Monthly Archives: May 2012

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I’m making plans for the summer and I just can’t wait to go home. I can’t describe how lovely it is to spend time with your family when you’ve been away for a year or so from them, and experienced, worked and lived a life they only heard snippets about.

My family are wonderful. My sister and I are adopted and were offered a loving and safe home by our amazing mum and dad when we were almost 5. I can’t describe how much they have supported me in everything I have done, even when I wasn’t particularly loveable. My twin sister is amazing, a kind and generous individual who makes me giggle often with her stories.

I’m making plans to visit a friend and go to a Pearl Jam gig when I’m home. I’m excited about getting back to BSBB, my kickboxing club run by and full of an amazing group of friends and similarly enthusiastic martial art fans and students like myself. I find kickboxing highly therapetic. Not only do I have a second family with that group of people but I get to punch and kick stuff and fight people in a legal and competitive sport! I love exercising the competitive demon inside me and pushing myself to achieve.

I can’t wait to visit friends and see them back at home. I am lucky enough to have a number of friends who despite, me living overseas welcome me in to their lives when I return, oh so briefly. Those kind of friends you can just pick up with without having been in touch for months or years. The ones who are always there when you need someone to talk to or celebrate with.

Home holds a special place for me. I know it’s always there, warm and comforting. I choose to live overseas myself and work in an International Schools circuit but one of my favourite times of the year is going home and seeing everybody and remembering the life England holds for me. I also love seeing new places and having new, and often cultural and personal journeys and experiences every day whilst I live and work in another far flung country from home. I teach overseas partly simply because I desire to learn more about people and humanity. I love to see the commonality of humans, across the earth, our planet we are fortunate enough to exist upon. The only planet which supports life as we know it in the galaxies we have managed to explore so far. The only planet to have just the right conditions and coincidental (or fate ridden) changes to evolve into what we see and live today.

I like to interact with other people, share with them a different life. I like to experience and learn about people. As far as I see it, we are simply one people on many journeys. No matter where we live, we are born, we play, we work, we live within societal and cultural restraints, we celebrate, we love and eventually we all die. I have this great coffee table book called just that ‘One people, many journeys’ and it is simply gorgeous. Stunning pictures of people all over our globe, doing similar things but in different ways. Absolutely beautiful.

I love to work with small children. The innocence of a child is magical. Working in a school with different language and culture is wonderful. To be a teacher of my classes, and an early years practitioner and learner myself, is inspiring. I am and feel so lucky to be living the life I am now.

… And I can’t wait to share all my experiences and listen and celebrate experiences and happenings with those I love at home.

See you soon Newcastle and England! 😀 1 month exactly, to the date, till I am back!

Teaching is about caring …

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There are many caring and absolutely respected jobs in this world. One profession I utterly respect is that of Nurses and Support workers who in my opinion, are wonderful, wonderful people. I also genuinely think up there with those caring, great jobs, has to be teaching.

I honestly believe the vital quality, the very essence of a good or great teacher is that they genuinely care. About lots of things.

You have to care about your children as people and individuals, and not just how they’ll get the grades you want or need them to achieve by certain days or the end of the year. You have to care about them as young people, young learners who are learning so much about the world every minute. Let’s face it, we live in a busy, rapidly changing world which moves frantically forward in society, technologies, science as each single day passes. And god bless them, by the time of those teen years there’s a ton else going on in their lives which can mean school is their only safe or happy refuge. Or a very unhappy place. Or a disinterest. What a loss. To lose interest in learning.

You have to care about helping them to learn, to help them learn to learn and to learn about themselves too. You have to care about understanding where they  are coming from sometimes and what’s happening in their lives, perhaps difficult circumstances at home which might be influencing them. Even down to kindergarteners, never mind teenagers or pre teens. If one of my student’s parents is away for work often or just on certain days/ periods of time, I need to support that child. If they have a new brother or sister, there’s careful consideration there necessary from the eyes of the teacher to help them with that. Children and young learners need nuturing  and we, the teachers, who students spend half of their day with and are constant figures in their path to adulthood should nurture them. Help them in the professional and caring way we need to be to help them strive to be the best they can be.

Loving Learning! Grade 6 - Issan, Thailand, 2009

Loving Learning! Grade 6 – Issan, Thailand, 2009

You should care that you inspire your students. That they’re preparing for the tough world of work and adulthood which ultimately comes at the end of the whole timely process. whichever age you teach. Kindergarteners are just starting to learn how to make sense of a seemingly and often complex busy world in a beautifully innocent naivety that very young children have. First, second, third graders, all of them upwards are learning really complex stuff as well as facing and feeling an increasingly heavy pressure to progress, achieve and succeed – honest I’ve seen some of their work in class and it’s amazing what they’re learning and doing. They’re only like 7 or 8. Achieving wonderful things. All in a complex community of learners, involving a huge myriad of people and learning situations with;  peers, elders, youngers, teachers, family, people they meet from other schools, learners they learn from and engage with on the internet, television, the media -in fact everywhere. The work produced by middle/ high school students should be applauded.

I went to the Grade 5 exhibition a while back and was stunned at this whole array of personal projects these students had worked so hard at and done such a great job with. And each passionately following their own questions and interests to create a personal project and such amazing art, drama and musical representations to support their work. Amazing. I wondered what I had been doing in Grade 5 back in my past life  when I saw their work, and I don’t recall anything of such complexity and maturity. How much education changes, all the time, (even in my short life so far) and how a good curriculum ( I love the IB inquiry method) and good teachers can make those sometimes relentless changes to be positive ones. To be part of that evolution of teaching and learning, how amazing. From students being an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge as was such in the not so distant past, to be inspiring them to create their own path of learning and follow their own rigour and hard work in doing so, following a path that interests them. To be a learner helping a learner. Not a teacher helping a learner. Isn’t that how we should be helping our students learn in both their school work and also their understanding of learning itself, how they best learn, what they want to learn about, so they can be inspired and engaged in meaningful learning,  relevant to them, their studies and life in an intrinsically curious way?

Happy classes

Happy classes

We all experience and learn every day. In addition to caring, every good teacher should be humble. Accept that they are in fact still themselves a learner and can and will make mistakes. It’s definitely okay to make mistakes but a hundred percent better if we accept and learn from them, especially when that knowledge and growth stops us making it a second or third time in the future? In fact if we admitted to our students more often that we’ve made or do make mistakes, they’d feel much more comfortable with making mistakes themselves. Being open to the process of learning.

Who ever got long division the first time?! Seriously? Some of us still struggle with it or other concepts like percentages now as an adult. Who can remember Pythagoras Therorum clearly now all these years later? (unless you’re a maths teacher!) How many things have we had to learn in our own lives, and more importantly, just how much more do we have to learn, and will learn in our future. Embrace it, I think, for a much more open and less complex life. A healthier life.

 

I make mistakes all the time with my kids, and I feel lucky that in Kindergarten, it’s easy to accept it and let my students know a) I’ve done so and b)  know it’s okay to be wrong because ‘Miss Kielly’s just made a very silly mistake!!’ … cue a gaggle of loud giggling children, potentially actually rolling on the floor with silly laughter! But it’s important to do it wherever you work in a school and with every student. To feel safe in fact is in the knowing of safely of being able to make a mistake/s and know it’s okay, nothing bad is going to happen. School should be a safe place. Let’s encourage it more. Who wants students to be so scared of being wrong that they necessarily limit themselves. How sad.

Helping each other - Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Helping each other – Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Collaboration - Grade 5 Students, Issan - Thailand. 2009

Collaboration – Grade 5 Students, Issan – Thailand. 2009

Don’t limit yourself just because you’re an adult and supposedly know everything! Accept mistakes when you make them,  acknowledge them,  grow from them, and show your students your own personal learning curve.

Teaching is a great profession. Enjoy it! Help your students enjoy it! Listen, think, reflect, act, reflect and learn. Remember to care.

Orangutans … a special place …

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So Sinead and I decided we needed to get out of the city and feel the love of nature. We flew to Medan and then travelled by car to Bukit Lawang, which is about a 4 hour drive in good weather. I was feeling pretty sick but perked up enough by the next day. We stayed at a wonderful place right on the river side organised by a homestay called ‘Green Hill Guest House’. It was lovely. Our room looked right over the river which made a tremendous sound. We were looking directly over the river to the jungle and I mean the jungle. We could hear the cicadas even from where we were. People said if you were lucky you might see orangutans, the wildlife Bukit Lawang is most famous for, from the river but we didn’t. We did see lots on our trip though which was so special.

This was the view of the river and jungle on the day we arrived. The sound of the river gushing was tremendous. People often travel down the river with inflatable hoops, they call it tubing and you could often hear the shrieks and laughter of groups doing exactly that.

The view of the river and jungle

The view of the river and jungle …

How stunning is that? Simply serene. It was the most beautiful place to go to escape the bustle of city life. Having wandered round the local area, all located by the river I captured this scene … this is just by the side of the river, so luscious and green, so many beautiful plants. if this doesn’t want to make you go there, I don’t know what will, except the orangutans 😀

Local area

Local area – Beautiful nature

Obviously we went to see the orangutans so next on our itinerary was to head to the feeding station which … was a LONG trek up what seemed like a zillion steps … it was tough work but worth it … we had to get on this rickety boat first to get over the river …

The rickety boat across to the jungle ...

The rickety boat across to the jungle …

It seemed a bit scary but it was quite fun. It works on a rig and pulley. And the man scoops out the water with a jug lol!. Still we got there and started the climb to the feeding station. I was a bit apprehensive about the feeding station but it was literally an area which they threw bananas onto a piece of wood. When I thought about it, the locals are doing a great service to nature. There is a great nature programme there and everybody who visits has to pay a nominal fee to help in this upkeep. If the orangutans didn’t go to the feeding station, they could be anywhere in the diminishing forest. The jungle here is protected but as we left Bukit Lawang, we saw miles and miles of Palm Oil plantations which were uncannily silent, devoid of any nature. At least in Bukit Lawang, they conserve the area, they observe and provide help to injured animals. They care. To be fair, as a westerner coming from a country which is relatively wealthy, I had to accept that in areas like this, locals must make the most of the resources they have and here it is tourism … who doesn’t want to see orangutans in the wild. I saw some in Taman Safari and it was sad. So after the long climb to the feeding station, we were lucky enough to see 3 orangutans including a mama and baby and a big male as well as many peter long tailed monkeys. We were so close it was unreal. Here are some shots of the big daddy orangutan and a mama and baby … I felt so lucky to be right there, right then.

Swinging through the trees

Swinging through the trees

Mama and baby ... :D

Mama and baby … 😀

Leisurely pace ...

Leisurely pace …

Enjoying a banana ...

Enjoying a banana …

The feeding station was amazing, I couldn’t believe how close I was to these ‘people of the forest’, seriously at times I could have stretched out my hand and touched the big male. Whenever he moved towards us, we all stumbled back though! These are powerful animals. Orangutan quite literally means ‘People of the forest’.  ‘Orang’ in Indonesian means People and ‘Hutan’ means forest. After the feeding station, we started our trek which was, to say the least dangerous and tricky in parts. It was also blooming hard work. However, we had two great guides who kindly carried our bags and let us take our photos and the sounds and beauty of nature were simply breathtaking.

Now I’m going to post a few of the many simply gorgeous nature photographs I was lucky enough to take. it was amazing to be in the heart of such jungle and hear the loud sounds of the macaques, cicadas and everything else. I’ll remember this trip for a long time. I was lucky enough to have gone with Sinead, a great friend who appreciated it even more so than I did, if that’s possible. She is a true friend and a great companion. And she truly appreciates nature. I’m so glad she suggested this trip and I recommend it to anybody.

Look at these leaves….

Beautiful leaves

Beautiful leaves

Mushrooms on Wood

Mushrooms on Wood

I would add more photos but my internet is ludicrously slow and I cannot stand to watch the file uploader crash one more time whilst I add photos. So I will include the video I made on Imovie which includes photos of the earthy soil and the mossy trees. I think after this trip, those are my two favourite colours, mossy green and woody brown. In the jungle, these colours are simply breathtaking. I would go back just to see those colours. We continued to traverse the jungle for hours with the careful help of our guides seeing monkeys, cicadas, termites, enormous ants, trees, flowers and gorgeous leaves, lying trampled under our feet, ready to disintegrate and decompose back into the earth. The colours, the smells, the sounds.

The last night of our trip it poured, Hujan besar!  Jungle rain. I guess that’s why they call it the RainForest. We sought shelter at the guesthouse and enjoyed banana/ pineapple fritters and pancakes which were deliciously naughty. We read books, we chatted to locals and visitors alike. We enjoyed each others company. We slept late the next day and sat on our balcony treasuring our last views of the jungle on our visit.

I would recommend this trip to anybody. Especially if you live in the hustle and bustle of the city where it is easy to forget just how quick you can be out of it and somewhere as beautiful as this. Thank you Sinead for organising it and asking me to come. It was a trip to remember for sure.