Not again, I thought, as I sprung into action. Grabbing the walkie talkie near the door, I began sweeping my building, calling into the Health and Safety Officer to let him know I was on it. It was 5:30pm, after all, so who knows who’s actually on campus at this time.
As I swept the building, finding no one around (everyone else was smart to leave earlier!), I noticed many of our middle and senior school girls wandering around outside, none of them the least bit worried about the alarm blaring. Some were even walking into buildings, disregarding the directions of the few staff still at school.
Part of me doesn’t blame them. I mean, our fire alarms go off all the time, for the slightest little thing. Seriously…we’ve had no less than 15 since I joined the school in August. I equate it to the boy who cried wolf…too many false alarms makes people complacent. But this one is a live alarm, or so I’m told over my walkie talkie, so we need to take it seriously.
When I reach the muster point, we realize no one has swept the Wellness Center, the largest building on campus, comprised of the swimming pool and change rooms/showers, ice rink, club room, faculty gym, gymnasium, and two cafeterias. I immediately volunteered, along with the Heads of the middle and senior schools. Luckily we didn’t find any students or teachers, but a few of the cafeteria staff and security guards hadn’t evacuated, choosing to keep working instead (probably figuring it was another false alarm). After coercing them to leave and checking all the nooks and crannies, we gave the all clear and made our way back to the muster point.
It wasn’t until a few minutes later that the problem was found (some smoke- no fire luckily- in the upstairs cafeteria had set it off) and the alarm was turned off. Well, there went 30 minutes of my life I won’t get back!
As the Head of Junior School and I walked back to our pods, we decided it was time to call it a day. I’m choosing to look at the positive side…at least I upped my step count and closed my rings with all of the sweeping I did!
As soon as recess began, the room was a flurry of teachers, chatting, filling up their plates, and enjoying the spread. Today’s Snack Attack was a hit! As we snacked, we caught up with our fellow colleagues, enjoying the opportunity to chat with people we don’t get to see often. The rule during Snack Attack is “no shop talk,” so once a week, we all get together for a half hour and get to know one another a little bit more. Since it started 6 weeks ago, we have seen an improvement in staff morale.
Frances, the Head of the Junior School, and I hosted Snack Attack today. Next week it’ll be the foreign language teachers. All teams host on a rotation, about once every 8 weeks. We also rotate the day of the week, so that if someone has recess duty, they don’t always miss out. I hope we continue Snack Attack next year, too!
After a week off for term break, our virtual school resumed today. My work day began at 7:00am and finished a little after 9:00pm. To be honest, I’m tired and ready for bed, but more than anything, I’m thankful for the busyness of today. After nine days off, the days had started to run together, and by the end of the week, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. While this is a less than ideal situation, and I would 100% rather be in the classroom, I grateful for the routine of my virtual school day. I was excited to chat with my students again today, and while many of them were tired today from a week of staying up late and playing, I can tell they were glad to be back, too.
After our first three weeks of virtual school, we reflected as a leadership team, taking into account student, parent, and staff feedback about their experiences with online learning, and made some adjustments for this last term of school. We realized that it was unrealistic to expect primary students to attend virtual school all day like they would at real school. We scaled back the expectations, and now students have four homeroom learning days and one single-subject day. This means that on the four homeroom days, students take part in one lesson each of literacy, math, unit of inquiry, and PE per day. This is in addition to a morning message video, which may be pre-recorded or done as a morning meeting on ZOOM. We all do one ZOOM class meeting per homeroom day.
On their single-subject days, students have one lesson each of art, music, PE, library, Bahasa Indonesia or Mandarin, and Religion or Indonesian Studies. On the single-subject days, the homeroom teacher has time to plan and prep lessons for the rest of the week and give student feedback, as the only requirement is to post a morning message video and the daily learning overview with the students’ schedule. My single-subject day is on Wednesday, which is perfect for me. I can prep for Monday’s and Tuesday’s lessons on Sunday, and Thursday’s and Friday’s lessons on Wednesday. It’ll be nice to have a bit of a breather in the middle of the week, too. I hope that this new schedule is helpful for the students and that they no longer feel overwhelmed with everything they have to do.
Another change we’ve made is to be more mindful of screen time. We’ve encouraged teachers to assign more offline activities during virtual school so that they are not online all day. I know how being on a screen all day affects me, so I can’t imagine how the students must feel!
How’s virtual school going for you? Have you made any changes?
I’m not really sure how to feel right now. I found out today that our school closure would be extended, which if I’m being honest, is what I wanted. I was terrified to go back to school next Monday, and quite frankly, I was prepared to refuse to go should the school decide to open. But when I envisioned the school closure extending, I was thinking we’d push it back another month or so, just until it was safe to return. I wasn’t prepared to hear that we would most likely close for the remainder of the school year.
I made the decision a couple of days ago that I would stay in Indonesia, rather than relocate to Texas right now, figuring that it’s safer for me to remain in quarantine here instead of traveling through several airports and spending many hours on an airplane. I am at peace with that decision. While I’m comfortable with the routine of virtual school, I’m not happy about doing it for two and a half more months. However, the realness of what’s happening is starting to sink in.
I won’t get to say goodbye to my students in person. I won’t get to have a going away party before I move away for good. I won’t get to see our 2020 graduates walk the stage. I won’t get to celebrate with my students after their PYP Exhibition (and I now have to figure out how to do a completely virtual Exhibition). I won’t get to hug my colleagues and say a proper goodbye. I won’t get to say thank you and goodbye in person to the parents who have been so supportive of me over the past three years. I won’t get to laugh with students out on the playground again. I won’t get to hand out another Learner Profile of the Month award. I won’t get to see our students perform at the Primary Concert or Swimming Carnival. I won’t get to spend time with my friends before they’re gone (many have already left or will leave soon). I won’t get to have our pizza, movie, and bonfire night at school with my students (and I promised them we would do this). I don’t get to celebrate my Year 6 students’ transition into Secondary.
I won’t get closure. I’ll just work until June 12th online and then leave. That’s it. This chapter of my life will end abruptly, and then it’ll be gone. I don’t think I’m okay with this.
When I moved to Indonesia in July 2017, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d only been once before, and that was just for a few days when I was interviewing for the job earlier that year. While I wouldn’t say that I fell in love with living here, after 3 years, I will miss a few things when I move on in June of this year.
Since moving abroad 10 years ago, I’ve solely lived in apartments until moving to Jakarta. Because I was so used to apartment living, I looked for one here, but ended up falling in love with my house, despite the fact that it’s entirely too large for me. What I love most about it is all the windows and the greenery outside. Most people who visit can’t believe this oasis is in Jakarta, a metropolis with a population of over 10 million. Another thing I love about it is that I’ve made it my own. Everywhere else I’ve lived has been fully furnished, which left me with limited options when decorating, and while I had to spend a lot more initially, I was able to pick out the furniture that matched my personal tastes. I just feel at home here.
I’ve really grown attached to the students, families, and colleagues at my school, and I’m definitely going to miss them when I’m gone. I know all of the kids’ names in Primary school, and they are some of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. Becoming a teacher again a few months ago has allowed me to develop relationships with the Year 6 students and our class bond is very strong. I’m going to miss seeing them transition into Secondary school next year. I’ve also developed a few close friendships with colleagues that I’ll miss, but I’m not worried since we will definitely keep in touch!
My Live-in Pembantu (Maid)
As much as I am embarrassed to say it, I have a live-in maid. It’s pretty common to have a maid when you live in Asia, but it’s more common in Indonesia to have a live-in maid. At first, I was really put off my the idea, but once you get used to it, it is hard to give it up. Rohana is such a sweet lady and we have gotten to know each other over the years. When my friend Linner visited last month, she said Rohana and I had our own little language. I think she’s right. We speak in a mix of English and Bahasa, and most of the time, we know what the other one is saying. 🙂 She cleans, does my laundry, and helps with the cooking. I love that I have my breakfast and lunch ready each morning to take to work so I don’t have to worry about it. I also love cooking when I don’t have to worry about the prep or the clean up. I’m most definitely spoiled and will really miss having her around next year!
This is something that is growing in popularity around the world, but I have to say, being able to order up almost anything and have it delivered is an absolute luxury! There’s the obvious take-out and grocery shopping, but you can also have someone go buy you anything you would ever want (alcohol, movie tickets, random things from any store, etc.) and deliver it to you for a very small fee. In a way I will really miss this, but in a way I won’t, because it makes it way too easy to never have to leave your house!
Going along with the deliveries is Go-Jek, a ride-sharing service with motorbikes and cars, a delivery service, and a services service, meaning I can Go-Jek a massage, a mani/pedi, a car wash or oil change (if I had a car), a cleaning lady, a hairstylist, or make-up artist to my house. This is so convenient when you live in the city with the worst traffic in the world, but again, it makes you so lazy. The fact that these services are dirt cheap makes it even better. I can Go-Jek to work for 10,000 IDR (about $0.75) or order a massage for an hour for 80,000 IDR (about $6.50). It’s heaven!
Being so close to Bali is a real treat! Who else can say they weekend in Bali?!? The fact that Bali is a quick plane ride away (about 1.5 hrs) and is so cheap (about $100 round-trip) makes it easy to get away. Bali is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s so unlike Jakarta. It’s quieter, has less traffic, has delicious, healthy food, is close to the beach, is walkable in many places, and is just so darn cute! I know that even when I move away, I’ll still come back to visit. Sadly, it just won’t be as often.
There are definitely things that I won’t miss about living here, but I’ll save those for another slice!
Last week was my favorite week of the school year, hands-down! Literacy Week is just one of those weeks that’s full of excitement and joy, all centered around the love of reading and writing. What’s not to love about that?!?
Just like last year, I decided to dress up as a different book character each week. I then read to classes as the character. It was so much fun! Here were my outfits and books for this year:
Monday: Rainbow Fish
Tuesday: Pirates Don’t Change Diapers!
Wednesday: Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus
Thursday: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Friday: Max from Where the Wild Things Are
I mean…seriously, how can you not have a blast at work when you’re dressed up like this? However, it was difficult for other people to take me seriously in meetings. 😂
In addition to the character read alouds that I did, there were a few other teachers that dressed in character throughout the week and read to classes, which was fun for the students. Here’s a run-down of the weekly events that we had. Let me know in the comments if you want more information about any of the specific events. I’d be happy to share!
Literacy Week Introduction
Poem in my Pocket began, where students wrote poems that they would carry around in their pockets all week to read to anyone who asked.
Cultural Storytellers from Australia
Treasure Hunt for lower primary
Door Decorating Contest began
DEAR Time daily
Write Your Heart Out
Cultural Storyteller from Japan reading Kamishibai in both Japanese and English
Puppet show for upper primary
DEAR Time daily
Pajama Day Read-in
Book Bites Bake Sale
Cultural Storyteller from Korea reading stories from Korea in both Korean and English
Indonesian Wayang Puppet Show (traditional shadow puppets) told in Bahasa Indonesia
Cultural Storyteller from Indonesia, who told a traditional Indonesian story in both English and Bahasa Indonesia
Puppet shows for lower primary, performed by Year 6 students
Spelling Bee for Years 3-6
DEAR Time daily
Door Decorating Contest Judging
Book Character Dress Up Parade for the whole school
Cultural Storyteller from Pakistan who demonstrated oral storytelling of a Punjabi story, mostly told in English, with some Punjabi words mixed in
DEAR Time daily
Guess Who? Reveal, where students guessed who each teacher was based on the book they were holding in front of their face.
Battle of the Books, a book trivia game for Year 3-6 students
Coming back to reality this week has been hard, but the memories of last week are still with me. The students had so much fun, read lots of books, and enjoyed the variety of activities. I think the teachers did, too!
Do you do Literacy Week at your school? What is your favorite thing about Literacy Week?
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.
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.
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.
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!