Category Archives: Personal

Oh Em Gee. Can I play this?

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This is my latest cello piece to practice and it’s so hard! There are so many shifts on the fingerboard which need to be effortless given the speed this piece is supposed to be played at. Cello’s don’t have fretboards. If you get it wrong, you get it way wrong. This piece is not only ridiculously fast but there are some funny, syncopated rhythms that keep catching me out. I’ve been working in this piece for about just over a week now and I’m just about starting to get somewhere with this. And by that, I mean I can play all of the notes in tune (most of the time). Not that I have mastered any musicality or control in this piece.

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll post a video of me trying to play this piece (gulp!)  It’s really great to be able to take videos of my practice. I took a video right after my very first lesson on the cello and it’s going to be so interesting to be able to look back at these videos in the future and see how I progressed over time 😀

Learning the cello as an adult.

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I love playing my cello. I can’t believe it took me 26 years to decide to pick up the cello. I love making music. I love that I can now play cello, albeit of a beginner standard. I can’t wait to improve and progress in the pieces I am playing. And I know to be able to do that, I need to practice. Every day!

As a teenager I played Violin and Viola and I don’t ever recall feeling so excited about practicing my instruments. I liked playing them but I saw practice as a chore, often. I was quite good at the time but I couldn’t play them now!

As an adult playing cello, my practice IS my playing. At the age of 27, I am never going to be a soloist in an orchestra. I’m probably not going to perform for people. When I play, I play for me. The practice, the playing is soothing. It’s happy and fufilling. I like to practice new pieces. I like to play older pieces and hear how my playing has improved and how even pieces I had previously found tricky are getting easier. I enjoy working on phrases or bars that I find tricky. I accept that my practice might sound scratchy or out of tunes at times, but over time it will improve. I have already noticed a much richer, deeper sound to the tone of my cello when I play it which I attribute to me having more confidence and strength in my bowing/ playing. When I have lessons, I really take on board the advice given and I go home determined to work on the areas of improvement such as left hand position or bow hold. As a child, I enjoyed lessons but I don’t recall ever giving them such importance. As an adult, my lessons form a vital part of my week and I look forward to them. They help guide me on my journey in learning the cello. I play scales and don’t hate them! Instead I understand their function in key signatures and how they will affect a piece of music.

When I played the violin and viola as a child, I really did enjoy making music, but except for one specific period of about a year where I practiced every day, I didn’t play with such motivation. I played in string orchestras, a quartet and a ceilidh band. But I didn’t LOVE playing the Violin or Viola. I enjoyed it but it was just one of the many things I did alongside my other hobbies such as Karate, drama and other sports.

I have always loved the cello as an instrument and I’m so happy I decided to take the plunge and buy one in Singapore. I was really inspired by Sally, a colleague at the school I was working in in Indonesia. She had begun playing the cello as an adult. It made me remember how much I had always wanted to play the cello. So I’m over the moon that now I can and that my pro active choice had brought such enjoyment and pleasure into my adult life. That singular choice to start learning the cello as an adult has been an excellent choice. I’ve only been playing 6 months and I can play relatively well for having been learning for 6 months.

I wish I’d done it earlier.  There are so many instruments I’d love to play; the saxophone, the oboe and the harp spring to mind. I finally realised that it didn’t matter how slow my progress was on an instrument as an adult, it was the actual choice of choosing to do it and to make the investment in an instrument and lessons, and to make the investment in my time to practice. Imagine how good I’ll be in another 6 months? In another years time? I already see such a difference in my playing.

Have you ever wished you could play an instrument? If you could choose an instrument to play now as an adult, what would you choose? Has anybody else enjoyed learning an instrument as an adult and how have you found it difficult to your experiences as a child if you played an instrument when you were younger?

Here is a video of me practicing my cello from the other night. It’s not perfect but I’m so happy with my improvement!

On another note, check out these cool cello videos …
Like start wars? Check out this excellent spoof video …

These guys from Apocalyptica know how to rock out on the cellos … love this.

Finally a wonderful, wonderful video of an amazing double bassist, Renaud Garcia-Fons.  I found this whilst browsing the web. I’ve never heard anybody make a double bass sound like this. Superb. I can’t embed it here but this is the link and I really recommend watching this guy.

http://www.npr.org/event/music/160103516/renaud-garcia-fons-tiny-desk-concert#

 

Things I love about being home: Things I miss about Indonesia.

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So a lot has happened since I last wrote on this blog, oh so long ago! The biggest thing was that I have returned home to the UK from Indonesia where I was teaching at an International school. It’s September now and boy is it cold here in Newcastle! Brrrrr. I miss Indonesia a lot, but there are definitely benefits to being home. I’ll try to weigh them up here.

Things I love about being at home:
1) Driving.

Yes, now I am back in the UK, I feel I can climb back into the drivers seat and drive myself in a car. Did I drive in Indonesia? Of course I didn’t! Have you seen the crazy traffic and drivers there? I swear to god, at roundabouts in Indonesia, people on the roundabout give way to people coming onto it. I remember one of my colleagues at SWA described how she loved driving in Indo. She described the craziness and lack of organised rules and space as something she enjoyed and that when she went home, she didn’t like having to drive slowly and watch out for speed cameras etc. Haha. Now I’m home, I’m thrilled to be driving but gosh, the speedbumps, roundabouts and slow drivers are becoming a little painful and frustrating. In Indonesia, every day in a car or even better, on an Ojek, travelling on the road felt a little dangerous, if not very dangerous! It is kind of liberating though! I did drive once in Asia, but in the Philippines which it has to be said, had similar road safety issues, and boy was that one story. Kerry and Daryl, you’ll know exactly which driving trip I am talking about. I’ll just say being persuaded to drive back one large van to the school in the DARK was not a hugely enjoyable activity for me! I did get there goodness knows how! Still on the whole, being able to drive in England in a definite plus of being back home. I really love driving.. Except have you seen the price of petrol in England at the minute?!

2) Being close to my family and friends.

Indonesia is a long way from from the UK! Skype is great but time difference is not. Being back has been lovely and I know how relieved my parents are that I am home safe and they can see me more often.It’s lovely to spend time with family and I’ve been lucky enough to see all my cousins and Aunt and Uncle who live far south from here since I’ve been back. I’ve also spent lots of time with my sister has been lovely. My grandma has  been ill recently and I’ve been thankful to be home and be able to visit her in hospital and spend time with her enjoying her company. I am very grateful that my sister came out to visit me in Indonesia. No matter how much I could tell people from home what my life in Indonesia was like, I really felt that unless you could be there and see it, it couldn’t really be understood. I wanted my family to see Indonesia and see my life there. I loved being able to show Carla around BSD, the Gili Islands and Singapore. I’m really glad she had the opportunity to come out and see me there. I felt so lucky. I wish my parents had been able to come but they will next time I’m teaching overseas!

3) Food – Cheese – Wine

The choice of food in England is incredible. Supermarkets, Deli’s, all kinds of shops so it was super, super exciting to walk into ASDA, one of my fave supermarkets to find whole blocks of cheese for 1 pound! That’s the equivalent of about 14,000 RPH! I LOVE cheese. Good cheese is sadly missing in lots of Indonesian supermarkets. Nice shops like Kemchicks or Hero’s would have some but it was super expensive. So just imagine my glee and how much cheese I gorged on my return! Wine is so cheap here. What a novelty! Wine was so expensive in Indonesia. And not of that great quality.

4) Rocking out at my kickboxing club, BSBB.

I love my kickboxing team. Rick, the Boss who runs is is a really wonderful example of somebody who has turned their love and passion for martial arts into a successful family friendly martial arts club. BSBB is a wonderful example of a great martial arts club. When I did Karate when I was younger, I really enjoyed the discipline. I got to 1st Kyu but stopped because I found the club to be a pretty demoralising place which didn’t make me feel any good at it. One of the instructors there I remember was pretty mean to us, even as young students. So finding a great martial arts club, as an adult has been a blessing and joy. Being awarded my black belt, almost 3 years ago now, was just so special to me. I finally had that black belt I had wanted for so long! Being back at BSBB now I’m home is really lovely. I’m getting fitter and having fun. I’ve also started as a STORM team member at BSBB so I’m lucky in being able to help instruct/ teach the kids and mini dragon classes. The mini dragons are students who are 4-7, which is the age of the kids I usually teach, and its so fun to see them enjoying sport and martial arts outside of my usual interactions with students in class. I found out the hard way running an extra curricular club last year that enjoying being an active participant of Martial Arts is VERY different to teaching it. Tons of respect to Rick and the rest of the great teaching team who do a fantastic job every day at BSBB.

I also had the opportunity to take part in a Fight Night at Andy C’s tournament just the other weekend. Andy’s events are always great fun and our club really enjoy taking part in them. I have been active in entering the tournaments and competitions there for a long time, but since heading overseas on my 2 year adventure in Asia, I haven’t fought in a competition environment for almost 3 years. So being asked to step in for an injured fighter was pretty nerve wracking, on 6 days notice. And I still didn’t feel that fit! I can’t describe my sheer terror in having somebody opposite me, fighting me, who I know is going to try their best to hit me. All I can do in that blind panic is move as fast as I can, dodge or block their attacks and hope to score first. Or more often than she does. I’m fairly well advantaged in the scoring system in that I have long legs and fast head kicks which score 3 points compared to 1 point for any hand technique. A kick to the torso is worth 2 points. So if you are good with your legs you can really score well in points fighting. However, there are lots of people out there in martial arts who are extremely good with their legs too. Nat Loy, my opponent in the fight night is very good with her legs. I really enjoyed the fight and the experience, and I was buzzing afterwards. Sheer terror beforehand though! That moment where you realise you just have to walk out there and get in the ring and do it. That’s the moment I tell myself, ‘if it works me up so much to do it, I’d better try my damn best to win this’. And I  almost did! Well I made a great recovery from a poor round which ended 8-1 to my opponent, to score 15 points in the second round and even it out to a draw at 16-16. That meant 30 secs extra time. I didn’t score in that time but Nat threw, I think, 2 lovely head kicks. Never mind. Great experience. Rick always tells our team and anybody competing, that everybody gains experience from entering. And it really is true. It takes balls to get up there and walk out to fight or compete in front of other people. It’s scary. It’s wonderful when you win but you learn the most when you lose. Here’s the video of the fight.

Things I miss about Indonesia:

Hmmm, this is going to be hard. There are many!

1) My friends and work.

I feel really lucky to have made some really great friends and friends that I know I will keep in touch with and be friends with for a long time. I’m lucky that skype and email makes it easy to keep in touch with people in Indonesia or wherever they are in the world now. I miss that real face to face experience though. I miss Book Club. I miss evenings spent with friends and wine, I miss easy and friendly company from my wonderful and varied friendships in Indonesia. I would love to come out and visit you guys at some point this year. Don’t know if I will be able to though yet!

I also miss my job a lot. I really loved working at SWA. It was a fantastic learning curve for me. I learnt so much. I grew so much as a teacher and as a colleague. SWA is such a beautiful school and working in the Early Years was a really enjoyable experience for me. I miss my students a lot too! I miss having a class of my own and enjoying the work day in/ day out. Working in the UK as a supply teacher is a very different experience. To all my friends still there and those who’ve moved on, I send you my love.

2) The weather.

Wow, coming home has proven to me just how much I dislike the cold. I have one Canadian friend who spent years evading a bracing, icy winter by travelling to hotter climes. He described himself as ‘allergic to winter’. I’m starting to feel that same allergy. Wrapping myself up in bulky coats, scarves, gloves. URGGGH. I feel claustrophobic in all that gear. And you know what, it’s still not enough! I’m still cold. My feet are still wet and my socks squelch. The UK has had severe weather warnings and floods recently and Newcastle and the North did bear some of the brunt of it. The other day, I looked at the gray sky outside, the water furiously lashing against the glass and the whistling wind which whipped the trees and decided I simply wasn’t going out in it that day. So I didn’t!

Weather in Indonesia was hot and sticky. But preferable to this cold. I loved the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. I loved waking up to a bright day (rather than it starting to get light at 8am here … urgh and the end of summer time will soon be upon us). I liked that even if I was hot, I could cool off in decent AC. I liked being able to wear nice light clothing, dresses and skirts every day of the year. And NO tights. Surely tights are the most irritating item to wear ever?! I spend the whole day pulling them up and feeling them pinch my toes. NOT pleasant.

3) The Chaos.

I love organisation. I really do. I like to clean. However I’m not so good in theory. I try but probably fail often. But in Indonesia, there was no pretence whatsoever in the city being organised. The traffic was horrendous. Roads were disgusting. Everything took an insanely long time to get done or do. BUT, the craziness and liberation of living in that society was exciting and fresh. Taking ojeks was a regular highlight for me. I loved feeling the wind whip my hair and my face being blasted with cool air as we zipped around on the motorbike taxi. Dangerous? Yep! Exciting? Absolutely!

4) The Travel and the Holidays.

Yep, it had to be in there. No matter what people say about teachers being in it for the holidays, I don’t agree. I don’t teach for the holidays. I love teaching. Holidays are a highlight though. But in Indonesia, it was so easy to travel for the weekend or the half term and it was affordable enough to do so with regularity. I went to Medan, to the jungle to see orangutans in the wild … twice. I climbed Anak Krakatau, a live and active volcano. I dived in many beautiful places including Bunaken in Sulawesi which has to be up there on the top 10 dive sites in the world. I’ve snorkeled on beautiful beaches such as Gili Trawangan and swam with bundles of exotic fish in warm, clear and crystal blue water. I traveled to Singapore several times. Bali. Boracay. Lake Taal. Thailand. Malaysia. Burma. What a treat to be able to indulge in so many places and see so much of the local culture and beauty of the places and regions I was living in. I can’t see me indulging in any holidays soon to escape the gray gloomy skies of England unless I suddenly get a full time job with a monthly pay check! Saying that, I can’t wait to see the Autumn leaves and colours soon splashing themselves over the foliage and trees. That will be stunning. Always is.

5) The language and culture.

I loved learning the local language. I actually think I got pretty good. I had some help with Indonesian friends, especially my cello teacher, Asep. At one time near the end of my stay, I spent 40 minutes talking to the taxi driver in Indonesian in traffic! I think that’s pretty good. As soon as you stop using it regularly though, you easily forget. I really don’t want to. I try to speak in Indonesian at some point, normally to myself haha throughout the day but already I am forgetting words and I have to really think hard to remember them. Even simple ones I used daily. Sigh. It was my first ever really decent attempt to learn a foreign language! I also loved many aspects of the Indonesian culture. BATIK! Gosh, I love batik design and clothing/ fabric. Some of my favourite skirts and dresses I bought in Indonesia and are made of batik. Intricate, colourful and local. I also loved the Wayang puppetry and shows. The traditional music. The local schools and children. The day to day interactions of a friendly and welcoming, warm nation. I heart Indonesia.

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.

What I’ve learnt as a teacher … so far.

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Okay, so I haven’t been a teacher for very long, this is my second year and it’s safe I haven’t gone the traditional route, heading straight overseas after graduating to an International school in the Philippines ( and quickly resigning after realising it didn’t count as a well maintained building, never mind a school) However I was fortunate enough to land in a great job here in Indonesia and I feel like I’ve traveled a long way as a teacher already ..

So here are some of my insights ..

1.  I can make mistakes and it’s okay! It’s not the end of the world, and providing I learn from them, they enrich the teaching experience both for the students and myself. What a realisation after the numerous stressful observations in my placements at uni. I can say to my students, ‘You know what, that didn’t work but let’s try it this way’ or ‘Oh dear, Ms. Kielly totally forgot about that, oops’ and they just giggle! It helps them in their understanding that everybody is a learner, and all I expect from them is that they try their best. No more. And they do! They think ‘If Miss Kielly can make mistakes, so can I! ‘Or at least that’s what I imagine they tell themselves. If I think about it, it’s probably more like ‘giggle … ‘Miss Kielly is soooooo silly!’

2. Encouragement is key, my 4 year olds want to please their teacher more than anything. I give the the positive praise they need to try even in things they find difficult like learning letter formation, or blending sounds, or even writing their name. I’ve learnt that creating a positive, encouraging environment where my students feel safe and happy, one in which they love coming to everyday is more important than anything because if they don’t feel this, their experiences at school are altered totally. I think I’ve been successful this year. My students are happy, confident learners who tell me how much they love school everyday. They give me hugs and blow me kisses from the playground. They shower me with flowers they’ve ripped off a bush. ( I have tried telling them I prefer to see the flowers on the bush, living, but when I see how excited they are to give me such a gift, I just shrug and think, let them have their little pleasures.) Bless them and their sweet nature. When they’ve been off sick, their parents tell me how desperate they were to come back to school. When I helped them mark on the calendar our 3 day holiday for Chinese New Year, most of them moaned with drawn out sighs at the thought of no school. LOL! Those who didn’t were so genuinely excited, I was excited for them. Especially when I know how valuable holidays are to a teacher and how much we love them and look forward to them too!

3. Early years teaching is so much fun and something I love to do. When I first began, I wasn’t sure. I thought it wasn’t totally for me. Then I was lucky enough to be able to attend a great PD in Bali all about play based inquiry learning in the Early Years. Boy did that change my perspective. I remember feeling so conflicted in myself at the course initially. Then it just seemed to change, about the end of the second day. I came back inspired, motivated, excited. And that’s continued in my practice ever since. I love the early years and genuinely appreciate the students total intrinsic enthusiasm, curiosity and love for learning.

4 The hard work is totally worth it. Seeing my students excitement in their success, their joy in grasping a new concept, a new skill. Seeing them proudly dragging their parents over to the writing table at the end of the day to show their mum that they can now write their name is priceless. Seeing their amazed faces watching an Imovie of themselves I’ve slaved over for hours at home makes it worth it. Seeing them accomplish something new and knowing how far they’ve come in their journey over the year is just the best feeling ever. I am so proud of each of them. They’ve all achieved so much.

5. Getting parents on board is vital. Having their support is amazing. It’s totally worth all the effort. I’m not a parent, but I can appreciate the worry in getting a new teacher, wanting their child to be happy and successful and as a teacher to 4 year olds, I can only imagine how hard it is to leave your child at school at that age. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to look after and nurture these tiny human beings as much as I can. I want to share with their parents, as much as possible, the successes and achievements of their child, of the whole class so they can be as involved as possible. The long road to getting them on board is also valuable say when I need their support, say for example in sending in photos of their family from home … this year I got photos from every child, without fail within a week and only one reminder email! 😀 One parent told me she and tons of the other mum’s and dad’s  want me to be their child’s teacher next year. What an awesome feeling knowing they trust and support me so much! I’ve also helped some parents in their journey in understanding of an inquiry play based curriculum and why it’s so appropriate and right for early childhood students through workshops I’ve helped plan and deliver, articles and links I’ve sent them and conversations with them. We are all learners.

6. I’ve learnt what does work and what doesn’t in my learning space. Having a table half hidden around a corner does not work and not only encourages children to get up to naughtiness but is actually a blatant symbol for doing so to a 4 year old! Replacing it with the computers which are independent and fuss free (except for the odd complaint of someone not sharing) was a much better idea. Leaving all the resources on shelves does not work if I expect students to be able to select resources themselves as well as tidy them all up. A selection is better. Having a Box House as a ‘dark room ‘ to explore night and day for our UOI was ridiculously fun for the children but descended into chaos and every possible resource being dragged into it and left in a mess which often meant 10 whole minutes of tidying up from the children.

7. Creating Essential agreements with my class was not as hard as I imagined. 4 year children are totally capable of understanding this concept, if approached in the right way and have fantastic ideas. They know what is expected of them, and thinking of them themselves gave them ownership of the classroom and was much, much more effective than ‘Teacher Rules.’ Revising them with the children after two months made them even better, asking the children to think about what we had agreed and what we might want to change now we were 2 months into class. Laboriously talking about them everyday and referring to them …. all the time in the first few months was essential and continuing to refer to them to help remind children of them has helped keep them fresh and important in their minds. My students work together in a very collaborative fashion and I can see they follow common agreements and shared understandings, evident in the way they interact with each other and their teachers. They have a social gel which is wonderful to see. Putting in the hard work and effort (including waiting … forever to print out coloured photos, and walking back to the printer numerous times to see if they had arrived virtually) to create a large display of the essential agreements, displayed prominently on our board right in front of our carpet area, with photos of the children helped enormously. These students can’t read yet, so visual cues are vital and they just LOVE to see themselves in photos, anytime, anywhere. Total excitement.

8. Offering and giving responsibility to my students works remarkably well in helping them to be responsible students and makes my job a thousand times easier as a result. Tidying up time is blissful (well that might be an exaggeration but it is a thousand times easier than last year, I don’t even need a tidy up song anymore! Success!) . I virtually do nothing other than help direct children to an area which needs cleaning .. and they run to do it! They almost fight over who gets a sponge to help clean tables or mess from the floor. They get excited when I show them new cleaning equipment such as a dustpan and brush and can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Today, walking my class to the library was the best feeling of accomplishment! Bear in mind, our classroom is FAR from the library. At the beginning of the year, I used to dread the walk to the library. 14 small children running along the path, or off the path. Loudly screaming in excitement. Running straight into people who might also be trying to use the path, heaven forbid at the same time. Often these people stopped, unsure what to do with the sight of 14 tiny children running towards them on a race to the library, wildly swinging yellow bags with sharp cornered books in the air. Through months and months of constant reminders, praise and reinforcement, my children walk to the library as the smartest children in school (Well, I am biased!) … I have talked them through the whole practice of walking together and waiting at certain spots, such as doors, the pond, the maps which dot our route every time we walk out of our classroom to go anywhere. That we need to stick together, as a group, meaning we don’t race to be there first, before I’ve even got past Topeng building. That we need to move to one side when we see other people on the path. That we won’t swing our bags wildly all over the place. Well, yesterday, I practically strolled in leisure, chatting to excited children who wanted to share their stories with me, as I watched the children walking ahead, stopping at every ‘waiting spot’. They patiently waited, excitedly finding where they were on the map or stood searching for fish or frogs in the pond whilst we all caught up. They stood at the door, blocking it, like Policemen, waving their arms or folding them like a bouncer saying to the other children approaching  “Stop! Wait! Teachers open the door’. They did not run up the stairs, nor did they run across the all too exciting bridge to the elementary library. They were amazing! Of course, we totally had a praise overload, in the hope that our next visit and walk next week will be as peaceful and successful. What little superstars!

9. Working with colleagues is harder than the students. No need to elaborate. Students are easy. Adults are much, much harder.

10. Becoming more organised in approaching mega tasks or deadlines such as reports. Start as early as possible. Think ahead. Work smart. Recognizing my weaknesses such as keeping a classroom tidy. I swear, it’s part of working in the early years. Well, I would say that but … having 28 tiny hands moving things, having to multi task managing the classroom as I am being given letters/ forms/ things  means I invariably put them down on any surface. Covering my desk with all manner of things, most of which I don’t need there. ( I can actually think of a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar sitting my my desk, right at this minute that I brought in once for a salad I made for lunch in like October, yes… really… ) I make an attempt to tidy when I walk into my classroom and look at it in disgust, when I can’t find something I need because it could literally be anywhere. At the end of last year, we had to empty our classrooms. This was my first emptying of a classroom I had inhabited ever. That’s when I realised what a total pig I was. Keisha and Mel will tell you exactly how messy it was because I bet ( actually, I KNOW) they remember it vividly. Behind every corner, every piece of furniture, on every shelf was something … it could have been anything …  something I was sure I would use again, would need, but obviously could never ever find when I remembered I had it. Finding pieces of jigsaws or games in dusty, never seen before spaces. Being ridiculously frustrated at the whole task. That’s when I realised I could never again let my classroom be that disorganised. And I have made a conscientious effort this year to try harder. I’ve come to accept nobody else will ever clean my cupboard .. or my desk, or the empty (initially) tantalizing flat tops of shelves which invite me to place things on them …  no matter how much I wish somebody would! If I want to be able to find something, I need to actually be able to walk in my cupboard. I need to take resources back to the library regularly instead of the library being empty because I have them all! I say this, and I know I am better this year. To be fair. anything would be an improvement. I have a box in my cupboard for random things I find, which I know are part of something, so at the end of the year, I can put them all back in the right boxes/ games. (Hmm, reading that sentence, I’m not sure how tidy that sounds really!) But I do know how busy I am and how little time I have to do these things. I tidied my cupboard yesterday after feeling sick of not being able to walk in it without tripping over something (often a random bag of junk collected for junk modelling or large resources such as a basketball hoop (which thinking of, I should just return to wherever it came from, I’ll remember where if I think hard enough about it) ) .. I emptied my desk a little. I can only try. And at least, by about May, I’ll know about the end of year clean out and make a huge effort to clean and organise in preparation. Never again will I repeat last year. Ever.

11. Realizing that my ideas are as valid as other peoples and I have a lot to contribute to discussions and planning/ ideas. Realizing we are all learning, no matter where we are on our journey as a teacher and learner.

12. Choosing which battles to fight, when to bite my tongue, which if you know me, you will know this has taken a long time to learn and which I am still learning to do. Accepting to let things go, knowing which ones I should fight for. Not going into meetings like a raging bull in a China shop. Learning patience. Learning how to work with people and how to come across as reasonable, even if I feel furious. Knowing when not to reply to emails, if I know it will be laced with sarcasm or bitterness. Giving myself time to calm down and come back to something. Know if I can’t be loving, to be kind. If I can’t be kind, be polite. Never less.

13. Realizing I am actually good at this. Seeing the progress my students make and knowing how I have helped in that respect. Seeing how far I have come in my journey. Accepting there are lots of things to learn, being excited about this and appreciating the successes so far. Allowing myself to give myself credit for what I have done instead of being too hard on myself in moments of worry or stress. Enjoying the moment, the experience. Excited for the future 😀

Creative Commons, PLC and our Moral Imperative to Share …

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When we explored Creative Commons last week in our DC101 class, I started to really think more about what’s happening out there, on this big social forum we call the internet. I had genuinely never even thought about just grabbing an image from google, and suddenly we were questioning the ethical implications of doing so! It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I was just using somebody’s photo without asking permission, never mind crediting them. Yet when I thought about it, I realised if people took my photos and used them, that’s exactly what I’d want them to do, at least acknowledge me as the creator. So starts the learning process. I guess most people don’t even think of Google Images as being composed of pictures from millions of people. Well I certainly never did. When I typed in google, I just saw it as a public service which could find information and pictures for me. I think that’s maybe just an assumption we all make if a service is made freely available to us. If I did credit the image, I wrote ‘Image from google’ … (see earlier blog posts!) as if that was a credit, as if that’s gonna help anybody find the photographer. I might as well have just written ‘Image from somebody, somewhere in the world’. Jabiz showed us Flickr last week and how to use it, suggesting we use it in the future if we want photos because people share them with a creative commons license (well most of them do). Beginning to use Flickr has helped me understand more about this idea of a shared, collaborative online community. It has made me think about the way I access information on the internet so freely and greedily. I browse Teaching forums regularly, asking for and giving advice to teachers who post both from the UK and abroad. If I need something for my class, I’ll quickly search on google or using a couple of resource websites and download them. If I need a picture for something, I’ll use google images. I search youtube almost daily to find cool songs and videos relating to our current UOI for my students, I research articles depending on my work, I use the internet everyday and I use people’s resources and thoughts/ opinions/ ideas everyday. Yet I had never even thought about how much I use other peoples information, thoughts and resources so readily and anonymously until last week.

Having been educated (a little) these past few weeks into the ethical issues regarding the internet, and the amazing privileges we now have as people, as teachers to access and use this kind of information so freely, I realise how lucky we are in this new digital age and how much we can also contribute. I doubt I’ll make resources (maybe, possibly one day!) but I can contribute my thoughts about teaching, offer my advice on forums, blog about my classroom practice and generally put myself more into this online community. When I think how cagey I was about sharing things initially, this idea of ‘sharing everything’ I am a little embarrassed. Now I think about the ton of stuff I use, which informs my own ideas and teaching/ planning/ thoughts, then it seems a little selfish to say, ‘Why should I share this stuff?’ And I’m starting to realise it’s not about sharing everything. If I offer advice on a forum which helps others, I’m contributing, if I write something on this blog which helps inform another person, then that’s wonderful. If I write about a lesson or activity which worked really well in class and this sparks a thought in somebody else, fantastic! If I write about a book I love or share a story from my life that makes somebody think, I am contributing. I know somebody in class today was truly touched by one of my posts on my blog, and knowing I shared that story, that they listened and thought about it feels amazing.

We watched a video today about this online digital community, and it did inspire me. I see how this can affect people, how it can create change, how it can enable bigger things. I am beginning to think about our new age of digital technology in a new light. I am inspired to learn more about this and creating shared content and a collaborative digital community. I also understand much more, having seen how I, myself,  flouted internet etiquette so flagrantly by grabbing google images without even crediting people, that our students are entering a digital world in which rules are not clear. A world which is so new, issues such as privacy laws are only just being worked out as we go along. As teachers, I understand much more, already about these issues and feel much happier committing to our ‘obligation’ to helping our students understand how to explore and utilise this new age technology safely. This article on a news website the other day only highlights the only too real dangers of a digital age in which information is so freely uploaded and accessibly by the world! We must help our students navigate their way through this ever changing world as much as we can and we can only do that by being committed to understanding it ourselves. People like Jabiz and Jane, and the many other educational bloggers out there that I have begun to read and learn from understand this and have sparked an interest in me to do so too. Thanks guys 😀

 

The Serenity of Krakatoa

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I did it! Moment of pure exhilaration …

This photo, I think for me, epitomizes the exhilaration I felt at the top of Anak Krakatoa. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but being there, in the silent calm actually brought tears to my eyes. I was there, alone, staring at the beauty of Mother Nature, marvelling at her enormous power, and feeling quite simply on top of the world. It was a moment for me where I realised that all that has happened in my life is irrelevant now, that I made it, to here, to now and just feeling how wonderful that feeling is. It was so still up there, as soon as we stepped foot on the island, I felt the awe inside me staring at this volcano, the product of such devastation caused by a tremendous explosion in 1883. Anak Krakatoa means ‘Child of Krakatoa’ which is what was created from the collapse of Krakatoa 44 years after the enormous explosion in 1883.

How the islands changed after the enormous eruption in 1883

Wiki describes the event as follows;

”The best known eruption of Krakatoa culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26–27, 1883, which was among the most violent volcanic events in modern and recorded history. With a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6,  the eruption was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT (840 PJ) – about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the Little boy bomb (13 to 16 kt) that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II and four times the yield of the Tsar Bomb (50 Mt), the largest ever detonated.nuclear device. The 1883 eruption ejected approximately 21 km3 (5.0 cu mi) of rock, ash, and pumice. The cataclysmic explosion was faintly heard as far away as Perth in Western Australia, about 1,930 miles (3,110 km) away, and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, about 3,000 miles (5,000 km) away. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 21,007 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis that followed the explosion. The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa. Eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island in the same location, named Anak Krakatau (which is Indonesian for “Child of Krakatoa“). This island currently has a radius of roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) and a high point around 324 metres (1,063 ft) above sea level,  growing 5 metres (16 ft) each year.‘ 

See this website for more information about Krakatoa and its infamous eruption in 1883.

First glimpse of Krakatoa from the boat
First glimpse of Krakatoa from the boat

Saturday morning, at a very early hour, we headed to Carita with some good friends, Sinead, Kim and Chuck. Sinead had scared me half to death with tales of her last stay there where she said there were literally about 20 cockroaches in her room, scuttling all over the place. I was determined we would find somewhere much nicer where I wouldn’t spend the night in terror! After arriving in Carita, we drove in search of a hotel and the first one we stopped at was so eerie, it reminded us of ‘The Shining’. It freaked us out and I was starting to think maybe the cockroaches were inevitable …  We kept looking. Linz was about to turn around after travelling the long coastal road when Kim spotted a place just a little further and thank goodness she did, it was wonderful! A real gem. Gorgeous little chalets, 2  lovely swimming pools and nice, helpful staff. We got a 3 bedroom room for one million between all of us! Total bargain! We had already decided since it was 11am we would head to Krakatoa the next day so we chilled out at the pool, napped (it had been an early start and a long day of driving) and played poker in the evening which was tremendous fun. Without poker chips, we had nothing to bet with so we collected rocks from the path and each of us had 20 rocks as ‘betting chips!’. The Indonesian people in the chalets nearby must have thought we were mad, collecting the rocks from outside! Still it worked and it was so fun. I haven’t played poker in a long time and I really love the game.

The next morning we set off to the boat excited for the day ahead. I had forgotten with it being rainy season that the boat ride might be choppy. Heck, it turned out to be an enduring ride… At first it was okay, but as the time went on, I got whiter and whiter in the face and all I could think about was getting onto dry land. Chuck also felt the same which comforted me, I wasn’t being a total wimp. Sinead loved the boat ride telling us she loved the sea. As you can see from this picture, she was feeling slightly brighter than me!

Sinead looking gorgeous … X

A prize of 5 rocks was decided for the person who saw Krakatoa first. Linz won that one. Pointing out the smoke plumes, we stared at the distant scene. As we got closer, we could see the magnitude of the islands. Vegetation was growing all over one of them, a testament to the wonder of Mother Nature after such a natural disaster which must have destroyed everything that was there with hot, fiery power. We were getting closer and closer to Anak Krakatoa and the water was azure blue. We finally arrived at the beach and we all got off. The sand was black and velvety smooth. Pumice lay all over the sand. There was a calm serenity to the place which we all felt. The only sounds as we walked through the jungle to the trodden path up the volcano was that of nature. It’s something I never hear in my urban life. Calm, quiet peace, buzzing insects, the wind blowing through the green luscious trees.

Disembarking from the boat
First steps on Anak Krakatoa

We explored the landscape of sandy, layered formations with huge rocks which must have been thrown from the caldera. It was so interesting to see how the very land we were standing on had been created.

The rivulets cut into the sand by water on the island

Then we started the long, steep climb up the bottom half of the steaming volcano. Boy was it dusty! Flip flops are probably not the best shoes to wear to climb this, be warned. To be fair, we weren’t actually going to go on the island due to the 3 KM exclusion zone set by Indonesian Law due to the Volcano’s recent volatility. However, we risked it after deciding it was a chance of a lifetime. I’m so glad we did. The climb up seemed to go on forever, and eventually some of the group decided to head back down. Kim was striding ahead to the top and I was following, wondering what I would see at the top.

Sinead on the climb up .. striking a pose!
Climbing up the dusty path ..

I finally reached the top, as far as we could go and it was spectacular … The view of the surrounding islands beneath us was breathtaking, the sulphur lay in crystallised patches over the dry foreboding land. There were rocks lying shattered following their crash landing after being spat out from the burning caldera.

Bomb blasts .. shattered rocks … the power of nature …

Having made it to the top, Kim and I took the chance to reflect. I waited for Kim to start her trek back down so I could just sit by myself (and a guide who I wished would do the same instead of pacing loudly over the crunchy gravel whilst he waited) to appreciate the silence and the moment. It was beautiful. The guide finally sat down and I was able to sit in wonder. How wonderful it was. I felt so lucky to be there, right then in that moment. To feel alive in such a breath taking place.

Quiet reflection …

Foreboding and ominous ...

Kim and I celebrating reaching the top 😀

Finally I set back down the mountain which was considerable quicker than going up. We found Sinead, Chuck and Linz at the bottom and off we set for the next adventure, snorkelling in the azure blue waters surrounding the islands.

Kim and I heading to the snorkelling spot ..
Smiles all round!

The snorkelling was lovely! We had saved some of the very dry and tasteless bread from breakfast to feed the fish and it’s safe to say they liked it a lot more than we did. There were so many fish swimming around us, diving forward to snatch a bite before retreating to savour it in safety. The reef was healthy and beautiful. Kim spotted a cuttlefish, one of my favourite things to see and we all watched as it hovered below us. We saw trumpet fish and one very sad looking black spotted pufferfish with its morose black eyes. We also spotted some weird jelly blobs which we worked out must be jellyfish. Guess who ended up stung on the lip by one?

Angelina Jolie Impersonation!

 With lunch finished (which was surprisingly tasty) we headed home on a slightly calmer sea which both Chuck and I felt thankful for. We waved goodbye to Krakatoa grateful for such a wonderful and thankfully safe day on an active volcano!

All aboard!

One final swim in the hotel swimming pool and it was time to head home. Huge Kudos to Linz for navigating the way home, especially over roads which were potholed to the extreme. There could be a whole TV show, perhaps called ‘EXTREME POTHOLES” filmed on these kinds of roads in Indonesia. At times, it appeared that the road had simply disintegrated! Passing trucks belching with black fumes, we were happy to finally hit a real road on the Tollway from Merak to Jakarta.

Potholes the size of ….
Eco friendly trucks …

What an amazing trip. I am so glad we went and it was a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Amazing friends, good company, beautiful sights and adventures. If you have the chance to go, do! I’ve been inspired to explore more in Indonesia. No more sitting around on the weekends …