Tag Archives: Slice of Life

Moved to Tears

Have you ever been so invested in the characters in a story that you’re moved to tears when something profoundly sad happens to them? As a reader, this has happened to me many times. It tends to happen with those books that you can’t bear to put down, the ones where you neglect other responsibilities, like cleaning or work or sleep, in order to continue reading.

Kristen Hannah is one of those authors whose writing draws me in, envelops me in the characters’ lives, and makes me say, Just one more chapter, even when I know I need to get some rest. I fell in love with The Nightingale and The Great Alone, and Firefly Lane was no exception. From the beginning of the book, I was enthralled by the story of TullyandKate (if you’ve read it, you know what I mean), and while they grew up a couple of decades before me, I connected with their struggles and experiences. As I read, I found myself remembering my childhood/adolescent best friend Nicole and our shared experiences. The book, structured in chronological order by decades, as opposed to the Netflix version, which jumps back and forth through time, allows the reader to grow up with the girls, bringing you back to a particular point of time (high school, college, first job, first relationships and heartbreaks, etc.) and the feelings that go along with it. This structure is what made me fall in love with Tully and Kate and connect with them so strongly.

Today I read the final four chapters of the book. I had wanted to read the rest of the book last night, but I’d already read for over an hour, and it was simply too late to read anymore. As I sat at Grumpy Baby, where I’d gone for brunch, I began reading. The world around me fell away, as I was once again sucked into the story of these two women. I won’t spoil it for you, but the end of the book is very sad, and I found myself moved to tears as the characters experienced real trauma and grief. Since I was in a restaurant, I tried to hold it together, but the words on the screen became blurry as my eyes filled with tears.

My Chai latte and Kindle as I waited for my brunch order at Grumpy Baby.

After I finished eating, I made my way home to read the final two chapters, and in the comfort of my home, sitting on my couch, I cried along with the characters at they endured heartbreak. When it was over, the story lingered, not quite ready to relinquish its hold on me. A fellow slicer wrote today that she had a “book hangover.” I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description for what I had, too.

If you are looking for a good book, I highly recommend reading Firefly Lane!

TBAs

I love writing TBAs, especially when I can’t decide on one idea. For those of you who don’t know, TBAs stand for Truths, Beauties, and Appreciations. It’s such a reflective and grounding exercise, and I highly recommend it.

Truths

  • Even though this week wasn’t particularly hard or stressful, I’m sure glad it’s Friday. The promise of a weekend is good for my soul.
  • When I realized today that there are only 13 more Fridays left in this school year, I panicked slightly at the mountain of work I have left to do in such a short amount of time. I better kick it into high gear!
  • I’m going to turn 40 in 2 and a half months, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. Should I be worried? Does this mean I’m old? I don’t feel that old.
  • I’ve been missing home lately. Perhaps it’s the fact that I didn’t get to go home for Christmas. It could be that with the uncertainty of travel this summer, I’m worried I won’t be able to go, which would mean more than a year without seeing them. Or it could be the heartbreaking conversation I had with my niece this week, who asked me if I was coming home this summer, and when I told her I wasn’t sure if I could, she said, “But then you won’t get to see Blayke (my new niece who’s due in May) when she’s little. We miss you.” 😦
  • I don’t know how people with kids manage it all. I struggle to get all my work done plus daily chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.) and have time to rest and do what I want. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had to take care of someone else, too.

Beauties

  • My friend’s dog Lori is so cute, and is such a lovely dog. I got to go on a walk with her and Jalyn after work today, which was lots of fun.
  • The students on the playground this morning in their colorful Clan t-shirts, playing in the sunshine, were such a beautiful sight.
  • My collection of plants by the window, noticeably growing taller, make me happy.
  • Smiles and hugs from students brighten my day!
  • I love the colorful decor in my home…it’s beautiful, reminds me of my travels, and makes me happy!

Appreciations

  • Glorious weather like we had today. The sun was shining, yet it was still a little cool out, and it felt like spring is almost here!
  • Coming home to a clean house on a Friday evening is the best feeling. I appreciate my cleaner and the work that she does for me.
  • I’ve been loving the book I’ve been reading this week, Firefly Lane. I have 4 more chapters to read, so I’m thankful it’s the weekend, which gives me time to finish it!
  • Impromptu Facetime calls from my family. The call from Logan and Randi yesterday was such a fun surprise!
  • My friend Jalyn, one of the most generous people I know, treated me to dinner tonight (she’s sneaky and paid the bill before I could argue) at one of my favorite places on the island, Casa di Noa. The food was delicious and the conversation was engaging.

Gearing Up for the PYP Exhibition

After a marathon planning meeting this afternoon, where we finalized a few aspects of Exhibition and divvied up the many tasks that need to be completed, my to do list is heavier, but my heart is lighter. The team, which has experienced a few bumps in the road during the past few weeks, is starting to gel and the conversations that were previously focused on what we (the adults) wanted are now centered around students and what’s best for them and their learning. We’ve (loosely) mapped out the nine weeks of the process and now know where we’re headed.

I’m incredibly passionate about the PYP, and the Exhibition, which is the culminating project of the Primary Years Programme, is the pinnacle of the program. Students take ownership over their learning as they inquire into and research an issue they are passionate about. In addition to choosing their issue, there are many more aspects of the project that they have agency over, from who they work with (or whether they will work independently), how they will share their learning with the community, how they will take action, and many more!

We’re making a few major changes in the Exhibition at my school this year that excite me. To better support our students, each student will be assigned an advisor (one of the two Grade 5 teachers, Grade 5 intern, Librarian, or myself- the PYP Coordinator) to be their point person throughout the process. This reduces the ratio from 1:20 to 1:8, allowing us to be more in touch with each students’ progress so that we can provide more support through (at least) weekly one-on-one meetings. Additionally, each student will have a mentor to support them. In the past, mentors have worked with several students at once, but by providing them with a one-on-one person, they will receive more support. The role of the mentor is to offer advice, ask questions and provoke thinking, give feedback on the various components of the Exhibition, and celebrate the students’ learning along the way.

Another change is the introduction of workshops, where different teachers and support personnel will offer a variety of mini-lessons about different aspects of the Exhibition, focusing on their area(s) of expertise. Students will create their weekly schedules, deciding what they need to do and when and with whom to do it, based on their weekly checklists and deadlines. The will be given the choice to decide which workshops to attend, based on their needs. This will help develop their self-management skills.

Our Exhibition is under the transdisciplinary theme of How We Express Ourselves, so our students will be using this project to express themselves in whichever way(s) they choose. I can’t want to see what they come up with!

Photo source

As I sit here reflecting on the Exhibition planning thus far, I am buzzing, excited about the incredible learning journey our Grade 5 students are about to embark upon. I wish I could have been a PYP student…this is the best way to learn!

If you are not at a PYP school and wondering what the heck an Exhibition is, feel free to visit my previous school’s PYP Exhibition website, which houses the students’ virtual Exhibition presentations, as well as a documentation of our inquiry journey. We are creating a similar website to house this year’s Exhibition, but it’s not finished yet.

Today I…

Today I woke up early (again) and was able to ease into the morning, spending half an hour sipping on tea while reading and commenting on slices.

Today I appreciated the sun shining even more than I normally do, after days of rain and clouds.

Today I got to learn from an awesome colleague of mine who’s doing some kick ass word work with her first graders.

Today I continued to develop our PSPE scope and sequence with the PE team…we are making great progress!

Today I researched ideas about conceptual-based teaching and learning and found some great ideas I want to incorporate in my planning meetings.

Today I worked with Grade 4 to plan some engaging experiments for their upcoming unit about energy.

Today I interviewed a teacher for a position next year.

Today I was measured by the JK students (Pre-K aged) who were inquiring into measurement and how tall everyone in the class was. I was shorter than they thought I’d be!

Today I attended a GLC meeting with a verrrrrrry long agenda.

Today I spent some time with our JK Prep students (Preschool aged). We talked about what they knew about living and nonliving things (flamingos, dinosaurs, and ladybugs are living), played “Earthquake,” and added numbers on the dice.

Today I had an impromptu dinner with a friend at a little Italian restaurant in a building that used to be a bank; I love that the vault door is still there. Conversations about which books we’re reading accompanied the delicious food.

Today I got a Facetime call from my dad who couldn’t sleep…it was a nice surprise to hear from him!

Today I am going to bed early since I’ve been yawning nonstop for the past hour.

Exactly One Year Ago

I’ll always remember March 2nd, and not just because it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday or Texas Independence Day. I’ll remember March 2nd because on March 2, 2020, everything as I knew it changed.

I was living in Jakarta, and while the world grappled with the effects of Covid-19, we were content to continue with life as normal, as if we were invincible. No masks, no social distancing, no restrictions.

Well…that was until March 2nd. March 2nd was the day Indonesia announced their first confirmed case. It was the day one of our teachers was hospitalized because she was suspected to have Covid-19 (spoiler alert: she tested positive and recovered a month later). It was the day we began what was supposed to be a 14-day quarantine period, one that turned out to be 80 days for me. It was also the day we decided to move to online learning.

As I sit here, safe in my home in Jeju, happy that we now have all students back on campus every day (as of yesterday) after a few months of 2/3 of our students on campus and 1/3 online, I can’t help but think of my colleagues and students back in Jakarta. They went online a year ago and have never went back to face to face school. That’s a whole year of online learning. A whole year of working from home. A whole year of isolation. My heart breaks for them. As tough as I am, I don’t know if I could have made it. I think it might have broken me by now.

I commend them for sticking with it and doing so well in spite of the rotten circumstances they’ve had to endure. I know it’s a long shot, but I sure hope they get to return to some sort of normalcy before the year ends. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have only ever met your students online.

Hang in there ACG! I’m sending you my love and support…you’ve got this!

Letter to 2020

As I begin my eleventh year of slicing in the SOL Challenge, I am, once again, faced with the first-day jitters. What should I write about? What can I say that will matter? I started by reading a few other slices for inspiration, and then went on a deep dive into my past slices, rereading my day one slices, but that one great idea never surfaced. As I sit here, reflecting on where I was last year when the challenge began, I was reminded about the year that was 2020; the year we all just barely survived. On that note, let’s begin this year’s challenge with a letter to 2020…

Dear 2020,

While you started with promise, as I claimed (yet again) that ‘this would be my year,’ you didn’t turn out as I (or anyone else in this world) had hoped. Earlier this year, as I thought about what my One Little Word for 2021 would be, I paused, trying to remember what my OLW was for 2020. It’s definitely not a good sign when you can’t remember the word that’s meant to guide your year. Looking back through my journal reminded me that it was health. Yeah, that didn’t really happen…in fact, the opposite would be more accurate.

As we all know, you brought a ton of awful stuff, so much so that it’ll forever be etched in our minds and history books. No need to rehash it all here. The wounds are still fresh. Despite all the terribleness that you brought, there were a few good things that happened.

I can remember sitting with Michelle in Thailand, recapping 2019, setting our goals and intentions for 2020, as we do each year, and weeping. I wasn’t happy with much of my current situation and felt stuck. I didn’t love living in Jakarta, as the city didn’t offer me much, and work was no longer bringing me joy. Our school year started out okay, but quickly took a turn for the worse, leaving me with a feeling of dread. I tried to mask the unhappiness I felt, but I wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all myself. Add to that a general lack of energy and motivation to do much of anything, and I was looking for a change.

Coming into 2020, I was offered a job in Jeju (where I live now) and the prospect of a change of scenery and a new work environment brought excitement and anticipation. But I still had half a year left in Jakarta. I’d taken on two additional positions at work, so in addition to being the Head of Primary, I was also the PYP Coordinator and full-time Year 6 teacher. As if that wasn’t enough, school closed on 2 March, and we all went into lockdown, while simultaneously navigating online learning (when we didn’t have a clue what we were doing). Those last few months of school were hectic, and I often worked 16-hour days, work bleeding into personal time, without the separation of work and home.

As it was for many people around the world, you became the year of quarantine. I endured 110 days of quarantine; 80 days in Jakarta, 15 in Texas after my flight home, and another 15 in Seoul when I moved to Korea to start my new job. The 15 days in Seoul were definitely the hardest, as I was stuck in a hotel room, with no access to fresh air or good food. But I survived. I have found that my habits have changed as a result of so much time spent in isolation, as I now spend more time alone than usual. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

As I mentioned, regardless of the struggles you made me endure, there were definitely some highlights. The move to Jeju was the right one for me, and has brought me much joy and fulfillment, both at work and personally. That excitement and spark I thought was gone has returned, and I know I’m where I belong. I’m making a difference, and it feels good. Being in Jeju has meant that life has returned to as close to normal as possible. Korea has handled the pandemic well, and we are free to move about with minimal disruptions (with appropriate precautions, of course). School has been in person the majority of the time, bringing a sense of normalcy. I’ve made new friends and kept in contact with old ones. My new house is starting to become a home, and I am feeling more settled in my new place.

As you ended, I was hopeful, as most people were, that 2021 would suddenly wipe the slate clean and we’d wake up to realize it had all been just a bad dream. While that didn’t happen, 2021 is shaping up to be a bit better, and I’m hopeful for the future. As much as I wish you didn’t happen, and as much as I wish I had been able to fast-forward straight through the bad parts, I am grateful for the lessons learned, the perseverance I showed, and the gifts you gave me.

Peace out 2020,
Jennifer

Join the Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers! I highly recommend it!

Skydiving

Instead of writing about my quarantine life which seems like the real-life version of Groundhog’s Day, I’ve been digging back in my memory bank and thinking about my past travels. What comes to mind first is Australia, and despite how much I love it, I’ve not blogged much about it. One of my fondest memories of Australia is my first skydiving adventure.

As I waited in line to book my spot, I contemplated whether it was worth it. My money was running low, and with at least another month to go in Oz, I really shouldn’t be frivolous. I mean, $800 was a lot of money for a few minutes. I could do a lot with that much money. Weighing up the pros and cons, my dad’s voice echoed in my head. His last words before I moved to Sydney were, “Just promise me you won’t go skydiving.” I promised. And I rarely, if ever, broke a promise, especially to my dad.

It was my turn and a decision had to be made. Deciding I’d regret not doing it more than doing it, I thrust my only credit card at the cashier. The credit card I got right before I left. The one for emergencies only. The one with a $1,000 limit. Go big or go home, right?

Suiting up, I looked around. Everyone else had someone with them, someone to experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with. I wished I’d had someone else to share this with, but I didn’t let the fact that I was solo hold me back. I was raring to go. My tandem instructor came over to introduce himself. His smile and enthusiasm was contagious. Small in stature with a head full of grey hair, I wondered how old he must be. While I never learned his age, he did reveal that he had over 8,000 jumps under his belt, which put me at ease right away.

Climbing into the plane, I was struck by how tiny it was inside. And there were no seats…or seatbelts! This was unlike any plane I’d ever been in before. Strapped to my instructor, closer than I’d ever been to a stranger, we took a seat on the floor of the plane, very close to the other jumpers. While we waited for the pilot to get in position, they asked us who wanted to go first. No one volunteered, everyone looking at everyone else as if to say, You do it. “I’ll go first,” I found myself saying. I still don’t know why I said that.

Since I was first, I was seated nearest the door. With the pilot in position and ready for takeoff, the engine cranked and the propellors making it hard to hear, I shouted to my instructor, “I think they forgot to close the door!” I quickly learned that when skydiving, the door is left open the entire time. As we took off, I was acutely aware that I was mere inches from an open plane door, seated on the floor, without a seatbelt. The cold wind blew in from the opening, whipping my hair in my face, stinging me with its frigidness.

Once we reached altitude (14,000 ft), my instructor told me it was time. Seconds later, the photographer I hired to take video and photos of me jumped out. One second he was there, the next he was gone. I was scooted forward to the opening, where the coldest rush of air hit me in the face. “Are you ready?” he asked. Nodding my reply, he pulled my head back against his chest, and we jumped out. I expected to be scared, to scream from either fear or excitement, but no noise came. I just took it all in.

As we were free falling for what seemed like 10 minutes (in actuality it was 60 seconds), I reached out my arms, feeling the rush of the air, moving them around like a kid who rolls down the car window while riding fast on the freeway. Every fiber in my body was experiencing pure bliss at that moment. This was worth it. Worth the broken promises and the debt I’d have to pay off.

Once the ripcord was pulled, I felt a sharp jerk upwards, followed by a peaceful floating feeling, as we drifted back down toward earth. The view was incredible! I was skydiving in Mooloolaba, Australia, a small beach town, so the view below was one of ocean and sand. When I close my eyes, I can still see the mental pictures I took so many years ago.

As we neared the beach, I pulled my legs to my chest, as I skidded onto the sand on my bum. The videographer asked me, “So how was it?” My reply was unexpected. I didn’t scream or shout. Matter-of-factly I replied, “It was cool.”

I don’t have any digital copies of my first skydive, as that was back in 2004 and digital cameras were fairly new, but here are some shots from my most recent skydive in Taupo, New Zealand in 2018.

And Just Like That, It’s Over

On March 1st, I eagerly wrote my first slice to mark the start of my tenth year on the Slice of Life Challenge, reflecting on who I am now vs. the me from 10 years ago. I’d been anticipating this challenge for months, the excitement growing each day that it got closer to March. I needed something to reignite my writing life, the one that lay dormant for months.

I began March 2nd like any other slicing day, keeping my eyes peeled for potential slices, debating about what would make the cut. Little did I know that everything would change that afternoon. The writing plans (and let’s be honest…all other plans) I’d had for this month vanished before my eyes.

Each day brought new challenges, as I, like many others, embarked on the monumental task of virtual schooling, with little to no preparation and very little sleep. Many of my slices centered on this new reality that I couldn’t seem to escape. I wrote to reflect on my experience, learn from it, and hopefully help others who would soon join me on this journey.

I leaned on this writing community more than ever, and my fellow slicers rallied around me, lifting me up with encouraging comments, empathizing with my situation, and offering suggestions. I felt seen and heard and loved.

The slices I’ve read this month have been raw and honest. We’ve all laid bare our worries and fears for everyone to see. I feel honored to be among these writers.

March 2020 will forever be etched in our memories. We’ve witnessed and lived through a historical moment in time, and in doing so, have recorded memories that we will look back on for decades to come.

This month, that seems to have lasted forever, yet was over in the blink of an eye, had more highs and lows than I’m used to, but instead of shying away from the ugly emotions of isolation, fear, and frustration, I wrote through it.

And just like that, it’s over.

Thankful for the Busyness Today!

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?

What to Write

From the title, you probably think I’m writing my annual writer’s block post (it inevitably happens when one writes for 31 days straight), but I don’t have writer’s block per se; it’s just that there’s nothing I really want to write about. To say that this has been the weirdest month ever is an understatement. When have I ever, in the history of my life, been stuck inside for an entire month straight? I’ll give you a hint…it’s never!

What gave me pause when I sat down to write today was that I’ve written about it all before. I mean, how many more slices can I write about virtual school (it starts back up tomorrow), how I feel about quarantine (the ups and downs have been covered), and connecting with people virtually (which is fun, but there’s only so much I can really say). I started rereading my past slices from previous years’ challenges to get ideas. While I thoroughly enjoyed the walk down memory lane, I was acutely aware that all of those slices were about things I had done, experiences when traveling (which I’m always doing in March), or life as an expat in my current city. When you are confined to your house, writing inspiration for a slice of life is slim pickings.

I am so looking forward to being back out in the world. Writing about my experiences and travels is such a gift. Reading my old slices brought back a flood of emotions, the memories bubbling up to the surface. This Slice of Life Challenge has allowed me to capture these memories forever, giving me a purpose and an audience to develop a writing habit for a month each year. While I always have every intention of keeping it going, I never continue for very long. Life always seems to get in the way. But I’ll always have this yearly month-long slice of my life to look back on. It might not be a lot, but committing 1/12 of every year to paper is something worthwhile. Without the daily slicing commitment, I could easily have a blog with only the ‘good stuff’ on it. But when you write every day for 31 days about your life, there are bound to be days that aren’t so good, days when you stumble, and days that are down-right crappy. In this challenge, those days get written about, too, which is real life. Thank you TWT for hosting this challenge that is a gift I give myself year after year.