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 !

the month of march

blogging alongside my students

The Month of March

Everyday a new post is up,
from 22 fifth grade writers faced with a challenge.
Small moments transformed into slices of life,
captured through photos, poems, and stories.

Everyday I learn something new,
about the lives of our students.
Reading all the posts,
leaving as many comments as I can.
When school is out,
a tidal wave of comments,
and a flurry of e-mails fill my inbox,
as new comments are posted.

Everyday I laugh, I smile, and I wonder.
I appreciate, I marvel, and I enjoy,
these slices of our daily lives:

Unexpectedly getting soaked in the rain,
six hour Irish dance rehearsals,
learning to ride a bike,
competing in lego robotics competition,
ordering the newest Rubik’s cubes,
a haiku on zelda,
poems on favorite foods and places like Paris,
failures and successes with slime.
Did you know we love making slime?

Unfortunate rope burns and big toes hurting,
making omelettes with family,
when your Spanish class turns into a jungle,
playing tennis when the rain comes,
playing basketball,
doing the daily routine,
cleaning your mind,
watching movies with friends,
and saying goodbye to close friends.

All these separate slices,
fitting together everyday,
creating the story of our lives.

2015 in review

slice of life 2014

One of the most important lessons I attained from my graduate degree in education is the importance of reflection. Every week, instead of tests (thank goodness for progressive education), we wrote pages and pages of reflections on our learning. We reflected on everything- from our journey as teachers, education theory, pedagogy, experiences in the classroom, and our graduate school classes. I definitely did see the importance in all that reflecting as an educator and in general, it’s a good life skill to have.

A fews day late, but I started reflecting on 2015 and I found it was hard to put into words accurately all that happened, so I felt that photos would be better. As I started putting together photos I felt pretty blown away at how incredible this past year has been. I had quite a few friends get married and I actually got to be there for the celebrations, many babies were born, friendships were deepened, and also at the same time with sadness as we said goodbye to a good friend unexpectedly -we miss you Crew.

It was also a year full of travel, including two trips back to NY, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Indonesia, Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, Langkawi, Memphis, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and Siem Reap. Besides all the fun traveling, I cherished just as much the simple things like exploring Singapore, getting to know my students better, going on hikes, watching tennis, flying kites, taking photos, discovering new cafes and restaurants, watching movies, celebrating birthdays and holidays with friends, meeting new people, and being part of our church community.

As I’ve been thinking about this new year, this quote has been resonating in me:

“You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.” –Paul Tripp

In this new year, as I live in the little moments of everyday life, I want to give God glory even when those struggles and unexpected bumps emerge. I want a heart fixed on God. I want to be full of gratitude and not complaints. A big thank you to all of my family and friends that helped make 2015 pretty spectacular. Here are some of my highlights from 2015. 🙂

What are you thankful for in 2015? What are you hoping for in 2016? 

weddingselfieoscarmaggie-0905 jane&brian trip-0435

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

IMG_4714IMG_2014Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetIMG_1374IMG_7029thailand-0239thailand-0329classphoto-0359peyton-0490cfc-0601Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset1933356_10153743147663895_758122576763176798_olangkawi-0177IMG_8667karlexperience-0977langkawi-0670Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetlavender-0277paris-1417IMG_6753 (1)langkawi-0135IMG_8634 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

lessons from flying a kite for the first time

I held tightly to the string in one hand and panda kite in the other. I started to run furiously across the green lawn, desperately hoping for flight. As I let go of my precious panda in the dark ominous sky, I continued to run, hoping not to crash into the people enjoying a romantic picnic on the grass.

Luckily, the sun had already set, and people couldn’t identify me (I hope) as the lady running crazily on the grass. I’m pretty sure my friends were laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I knew that I looked like a fool, but I was sweaty and determined. I was going to get my panda to fly. I could imagine panda joining the other flashier kites (glow in the dark kite and kites with flashing lights). So what if my panda was much smaller and not as strong.

After multiple accounts of running up and down the marina barrage, panda would unfortunately not fly. With a bit of disappointment in my face and an attitude of defeat, I handed my panda to my friends. They handed me the string to their kite that was already high in the air as consolation. I held on to it and watched my friends with panda. Maybe they would have better luck.

Then, the kind uncle, who helped us a bit before untangling our string, came over to help us again. He was definitely the expert, and I’m sure he was laughing inside at our amateur attempts to fly panda. He looked at our broken and misshapen panda kite and attempted to help us fly it.  The uncle instructed us with how to best fly panda. After quite a few attempts and an improved kite flying technique (unsurprisingly, my kite flying method was completely wrong), they were really close to getting panda in the air. Yet, even with the best instructions, there was no hope for panda. He was beyond repair. It was probably from the combination of us dragging him in the grass, and quite a few rough falls leading to broken pieces, that led to panda’s inability to fly.

In the end, there was no Disney picture perfect ending, just me taking home the broken panda. However, I did learn a few key things. First, some broken things just need to be let go of. Second, having a mentor (person who actually knows how to fly a kite teaching you) is really helpful. And third, when you are so focused and determined to accomplish something that is important to you, the fear of failure does not enter into your mind.

Some pictures from the marina barrage. If you haven’t been there, you need to check it out! It is definitely one of my favorite places to go for it’s incredible views of the Singapore skyline.

IMG_6753 (1) IMG_6796IMG_6821

slice of life challenge day #15: the first meeting

slice of life 2014

My grandmother had 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. Since she lived in NY the past 30 years, she had some great grandchildren in Korea that she never had a chance to meet. A few of her great grandchildren finally had a chance to meet my grandmother at her funeral. One of them, a sweet young boy, cried tears as he sat in front of her on the last day of her funeral.

My grandmother was always good with her hands. Our house was full of these swans she created with origami paper up until the end of her life. She would fold hundreds of these small pieces of origami paper to create these swans. She would make pairs of swans for our family, friends and people at our church. My parents brought two of the smaller swans she made to Korea for the funeral. This great grandchild that met my grandmother for the first time asked about these swans. I shared with him proudly how they were made by his great grandmother with much love and care. We decided to give these swans to him and his sister to take home.

After we buried my grandmother’s ashes into the ground at the cemetery, I saw the children gather in front of her grave. I knew that even though they didn’t meet her in person, I could see glimpses of her in them. I knew that I would make sure they would know her story when they got older. I knew that she was smiling to have finally met them.

seoul-1344-2seoul-1292   seoul2014-1364seoul-1369seoul-1415

slice of life challenge day #14: shoes off

slice of life 2014

I’m finally back to slicing. I had to take a mini-break from my writing these past few days, due to an unexpected trip to Korea to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Now that I’m back home and finally have a free moment to myself, I’m finding comfort in being behind the screen and sharing my story. This was my first real experience of being part of a Korean funeral. Not only did I learn a lot about how different Korean funerals are, but there was one moment that brought some laughter during this time of remembering and mourning.

In Korea, funerals are a bit different than the States.  Our grandmother’s funeral was held at the hospital, where they had a separate building just for funerals. The room was divided into two areas. One part had tables and a kitchen, where people were served food and drinks. There was  a smaller room that people went in to pay their respects for my grandmother. Some funerals last up to 3 days, and the relatives stay in this room during the time to greet guests.  I heard that some relatives would even stay overnight in the rooms, and sleep there, as many funeral homes were open 24hours. We went home around 10pm, and didn’t allow visitors past then.

Part of Korean culture is to take your shoes off before going into inside including homes and even some restaurants. In the funeral room, people had to take their shoes off before going in. The men that came to the funeral all seemed to wear similar looking black dress shoes. As the men would look for their shoes when they were leaving, they would often get confused about which pair was theirs. Many men had similar sized shoes and styles. One elderly man even put his shoes on the side on the shoe rack because he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t forget where he put them. However, at the end of the night, he couldn’t find his shoes and was a bit angry about this. He ended up going home with the black slippers that were given by the funeral home.  There were a total of 3 missing pairs of black dress shoes during the two and half days of the funeral.

Even though funerals tend to be more serious and somber, my cousins and I, who helped greet guests, turn their shoes around, and helped take their jackets, found ourselves amused with the frequent missing shoes. I quickly found out that this is pretty common in Korea, as my other male relatives shared about having had similar incidents. Sometimes, when people leave restaurants or bars at the end of the night, people have fights with the waiters/bartenders about their missing shoes! So the next time you are in Korea, make sure you keep a close eye on your shoes.


slice of life challenge day #7: an incredible woman

slice of life 2014

I come from a family of writers. My mom loves to write, especially poetry and short stories. Both of my brothers are very talented writers, it comes to them very naturally. There have been a few times where I’ve asked them to edit my writing, and I remember feeling quite intimidated by what they would think of my writing. However, they always gave me really honest and good feedback.

I was really glad to hear that my brother Andrew would be able to attend my grandmother’s funeral in NY and give a eulogy. As I read through his initial draft of the eulogy, I kept crying as it brought back memories about all that my grandmother did and meant to me. My words to express how I feel and remember my grandmother are still being formed and not ready to come out quite. I hope that I can share my words with you all soon…

Today, I wanted to share this beautiful and powerfully written eulogy by my brother Andrew.

Eulogy for Halmuni (Grandma)

Read on 3/4/2014 at her funeral

By Andrew Kim

My grandmother is an incredible woman. Born before the First World War, she grew up in rural Korea during a time when girls were not allowed to receive a formal education and she passed away having seen Korea’s first woman President. All this to say, she lived through an incredible time of difficulty and transition. And through it, she remained steadfast- unwavering in the face of myriad challenges and change.

When the Second World War ended, she fled to the South with her children in tow. They left everything behind and made a perilous, night-time escape across the border. They made it to my grandfather who was already in Seoul at the time. Their lives were hectic as the Korean War raged on and as another son, my dad, and another daughter were born. Every day brought new challenges. My grandfather passed away when my grandmother was just 49 years old, leaving her behind with their seven children in post-war South Korea.

I wasn’t there, of course, but I can imagine how my grandmother responded. Backed up against a wall, future uncertain, and I imagine, rather I know she was strong, gloves up, full of grit, ready to face this hardship with calm, but also with fire in her soul. I know because her life is evident in the lives of her children- they have inherited this grit, this fire; they too have risen from hardship, they too have persevered.

She moved to America when she was almost 70 years old to help out with her children and grandchildren. She was uneducated, she was a widow, and in a country not her own. Yet she flourished.

When my grandmother was 75 years old, my 5 foot tall, 95 pound mother gave birth to twins. After which, with my mother recovering, she took up the unenviable task of taking care of me and my brother. She helped raise us- doing it with grace, with poise and with a smile despite our best intentions.

Halmuni, you couldn’t speak English, yet somehow I remember you talking to all the American grandmothers at the track you walked on everyday. I remember the huge garden you built and meticulously manicured in our backyard. I remember your army of handcrafted cranes brought to life from scraps of old newspaper. I remember at 100 years of age you flew from New York to the scorching Memphis summer to be a part of my wedding.

Halmuni, you came from a generation so vastly different than mine. You were selfless. You were never flashy. You never ever talked about yourself. You only cared that everyone else was taken care of first. You were the first Christian in our family and have planted an amazing legacy of faith. You always read your bible, each new version with larger print than the previous one. You were steadfast and never backed down from hardship.

On your final day in this world, you ate jajangmyun (black noodles) and soondubu (tofu stew) and you smiled and laughed. When the end neared my parents brought you to the ER. There you told my dad that it was time to go, that you didn’t want anything else done. You left this world unafraid of death, knowing you were going somewhere much sweeter. I think saying bye was your most selfish act. Even though you were 101 years old, I wish you would’ve stayed longer.

Halmuni, I love you and miss you.