A Fun Read Aloud


#sol19- March 26, 2019

Today was pretty exciting- a few books arrived. The students saw them as they walked in after lunch recess and immediately shrieked with glee.

“Can we read that as our book a day?” several asked, as they saw It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk, in the pile. It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk had been a real favorite and many students still laugh when it is mentioned.

“Maybe,” I teased, knowing full well I would, after all, how can you ignore that excitement.

When the time came I told them that I would need two assistants. As usual, when it comes to volunteers I picked sticks. I knew reading a new book out loud would not be within everyone’s comfort area so told them they could pass if they wanted.

I chose P and C. P is an EAL learner and loves humor in books, but as he is not a super confident reader, so I was pleasantly surprised that he wanted to read. C. is a native English speaker, but this is her first year in a school where English is the language of instruction. I was pretty sure she would want to read and I was right.

The three of us sat up front together sharing the roles. C. and P had lots of fun, giggling through their lines dramatically. I got to be the narrator and the witch- plenty of scope for fun there too. As we read the last page the class noticed another fairy tale character spoke up and they predicted (correctly) that the next story would feature Little Red Riding Hood.

“Can we get that one too?” someone asked.

“It won’t be out yet, this book is still new,” a savvy classmate responded.

“You’re right, it is not out yet, but it is contracted,” I added.

I love that this class is passionate about read aloud and eagerly await new books.

It was the perfect end to a busy day!



Public Bathroom Etiquette


#sol19- March 25, 2019

I have a love/hate relationship with public bathrooms, especially, it seems in Southeast Asia. I have my own informal rating system (dry floor, having toilet paper, a choice between squat toilets and Western style, and hooks on the stall door are all plusses). They are so much better here in Phnom Penh than they generally were in Kuala Lumpur-maybe because of the various signs they post. In KL I always had to travel with toilet paper and often would just hold it rather than use the toilets. Maybe I am just trying them out in more touristy areas.



By the sink. 



Back wall of stall art, of course!



Near the sinks. 

Maybe it is because this restroom is in a mall (Aeon2, a Japanese company), but I, for one, appreciate the collective understanding developed through the signs (and when I finally get around to writing my review of public bathrooms wall art may be a new bonus category).


Rumor Has It


#sol19- March 24, 2019

Friday night I heard a rumor and I wanted to believe it.

Sandy told me what Garrett told her. A change was coming Saturday and I hoped it was true.

It has been a busy weekend, so I forgot it until I stepped outside just before 6PM. One side of the sky was black- could it be true?

I walked to the grocery store and wondered if my timing was off. After shopping, I was ready to head home. I sniffed the air and wow, my nose confirmed it. The wind was whipping up and I worried again about my timing. It was hard to cross the street due to the steady stream of cars, motos, and tuk-tuks. I was the only pedestrian out, but that is often true.

Turning on to my street I was sprinkled with dirt- the construction sites are everywhere and the sudden wind meant even my glasses were not keeping the dirt out of my eyes. Overhead lightning crackled and there were a few booms of thunder, but no rain, yet…

Maybe Garrett was right after all and we will have a storm- a day late is better than never. We have not had rain in so long and it is hot, hot, hot. A storm could cool things down and give us a reprise from the dust. Safely ensconced inside I keep checking the window, still no rain, but I am hopeful. Who knows it might even be enough so that the turbines can run regularly and all the people suffering from daily blackouts and no water might get relief too.

What Was I Thinking?


#sol19- March 23, 2019

It all started way back in October with the approach. “We need someone super organized on our team.”

I was new to the school and flattered, quite honestly, that my new colleagues considered me organized (I consider myself organized too, but because I am so messy it might be overlooked by some). Then there was the hook- it would mean lots of time hanging out with musical people. I have always been friends with the musicians. I have absolutely zero musical skills, but I know who the fun people are.

Looking over the job description quickly I could see a few problems- number one was the time involved (which included Mondays beginning in November and Thursdays beginning in January). I already have a leadership meeting each Monday. “No problem,” I was assured, “someone else can do Mondays until the last week and then we will get permission for you to miss that meeting.”

I looked over countless folders and realized that the job really was loosely defined, so I could really manage it- if I chose to accept. They must have known already that I am not good at saying no, so sure enough I said yes.

Flash forward to a week ago and it was THE week. Saturday we had a dress rehearsal and Monday-Thursday we had extended rehearsals from 2:45-4:30. The first show was last night and the last show was this afternoon. I have to be honest there were many times I questioned my sanity for taking on this extra commitment, but at the intermission today it seemed worth it. The end was in sight and I could already look back fondly at the opportunity it gave me to get to know 91 students a bit better and experience something different with them. It also gave me the chance to work with some of my new colleagues in more depth It reminded me that on the delivery table after giving birth to my older son I said, “I would have another.” Already I was thinking maybe I would help again next year, although there were at least 100 times in the last five months that I questioned my sanity for signing on.

As the lights went up and the audience cheered, Ali Baba and the Bongo Bandits came to a close and I felt some personal satisfaction that I had made it through! I really must practice saying no more often, but, maybe, I will say yes if asked to help out with next year’s musical.


Books Saved My Sanity


#sol19- March 22, 2019

Backstage was too crazy- the kids were so loud and it was hard to blame them- they were nervous, excited, and waiting made them restless and bored, so they got louder and louder. It was hard to get them to quiet down and they needed to hear important announcements. Something had to be changed. This was supposed to be fun for us all.

We came up with a plan for the performance days- upstairs as they were waiting for makeup, getting costumes, and waiting before coming to the green room they would have paper, pencils, and crayons. I printed off some coloring sheets, blank comic strip pages, mindful coloring, sudoku, and blank paper.

Downstairs in the drama room while they waited between scenes I would provide books. During recess today some students from my class volunteered to gather the books- they loaded four boxes with 30 books each- trying to choose a mix of chapter books and picture books, fiction and nonfiction. They were trying to create a selection that would appeal to grades 1-5. Judging from the noise level in the room they did a great job- almost everyone was glued to a book. The drama room was so much quieter and it was great to see them calm and settled as they waited for their turns.

The performance zoomed by and I was exhausted but cheerful at the end (and so were the kids). More than 90 students knocked it out of the park tonight- wahoo!

Only a Teacher…


#sol19- March 21, 2019

Today I had several moments that only other teachers may truly “appreciate”.

  • “I don’t get it,” M said. “How do you inherit any of your father’s traits? Does he have an egg too?”

I explained in brief terms that the father contributes sperm, while the mom contributes an egg, so the resulting child has part of each parent.

“So, does the dad just cut off a chunk of himself?”

“Your parents can explain in more detail,” I said.


  •  Later I had to deal with several students who were repeating really offensive language they had learned online. Another teacher overheard them and brought it to my attention. She did not know who it was, because they were far away, so I asked the students to identify themselves (which they did eventually). I had them write notes explaining what happened and the stories agreed. I talked to one parent directly after school and emailed the other parents- not what I expected to deal with today in third grade.


  • After school during the last rehearsal for the musical one girl said she felt like she was going to vomit, so I told her she could sit out. When it got crowded backstage I moved her on to the wing. Unfortunately, when she decided she really did have to vomit she did not make it outside before she started. The teacher who had been sitting by her said, “Erika, emergency!” and I went running.

I stayed with her outside while she finished up. The other teacher returned to hand me some paper towels and I helped her clean herself up. We called her dad, but unfortunately, it was late enough that she could not be picked up. I tried to handle the conversation all myself, but really they needed to talk to each other, so … she used my phone with all those germs. I took her to the bathroom where she further cleaned herself up and then she headed inside to hear last instructions before she headed off to the bus. I am telling myself that she was just overly excited- after all, tomorrow is her last day at school and the first night of the play. Hopefully washing my hands twice afterward protected me from potential germs- as for my phone, maybe the lavender wipes kill germs? But I still smell vomit…

Some days I think only other teachers can truly appreciate because these are just three tiny parts of my day!

How We Celebrated


#sol19- Mach 20, 2019

Today was International Day of Happiness and thanks to the grade 2 students forwarning us in the assembly last week I was prepared.

Yesterday I gave the students 15 minutes to start planning their happiness project, whatever that meant to them. I read a few ideas from 50 Ways to Feel Happy  to get them started, but then they were off on their own.

Today we had two sessions of “compliment scoot”. They wrote their name in the middle of a piece of paper to start. Next, they left their paper on their table while I played music and they roamed. When the music paused they wrote a compliment for that person on their paper. I spread this over two sessions and the energy was high, to say the least. At the end of the second session when everyone had had a chance to write one everyone else’s paper each child hand-delivered a compliment and the competed pare to a classmate. It was so sweet to watch them read their paper and share it with friends. Some students opted to keep this ray of happiness at school so they could look back at it whenever they wanted, while others wanted to take it home.

“I’m going to put it in a frame,” B said.

“I want to take it home to show my family, but then bring it back in because it will help me write better characters,” L said.

Just after lunch, the students had about 25 minutes to work on their individual happiness projects. The range was impressive.


This student was working on a cup of positive messages that she placed in front of the classroom for people to take from whenever they want.


Some students made cards for others.


This student had a whole checklist and went outside to check off some of her items. She ended up adding on even more ideas. 

There was lots more pictured here. Students were asking others what they could draw for them, how they could help them, and more. They were truly trying to think about how to spread happiness.

It is safe to say we all left school feeling a little happier!