Tag Archives: students

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.

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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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A Different Valentine’s Day

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Today was a different kind of Valentine’s Day for me. I recently began teaching preschool, and so far I’m having a blast! I’m learning new things about this age group all the time, and my days are filled with smiles, laughs, hugs, and fun. Today was my first holiday party in preschool, and while I’ve hosted many Valentine’s parties in elementary school, preschool is a different story!

One thing I’ve learned about (well, not so much learned as solidified my thinking about) preschoolers is that they need routine. Anything out of the ordinary turns their world upside down. So, a day where we get to dress out of uniform, hand out Valentine’s cards and candy, and have a party filled with treats is definitely out of our routine. From the moment my little ones arrived, they were literally bouncing around the room, unable to contain their excitement of the day ahead.

We began the day normally, practicing our writing, but they were having difficulty concentrating. After that, we moved to the carpet for calendar time, where we review our day and basics like colors, numbers, letters, etc. They were having none of it. Imagine ten preschoolers, all doing their own thing…rolling around on the carpet, talking to their friends, interrupting other friends, getting up off the carpet to show me their Valentine’s cards, looking around the room, taking off their shoes, etc. My attempts at normalcy were thwarted by the buzz of Valentine excitement in the air. To get our wiggles out, we sang and danced to our favorite song, Freeze Dance. OK, let’s try this again. Same thing. Chaos. Well, that didn’t work. Now what? I shut off all the lights and led them in some breathing exercises, practicing being mindful. That seemed to calm them down a bit.

Giving up on calendar time, we got in a circle to talk about the meaning of Valentine’s Day. I shared that Valentine’s Day was a day to show people that we like or love them and to be good friends. I said we would go around the circle and share what we like about our friends. Modeling for them, I shared that I liked Captain’s smile, and how it always made me smile to see him so happy. “Who wants to share something they like about their friend?”

Alani raised her hand. I asked her who she wanted to talk about. “Rosie.”

“And what do you like about Rosie?”

A big grin spread across her face. “Cupcakes!”

“Alani, what do you like about Rosie?”

“I like cupcakes.”

“OK, but what do you like about Rosie?”

“I like when she gives me cupcakes.”

Chuckling to myself, I had to give it to her. I’d like it if someone gave me cupcakes, too. Mind you, no one had given Alani cupcakes today. Preschoolers are just funny.

“Who else would like to share something they like about their friends?”

J.J. raised his hand, and said that he wanted to share something about James.

“OK, great. J.J., what do you like about James?”

“Cookies.”

Clearly we are not understanding the concept. At that point, I shared a few more examples of what I liked about different friends in the class. “I like how Lanla is such a good listener. I like how excited and full of life Alani is. I like how Lali always helps her friends. I like how Namping always uses English when he talks to his friends.”

“Let’s try this again. Who wants to share?”

Saint raised his hand. He, too, wanted to share what he liked about James.

“OK, Saint, what do you like about James?”

“Pee pee.”

Laughter erupts in the classroom. Everyone thinks this is the funniest thing they have ever heard.

“Now Saint, is that nice to say about our friend? We use kind words in our class.”

The giggling doesn’t stop. Looking up at the clock, I am relieved to see that it’s time for P.E. “OK everybody, let’s line up.”

After recess, we had our party, complete with making jam sandwiches cut into hearts, decorating cookies, and making Valentine’s cards for our moms and dads. We passed out our Valentine’s cards and had a blast opening them up after nap time. A day filled with fun and laughter is always good, but I sure hope we can get back to normal tomorrow. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! ❤

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!

PYP Exhibition was a Huge Success!

Earlier this week I blogged a bit about Exhibition. While it was a ton of work for everyone involved, I couldn’t be prouder of the students and teachers who made it all possible! Yesterday, the Grade 5 students presented their Exhibition three times, once to the PYP students, one to the MYP students, and once to their parents. While we were all beat at the end of the night, we had a blast!

We began with an introduction by the Grade 5 teachers, school Director, Head of Secondary School, and me. Then the student groups took turns presenting the main points of their project, including their technology and art components, and their action as a result of the Exhibition. Following the group presentations, the audience was invited to view the display boards to learn more about the students’ research and ask questions. Lastly, visitors left a positive comment about something they loved about the presentations.

Click here to watch a short video of our Exhibition!

Today the students reflected A TON on the whole Exhibition process. They assessed themselves, wrote about challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, and celebrated their successes. Tomorrow we’ve invited all of the mentors and experts to have a pizza party to celebrate the end of the Exhibition! They definitely deserve a party…they’ve worked hard! 🙂

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I just loved reading all the positive things people had to say about the students! They loved reading them, too. The notes helped boost their confidence and made them feel proud! 🙂

Surrounded by PYP…and Loving It!

Holding dual roles at school means that sometimes I wear one hat more than the other. Lately my PYP Coordinator hat has been on more often, as our Exhibition has been fast-approaching (it’s TOMORROW!). Last week and this week, I have been surrounded by PYP– literally. I can’t seem to get away from it, but I sorta love it!

As I mentioned, our Exhibition presentations are tomorrow. Our Grade 5 students, teachers, and mentors have been working their little tails off getting ready for this momentous occasion for the past 6 weeks. Their collaborative, in-depth inquiry has lead them to some really interesting learning experiences and to take action in their local community. Here’s a video of their journey thus far. Today, I attended a field trip to our sister school, ACD, to attend their Exhibition, and then worked with the students on perfecting their presentations and display boards. I think know we are ready!


In addition to the Exhibition, we held a PYP training for all staff this past Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately I was sick and could not attend all of the training, but the teachers did some amazing thinking and reflection while I was gone!

A documentary made about our school, and how we teach, was just released online today. It shows what it’s like attending and teaching at an international school in Albania, but also what it means to have an IB education. We are a candidate school for all 3 programmes of the IB- PYP, MYP, and DP!

Lastly, today during recess, I was drawn to a group of girls who were playing in the field. I watched them a short while and noticed they were gathering items and piling them up. I decided to investigate. After approaching the group (one in preschool, one in Grade 1, and two in Grade 2), I asked them what they were doing. They explained they were building a nest for the birds. When I questioned them further, they explained that people are cutting down trees, so birds no longer have homes, therefore they built a nest for the birds. They included leaves, flowers, dried twigs, berries, and a long stick. The berries were for food, of course, and the stick was so the bird could locate the nest and have something to sit on. The interesting thing is that they are all learning about Sharing the Planet at this time, although their Central Ideas vary. This group of girls decided, on their own during their free time, to take action to help animals who are losing their homes. If that’s not PYP, I don’t know what is!

It’s moments like this that remind me of why I do what I do and why I believe in it so much!

Talkin’ Shop #sol16 30 of 31

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Tonight’s plan was to head to The Montrose for some Mexican food (I was totally craving it!), do a bit of work, blog, and come home early-ish. The atmosphere at The Montrose is laid back and very conducive to writing, which I was hoping would get the creative juices flowing. After scarfing down my quesadilla, I got to work on some paperwork for school. I was taking a break from work, trying to think about what I wanted to write, when a colleague and friend of mine walked in the door.

He walked over, and I invited him to join me. He and I started talking about blogging, and I shared my experiences with the SOL challenge over the years. This led to discussions about teaching, specifically reading and writing. He happens to teach middle school language and literature, so it was right up his alley. Being a primary-only experienced educator, I was unfamiliar with what reading and writing looks like in middle school. My only assumption was that it typically looked quite different from primary. Shortly into our conversation, however, he mentioned that he taught using reading and writing workshops. Say what?!? My ears perked up, and my literacy hat came on!

From there, he and I discussed the learning happening in his classroom, the energy for writing palpable. What followed was a back and forth exchange of ideas, comparing writing workshop in primary to how it’s done in secondary. His students just finished a memoir unit (swoon!), and have just begun a persuasive writing unit. I jumped in, telling him I have some teaching resources (that just so happen to be for grades 3-8) that I can lend him. “Bring it on!” he said. That discussion led to his last unit of the school year, which is poetry. We have a shared philosophy for teaching poetry, in that we both believe it’s not effective to teach form poetry, but rather provide students with ample mentor texts to learn from and tools to use in their own writing. At this point, I shared a few mentor poems as well as my own poetry from my blog, and we realized that we’d both had the privilege of attending PD from Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger. Small world!

Anyway, our conversation continued for hours, meandering from swapping teaching ideas to ways in which we document our travels to other school stuff to travel plans in the future. Despite getting home 3 hours after I had planned, and just now getting to blogging, I am so grateful that he walked in the door. It’s been a long time since I’ve geeked out about literacy, and I was so energized by it! Spontaneous shop talks are always welcome. 🙂