a chance encounter

blogging alongside my students

Yesterday, I received a message from a former colleague at the international school I used to work at in Korea. Sophie had just flown into Singapore that morning for the AMIS High School Honor Band and Orchestra Festival hosted by my school. She had let me know that one of my old students was there for the festival. We agreed to meet up today during their lunch break. I had gotten to the auditorium before her and I saw a sea of Asian students. I heard students speaking Korean, but I couldn’t spot my old student anywhere. So I went back outside the auditorium to wait for Sophie.

When she got there to meet me, she texted my student.  As this tall, Korean student walked up to us, and greeted us, I couldn’t believe it. Now he was a senior in high school, reserved, and much taller then me. The last time I’d seen him he was in 5th grade, much shorter than me, and he never stopped talking! The boys in my class that year loved insects, especially stag beetles, and they would bring them to class (in plastic containers of course) all the time. He even remembered how our class was called Team Inspire.

Sophie shared with me how HJ had been doing research on insects in a lab and really pursued this passion throughout high school. He also casually told me that he was waiting to hear back from Harvard, even though he had already gotten into another Ivy League school… This was a pretty unexpected encounter, considering that this festival was actually supposed to be held in Korea originally.

As I reflect on the work we do as educators, we’ll never truly know exactly the impact that we make on the hundreds of students we worked with through the years. However, it’s these chance encounters and connections that we keep with former colleagues and students that shine light to our journey as educators.


through my eyes

blogging alongside my students

I was going through my blog the other day and I came across some photos from my older posts, and it made me miss taking photos. It’s not that I’ve stopped taking photos, but I’ve become more dependent on my iPhone to take photos than my dslr. Also, I was reminded that I need to finish taking the Udemy photography course I signed up for earlier this year. As I’ve been scrolling through some old posts, here are some of my favorite photos from various trips and visits I’ve had these past few years.

As I look at these photos, floods of memories fill my mind of the people I traveled with and the memories of the moments. I love how photos can capture so much in one shot.

Just curious, which photo do you like the best? 🙂

  1. Elmer’s Long Bottle Tree Ranch, CaliforniaDSC_0635
  2. Sydney,  Australiasydney-1103 3.Jökulsárlón, IcelandDSC_00764. Lavender by the Bay, Long Islandlavender-02775. Petra, JordanDSC_0892 6. Chiang Mai, Thailandthailand-03297. Siem Reap, Cambodiacfc-0580 8.Haji Lane, Singaporelangkawi-01359. Whampoa Market, Singaporelangkawi-011510. Woodlands, Singaporeoscarmaggie-0861

lunchtime conversations

blogging alongside my students

One of the things that I appreciate about my fifth grade team of teachers is that we find time to eat lunch together. Actually, when I first started working at SAS, my classroom neighbor, Crew, would knock on my door and in his way encourage me to come to lunch with the rest of our hallway. During those first few years, I had a million and one other things I had to do (and the list still hasn’t dwindled) at lunch, but I would leave the pile of work on my desk and with a guilty heart go to lunch. By the end of the lunch time, I was glad that I had made it down. The much needed break, and conversation with colleagues is always refreshing and helpful.

Sometimes we talk shop, and get ideas. Sometimes, we just share about our day, things we are looking forward to, and just get to know each other better. A few days ago, it was Monday lunch time in Singapore, which meant Sunday evening back in the States, and the Oscars had just finished. Someone asked if they knew the results of what happened, and thanks to Google, we could find out right away. We started discussing which Oscar winning movies were still playing in Singapore (The Shape of Water and 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in case you are curious.)  We don’t always get all the Oscar nominated movies in Singapore.

One of the teachers mentioned that the film that won for best documentary, Icarus, was on Netflix. After hearing his brief synopsis on the movie, I knew I had to watch it when I got home. I do admit to having an obsession with the Winter Olympics, particularly figure skating, having grown up skating myself. I was fascinated by this documentary and it helped me understand what the whole Russian Sochi Olympics doping scandal was all about. Also, I understood the significance and reasoning behind why they were banned from representing their country in the Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you watch it! I’m curious to hear what people thought of it.

Here’s the trailer:

wedding customs

blogging alongside my students

One of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had living abroad has been attending different weddings. It’s always so interesting attending weddings in different countries and seeing how similar and different they are.

When I lived in Korea, I was surprised by how quick weddings were. Usually the weddings I’ve been to in the States were pretty much a whole day affair. In Korea, you can be in and out of a wedding in 1 to 2 hours max. I remember attending my cousin’s wedding that was in a big Catholic church with hundreds of people, and my relatives told me it was ok to each the buffet lunch during the ceremony…

I was shocked. Not only was this a family member of mine getting married, but actually not going into the ceremony seemed blasphemous. It was a huge church so it’s true that no one would notice,  but it just seemed wrong. However, when we went to eat lunch, we found out that we were not the only ones doing that. We did make it back inside the sanctuary for the end of the ceremony. And then stayed around to take photos afterwards.

It was quite interesting how many of the wedding halls that many weddings took place in Korea would have multiple weddings booked throughout the day. So pretty much guests are in and out very quickly. The reception was usually just eating the meal.

When I came to Singapore, I have been able to attend a few different types of weddings ranging from ones in a Hindu temple, banquet halls, and in churches. I was surprised that during the church wedding, the bride and groom and bridal party would sit during the ceremony when the pastor would give his short sermon.

In the church weddings I went to in America, the bridal party and the bride and groom would all stand.  I totally see the logic in that, but I’d never seen that happen in a church wedding in America before. Also, I was surprised that many of the weddings in Singapore would have time in between the church ceremony and reception.  People would go home and change, and come back out in the evening for the dinner reception.

I’m not trying to say one way is right or wrong, but I always find it fascinating to see the different customs and traditions of weddings in different countries. And yes, I was just at a wedding this Saturday, hence this blog post…

What are some fascinating weddings customs/traditions you have seen? 

the reply

blogging alongside my students

About a week ago I received an e-mail in my work inbox titled: Hello.

There was a short apology, mentions of a crazy school year, and thanksgiving for our sweet letters and words of encouragement. It was very short and to the point reply to our cards.

In the beginning of September, our fifth grade class made cards to send to a fifth grade class in Texas that was affected by Hurricane Harvey. Their school was damaged by the flooding and had to move to an alternate location so the school could be renovated.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to start the school year off like that.

I immediately printed out the e-mail, excited to share it with my students. Interestingly enough, our science lesson that day was on creating a plan to protect a city from hurricanes. We discussed what happened with Hurricane Katrina and how certain areas were flooded while others parts were not.

One week later, I sit here at my laptop, realizing that I didn’t respond to her e-mail.  It got lost in the flood of e-mails that I swim through daily.  I feel bad that I so easily forgot about her,  her school, and the hurricane. So easily we go through the motions daily, absorbed in our lives, and the bubble we are in.

So now it’s my turn to reply. What do I say? 


Cards made by my students


Permission to Fail

blogging alongside my students

Often as teachers, we are scared of failure. We might preach to our students that it’s ok to fail, you can make mistakes but you try again. We say it’s all part of the learning process, but do we give ourselves that permission?

The deep ingrained fear of failure has followed me for a while since I was young. I still remember when I got cut from the middle school basketball team,  I literally just stopped playing basketball after that. All the passion and love I had for the sport just disappeared when I didn’t see my name on the team roster.

Today,  I find myself in the classroom, encouraging my students to be part of this incredible writing challenge. A challenge that I have so often joined as a writer. Some years, I admit that I stopped writing. I gave up too easily.  I was tired, exhausted, and didn’t want to write after work and during my spring break. At times, I didn’t even try. I felt hypocritical. Making my students do something, that I wasn’t doing.

So here I am, a little bit older and wiser. I think it might even be year #8 of participating in this challenge. I’m going to write alongside my students. And, yes, I’m going to give myself permission to fail.

It’s not too late to join us on this writing challenge! Check out more details at The Two Writing Teachers !