told me, so it would have to wait until the morning. “Take this number and call in the morning, he added. So much for my “start laundry once I get home plan”.

I grabbed a taxi and went home to pout.

Sunday morning I had a slow start (tired plus a bit sick). When I got out of the shower I had three missed calls from the same number. Upon returning the call a man identified himself as with the airline and said he was already on his way with my bag.

Sure enough, just after noon, I got a call from the lobby of my condo to retrieve my bag and we were reunited. Then I began my slightly delayed laundry. In the end it could have been so much worse- just over 12 hours delay and it was on the home end of the trip. I am hoping that has earned me good travel karma for the foreseeable future.


***Former student, Zhi Hong, still slicing!

OLW Reflections


#sol17- December 26, 2017

As the last days if 2017 are upon us I seem to be the only one left who has not yet blogged a reflection on my OLW for the year. 2017 seems to be the fourth year that I have chosen a word to guide/inspire me for the year. My first year it was “love”, then “change”, followed by “joy”, and this year I chose “brave”. As is usually the case there are other bloggers who have the same word chosen as I do and this year having Fran McVeigh with the same word meant that when she reflected on her progress with the word I did too, yet I never wrote it down.

Looking back, brave was a good choice for me! This year I:

  • presented for my school and at nErDcampMI (I am not a natural presenter and it stresses me!)
  • attended some PD that was outside of my usual comfort range (including Adaptive Schools- which I heartily recommend and going to TC without a friend)
  • traveled on my own more (including Laos, Vietnam, and more-while sometimes lonely I made it work and I know I just need to continue to go for it)
  • spoke up more
  • contacted a long lost friend (who I had not seen in more than 30 years)
  • updated my resume and applied for (and signed for) a new job in a new country for next school year
  • kept sharing things at school (even though I sometimes felt like I was being a pest)
  • and probably more that I am forgetting

While it is hard to say that choosing the word made me any braver it did make me more determined when I was about to not do some things, so that was (usually) a good thing. A recent post by Liv had me thinking about the words that defined me in 2017 and I would like to think that brave is one of them.

I love choosing a new word for the year and will use the resources here as I decide on what word will guide me next and as I encourage my third graders to choose their OLW for 2018.


*** Former student, Zhi Hong, slicing still.

Goal Oriented (or is it Deadline Oriented?)


#sol17- December 19, 2017

Today is day 4 of break and I am getting through my to do list:) I notice that I tend toward putting things off as long as I can, but once I set myself a goal I get so much more focused. I have a three-week break (luxurious, I know), and I wanted to get the most out of it, so divided it up:

Week 1- My overall goal was to get stuff done here in KL (doctor appointment, dentist appointment, getting some paperwork started for my summer move, etc.). As I checked Goodreads I noticed I had not yet finished my goal of reading 267 books, so that became a goal too (and I love to participate in #bookaday over break). I also wanted to get back to daily writing (Michelle’s post is reminding me, too, as is Teach Write’s call for a writing manifesto, and the fact that I know I did a poor job on a post I sent to someone months ago that needs to be updated before publication). So four days in and I have finished 8 books (yay, Goodreads goal surpassed) and had two appointments. I have also had two (yes two) massages, met friends for dinner and lunch, seen a movie, bought new books, loaded my Kindle with books for the break, watched some episodes of The Crown, and thought about other things I should add to my list to do. There really was a need for this break- I am soooo tired!

Week 2- My goal is to celebrate Christmas with my older son. He works in South Korea and only has three days off, so we are meeting in Nha Trang, Vietnam for a few days of fun (note to self- I better buy him some Christmas presents!). I will miss my younger son so much, but he is not able to get here this year (he will spend Christmas with my mom and sister, so I know he will be well loved). When I return to KL my secondary goal is to plan for my first week or two back at school, so that does not haunt me in week 3.

Week 3- This week I will travel to India. I am going on a trip with Intrepid Travel to (mostly) Delhi and Jaipur. I like Intrepid because it means I will have a balance of tour time and alone time. I lived in Mumbai for a year but did not get to see as much of India as I would like, so look forward to this. When I booked the trip I was not sure if I would still be living in Asia next year and I did not want to miss a chance of visiting India with relative ease. I will not arrive back until late Saturday night before school starts again- hence my need to do planning next week (because I will be traveling light, no computer even). The last day of the break will be spent resting up for the busy term ahead (no lesson planning allowed- it will have to get done in week 2).

Reading this over it all sounds just like what I want and need for this break! A good mix of business (and busyness) and pleasure (and relaxation).



*** Zhi Hong slices.

How to Lose Your Focus


#sol17- December 12, 2017

I will admit it, I was a little grumbly about last week’s special events (we had Christmas Around the World afternoon, a music rehearsal, a music assembly, and our swim carnival all disrupting our schedule last week), while this week (our last week before break) our schedule is pretty “normal”. Here’s the truth- the worst disruption I did to myself.

It started as a “must do”- I got a reminder from the company that I have booked part of my travel with that I was responsible for procuring any necessary visas. I was able to apply for the visa to India online, but I had to get all kinds of things sorted for that, including scanning a passport picture, and a copy of the data page of my passport. I needed to do this at least 4 days before travelling, but I did not want to wait that late in case (for whatever reason) the visa was not automatically granted. So I applied for the visa last week, when I really had no time, as I was finishing up reports. If you apply for a visa it turns out you have to list travel dates and contact information in the country, so I dug that out. The visa is supposed to take 72 hours, so I pressed send and waited.

Less than 24 hours later I had an emailed copy of my visa, so of course, I felt like I had to print that out right away. Better do it while I remembered, right? Since I was printing that out, I rationalized, I might as well print out everything else I would need for the break (flight information for my trip to Vietnam to meet up with son #1, hotel information for that trip too, itinerary for the trip to India-to match the visa, flight information for that trip too). Sadly I was too early to check in and print boarding passes, but the damage had been done- I was by then totally excited about my upcoming trips and unfocused on the day ahead  (never mind all the other days between then and the trips). It definitely made me focus on something other than my grumpiness about changed schedules, so for that, I was grateful. It also made me feel more empathy for my students who are definitely feeling ready for the break (but not so much for the three who left a week early).

The calendar has also conspired against me. This weekend was a long one, as the Sultan of Selangor (the state that one campus of our school is in) celebrates his birthday on the 11th. While long weekends are a treat it made me even more excited for days of relaxation (so I warmed up this weekend by going to a movie, eating out, getting a massage, and more).

This morning I had to corral my long lost focus to help my students prepare for our upcoming parent share- still more work to do. I know we can do it! I am not usually a “count down to break” kind of person, but I am going to blame it on printing out my travel details too early! As I write this I realize it is by now close enough that I can check in for trip one and print out that boarding pass. Trip 2 of break will have to wait. Maybe my focus is not so much lost as it is redirected.



*Former student, Zhi Hong, still slicing.

The Choice Is Yours


#sol17- December 5, 2017

Today was one of those days, in one of those weeks. This morning 6 of the 18 students were going to be out, at a performance rehearsal for an hour (okay, so in reality, it ended up being an hour and a half until they all returned). Understand that this is the week before our last week of school. This is a week filled with special events (Christmas Around the World was yesterday, the performance is tomorrow, the swim carnival is Friday).

So what to do with the remaining 12? I decided to give them time and choice. We have a parent share next week, so we are trying to get a few more projects finished, so they are eager for time- that part was easy.

They could: publish their nonfiction chapter book (and within that they had the choice of fancying up their draft, recopying in book form, or publishing it digitally), working on research reading to learn more about the ecosystem/human impact issue of their choice (what they will do with this learning the class will determine later this week), recommend books via Flipgrid (as a year-end collection of recommendations that we will share with other third graders).

What I loved was the independence they showed. There was no priority list made for them, so they divided their time as they wished. They had access to lots of choice- digital and analog options for everything they were working on. There was a hum in the room (which you can hear on the videos), but it was, almost entirely purposeful. Students moved from one activity to the next without pause. It was a slow-paced morning in our frenetic week where students could get some one-on-one support (teaching students how to format a Google doc, insert page breaks, search the online resources we have for more information, enter the password to access Epic on their laptop vs the ipad, and more) and work in a way that worked for each one of them.

Watching the Flipgrid videos tonight made my heart fill with pride. The videos were an option, not a must. You can definitely see their love of books and their growing confidence in sharing their reading lives.

Finally, it was time for our classmates to return, so we put away what we had been working on and went on to something new. I was thankful for this little break in our busy week and the reminder of how much these students are growing!


Former students are slicing still:

Zhi Hong


An Empty Mailbox Tells a Story


#sol17- November 28, 2017

Today I walked with a colleague through the faculty room and he stopped to pick up his large, white envelope. Contract day was yesterday, the Board had approved the details of the new employment package, and new contracts were ready for signing. Although every school does it differently at this school contracts are renewed for two years usually, with people who are trying to keep their options open opting for a one year renewal. Contracts were issued yesterday with a due date back of December 4. This is when the whispered conversations at may go into high gear. We already know who used the “early tell” deadline in October to get a $1000 bonus if they announced at that early date that they would not be returning next year. The interim period between then and December 4th is fraught with nerves. Some people know they are staying (always the great majority), but who would be seriously looking for a change vs who would be sending out feelers “just in case”?

This year I opted for “soft recruiting”- which meant I would be having a look around but was not willing to commit to actually leaving. I knew I could be perfectly happy staying another year at my current school, even though some people I really value were likely moving on (including a couple who used “early tell”). Recruiting in international schools is a huge process and starts with the decision of how you are going to look (there are various agencies you can sign up with that offer services that include hosting recruiting fair, giving you access to lists of schools with openings, online portals for references, etc.).

As luck would have it (and helped along by a colleague with some knowledge of my wants and needs) my short list was short (but so was my timeline as I was not willing to take a chance on a job happening after the contract due date at my current school).

So today, as my colleague retrieved his contract from his mailbox there was no white envelope for me. Two weeks ago I signed a contract with another school- my future home- and although it feels good and right, it feels a bit sad too for sure. It is a time of mixed emotions- some colleagues are still looking for their next job (and may decide to stay in the next few days), while others are already sorted (heading to other parts of Asia, North America, South America, Europe, and Africa), or staying right here happily. The good news is that this is all way in the future shifting and we have more than 6 months left together. But today my empty mailbox gave me pause and made me think about how much I need to cram in these “last 6 months” to soak in all the good that is here. I am not ready to be gone yet!