Tag Archives: school

Food, Colleagues, and a Sing Along #sol18

A few weeks ago I decided to host team dinners at my house as a way to get to know my staff on a more personal level and to give us some much-needed down time to just relax and enjoy one another. Today was my third one, and we had so much fun!

I rushed home just after 3:00 so I could finish up cooking and get everything ready for my colleagues to arrive at 4:30. Getting caught in the rain on the back of the motorbike meant I had to shower when I got home, so I got started in the kitchen a bit later than I wanted. Luckily, I have Rohana, my pembantu (maid) to help! She spent most of the day shopping, washing and cutting veggies, and making a few side dishes for dinner. I couldn’t have done it without her (unless I wanted to order pizza). All I had to do was throw together the appetizer, bake the dessert, and cook the panang curry.

People started arriving just after 4:30, and after getting them all a drink, I finished up the curry and took the blueberry bread out of the oven. Once everyone arrived, I gave them a tour of my place, and then we all grabbed a plate and sat down to eat. The spread included gado gado, tempeh with a sweet soy sauce, Indonesian corn fritters, rice, and curry, with blueberry bread, fresh pineapple, kiwi, and strawberries, and chocolate truffles for dessert. As we ate, we chatted, swapping travel stories and getting to know one another beyond our usual school chatter. As we began teasing one another, I noticed people’s guards coming down.

Throughout dinner, I’d had Amazon Prime Music playing in the background. Not knowing what type of music to put on, I had it tuned to an All 90’s station. As dinner was winding down, everyone made their way to the couch or the floor in the living room. Heri grabbed the iPad and started punching in song titles. Mita asked me to turn up the speaker since “this was a party, after all!” Doing as I was told, the music got louder, and the smiles got wider. Song after song, we belted out the lyrics, whether we really knew them or not! Laughing, we kept passing the iPad around, everyone trying to find that perfect song for the group. My favorite song of the night had to be “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Everyone (except Heri, who had never heard of the song…don’t worry, I gave him a really hard time about it!) sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs! When the Macarena came on, Ms Eny and I jumped up to dance, urging others to do the same. No one else joined us, but we had a great time anyway!

Today was the perfect end to a hectic day. As the year gets more stressful with increased responsibilities and due dates, it’s always nice to take a step back and relax.

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It All Comes Together in the End #sol18

There’s something magical about a student performance, isn’t there? Despite the stress of rehearsals, the What the heck do they think they’re doing?!? thoughts that fill your head, the constant reminders to sing louder, turn around, No you can’t jump around on the stage, you’re supposed to be singing right now! moments, they somehow fix all (okay…most) of the problems when they get on that stage in front of their parents. It’s like *magic*.

I have to admit, I was kind of dreading our Spring Primary Concert this afternoon after witnessing rehearsals this week. As a leader who tries not to micro-manage, the responsibility for the concert lay on our music teacher. With only one lesson per week per class, I have to admit I was skeptical as to how he was going to pull it off. Then during rehearsals yesterday, when the students forgot their lines, played around on the stage, didn’t know how to line up to enter or exit the stage, my thoughts were, Oh no, what are the parents going to say? They aren’t going to like this. And, they’re going to blame me.

I jumped in to support, as did a number of our go-getter teachers, and it got a little bit better. This morning’s rehearsal was even better than yesterday, but there were still some major hiccups I worried was about. At that point though, it was what it was and there wasn’t much else that could be done. As they say, the show must go on!

As parents filed into the gym, I nervously waited for the show to begin. One by one, the year groups came up to sing, and they were great! There was some wild hand motions that hit the microphone hanging over the students’ heads (to be fair, they weren’t there during rehearsal and he was really tall), a bit of singing off-key (What Primary performance doesn’t have this?), and the most adorable little Year 2 student standing on his tippy-toes, his hands cupped around his mouth, leaning as close to the microphone as possible to project his already loud voice across the gym (his extremely off-key singing only added to the cuteness). But you know what, those were the moments when it was real. This is what kids do, right? It wasn’t a disaster as I had feared. It went well, parents were happy, and kids were proud of themselves. And that’s all that matters.

Extreme Makeover: Classroom Edition #sol18

You know how you don’t always see what’s really there until you look closely? Last week, when I was visiting the Year 1 classrooms, I started noticing little things. The classroom was generally dirty, things could be better organized, and it was in need of some TLC. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? Once I noticed, I couldn’t stop seeing all the little things that needed to be fixed. I decided I would make Year 1 my mission.

After a trip to IKEA last weekend for some new toys and furniture to makeover the dramatic play home corner and a bit of purging during the week, I realized this was a massive job– one that would require uninterrupted time, without students there.

Today, I began the mammoth task of purging, cleaning, organizing, and redecorating. Starting at 9:00am, my energy and enthusiasm on high, I first got a feel for the space, made a tentative plan, and began taking it apart. Luckily I had a few helpers stop by to lend a hand. The two Year 1 teachers, Feb and Veronica, Veronica’s husband and our PYP Coordinator, Wayne, and their two boys, and two of the school’s cleaners made the job a lot more manageable and provided some company, too. After completely taking everything off the shelves, moving the furniture to clean underneath and behind it (soooo much dust and dirt!), and purging, sorting, and organizing everything, we started the redecorating process.

Feb’s room saw the biggest change, as we almost completely rearranged the furniture. The room is so much brighter and spacious now! It’s hard to even believe it’s the same room. We moved the library corner to a new space, brought in another shelf, and made it into a bigger, more open area. The tiny home corner was given a prominent place under the window, and the addition of the new furniture and toys gives it a fresh, updated look. I can’t wait to see the students’ excitement on Monday! Removing unnecessary and bulky furniture helped open up the space and allowed us to better define areas of the room.

Before…

And…After! 🙂

One major change we made was moving the large, metal cabinets out of the rooms and into the wide hallway, allowing for more student space, and giving us the opportunity to clear out many of the supplies in the classrooms. The decision to make a communal resource area was a game-changer. We were able to create cabinets for paper, arts and crafts supplies, paint supplies, office supplies, and science lab resources. Now they can keep a small amount of everyday art supplies in the room, while leaving the seldom-used supplies in the cabinets for access when they need them. It’s also easy to see what they have so that they know when to reorder.

Despite being there until 6:00pm, there’s still more to do. I”ll stop by tomorrow to finish up Veronica’s room and the supply closet organization. I want to make sure it’s nice and clutter-free when the students arrive Monday morning. I seriously can’t wait to see their reactions!

What do you think of the changes?

Running an Errand

This morning, I was tidying up our circle time area and found a book that Ms. Lauren had loaned me that I needed to return. Since I’m still struggling to get around quickly, I decided to utilize my “teacher helper” job and send one of my preschoolers down the hall to return the book.

Thinking that this first errand might be a little daunting alone, I sent a buddy along with my teacher helper. Standing in the hallway, I offered encouragement to my suddenly shy friends. “Go on. Knock on the door.” They disappeared into the doorway, and I waited for them to return.

Two heads peeked out, smiles spread across their faces, and as they emerged into the hallway, I noticed they still had the book with them. “Guys, you have to knock on the door louder. She’ll come and you can give it to her.”

Giggling, they tried again. And again, after a minute out of sight, they reappeared in the hallway, still clutching the book. Now I’m giggling, wondering whether to walk down and help them.

More reassurances. More trepidation and nerves. It’s time to call in reinforcements.

I called upon Alani, my not-afraid-of-anything spitfire, to help them. She gladly tiptoe-ran down the hallway to assist her too-shy friends. Confidently, Alani knocked on the door, and Ms. Lauren opened it, to the surprise of my little ones. They handed over the book, and all three ran back to me, proud smiles plastered on their faces.

I’m glad I didn’t go save them. One step closer to the independence I am trying to instill. They’ll be ready next time another errand presents itself.

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Saint, my pint-sized protector

From the moment he first saw me in the wheelchair, my ankle bandaged up, he was my protector. My little Saint.

I wheeled over to the edge of the playground where my class was happily playing. I’ve missed their smiling faces, their hugs, their sense of wonder. Catching their attention, they rushed over, all with the same question, “What happened?” All, that is, except Saint. With indignation in his voice, he points to my ankle, and asks, “Who this?” His face said it all. Being his teacher, I knew “Who this?” really meant “Who did this?”. Saint, my little three-year-old protector, wanted to know who did this to me. What happened wasn’t as important as who hurt me. Such sweetness wrapped up in such a tiny person.

Since returning to school, wheelchair-bound, my class has been curious, asking me what happened one too many times, learning to respect my boundaries (“no touching my foot please”), and wondering why I can’t do the things I normally can. The novelty for some has worn off, and preschool as they know it is back to normal. But not for Saint, whose sweet gestures bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.

Everyday, at random times, he comes over to me, smiles, and pats me on my arm or my leg or my shoulder, reassuring me that he cares and is worried about me. Knowing that I keep my ice packs in the freezer, he will bring me one at random, making sure I take care of my foot. He watches me, too. When the pain and swelling get to be too much, I prop my leg up on the table, an attempt to reduce the swelling that occurs from keeping it down all day. He questions, wondering what I’m doing, why I’m resting.

Yesterday during interest areas, I was wheeling around, snapping photos of students busily cooking hamburgers and salad with the playdoh, making melodies on the xylophone, or building a tower out of blocks, wondering how high they can make it until it topples over, sending them into fits of laughter, when something caught my eye.

The dramatic play area, by far the students’ most sought-after center, is too small for my wheelchair to fit, so I watch from afar, an outsider not a part of their fantasy. What I saw was Saint sitting in a chair, his leg up on the table. Lali was tending to him, bringing him a glass of water. Zooming in, I snap a picture before I ask, “Saint, what are you doing?”

With a forlorn look on his face, he responds, “My leg is hurt.”

“It is? I’m sorry. Is Lali helping you?”

Nodding, he says yes. A smile crosses Lali’s face, as she continues to care for her hurt friend. Knowing that I’d removed all the doctor stuff last week, I asked, “Would you like an ice pack?” Of course he would!

Lali came over and I handed her a no-longer-cold ice pack. She went back over and wrapped his leg. Later, his leg still on the table, another student tries to help him, using a pizza cutter as a tool. Grinning, I think, maybe I should return the doctor stuff to dramatic play.

I go about my business of tending to the other students in the class, but about ten minutes later, I look over at the dramatic play area again. There is Saint, his leg still propped up with his ice pack, sitting alone. His heart is so tender and loving, and he is just trying to make sense of his little world.

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Last Day

Today was the last day of school with students, but for some reason, it didn’t feel like a typical last day of school. It’s weird. Normally, the end of school has a buzz to it. There’s an excitement in the air that is palpable. I’m not quite sure why today didn’t feel like that to me. Maybe it was because while today was the last full day, students are returning to school for 2 hours on Friday for an assembly and to pick up their reports and portfolios. Maybe it’s because I was glued to the computer most of the day editing said reports. Maybe it’s because many of our students were absent, already on holiday and enjoying the beach. Maybe it’s because it’s a Tuesday. Usually last days are Fridays, which naturally bring excitement. Or maybe it was a combination of all of it. I guess it’s just hard to imagine being done this week. I want that feeling that normally accompanies the end of the year to make it feel done.

We have a lot to celebrate this year. We came together, this bunch of very talented educators, and formed a team. We learned how to collaborate with one another, and we created a school. There’s something really magical about that. Ten months ago, ACT was just a vision. We made it a reality, and we should be proud of that. We inspired students. We nurtured a school community. We developed curriculum and policies and reports and systems. We supported one another through the hard times, and we celebrated the good ones. We did it…together.

While this year was tough, as any first year of a brand new school probably is, I have my team to thank. They have worked so hard to create a real school that we can be proud of, and for that, I am grateful. So, even though today didn’t feel like the last day, it’s okay. Maybe it will on Friday.

Adrenaline

There’s something about the end of the school year that just gets my adrenaline pumping. The combination of the million things that have to be done, the dress up days for Spirit Week, the reflecting on the year’s accomplishments, the fast pace of trying to squeeze it all in, the weekends with friends enjoying the sunshine, the kids buzzing with excitement, the flurry of teacher interviews and meetings with prospective parents telling them about how awesome my school is…all of this and more adds to the adrenaline pumping through my veins. MY brain is in overdrive and I’m having trouble sleeping, but I keep going, working toward that finish line. Once I reach it, I know I’ll be exhausted and in need of a break. This is why schools invented summer breaks. As much as the kids need a break from the go-go-go, so do teachers and administrators (even more I think!).

And then summer comes and I get to breathe. I get to do what I want to do, and it’s amazing! Things like sleeping in, having long, wandering conversations with friends and family you haven’t seen in a year, reading for pleasure, barbecues with loved ones, going to the cinema, shopping (!!), having more time and space to write, really reflecting on the past year and making plans about how to improve when I come back in August, trying out new recipes, and swimming and laying out in the sun.

I have two more weeks of adrenaline. Two more weeks to get it all done. Two more weeks to say goodbyes. Two more weeks to enjoy my students and teachers. Two more weeks to enjoy Tirana before heading out for six weeks of traveling and visiting home. Two more weeks until the first year at ACT is done. As much as I want time to slow down, I know it’s going to be here in no time. I’m going to try and slow down as much as I can, take it all in, and enjoy all that our team has accomplished this year. Starting a new school is hard work, but the rewards are great!