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? 

card

Cards made by my students

cathearts

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 !

a brief glimpse into jordan & israel

My friend Petrina has this tradition where she takes wefie videos with her siblings while traveling together. So, we decided during our trip to Jordan and Israel to do the same thing at some of the key places we visited! So here’s a short video of our wefies! Enjoy and make sure to watch in HD quality! 🙂

journey to jordan

From floating in the Dead Sea, to seeing the ancient ruins of Petra, and riding camels in Wadi Rum (where they shot the Martian), Jordan was pretty incredible. From the moment our plane landed, everything felt so surreal. Yes, we actually floated in the dead sea, and got to put the mud on our body and faces. Apparently, it’s really good for your skin! After spending a few hours at the Dead Sea, we were off to Petra with our tour guide. It was great because we didn’t go with a big tour group on a bus. We had a tour guide that drove us around (with wifi in the car) and tailored the tour to our requests.

We had the most beautiful views as we drove from the Dead Sea to Petra. We drove along the border of the Dead Sea. We stopped at the side of the road in this cafe with an incredible view of these mountains, when we saw a wild pack of dogs further down the road barking. We also saw a falcon flying above. As we enjoyed the scenery, we heard the dogs barking even louder. We saw three foreigner cyclists, zooming down the hill with this pack of wild dogs barking at them, and as they passed us in the cafe, we heard them yelling a stream of expletives. I think they were pretty glad to have passed by the pack of wild dogs alive. Those were just some of the small memorable moments that I didn’t get to capture on my camera.

We spent the whole day exploring Petra (about 7 hours). We left early in the morning around 8:30am. The weather was really nice, not too hot and not too cold. We did wear a few layers, because in the shade it was a bit cooler. We walked the whole trail all the way to the monastery which is at the highest part and has the best view. There are about 800 stairs you need to climb to get to the top. Make sure to climb to the top because the view was worth it! People can pay to take the donkey ride up, but honestly that looked a bit dangerous. I would recommend just walking up the stairs if you are able to. Also, pack snacks with you as well, as food is a bit pricier inside, but not unreasonable.

The last photo below is from Wadi Rum, a beautiful desert in Jordan. That was definitely one of the highlights of my Jordan trip. We were able to sleep in a fancy tent (bed & toilet inside) in the middle of the desert. I mean, when will I ever do this in my life again? We had a delicious meal of chicken and lamb that was cooked underground with a fire above. We also had a chance to ride camels in the desert. Make sure to hold on tightly, because when the camel goes up and down, it’s a bit bumpy. Our camels were quite calm, and lovely.

People have asked me if it was “safe” there. And overall, I would say yes. There wasn’t a time where I felt unsafe. There were tons of tour groups from all over at all the sites. It was interesting when we were in Amman (the city) and at the Citadel, looking at the old amphitheater, and some kids and adults would come to us and ask to take photos with us. That has never happened to me before when traveling. I guess Asians are a novelty. Overall, I really enjoyed the city and the historic sites in Jordan.  If you are planning on visit, let me know, and I can recommend some more places and our tour guide!

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a glimpse of 2016 through photos

This is a long overdue post, about 3 months late of my travel highlights from last year. 2016 was indeed full of adventures close and far from Singapore. I started off 2016 in Batam, Indonesia and then traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, LA, NY, Iceland, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Melbourne throughout the year. I loved being able to go home for Christmas for the first time in 8 years since I’ve been overseas.

I’m also thankful for the friends that visited me in Singapore, the friends that traveled with me for different trips, and the friends that hosted me when I visited. Some of the highlights of my travels were conquering my fears. I was able to go rock climbing in Krabi, Thailand, get my open water scuba diving certification in Tioman, Malaysia, and summit Mt. Kinabalu. So many times, I wanted to give up during these times, but my friends kept encouraging me which made a huge difference.

Next stop on my travels: Jordan and Israel next week! 

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blogging alongside my students

mid mini-lesson eureka Moment

Do you ever have those eureka moments teaching, when you get an idea all of a sudden, like mid mini-lesson? I had one of those moments today during reading workshop this afternoon. My lovely students were sitting in our rug area, and I was giving my mini-lesson about using learning progressions to analyze our responses about comparing and contrasting themes in two texts. I had the compare/contrast learning progression printed out and three sample responses I wrote. With their reading partner, I had them using the learning progression to give a grade to each of the sample responses, from level 3 to level 6. As they were sharing with their partners, the idea popped in my head.

When my grade level team norms student writing, we have a sample text that we grade in small groups and then each group shares out what scores we would give the writing piece for each standard on the learning progression (rubric). So, I thought, why not have my students do something similar. I rushed  over to my desk area where I had a basket full of small post-its. I found 3 extra copies of the learning progressions and put them on my bulletin board and labeled each one for each writing sample response.

I told my students, that one person from each partnership should come up and put a post-it note the grade they gave for each piece. As the students came up, it was a bit messy, but they got it done. Afterwards, we went over the different grades that they gave and I also gave my opinion of what I would grade it. Overall, the students grade similarly each piece. It was fun hearing why some students gave certain responses a higher or lower mark. I would definitely do this activity again!

Has anyone else had these mid-lesson eureka moments as well?

blogging alongside my students