#cyberpd Week 1

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Every summer I have a secret favorite- a book that I hope will be the #cyberpd choice- this year my wish came true! I knew I wanted to read this book before it was published, had the luck to learn from Sara Ahmed in person right around its book birthday, and had it preordered and waiting for my summer visit to the US before the choice was announced- YIPPEE!

As I have heard Sara speak before I was familiar with some of the content, but the specifics and examples she gives bring it all to life so fully. I am rationing my reading of the book, so that I do not read ahead of the week we are on so my reflections are based on my first read, but I already know that this is a book I will return to over and over and definitely one I will be able to use next month in third grade.

I liked the reminder in the foreword to ‘muddle through these with your peers before you engage with your students.’ I have a feeling that I will want to continue this with colleagues at my new school! The book would be a great book study for a school.

I also loved the playlist in the acknowledgments- has anyone made a Spotify collection of this that I could follow (lazy me!)?

In the introduction, Sara’s reminder via Smokey Daniels, that “kids mirror the language and behaviors adults exhibit”, is so true- for better and worse!I also loved the comment about the health of a school depending on the number of elephants in the room- I have never thought about it that way before, but upon reflection, it sure seems like a great barometer! Her reminder that our strongest superpower in teh classroom is kidwatching- so validating in this time of increased pressure on data collection- this is our data!

Exploring Our Identities

This is the perfect time for me to be reading this book, as I am moving schools, which gives me the perfect opportunity to begin al of this inquiry work with a new group of students where I will have little background knowledge. The first days are soo important for community building and I will definitely do identity webs again (we made them last year, but did not go back to them enough). I love that she included possible books- several of which I already own. Her tips give me lots of ways I can improve from our first attempts. Throughout I also appreciate the examples of language to use with students- great models!  The “addressing tensions” sections also help.

The Stories of our Names section is interesting. I have done this work in the past, but not recently- time to come back to it. Teaching in Asia I have had many students who introduce themselves with an “English” name- a struggle for me, as I want to honor who they see themselves as, but it’s hard when they are one name at home and another name at school… I do love the idea of getting parents actively involved in this and can see trying to get this done at Open House (not sure yet how this works at the new school). Lots of what Sara talks about throughout are what I know as the “norms of collaboration”/ways of talking together and provide great ways to work on this with the class.

I have also done the “Where I’m From” poems in the past, but I think I could definitely emphasize the cultural influences more. It is interesting with international school students what they identify as their cultures and influences- highly subjective often. One reminder that really spoke to me was always making the thinking/learning visible- a great reminder for me.

Listening With Love

This chapter also reminded me of adaptive schools training and responsive classroom. Again reminders about making thinking visible and adding student names/initials to their contributions on group work.

I look forward to reading the next section, knowing I have lots to learn (and need reminders to come back to things I have used before). I can’t wait to read what others are thinking!

If you would like to learn more about #cyberpd and maybe even join in, look here.


PS I notice my Grammarly wants me to use British spelling throughout…


Hurry Up and Wait


#sol18- June 26, 2018

I definitely have a love/hate relationship, as I suppose most people do. I am always excited/anxious about travelling, so it starts with not much sleep the night before. Then, no matter what time I am taking off, I just want to get “there” (in this case at least to the airport).

This morning I was feeling melancholy- although I have had a great 6 days in Chicago (visiting my son, attending a Scholastic Reading Summit, meeting up with some friends, and exploring Chicago a bit), this morning signalled my goodbye to my son and the knowledge that I likely would not see him for a year.

Rather than go out and do anything I decided I would just go to the airport early (my departure time was 2:10PM) and eat lunch there- knowing that I always enjoy people watching in airports, which might be good slice fodder.

Before I could even get out of the apartment I had an email- my flight was delayed until 3:56- sigh. After emailing my son (who was already at work) and my mom (who is my next stop) I decided to head out anyway. I struggled with the lock box where I was to leave the key (my son is at an Airbnb for the summer as he is interning in Chicago) while a team of landscapers looked on, but managed in the end.

Chicago has a great train system, so I headed out to the Blue Line and about 30 minutes later I pulled into the airport. O’Hare is big, but pretty clearly labelled, so I found Spirit Airlines, checked in my bag and was left with just over three hours until departure time.

Afer wandering a bit (and finding Barbara’s Bookstore that John Schumacher always raves about whenever he flies) I filled a few minutes looking at books. I wandered some more before grabbing a quick (and unhealthy lunch) and then began the drama of trying to connect to the airport wifi. Somehow my phone and computer always struggle with this, so it took several restarts and more patience than I would have liked to get connected.

So then I glance up at the gate sign and notice the flight is even more delayed… 5:17 is the new time now, so I am back to a three-hour wait. Happily, I am not in a time crunch, so I will fill the time with reading (and ARC of Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen from the reading summit- which seems sort of timely with recent news) and people watching.

After today it is 12 more days until my next flight (that one leaves at 7AM and will take me to NerdCamp, so I am sure I will be too excited to sleep the night before).

Travel is exciting (for sure), but there is always that hurry up and wait time!

Treating Myself


#sol18- June 19, 2018

For those of you who have read my posts in the last few weeks you will remember that this is guaranteed to be a busy summer- a combination of moving schools/countries, visiting friends and family, and several PD opportunities. School ended on June 8 and to put it mildly the logistics of leaving Malaysia were time-consuming and stressful. My past school was preparing to move to a unified campus and there was a stipend offered for people who would be willing to stay 3-5 days after school ended to supervise packers- sounded like easy money, but it played out differently. Turns out to get anything accomplished we teachers were packing for the most part while the packers were making boxes and taping them up after. It turned out to be hot and sweaty work, so the 5 days I planned on helping I cut back to 3. Couple that with many trips running all over town to get all kinds of last minute errands done (returning the modem to the right location after an attempt at another place is just one example) during the last days of Ramadan when the city is filled with tourists, empty of taxis, and devoid of many people who genuinely are so tired from fasting all month that they really do not have the energy to help you problem solve.

Just a few days before I was set to leave I got an email from the airline saying that I could upgrade the first part of my journey. My leaving school had paid for the flight, so, I rationalized, maybe I could spring for the upgrade, never having flown business class. The first flight was nearly 7 hours and left at 2AM, so the ad promising a flat bed for the trip was quite convincing.


Not me, but priority boarding, yes, please!


Also not me, but I looked at the upgraded menu on line…


Okay, not me again, these are all from the convincing email from Emirates. 

After conferring with my friend, Ellen, I did it, I splurged! Another friend told me she had yet to ever regret upgrading on any of her flights, so that sold me. I then got so excited that I tried to upgrade on the second flight (14 hours), but no luck- those seats were already sold.

I have to admit the trip in business class felt very decadent! I can not believe that for many of my students this is the only way they do long haul travel.


The side area of my seat- two different remotes for the huge TV (not pictured), so I did not have to stretch at all. 


Literally more than a thousand entertainment choices. 


My Bulgari toiletry bag!


Yes, there was a bar on board!

The good news is that I ate well, slept some, and was ready for the second flight after a three-hour layover in Dubai. 14 hours was long, but I think the luxurious first flight had relaxed me enough to be calm when nobody was there right away to meet me at the Boston airport.

Now back to reality as an intrepid traveller, as tomorrow I will take my next flight of the summer, this time to Chicago via Spirit Airlines where I was shocked to see I would have to pay for a carry-on.

Last Days by the Numbers


#sol18- June 12, 2018

The end of the school year is always the end of an era and even more so in schools where the population is transient (like international schools) and so many faces will be gone from year to year.

Today I was reflecting on the passage of time through some numbers:

  • 26– I said goodbye to my 26th class on Friday (I took off 7 years when my sons were young)
  • 12 and 29 the smallest and biggest classes I have had
  • 8– in August I will begin teaching at my 8th school
  • 9– next month I will move to my 9th country
  • 22– today I moved out of my 22nd home- yikes, with all that practice you’d think I would get better at it!

There’s a lot I miss by being so transient, but I know there is also so much I gain.  Today I am remembering all of the amazing colleagues I have taught with throughout the years. Leaving here after four years feel so short in some ways. Saying goodbye to friends here is sad.  Even while I am enjoying a string of “lasts” a tiny part of my brain is already whispering with excitement that soon enough I will be experiencing all kinds of  “firsts” yet to come.

The Things We Can’t Control


#sol18- June 5, 2018

The last few weeks of school are always a cauldron of chaos in one way or another. This year the angst has been amped up by the fact that I am moving (to a new school and new country- Cambodia), our school is moving (from two campuses to one shared campus that is not quite finished yet, and 4 or more students from my class are moving.

A long time ago it sounded like a good idea to volunteer to supervise packers at the school for five days once school ended (good money and it did not sound too onerous). I booked my flight home accordingly, with two completely free days left to run around KL after my obligations and before my flight. But that was before my son got his summer internship in Chicago and I decided to combine visiting him with attending the Scholastic Reading Summit, which meant I would only have a few days to stop by my mom’s in Boston and ditch two suitcases. Still not too bad. This meant I had to pack out of my apartment and school before school ended (school ends this Friday and my stuff left Saturday- luckily the condo is furnished). That felt crazy at first, was crazy in the midst of it all, but now feels great that it is done. Turns out there are way more hoops to jump through to leave Malaysia than I would have guessed and although the light is shining at the end of the tunnel it still feels like there are miles to go.

Today I had to be out of my classroom for the whole day to work on some curriculum planning/writing (ugh, sub plans!), which meant that I could not use snatches of free time to take care of administrivia.

I may have sobbed a little after school on the phone today trying to get a big thing dealt with- as yet unsuccessfully. I did, however, easily get back the moving deposit I had to pay at my condo (in case the movers damaged anything while here). I also successfully changed my dentist appointment to one of my totally free days.

I rewarded myself by buying a frozen pizza for dinner. It was not until I popped it into the oven that I realized I would be eating it off an old cutting board, as I do not have any plates left in the house. Ah well.

Tomorrow we will make our summer writing notebooks, I have my last duty of the year, and we have our faculty farewell party. I am trying to keep my focus on the third graders and truthfully, if not for this I might be even more of a mess! Definitely lots of emotions swirling around.

Today Was Very Necessary


#sol18- May 29, 2018

It is the second to last week of school and in true Malaysian, as luck would have it, today was a holiday- Wesak Day. Public holidays are a chance to catch up on life and today it was so necessary. Reports were due yesterday to the principal, so today was my get stuff done at home day since the movers come on Friday and Saturday. Friday the students have a holiday while we teachers do some organizing at school (the school is moving to a new campus this summer). After school my movers will come to school to take away my gazillion books and assorted other things that will move with me. Saturday the movers will come to my apartment.

Yesterday it seemed like my plans might go up in flames. Friday when I walked in the elevator in my apartment building I saw a sign saying that the Management Office would be closed Saturday, June 2 for Nuzul Al-Quran. Now I know that buildings here only allow service trucks in for half a day on Saturdays, but if it was a holiday the movers would not be allowed in at all-PANIC! I had arranged all of this weeks before- nobody mentioned a holiday. I had even gone into the office and told them that I was moving that date and they had given me a form that had to be turned in two days in advance. I emailed right away, knowing that the office was closed. Saturday I got a response saying the administrative assistant would have to check with the boss and let me know on Monday.

By Monday afternoon (yesterday) when I still had no response I was truly in a tither. I hurried home from school (truth be told during the month of Ramadan there is no hurry in the afternoon because there is so much traffic). Luckily I got there before the 5PM closing, but the person I had to talk to had already left for the day.

I explained my situation and the man, who did not speak much English passed me on to someone else. She listened to my story and said, “No, it is a holiday, so you cannot.”

“I have to,” I said. “It has all been arranged for weeks. I told your office and nobody said I could not. I did not even know that it was a holiday until I saw the notice in the elevator.”

I then showed her the email from the administrative assistant telling me I would get a response that day. At this point, she handed me the form to fill out for permission to move. I filled it out as completely as I could and handed her the deposit (about $75 to cover any damage the moving company might cause). I repeated that there really was no alternative (I am actually still going to be in the apartment for two weeks afterwards, as it is furnished, but the chances are that I would not be able to schedule another moving day this late). She talked to someone in the back room, took my deposit, and handed me a copy of the form to show the guards on Saturday.

When I got up to my apartment I heaved a giant sigh of relief! I then responded to the moving company, as when I was in the office I had called them to try to find out the license number of the truck that would be moving me (a required part of the form that she let slide). The moving company was telling me that they had just realized that it was a holiday and that usually, buildings do not allow moving on a holiday, so I should check with my management office-hmm, better late than never. Luckily I could then report that I had the necessary permission.

So, after all that, today was a calm down day and a chance to begin (yes, I said begin- it is a busy time of year) organizing for the move from the apartment I have lived in for the last four years. I made a list of all the jobs I had to complete before Saturday morning and successfully completed four of the nine jobs before escaping to a friend’s house for an early dinner.

I have to practice pack (pack the two suitcases that I will take with me), sort out three closets, and my desk before Saturday at 9:30AM (and on Friday get all my school stuff ready to go for afternoon packing and pick up), but at least in 4 days it will all be done- one way or another. Then I can “relax” and enjoy the last week of school (and likely berate myself when I find things that should have been packed from home or school).

Phew, I got this! Thank goodness for the gift of time today!


Zhi Hong (a former student) slices too.

I Plan on Not Checking Out Early, But…


#sol18- May 22, 2018

I am determined to not be one of “those people” who “checks out” way before the end of the school year, especially as I am moving on at the end of the year. My school is moving on at the end of the year as well- going from two campuses to a brand new unified campus, so some of the end of year chaos is magnified because of both of these things.

Today one of my students told me that Monday is his last day. I assured him he must be mistaken, as I had not heard anything from his parents. I mentioned this to the teacher next door who teaches his twin brother and he sent a quick email to the parents. Turns out the mom had sent an email to the office a few weeks ago indicating that this was indeed the case.

Now I feel like all of my “keep it going” until the end is going to be too bad for this boy. There are so many end-of-year things that I plan to do in the last days that he will miss. On the one hand, I do not want him to miss certain things and I am tempted to reschedule some, yet on the other hand I feel like that will make the days after he leaves filled with “dead space” as we then will have done lots of our ending things (like making our writing notebooks for summer, creating our reading plans, etc.).  We have four students in the class who will be leaving the school – it is a shame for him to miss the farewells to them as well. I say all this knowing that the family really did not have a whole lot of choice about their early departure. Their house is provided as part of mom’s job and the remodelling that is planned (not by them) starts on Tuesday so they can not be in the house after that date.

Further conspiring against me is the school’s plan. June 1 is a teacher work day to work on some of the packing and organizing required for the school’s move. Our last day of school is June 8, so a week before seems too early to really take apart much in my classroom. But because of this I have scheduled my moving company to come to school after school that day to take my personal things (which includes sooooooooo many books- my entire class library). The next day the movers will pack me out of my apartment (it is furnished, so there will still be basic furniture and major appliances).

It will be super weird to have the last week of school without my class library (we will have a small selection of books from the school, but not the boxes and shelves we are used to having). I now realize I will also have to figure out read alouds for that last week… I will miss our library too!

I  think as I reflect on all this, I will keep on going as best as I can. Yes, this boy will miss many of the end of year activities, but better to keep the last days as “ending well” days for the rest of us. It will be all of us trying to do the best we can as the landscape around us changes.

So much to do!