The lights come on, illuminating the bright, colorful set. The actors, donning their Seuss-themed costumes, come out onto the stage to find a mysterious red and white striped hat. A series of monologues reveals the owner of the hat, the Cat in the Hat!
Throughout the show, each act ending with a musical number and dance, we were dazzled by the colors, whimsy, and rhymes from the world of Seuss. From start to finish, it was a fun and entertaining time for everyone. We were so excited to have parents in the audience for the first time in nearly three years.
I honestly can’t believe the team pulled this off in five weeks. During our after school program, the students worked on the set, made costumes and props, learned their song and dance, and practiced their lines. When you think about everything that went into the show, it’s a testament to the hard work of the production team that it came together and turned out as well as it did!
Action is an integral part of the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and is key to student agency. We often discuss what it means for students to take action and what can it look like at all of the different age levels, from preschool to Grade 5. As our understanding of action as educators develops, we can share this with our students.
One thing that often comes up in our planning sessions is that action is more that simply raising money, which is a tangible action that students latch onto. We have been focusing on other ways to take action, some of which are ‘invisible’ to others, such as when Eve decided to become a vegetarian after learning about how that single action can make the biggest impact on climate change. At our school, and in many other PYP schools around the world, we are shifting from teacher-guided action to student-initiated action. This has sparked many discussions about how we can model this for the students, give them the agency and time needed to initiate action, and teach students about the many different types of action one can take.
The IB classifies action into five categories; participation, advocacy, social justice, social entrepreneurship, and lifestyle choices. Participation is about “being actively involved in the learning community and showing commitment to contributing as individuals and as members of a group.” Advocacy is “taking action individually or collectively to publicly support positive social, environmental, or political change.” Social justice is “taking action for positive change relating to human rights, equality, and equity, as well as being concerned with the advantages and disadvantages within society, and with social well-being and justice for all.” Social entrepreneurship means “supporting positive social change through responding to the needs of local, national, and global communities and applying prior knowledge and skills to identify and address challenges and opportunities in innovative, resourceful, and sustainable ways.” Lifestyle choices simply means “making positive lifestyle changes in response to learning.” (IBO’s “The Learner”, 2020)
This past weekend I was watching some American Idol auditions on YouTube, and I came across Taylor Fagins, a young songwriter from New York, who wrote an original song entitled, “We Need More.” I was moved to tears, as I listened to the lyrics about the killings of Black people in the United States. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly recommend it. Taylor’s song is an excellent example of advocacy through art. I shared his video today during our Grade 5 planning meeting about PYP Exhibition, as the topic of student action in the PYP Exhibition came up. We are starting to collect examples of action to show the students to inspire them to take their own action.
How do you encourage your students to take action as a result of their learning?
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?