Archive for Singapore – Page 3

That’s what I call a “field trip”

Spent three days last week accompanying the 8th grade A-siders (about 100 kids) to Telunas Beach, Indonesia for our annual CWW trip.  Classroom Without Walls is the mother of all field trips — three days, two nights of team/community building at a “rustic resort” in the gorgeous Riau Islands (here’s where rustic means no hot water for showers, cabins supported on stilts, no tv/computer, and the hard-to-find-in-Singapore power of solitude).

Middle schoolers at SAS are divided into A, B, and C “sides,” groups of 100+ kids on each side.  Last week all A-side teams experienced their CWW trip.  This Wed.-Fri. the B-side will journey away and the following week it’ll be time for the C-siders to travel.  Our theme of “no one is an island” wove through every aspect of our trip, from sharing buses and long boats, to the no-iPod, no mp3, no gaming consoles rule, to large group activities such as skit night, marshmallow roasting, jumping off the tower, and tie-dying t-shirts (that’s Nikita and Manasvi in the photo), to small group collaborative “games” such as water relay, digital scavenger hunt, spider web, mad-lib skit prep, and hazardous waste challenge.

We ate well, played together, solved problems, took risks, laughed a lot, and returned home with myriad photos, fond memories, and suntans, bug bites, and the infamous tetherball jammed finger as evidence of three full days of wondrously hard “work.”

For your pleasure . . . a few more photos of my first CWW:

Missing my MRT stop (and other pleasures)

My end-of-the-work-day ritual in Singapore of reading during the commute home reminds me of my pleasures as an elementary school kid.  I used to turn down a ride home so that I could walk and read the mile or so from Shorewood Elementary School to our house on Standring Lane.  Yep, I was that kid who longed for uninterrupted time to read whenever and however I could find it.  Even if it meant reading while sauntered mostly downhill at the end of the school day.  Some things change very little.  At the end of last week, I missed my stop on the MRT, completely invested in Allan Stratton’s novel Chanda’s Wars (the sequel to his brilliant Printz Honor book Chadra’s Secrets).  No problem.  I just backtracked a few stops on the red line and was rewarded with extra time to read.  Tonight I nearly repeated this behavior, caught up in Dana Reinhardt’s recently published The Things a Brother Knows.  I’m trying to keep pace with my avid reader students, and so far I’m managing (thanks in large part to my commute and my gotta-read-before-turning-out-the-light habit started in graduate school).  My reading log lists twelve YA novels completed since the school year started.  That’s over two a week — a pace I probably can’t maintain all year long, but it certainly affords me plenty to chat about and recommend to my 8th graders.

Other pleasures from last week included a remarkable Saturday night Band Exchange Gala Concert at SAS where we experienced 45 minutes of lively performance by the combined middle school bands from the Singapore American School and the International School of Bangkok.  Early into the second piece in the program, I turned to Fred and asked if he’d ever heard a more inspired middle school band concert.  No clarinet squeaks or wayward percussion “movements.”  These kids rehearsed with focus and performed with skill and passion.  We agreed this topped any school band concert we’ve heard  . . . ever. Kudos to the over 130 students and teacher directors for the hours invested in making beautiful music.  The written program included a quote by composer Malcolm Arnold, “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.”  Observing these talented teens from two international schools, both on stage and afterwards as they reveled in a job well done, reminded me of the many ways humans “speak” and find connections, even from richly diverse lives.

Other recent pleasures include:

— A trip to the Furniture Mall on Beach Street preceded by a spectacular, inexpensive lunch (S$26.50 for four = US$19.80, complete with four entrees and lime juice for everyone) at an undisclosed location [promises to Jimmy for not divulging the name of this secret hideout restaurant for fear it’ll be overtaken by Westerners. Can’t say I blame his concern.  This place is plenty crowded with locals.].  Fortified by lunch, we bought a bed for our guest room (finally!). After Saturday’s delivery we’re ready to welcome guests!

— A birthday celebration where we joined Gretchen, another “newbie” colleague as she celebrated her 30th birthday accompanied by her Mum from Down Under and loads of SAS teachers.  The party started at Morton’s (love those happy hour steak sandwiches), then proceeded to the Loof rooftop bar, and then continued somewhere else, but us “oldsters” only lasted as long as the first two venues.  From all accounts, the party finally wound down around 3 a.m.  I think I remember a time when I stayed up that late for Saturday night events.  Not happening nowadays unless I have insomnia . . . or am in route overseas.

Happy 30th birthday Gretchen!

A break in the action

Can hardly believe we just finished our first month of teaching — four weeks with 8th graders already completed.  I don’t recall any teaching year ever zipping by this quickly.  The exhaustion factor continues and I’ve come to believe it’ll grow exponentially week by week, especially if I don’t do a better job of getting to bed earlier.  I am my own worst enemy!  My excuse?  It’s oh so quiet after 9:30 p.m. and I get some good work done during that time.  Plus, I just can’t turn out my light without reading another chapter or two (or three).  Some habits are hard to break, especially for folks like me who love ending their day with story.  I’ve managed to read a lot since school started, joining my students for choice reading daily and putting in a full 30+ minutes every evening on my MRT commute home from school.  Add in the time I read at night and it’s easy to make steady progress.My most recent book recommendation is Boys without Names by Kashmira Sheth. Just published this year, this one is definitely response-rich.  I’d love to include it in a literature circle with 8th graders — their belief in issues of justice fits perfectly with this contemporary story of illegal child labor in India.  Read it and let me know what you think.

What’s with the “break in the action” post title?  Two reasons . . . Earlier this week I managed to walk right into a steel laptop carts.  Cumbersome, heavy, and right in the way, the last two piggies on my left foot hit that danged cart as I hustled to leave a colleague’s classroom following a morning meeting.  By day’s end my little toe was a motley shade of grey-purple and nearly double in size.  Here’s the good news/bad news about a broken toe.  Bad news: It takes time to heal and there’s not much that can be done except apply ice for swelling, ingest ibuprofen for pain, and avoid curbs, crowds, and a school full of kids.  Good news: My shoe wardrobe in Singapore includes variant versions of flip-flops and sandals.  Lots of room for toes to breath . . . and heal.

The other “break” in the action was a day off from school yesterday due to the Muslim holiday Hari Raya Puasa, or Eid, marking the end of Ramadan, and celebrating the conclusion of the holy month’s thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting.  In Singapore it’s a public holiday — no school (public or private) and lots of family festivities.  Fred and I took advantage of the day by visiting Istana (meaning “palace”), the official residence of the President of the Republic of Singapore.  It’s only open five days during the year and, lucky us, it’s just a short walk from where we live.  The sprawling 100 acres includes glorious theme gardens, numerous bungalow type buildings and the grand Government House that is used mostly for ceremonial and entertainment functions.  It’s a “white house” of sorts — set in a magnificent location. A lovely way to discover more about our Singapore home on a much-needed day off.