Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Assorted Updates

Howdy, world!

Things have been busy since I got back from Belize, but I wanted to jot down some updates before I forget:

* I am very thankful that over the holidays I had a chance to co-chaperone our school's Senior Math Competition Team to go to the Hague to attend the ISMTF competition. The kids were absolutely wonderful, and two of them placed at the competition -- a really amazing accomplishment out of about 200 contestants, considering that many of the problems were quite tricky even for their math coaches, and the individual competition consisted of 10-minute lightning rounds in which you had to correctly complete as many questions out of 5 as possible (during 10 minutes). But, the thing that I loved the most about this experience is meeting some amazingly dedicated math teachers from the IB world -- many of them are international teachers who have taught and coached math teams at the same schools for nearly 30 years. They have known each other since they were freshly married and have become lifelong friends and colleagues, who look forward to the annual meetup and visit each other on holidays. They were so inspiring (because these were definitely NOT stale old teachers) and they made me think about where I will be in 30 years. My colleague, who has been going to these competitions for more than 20 years, is a mini-celebrity at these events and has organized a few of them herself. (That is no small feat, considering that it involves -- amongst other things -- finding enough local parents to host 200 kids for free and to provide them with dinners and rides!) The orchestration of the competition was like Swiss clockwork. I was immensely impressed, and the kids had so much fun bonding with each other, with me (whom they didn't know before the trip), and even with kids from other schools!

This experience has made me want to become a second math coach for the Senior Team, so that I can make sure I get a chance to go to these competitions annually. (And because I was frankly embarrassed by how long I took doing those problems this time. I need to train!) But, we'll see if I can actually commit to weekly Thursday math sessions after school...

* I am also thankful for my colleagues. For reasons I wish not to discuss publicly, I found myself returning to school in a fairly difficult situation. To my surprise, colleagues who happened to come across the news of the situation have come to me to offer their support/recognition of my teaching and my dedication to kids. My supervisors have also basically offered their faith in my work without questions. It has made me very thankful, despite it being a difficult situation that has yet to be resolved.

* I have been thinking about blogging about the awesome method the British use to teach young children to read. Did you know that in many places in England, they do not teach kids the names of alphabetical letters until the kids have learned to read phonetically? For example, instead of teaching a kid that the letter D is called "dee", they teach the kids from the get-go that it's called "duh" and that "G" is called "guh". Today on the bus, I heard a little girl say, "Duh, oh, guh... that is dog! Eh, guh, guh... that is egg! Huh, aaa, tuh.. that is hat!" It was clear that she is just learning to read, and she was easily piecing together the phonetics that she already knows. That makes so much more sense than how we teach kids the names of the letters first!!

* I recently watched a middle-school production of Romeo and Juliet. I had thought that I would hate how they would switch out the entire cast every 15 minutes to allow more kids to go on stage (imagine 10 Romeos and 10 Juliets in the span of 2 hours), but in the end I just found it irresistibly charming that there is actually a theater production that involves the ENTIRE 8th grade, with no exceptions. What a truly lovely idea -- and the kids were so excited about the whole thing before, during, and afterwards! I heard kids say, "My parents are here, and they don't even speak English!!" Awww. They even did the infamous Cha-Cha line dance during the scene where Romeo sneaks into Juliet's house during a party and meets her for the first time. Truly, it was the cutest thing ever and was worth getting back home at 11pm after a late-night bus ride.

* I am thinking about going on a backpacking trip through Asia this summer. I think I can swing 4 weeks, and maybe I can meet up with friends who already live there (Andrea, who's in Seoul; Helen, Aaron, Howard, Skye, who are in Taiwan; friends from college who live in Singapore; Stephanie, who lives in Hanoi...) I am very excited! The flights cost about $1000 roundtrip, which I think is reasonable, and then I can just take trains from place to place. Do you have recommendations? I've never done something like this before, and definitely not solo! To be perfectly honest, I'm quite nervous, but I think this could be my last summer in a long time (possibly ever) to be able to do this... And Geoff, my better half, has already done this a long time ago, so it's unlikely that we'd ever do this together. So, it's definitely on my mind.

That is it. Peace out, world.

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