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 !

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

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.

an unexpected encounter

slice of life 2014

I got off the elevator and headed towards my apartment. To my surprise, I saw the door wide open to the apartment next to mine. The door was never wide open, unlike the other neighbor down the hall that leaves their door open quite often. I could peer into the long hallway that led to their open living room and dining table. Right outside the open door, crouched next to their new rectangular white shoe rack outside their door, was the older auntie tidying the shoes.

My apartment door is literally right next to my neighbor’s at a ninety degree angle. I had my key in my right hand and as I walked up to my door, she greeted me with a hello. I said hi back and then proceeded to put my key into the lock.

“Happy new year,” she said quietly and I turned to face her. This was the first time I met my neighbor. It did seem a bit strange, that I never met my neighbors earlier. They had been living there for a little less than a year.  We literally live right next to each other, sharing walls, and a few steps from each other’s front door, but I never see them. I did like how they were a bit festive and put up decorations on their door for Chinese New Year and also for Christmas.

As I started talking to her she asked me where I was from. I guess she could tell from my accent that I wasn’t a local. Then, she had her daughter come over and we started to chat. I found out she was from Malaysia, and I also found out that her daughter enjoys kimchi (after I told her I was Korean). She hospitably told me to come over for tea anytime.

Maybe I’m just not neighborly enough to introduce myself to the neighbors in my hallway (only 3 other apartments on my floor), but I rarely see any of them. It’s funny because growing up on a suburban dead end street, I knew all of my neighbors. I knew their kids. I knew if they gave good Halloween candy. I would often babysit for them.

Yet, here in Singapore, I’ve found it harder to meet and know my neighbors in my apartment building. It’s probably partly my fault. Maybe the next holiday season I can bake them something? Or will they feel obliged to bring me something in return? Or maybe I can just wait and see if I can run into them more casually?

The slice of life challenge is hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Join us in this month long blogging challenge!

 

spare time

I found myself with some spare time in between appointments on Saturday. So what does one do? Obviously walk around and take photos. I walked the same streets that I usually walk by, but this time, I paused at the different street corners. I took in all the sites that I’m normally walking too quickly in between to notice. As I started taking some photos, I took in the vibrant colors on buildings, the long window shutters, the tree shadows on buildings and the lush greens that invaded the tight city spaces.

I’m hoping that this month, through this slice of life challenge, I will take a moment to stop, breathe in my surroundings, and reflect on all that is around me through my words and photos. I might need to take more long walks with just my camera and myself. I might need to reflect on my classroom and job as a teacher. Or, I might need to just write and see what takes form.

Here are some photos from my walk by Duxton Hill, Singapore.

singapore15-0354-2 singapore15-0351 singapore15-0358singapore15-0349 singapore15-0347singapore15-0341

The slice of life challenge is hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Join us in this month long blogging challenge!

slice of life 2014

the gift of life

slice of life 2014

We crowded around the incubator, with our faces pressed closely to the glass. Please do not lean against the dome was written underneath us. We continued to watch intently. At first my eyes went to the yellow fuzzy chicks prancing around without a mother hen in sight.

“Look, that chick has poo on it’s butt!!” My student replied. The other kids laughed.

We continued to stare quietly. I took out my iPhone and quickly pressed the red square button to record. As the phone started to record, it was still quiet. There were a few other kids and adults from the museum who were gathered around the clear dome, fascinated, but quickly left after 5 minutes. We continued to stare at the one brown egg in the middle, with a 3cm sized hole in the top. Every 30 seconds or so we would see small movement. From my angle, I could see something white moving around inside the tiny hole. My students and I anxiously waited.

“You can do it!” We chanted.

“What should we name the chick?” I asked my students. “What about Emily? It’s Emily’s birthday today.”

“YES!” My kids responded in unison.

“What if it’s a boy?” I asked. They thought about it for a while. They listed a few different typical boy names. “What about lightning?” I suggested. There had been a loud sound from the other exhibit where there was an electricity show going on. They had created lightening and it was making an awfully loud noise that was ruining our serene moment of egg watching.

As we continued to watch, our time was dwindling. We had to be back outside for lunch, and it honestly didn’t look like our egg was going to hatch within the next 15 minutes or even in the next few hours.

One of my students started opening up his bag. I wondered what he would be taking out. A phone to take photos? To my surprise, he took out his writer’s notebook. He turned to the page where we had listed turning points in our lives, a strategy to collect ideas for personal narratives. He added to his list of first times: seeing an egg hatch.

Even though he accidentally brought his writer’s notebook with him on the field trip, I loved that he took it out in the middle of the science center. These are the moments that writing teachers live for.

Later that evening, I sent my students a video clip of the egg hatching from the trip. One of students appropriately responded back with, “The gift of life!”.

eggs

For more slice of life posts, go to Two Writing Teachers.

slice of life challenge day #25: the best part

Traveling has it many perks. One of the things that I enjoy the most is experiencing a new and different culture. One of the most interesting aspects of the Dutch culture that I’ve seen during my trip is the way the Dutch travel via bikes. Since I first arrived a few days ago, I’ve been amazed by all the bikes that filled the narrow sidewalks, the abundance of biking lanes, and the double decker biking lots.

It’s been incredibly fascinating seeing how they have baby seats in the front or back of their bikes (no one wears helmets). People carry items big and small on their bikes. People bike with high heels and skirts. People bike with additional people sitting or standing on the back of their bikes. People bike in the morning and late into the night. People decorate their bikes with fake flowers and attach satchels on the back of their bikes. People bike while talking on their iPhone. There are bikes of all different sizes and models. Some bikes have fun carts In the front where kids or luggage could easily fit.

My friend explained to me that in The Hague, everyone has a bike that they use to get around the town, but they also have cars as well. The cars serve a different purpose. As I remembered the intense scooter culture in Vietnam last year during my spring break, this year, I’m doing my best to avoid getting hit by bikes.

Pics will have to come when I get back home next week! Now onto my favorite city, Paris.

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.

seoul-1381

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.

slice of life challenge day #6: a baby in paris

slice of life 2014

I decided to do a #tbt (throw back thursday) slice of life post!

paris

On a cold winter day,

a red plaid scarf,

a pink puffy jacket,

and a simple stroller,

all waiting eagerly

 to get their picture sketched.

Does anyone remember,

a baby in Paris?

Artists armed with sharp pencils,

 line the cobble stone streets,

high atop Montmartre,

nestled between cafes,

with coffee and cafe au laits,

sitting on chairs facing the street,

people watching,

a baby smiles.

Waiting, wondering and wishing,

an artist starts to draw.

From a blank canvas,

emerges a drawing,

captured on paper.

No longer forgotten,

someone remembers,

a baby in Paris.