In reflection…

#solc2022 Day31

How did this month fly by? What did I learn from this third ride with the Slice of Life journey? What am I celebrating ? What could have gone better? I am reflecting…

Celebrations…

  • I wrote 28 out of the 31 days
  • I calmed my inner perfectionist enough to let me write quick writes and post them
  • This process, for me, is an exercise in discipline and committing to doing something I love and developing my muscle as a writer. I am celebrating that I signed up, again.
  • I have a style and a voice that is my own and I can see it begin to take shape the more I write.
  • I loved that people read my work and left their thoughts. It was so encouraging when it happened.

Would have been even better if….

  • I had managed to write all 31 days
  • I had set a fixed time to write everyday would help- not leaving it till the last act of the day
  • I had kept a couple of posts in my drafts that I could use on those exceptionally crazy days when there is barely time to breathe.
  • I could have read more posts and commented on other people’s writing more.
  • Encouraged more folk to read my work

I am so grateful for the amazing community and that I get to be part of it for a month each year. It has changed the way I go about my life for the other 11 months of the year… I look closer, listen harder, pause and soak in the world around me. I think about how I could draft something more vividly and what my writer’s voice really sounds like. I have learned so much from the posts I read this year- there is such richness that is shared and so much for me to admire and learn from.

We did it. Every one of the 265+ writers. That in itself is the biggest celebration of all.

Good morning!

#solc22 Day30

8.31 am Morning Meeting Zoom call, Grade 2.

Hey Jinwoo, What’s kickin’ little chickin?

Hi Ms K, I am doing great today! Hello, Sana, what’s kickin’ little chicken?

Hi Jinwoo, I am fantastic today! Hello Addie, what’s kickin’ little chicken?….

I sat in my zoom square, listening and smiling as the class went around greeting each other. The children used the ‘raise hands’ feature to let the speaker know they hadn’t been called on, yet. It took all of 3-4 minutes and set a wonderful tone, to start the day. I was bemused at the use of the phrase ‘what’s kickin’, little chicken’, in our multi lingual and international context, I initially wondered if everyone knew what it meant but a few children in, I could see that this greeting was a well practiced one. The emphatic responses that each child offered varied from ‘I am fantastic’ and ‘I am well this morning’, to ‘I am super duper awesome’. They looked settled and their morning started on exactly the right note.

How we start makes such a difference to the tone that gets set for the day. Although my physical day started three hours prior, being a part of this morning meeting, started my professional day on exactly the right note. I felt upbeat, I smiled, I got to say hello and felt so grateful to be a part of a community that came together and had a shared moment of connection.

That’s how I would love to start every day.

My place

#solc22 day29

We were allowed to bring our elementary students back onto campus for 2 visits each this week- each visit lasts two hours long. Every opportunity for a child to walk on to campus after 11 calendar months away is joyous. But some of the most special moments I spent this week have been welcoming and escorting our early childhood center students to their classes. The children are all between 3-6 years of age, many speak two, if not three languages and for a few students, today was their very first day face to face at their new school in a new country. For the majority of our youngest students, their experience of school has been online, via zoom. Amazingly communities of students have formed and grown, dedicated teachers there to greet them everyday.

As the children wave to their parents and hold out their little hands for s squirt of hand sanitizer, I usher them towards the temperature scanner. For the majority, this is only the second time they will meet their teachers and be on a physical campus. You would never guess it though. Not a moment of separation anxiety or pause. The children come into school smiling and shaking with excitement and as soon as they spot their teachers, many of them break into a spontaneous run. Little backpacks swinging behind them they sprint over to their teachers.

As the teachers call out each child by name, greet them with waves and elbow bumps, the energy felt electric. And as the initial adrenalin boost of seeing students in person settled in, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house today. The relief of having the children in person, of watching them play, the sounds of laughter and tricycles filling the playground was beautiful. I felt my own eyes filling up more than once and had to look away to control the emotion. This is my place. On the ground and with the children. I love what I do and we work best when we are together, face to face. I am grateful for the technology that has kept us connected. We couldn’t have managed without it. And Ii can’t help feeling it is time to pack away the i-pads. We need to reconnect in person.

May it get better from here. 

Adieu

#solc22 day27

It is that season in this world of international teaching, again. It seems to come around all too quickly-the end of the school year… it seems to be the one aspect this pandemic hasn’t slowed down. It’s the time of the year when we begin to count down the weeks till the summer – and of all years, this completely virtual year, especially. I am joyous on the one hand knowing that soon I will be able to hug my family after a 3 year hiatus and slip into deliberate restfulness and then on the other, the slow, dull realization that the end of the year means I will have to say good bye to friends who are leaving and among them, a few who have been like family. In my 20 years as an educator, I still haven’t got used to this part. The farewells can be gut wrenching.

I tell myself how lucky I am that some farewells are so hard – it must mean that I had great friendships. I tell myself social media will keep us connected. I tell myself we will meet again in this hyper connected world. But it all feels trite. I know things will change in an instant forever. Our shared experience will no longer be that. Our boys, who grew up together will not be within arms reach any more. They, too, will learn how heartbreaking it is to say goodbye. I know this is part and parcel of living the lives we do but it never gets easier.

Right now I am sorry for the loss we will feel and trying to focus on the memories we made together. Seven years feels like a long time, tonight.

Choices

#solc22 day 26

She was tired and grumpy. Pre dinner and of week-itis combined with pre teen-isms means that sometimes, the end of the day can make for grumpiness- the irritable, quick flare. Like a firework, impressive, but not for very long. I know better than to pose a challenge in this mood but I don’t always remember to act as I should in the moment. Anyway, my request to choose some books of the library data base that I could go and pick up got met with a scowl and an eye roll.

I should have waited till after dinner.

Post dinner, we are in the living room and beginning to wind down. She has the laptop near her and is on the library page. I say I am here to help if she needs it. 5 minutes pass- these are the minutes that always seem the longest because I know she is stuck and I want to help and I literally have to sit on my hands. I focus on my knitting. She slowly moves over and asks quietly if I know how to navigate to the page. “Sure” I say, calmly. We take a couple of wrong turns but find our way to the right page. I am impressed by the number of book recommendations for our sixth graders. There is a picture of the book cover and a short blurb. We start scanning the page together.

“Oh, by the way, do you want to see what I chose for my novel study?” Yes, please! She quickly navigates her way to the right google folder and slideshow and in seconds we are looking at a range of book covers. She shows me the book she chose- I feel my heart briefly squeeze as I realize she has chosen a more serious novel and it is set in Chennai. I am so proud of the choice she makes and for her to discover a small part of her other home.

We went back to the library page and she reserved a few books that sounded appealing. Sammy Keys is leading the way. We ended happily and the next day I was able to pick up her stack. I am glad we had that moment. It has stuck with me. What was a pre dinner, tired scowl, turned into a moment of connection and pride.

when offsi(t)e is a good thing

I met my team for a face to face meeting, offsite, this morning. Its all semantics really because after 320 some days of virtual school, every meeting is pretty much offsite. But the difference was that we were together, in person and off the screen. It was energising, it felt like a novel experience ( we haven’t met offsite all year) and we got a lot of good strategic brainstorming done. Not bad for a Friday.

Energy, laughter, bad jokes, eye contact… it felt great! Actually seeing each other and not having to blur my background or mute myself was a welcome change. We talked about big topics like what our students need most and how we might facilitate conversations that involve bringing the right people into the room, and as a team we quickly slipped into listening, giving each other a chance to speak and being mindful of not cutting people off.

I am thinking about what makes for deep connection. We have worked so well as a team these past many, many endless months, online. We have looked out for each other and taken care of our community around us. And today showed us that we have really missed seeing each other. Connection can mean many things and they don’t always have to be tangible. But there is no substitute for connecting in person, watching someone smile, their eyes crinkle up, the impromptu laughter, the flow of energy. I now know I didn’t realize I needed this in person connection as much as I did. I will go to sleep tired and satiated today.

Multi tasking? Nada!

I learned today, from Dr. Amishi Jha, that there is no such thing as multitasking. Attention, in the human brain, is a finite resource and can only be spent on one task at time. So, me fooling myself all these years, (and feeling mighty smug about it), that I am an ace at multi tasking is essentially goobeldy goop. What I was actually doing when thought I multitasking was my secret super power, was what Dr. Jha explained to be task switching. Given attention can only be spent on one task at a time, constantly shifting between multiple tasks requires me to keep taking my whole attention from one stimuli to the next in quick succession- back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Unsurprisingly, it is exhausting. It puts incredible strain on my ability to be sharply focused on any task when I try and focus on multiple tasks simultaneously.

I have been processing this information all day. I was so tired last evening when I got home from work. I didnt write, I could barely stay awake and I felt exhausted. Looking back, my day had been a non-stop roller coaster of multiple stimuli coming at me, constant flow of activity and no really focus on any one task for more than a few minutes at a time. Maybe that is why I was ready to melt into a puddle as I walked through our door. I had worn my attention out and in the process turned, to what felt like jelly.

I will do better now that I know better…. or will I?

Rituals

#solc22 Day 22

As I sit and write, I can hear the music of the 20th season of American Idol wafting through our living room. This has become our annual tradition- watching American Idol, laughing through the auditions, getting completely sucked into the music, drama and fantasy of it all. By the time we get to the live shows we feel we know the singers and are completely confident to share our amateur perspectives on choice of song, delivery, fashion…! Of course Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie might as well be our pals, we talk about them with such familiarity. Over the past 2 and a half years since the pandemic completely upended our lives, we have loved having developed this annual ritual. It spans from March and carries us through spring break until the end of the year.

As I thought what I about what I would write tonight, I began to think about our family rituals. And then stepping back, the role they have played in keeping our family together. When I think about it, we have many family rituals, some big, others little and some more regular than others. Eating dinner together, ice-cream for breakfast on the first day of every school year, our annual picture album, committing to watching a favourite series together… each one serves the function of giving our lives rhythm and pace, predictability and comfort. In a life and a world where we can sometimes worry about the air we breathe, having unseen railings that we can lean on, routines that we can depend on, signposts that signal normalcy, make us feel grounded and safe.

Some of our rituals we have curated and developed over the years, some we have inherited and others we have borrowed. I think I am selfish in keeping our rituals going- I need them and love them as much as my children do.

Back in the Building

#solc22 day 21

In this semi normal, hybrid world that has become the norm, I have worked from home, my bedroom, more than I have from me office this school year. As we enter our 28th week of Distance Learning, as a community we have had to do things differently to look after our selves and balance work with children, family and their needs. For a while there I was probably coming onto campus for 3-4 days of the week. As the year wore on, the context changed, lockdowns imposed and lifted, my time spent working from home and working from campus also got adjusted and readjusted. Till a week ago, I was working exclusively from home. Last week we took it a step further and actually went away for a week in search of sunshine. Strange as it felt, our family still worked and went to school from the beach.

Today I am back at work and on campus. I am grateful for the respite and change of scene last week offered, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back in the building! I am buzzing with a couple of big projects coming up this week and the news, hot off the press that we get our students in person for short visits next week! I feel busy and focused if a tiny bit frantic.

It has been energizing to have had a glimpse of a routine I remember, to get dressed in ‘proper’ clothes and to be back in my office. I did much of what I have done every day, from my home office- meet with teachers, observe lessons, organize a parent meetings, plan the team leader agenda, organise full faculty PD… I just had a different energy as I went about my day on zoom.

I am going to bed tired, but so grateful for the change of place, change of space and renewed energy.

Hot Running #solc22 day20

There is something meditative about running, for me. I run because I can, because I love it and because it gives me time to process my day. I run because it’s the only time I am competing with myself. I run because it given me a rush of endorphins and much needed movement after hours on zoom. Less so, but still valid, I run because it lets me tick the ‘exercise regularly’ box.

I started running about 4 years ago. Very slowly at first and not very regularly. I remember it being was a Herculean effort to run short distances. At the time I was running away from a tough situation. Today I run because it makes me feel free. In the last two years I have worked more seriously on my form and my strength. Finishing races and running longer distances also gave me a much needed confidence boost. Having run in cooler temperature and in warmer, humid temperature I can say with some surety that I do not like to run in the heat and especially on the days when the humidity is high. It is so draining. This morning I ran after a break of a week. It was deceptively over cast and within a couple of kilometers I was so hot, by the half way make my heart rate was soaring. I had to slow down a couple of times, allow my heart rate to calm down and give myself a mental push to keep going.

With the summer having arrived, I have many weeks of hot and even hotter weather ahead. The thought of running in the heat puts me off wanting to run at all, but I know that when I don’t, I miss it and feel out of balance. I will have to train my mind over matter, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and run much earlier in the day. Its is worth the effort.

Running in hot temperatures always reminds me of a good friend who would intentionally go to ‘hot yoga’ – yoga sessions in really hot temperatures. I would shake my head and wondering why. Cut to now and I guess I think I know why.