While report writing is not my favorite genre to write it does allow me time to think deeply about learners, their progress, and next steps. Today I “exceeded expectations” for my own report writing goal (which still means I have to do lots of revising and editing and add in their strengths and goals), so that felt like a win for a day off, as I also got to read more than half of The Beatryce Prophecy (Kate DiCamillo’s latest-you want it, trust me!) as my reward.
Last Thursday was our first day with elementary students on campus since February 22. It has been a whirlwind of awesome. My main goal in these first few days has been to try to show each student that I see them and that they matter. It is a balance as there are still four students from the class online- I want them to feel that too, but with short connections just twice a day that now feels harder for them to feel that love.
I can see where I am failing- the new student who is feeling stressed and thinks he is in trouble because he got separated from the class. There are other moments for others- that look small to me from the outside, but feel huge for them- all amplified by the fact that everything is still just so different. Add in a sprinkling of Covid worry and it is a slightly uneasy feeling just under the layer of “oh, my goodness it is so good to be at school” and every piece of the daily puzzle can feel a bit much. For us all.
Still, at the end of the day and at the beginning as well, with frequent reminders in between the message I want to send is consistent- “I see you, you matter.”
Last night we found out that the elementary school at our PK-Grade 12 school had received permission to open (the secondary school has been on campus for a few weeks). That still did not mean we knew when, so this morning was a little unsettling. I had hoped we would know something before our morning Zoom, but no luck. I told my class that it felt like one of those days it was lucky that my head was attached so I couldn’t forget it- everything felt a bit topsy turvy.
This morning in Zoom I took an informal poll asking when students thought we would be back on campus- my guess was the soonest-Thursday. My teammates were also all over the place in their predictions.
The whole day felt a little off- complicated by the fact that it is accreditation week and we have a virtual visit of about 10 educators from several organizations working on verifying our self study, so we are in extra meetings, have visitors popping into Zooms, etc.
At 2:40 the email came. We had been given the green light to start on Thursday. It is super exciting, but a little bit stressful also as we immediately thought of Zooming to teach tomorrow, check completed work, and add in planning for the first two days in person the first time since last February, coupled with the fact that our school day had officially already ended for the day- phew! We still have many questions- most will remain unanswered until after school Wednesday when we have our “quick” all staff meeting, so yes, tomorrow (and Thursday) will be one of “those days” too! But kids, actual kids, will be in our fifth grade classroom on Thursday and that is pretty thrilling!
It is break here (Pchum Ben, which celebrates ancestors). I never had an autumn break until I taught overseas and at the one school that did not have it I kind of felt like I was not getting the right rhythm. I need that pause.
October break used to mean taking time to notice the changing seasons (and dreading the winter to come when I lived in cold climates). When I was a single mom it was a time to reconnect with my sons. We did not travel because money was tight. We enjoyed local jaunts.
Since moving to Southeast Asia as an empty nester October break has meant consulting maps- is it rainy season there? Too cold? Are the flight times okay?
Since COVID I have not traveled-— at all. It is the longest stretch I have gone in my adult life staying “home”. I almost traveled this break, but I didn’t – still feeling a little leery with my Sinovac hitting the six month mark.
Instead I am traveling another way- in books. It is the fourth day of break and I have already finished four books. I am using the time to do my own ancestor work as I continue to learn more about racism and antiracism.
I am about halfway through a course “So What If We Are Teaching Critical Race Theory?” and it has really pushed my thinking over the last few Sundays (we have a theme each week and resources to explore and then get together for an hour each Sunday evening on Zoom). Combine that with an inspiring day long conference a few weeks ago that focused on DEIJ in international schools and I know I have to move beyond reading and thinking to doing. I have so many plans…
I am a planner. My strategy for the last few years has been to strategically grow my class library. The class discussions we have had have been amazing and the kids give me hope for a better future. We have delved into all kinds of topics and students have had the opportunity to have books that were windows, mirrors, and doors (thanks to Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop for introducing me to this concept). We have a new unit centered around where we are in place and time with the central idea “What is happening in the world can cause a shift in thinking and inspire change” that we will combine with some opinion writing and nonfiction reading to uncover author’s purpose and bias, among other things. That central idea is guiding me over this quiet break to make my own action plans as the unit begins- it always feels like the units of inquiry teach me as we go, which is part of what I love about this way of learning.
Now I am on the hunt for some great mentor texts that can inspire these thoughtful grade five thinkers. Writing will take us new places.
Some days are ugh and I was feeling that a bit too much yesterday, so today as the chair of a planning meeting I had a chance to open with a way to reframe my potential attitude.
“What are your top three?” I asked. “ Your top three whatever you want to share. It could be your top three songs, holiday locations, anything,” I continued.
“I can go first, as I had longer to think about this than anyone else,” I said. “ It may not come as a surprise to you, but I want to talk about reading. My favorite genres are historical fiction (because I always learn something and then often go off and research the parts that are new to me), mysteries (because once upon a time I thought I might want to be a spy because I am so nosy), and realistic fiction (especially about characters who are not “just like me” because I love learning about different lives/reactions, etc.).”
The rest of the team shared their own top three- we heard some more about genres, favorite local restaurants, favorite cuisines, favorite homemade foods, and favorite siblings. We all definitely learned a little bit more about each other and started off with a smile before we dug into the hard work of unit redesign.
Some days I resist inclusions at the start of meetings because I want to “cut to the chase”, but today it felt like a means to get me to focus on something I love and I needed that. It reminds me that other people may need that same entry point into other meetings so I should remember that when I want to rush to the main point, because maybe the start can be the bridge we need…
Today I am feeling kind of blah. It is International Day of Peace and I am missing the “special” school days that can get kind of annoying in an “everyday” school year overfilled with busy.
We are still online and the kids are actually being remarkably good sports about it. We heard rumors a few weeks ago that we might be in person as of September 15, but that turned out to not be so, although the secondary did return yesterday.
In Cambodia they have started to vaccinate children ages 6 and up, so opening elementary schools may be on the horizon, but it feels like a distant hope some days.
I realize the blah is me sometimes- this morning’s Zoom was too jam packed and I felt for the kids as they tried valiantly to keep up. I have to remember what a great class I have- I am grateful for them all!
Tomorrow is another day and in grade 5 we have designated it as Wacky Wednesday, as we have a PD Day on Thursday and a holiday on Friday. Hopefully that will bring some light to us all- I am in for wacky (at least my version of wacky (not COVID-19’s)!
I know it is not just me, and in some ways that helps. This has been the longest, rollercoasteriest 17 months of my life. Some days I feel just fine and others not so much- and that is just days- it actually varies minute by minute. I found the perfect tool to express it- a Mood Meter!
I was in a workshop this weekend and we used it as an inclusion- we could choose two words we were currently feeling and explain them or not. My moods seemed in opposition to each other…
Today at a team meeting I pulled it out as an inclusion to start the meeting and again- words that seemed to pull at each other- exhausted and inspired may have been what I chose, but after a few minutes of the meeting I could feel other moods arise. I used to feel like my feelings were more aligned, more slow to change- but for the last 17 months- not so much.
I had a lot more written here that I have just deleted, because I am sure all of you can fill in the blanks with your own story of the moment- your now, and there is some comfort in that. We are alone, together in the feelings that have felt so overwhelming off and on for these last 17 months and I know it has been more rollercoastery for many.
It was a Monday, as all Mondays are. I am always a few minutes behind on a Monday, but somehow yesterday I was feeling “all set”.
I got to school at my usual time and greeted my teammates- both of the other home room teachers are there early this year, like me- I like that.
I knew I had a few things to do still on my slides (we are online and send out slides each Morning by 7:30 outlining the day’s work. My wifi wasn’t working, so I went through all of the obvious fixes. I turned the WiFi off and on, I restarted my computer, then I went next door to check with my teammate.
“Mine isn’t either,” she confirmed. “Let me check on my phone.”
“Hmm, not even 3G.”
“I’ll go down and tell Liz (our principal),” I said, thinking it might just be our floor.
“I’ll come too, there’s nothing I can do right now without wifi.”
On the way downstairs we confirmed with our other teammate that he also did not have wifi and headed downstairs.
Liz then confirmed that she did not either and it seemed like the whole campus had no wifi. It was coincidentally the first day our director was away, to take his daughter to university, so she had already contacted the acting director.
“I’ll let you know when I hear back about anything,” she said as we headed back upstairs.
After chatting about how stuck we felt without wifi we started to get a bit nervous- it was nearing the time when our slides had to get out and we had no way to hotspot via our phones for that, never mind the morning meeting/instructional Zoom that followed.
Not long after after a few false starts the intercom chimed. “It looks like the wifi is not a quick fix- it may be out for more than and hour. All teachers can go home to work from there today.”
Ack- then the question of how to get home. By now it was about 45 minutes after my tuck yuk had dropped me off and I knew he would be home and the drive took him nearly that long, so to return would mean I would be late for my Zoom.
Luckily, the teacher next door lives quite near me and her husband knew that their driver was still close by. We quickly grabbed our necessities- read aloud, laptop, and more and were on our way. There is definitely more traffic later, so her driver took a different way home.
I arrived home in time to send out my slides (late) and jump in the shower again before my Morning Meeting. It seemed like school was not the only place suffering from wifi issues, as kids popped in and out of the Zoom. As the TAs went home too, ours was able to introduce her two week old pug puppies to the class, so that was a great bonus! Seven sweet girls! We had seen pictures and a video, but to see them live on the screen left us all with a smile.
All in all it felt like a very frantic day, with that delayed start and change of routine, but today, I am happy to report that all was well with the wifi! It made for a smoother start to our Tuesday. Mondays can be overcome.