#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!
#sol17- November 21, 2017
I am a creature of habit (usually). On most Tuesdays after school I host “Book Love”, an after-school activity, then head to Pilates, then home to write my slice, well hold the presses- tonight I am shaking it up! I am skipping Pilates (insert guilt- I do soooo little exercise!) and after dropping off my school bag and making my overnight oatmeal to take to school in the morning I braved a monsoon (literally) to get picked up by a friend- we were off to #PubPDAsia.
The premise is simple- educators all over Asia were to meet in a pub, in the city where they live and take social networking back to face to face. We had a question scheduled every 15 minutes for an hour (all centering around student voice). For the first ten minutes (of every 15) we were to talk to the people with us and then tweet out our big ideas. In the end there were only four of us in the Kuala Lumpur location, but due to the set up we had a good discussion- both in person and online. Going out on a school night is rarely in my plans, but an hour was a perfect treat (although we then spent more time at a great local Indian restaurant). It was fun to “see” friends (and former colleagues) checking in from all over Asia all chatting about the same topics. We are already making plans for the next meet up and thinking about a more convenient location (KL has so many schools in a big area and horrible traffic, so location is everything). I am grateful for a PLN- live and online!
#sol17- November 14, 2017
While I am a self=professed PD junkie and I love to share what I learn I shy away from sharing at more formal opportunities. When I lived in Germany I did present a few times at the Association for German International Schools Teacher Conference, but I warned all my friends and colleagues away. I have also presented at a few EdCamps and nErDcamps, but those felt okay. We have a tradition (off and on) at my current school of TTTs (Teachers Teaching Teachers sessions)- some years there are whole school versions and I even did that once (again, asking friends to stay away- one disobeyed). This year the elementary school has revived these sessions at the ES campus, and since it was partly at my insistence I felt like I should offer a workshop. Last summer a colleague and I both had the opportunity to attend the TC Advanced Writing Institute so we could share together. We signed up in September and were assigned the first spot- in November- comfortably far in the future.
Fast forward to last week and we were scrambling to find times to get together to plan this week’s share. We met twice (complicated by me completely forgetting one meeting due to meeting overload) and decided on a “Top Ten Takeaway” format, with each of us responsible for five, as we had attended different sessions and teach different levels. When planning separately we found our ideas built on each other’s well and it seemed manageable- after all, it is report writing season and our colleagues would be grateful if we kept it short and sweet. The TTT sessions are optional, so we knew we would not have a huge crew there, but still, I maintain that presenting to colleagues is the most intimidating kind of pressure. I assumed Araceli was a confident presenter because she is so outgoing, but she admitted her apprehension as well.
In the end, we had had about 15 colleagues show up, including our principal and vice principal, ESL teachers, LR teachers, and classroom teachers from grades 1-5. We shared our takeaways, answered questions, and then breathed a sigh of relief- we had a very supportive audience (and we were done). As we spoke briefly afterward we both appreciated the experience- it had helped us remember what we had learned and spread some tips we wanted to share. It had also pushed us both outside of our areas of comfort, which is almost always a good thing (in fact Araceli says she wants to present again).
Zhi Hong (student from last year) keeps slicing and would love some comments!
#sol17- November 7, 2017
My afterschool activity has morphed this year and it has been so fun to watch it evolve. For the last few years, I have offered an ASA I call “Book Love”. The premise is that we start with a read aloud and/or some book trailers and then we read or write (or both). Usually, most of the students have read.
This year I have 18 students from Grade 2-5, 12 boys and 6 girls. Six of those students were in my homeroom last year (and one of them said sweetly today, “I really miss this room!”). This year more of the students than ever before are choosing to write – the numbers being more or less even. What I notice is that many of the boys are enjoying writing collaboratively- either planning a series together and writing separately, or choosing an idea and each writing their own spin. What I also notice is that some of these students really want to share their writing (and sadly today we did not have time for this in the end- that will be corrected next time). I love listening to them as they write- talking about the influences on their writing (“You know, just like in the book…”) or what they will write next. There are lots of great graphic novels being created and many other forms as well! One little girl (who is a prolific writer) spent the entire hour without putting a word on the page once she made her book, but she was busy the whole time, watching others, engaging in the conversations, and thinking.
Then there are the readers, often sprawled out on the floor, calling out thoughts as they come (“Why is this line, ‘I am your father’ so well known?”, “Do you have the most recent one in this series?” “Did you get Dog Man back yet from whoever had it?” ). A few of the fourth grade boys take turns having “The Pigeon” sit by them as they read.
I love this no stress hour each week where we can come together as readers and writers and just do what we want! It is easy to see the joy.
*** Zhi Hong and the emergency room.
#sol17- October 31, 2017
Today we looked at report card deadlines for first semester and I died a little inside. Sure, first semester does not end until December 15, but deadlines come much sooner than that. This first semester has been filled with holidays, which sounds nice in theory, but has wreaked havoc on my love of flow.
We started school on a Tuesday (August 8). Now I prefer to have the first week start on a Thursday (or a Wednesday), but all went well, so it was fine. That was followed by a complete week of school and we were starting to build routines. Malaysia is a country that has three main cultures (Malay, Indian, and Chinese) and then the holidays started.
Days off so far:
- Thursday, August 31- National Day
- Friday, September 1-Hari Raya Haji (the local Malaysian name for the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, “the Feast of Sacrifice”)
- Monday, September 4- public holiday declared by the prime minister because Malaysia did so well in the South East Asia Games that had just concluded (this was announced just a few days before and a PD day that we had scheduled in second semester has been rescinded as a result)
- Friday, September 8- King’s birthday
- Friday, September 22- Awal Muharam (the beginning of the Islamic new year)
- Monday and Tuesday October 9 and 10 (Parent Conferences)
- Wednesday, October 18-Tuesday, October 24 -Deepavali (teachers had a PD day on the Monday)
So, last week we had just three days of teaching and this week we begin a stretch of 5 day school weeks (but only four such weeks, because December 1 we have the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and December 11 it is the Sultan of Selangor’s birthday).
Now if all this sounds peachy to you I ask you to consider this week. Today was Halloween and although it is not really celebrated here you would not know it from the malls! The students are allowed to come to school in costume although we are not allowed to have parties. Suffice it to say excitement was high! On Friday we have Deepavali Cultural Day at school, where the students can come dressed in traditional Indian clothing. We have an assembly highlighted by some dance performances and a time set aside to visit the “hallway activities” where students get to try treats, make crafts, etc. We also have a cultural day like this for Malaysia Day/Hari Raya (celebrated already this year) and Chinese New Year (still to come).
Lots of excitement happening here for sure, but it sure makes it hard for me to find my rhythm (and I know at least some of the students feel the same way). I am already getting stressed and nervous about all the semester one common assessments that have to be done in time for reports (never mind writing the reports). Holidays are a good thing and I love this multicultural country, but it sure has made for a choppy first semester. Anyone with timeshifting talents please feel free to send tips my way as I try to get it all done (and find my rhythm too)!
*Another slice from Zhi Hong (former student).
#sol17- October 25, 2017
This is just to say,
I didn’t write yesterday,
even though I planned to.
Instead, I spent time with a good friend in a hospital,
how hard it can be to be so far away from family.
Feeling grateful that I could be there for her, with her.
Zhi Hong is still slicing (former student).
#sol17- October 17, 2017
This quarter has been tricky- lots of days off, which sounds lovely, but has made it hard for us all to find our rhythm. Today (Tuesday) is our last day of school as we then have a 6-day break (5 days for teachers) that spans Deepavali. After this break, we have a solid chunk of time teaching in the second quarter. Some students began their break early and most of the staff at school who are of Indian descent took leave today to prepare for their holiday. The excitement was definitely in the air!
Two of my colleagues were leaving right from school to catch a flight, so I offered to take their classes for the last few minutes of the day so they could leave quickly. In our classroom, as we finished cleaning up we welcomed the other students. As we waited for the last class to join us we talked about what we were reading and what we would read over break. My class had already had an extra book shopping time to load up their backpacks with some extra books to read.
All found a place on the floor and settled in for a story. I began the routine that my own class knows well- undressing the book, looking at the end pages and getting our minds ready for the story. Only one student knew the book already, yet they were all buzzing excitedly as we began. I told them that it was the first of four books with shared characters.
Throughout the reading, the giggles and groans told me that the students were totally hooked. As the dismissal bell rang we closed the book and gathered bags to go home. It was a perfect ending to a rather frenetic day and a great way to celebrate our love of books!