Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Where Have I Been?

It has been a very long time since I shared a Slice of Life. This post isn't so much slice as it is an explanation as to where I have been. The short answer is Seattle and Yanbu, but that doesn't explain much. 

We left Beirut, landing in Seattle. Though saddened to leave such a beautiful city, always ready for summer vacation. I had intentions of slicing throughout the summer, but the routine never fell into place and I chose to not force it and let have summer have its own rhythm. I did manage to keep up with my #bookaday challenge and thus felt like I was accomplishing something. (Why is it that allowing ourselves to relax and just 'be' feels too indulgent?)

Summer was winding down and I had all the bags packed for our move to Yanbu. Then the waiting began. Our visas didn't come through in order for us to fly on our scheduled date. Thus the "Bonus Days" began.

Saudi visas are a rare breed. I have never known an international school in the Kingdom to start with all of their teachers for the first day of school, let alone inservice. There was nothing we could do so we chose to take the attitude of "Bonus Days" and fill them with adventures we wouldn't have had time for if things had gone according to schedule. 

We ended up with three and a half weeks of bonus days that we filled with visits to Cashmere and Portland, playing tourist in Seattle (Pike Place Market, The Old Spaghetti Factory, the downtown Seattle Library, and Seahawks Training Camp), spending time with friends and family, and things that were on the 'someday' list. (For example, G wanted to visit a veterinary hospital as she thinks she might want to be a vet.)

My mom had planned a trip to Scotland, scheduled for after we were to have left. We took her to the airport and missed picking her up by one day. In the meantime we got lots of time with Papa Jim as we had him over for dinner almost every night. Our house also was re-roofed (yes, that was planned for after we were to have left) and we spent those days with him as well as our house was very noisy! All of this time turns out to be an even bigger blessing than we knew at the time as he has now been diagnosed with stage four metastasized melanoma that is in his spine, spleen, liver, and lungs. "Months" is the reality. We weren't planning on it, but are now headed home at Christmas.

Another plot change is that after two and a half weeks of third grade bliss I will be teaching fifth grade when we return to school on the 4th after Hajj break. Just one more thing to keep me on my toes!

The final unexpected twist is that G appears to now have epilepsy. The very short version is that she has had two episodes, five weeks and half a world apart.

Now that the whirlwind has settled down and there is a routine in our new home I find myself realizing it is Tuesday and I am ready to jump back into this part of my routine and the amazing writers of the SOLSC community.

I'm back!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thankful Thursday

Eleven weeks later our summer vacation is finally ending. It was several weeks longer than anticipated due to visa delays. I am thankful for vacation. I am thankful for "Bonus Days". I am thankful for my home in Seattle. I am thankful for our friends and family. I am thankful for the beauty of the northwest. I am thankful for more memories and adventures.

I am also thankful for our lives overseas. I am also thankful that my daughter loves our lives overseas. I am also thankful for my job as a teacher. I am also thankful to be working for a strong and progressive school. I am also thankful to be headed back to routines (which really do include blogging). I am thankful that within 30 hours from now I should be sleeping in my new home, (inshallah with all of our luggage arriving with us).

Summer 2015 is officially in the books. Bring on the 2015 - 2016 school year!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday


The End Is Near


In the world of many a teacher, student, and parent, it's nearly here. (I really don't want to think about those for which it is already here, so right now I am creating my own reality.) Yes, summer vacation is nearly upon us.

For my students that means one more day of 'normal' and then their promotion ceremony. Normal has been absolutely normal, at least for the students, up through today. (I have had the extra craziness of report cards and slide shows, etc.) We have still been doing lots of learning, on task to keep us distracted while the end sneaks up on us.

Once the calendar turned to June the count down seemed to be in full swing throughout our building. In my room it was outlawed. If they had time to be counting down they weren't on task, we still had so much to do! The amazing thing is, it has worked. Not once have I had a student (at least within my hearing) state how many days are left in their elementary career. Students have been reading and writing, solving math equations and trying to decipher what word problems are asking of them. Students have been wrapped up in a multi-layered culminating project that incorporates writing, social studies, and technology. We have still had morning meeting and homework.

Today the end became nearer as I had them clean out almost everything from their cubbies. We went through their folders in my filing cabinet and they took home all the work that doesn't need to stay in their file. There is no math homework tonight. I closed the classroom library and went through their 40 Book Reading Challenges with them. We finished our final read aloud chapter book. They learned how to receive a certificate while shaking hands (after climbing up the stairs to the stage without tripping or stomping).

Tomorrow we have a few learning tasks ahead of us, but also some ways to wrap up our time as a community. We will also have a full run-through of the promotion ceremony, as Thursday they arrive for some class photos (looking posh) and then it is down to sit in front of their parents and special family guests before leaving the elementary for the last time. The end of their elementary journey is near.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Leaving Well

As we prepare to leave Beirut I am working to have us leave well. By leaving well I don't simply mean using up what is in the cupboard and freezer, sorting through boxes and closets, and getting our school checkouts complete. I mean taking time to spend time with the people that have made living here home and doing the things we either have always wanted to or the things we have done, but need to do 'one more time'.

It means making sure there at least a bit on intentional time carved out for each of us with those that have mattered the most. For the little one that means playdates or a last chance with a babysitter. For J there is a poker party planned. I have some individual or small group gatherings happening. For our family we have time with other families. Some of these times have happened and some are yet to come, but I think we have the most important ones on the calendar with some flexibility for a bit of spontaneity.

The cupboards are getting cleaned out, the rest of the menus have been planned (and the shopping list is VERY short!) Stuff is being sorted; things to ship, things to take with us, things to sell, things to donate, and things to put in the dumpster. The end of the school year is happening and all that comes with it. While all of those things are important, taking the time to truly leave well is more important in the long run. We have to acknowledge that our time here was important, that people and memories matter. Those of us that live this life know how small the planet is and there are people we know we will see again, we just can't tell you where or when.

I am not a person big on good-byes. Knowing this it is even more important for me to be sure to carve out the bits of time for people, rather than just skip out of town in the middle of the night. (Though we will do that too!) I am thankful that others are willing to make time with us in the midst of their own crazy lives. I hope those friends that we won't be a regular part of our lives (at least for the near future) know that they have touched us, are valued, and will be remembered.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the writers my students have become this year. Today was our final Post On Demand, (which is a good thing since report cards are due in a couple of days!)

Without exception they were able to delve into the writing task in front of them and stick with it. I only had two students try to tell me they were 'done' before the time was up. (And in both cases I asked if there was anything else they could do to make their writing any better. When that didn't seem to spark anything in them I asked, "Are you ready for me to grade this piece of writing?" They both asked if they could have a few more minutes to look it over again.)

Now I am reading their information pieces and rubricing each one to look at their areas of strength and next steps. As I read, even seeing the flaws and thinking, "I explicitly conference with this child about this aspect of writing. What happened?!" I then turn to their Pre On Demands and instantly see how far they have come.

I am thankful, to be honest, both for how far they have come and that we are nearly there. (Come on summer!)