Sunday, November 25, 2012

Singapore American School

sas001Okay the jet lag is slowly wearing off like steam rising from a sidewalk as the remnants of a tropical cloud burst evaporates 137 miles north of the equator. The past month had been my and Sara’s third trip to Singapore in two years our second visit to Singapore American School in the same time. The little island nation macheted out of the jungle is becoming a second home to us.

It’s funny how sometimes folks back here in the States assume we are going to be holed up in grass huts and charging our iPads with a surplus diesel generator cantankerously poofing out black smoke rings. The easiest way for me to describe Singapore is imagine New York City – dip it in bleach – fix the entire infrastructure and update the architecture by a hundred years and you’d be getting close.

sas002Speaking of sate of the art, our second stint at the Singapore American School (henceforth to be referred to as SAS) proved to be even better than our first – mainly because we knew our way around the school this time. Knowing and working with some of the same teachers as we did last year it felt more like stepping into the classroom after a long vacation. We all have those long distance friendships with folks that no matter how long the time intervals between meetings we just start right up again mid-sentence. That’s how we feel about SAS.

sas004Thanks to the second invite from our friend Dr. Nancy Johnson, we have had the opportunity to really push ourselves as writers, teachers and education consultants. We are basically embedded into the 8th grade classrooms for three weeks, working with each of the three duets of Reading and Language Arts teachers for a week. We begin each week with three hour and half assemblies for the entire eighth grade a hundred or so students in each session. We then would spend the rest of the week with one “side”. Each side has two teachers and a third of the students – A, B and C sides were respectively on the first, second and third floors. If you think this is a bit confusing – I won’t even go into the schedules which require a slide rule and a Home Depot paint chip chart to figure out.

sas006All we had to do was stand in a room and wait for the kids to show up. It is such a luxury to have so much time with the classes. A lot of the time Sara and I get to see a class of kids once sometimes for less than an hour – here we worked with each group of kids twice apiece. Four hour and half sessions and an assembly to boot really gave us an opportunity to go deeper in our instruction and to build on what the other had worked on the day before.

sas005It’s also easy to look good when working with such dedicated teachers – Nancy, Brian and Brian, Erin, Scott, Rebecca and Betsy all embraced and improved our classroom work encouraging us to go ahead and stretch our ideas. I know we leave SAS better teachers for the experience.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Don’t Panic

batam003Once again I find myself hurtling 35,000 over the earth inside a metal tube coming back home.

Our trip to Singapore was an eventful one on several levels. Our work with teachers and students at the Singapore American School always pushes us as writers and teachers. We've come away with great ideas each time we have visited the school. Some ideas are hatched in the van on the way to school chatting with other visiting educational consultants, some are cooked up over dinners with teachers and others just pop into existence in the classroom when an unexpected assembly cuts instruction time short.

batam004Working in the international school community also pushes one culturally. We discovered economical breakfast options hidden amidst the bling bedazzled high end shopping district of orchard road attended a yoga laugh therapy session in the botanical garden and survived a mountain bike trek into Indonesia with SAS teachers who's seeming goal was to run me into the dirt.

batam001First off - the bike trip. One does not want to hit a 300 pound pig while careening through a jungle at breakneck speeds on a rented bicycle. My friend and extremely fit 30 something Reading and Language Arts teacher Brian instigated an excursion to the island of Batam to take advantage of the day off from school afforded by Hindu holiday Deepavali. Seven of us took the 50 minute ferry across to the island and mounted our cycles and headed into the Drak Mountain Bike park.

batam005Not to make excuses (here comes my first excuse) due to travel I had not been on a bike for almost a month and the first 45 minute uphill climb in the humid 90 degree heat just about did me in and I had to take a break while the rest of the crew sliced into the jungle for a loop I would never experience. I rejoined the gang and kept pace for a bit headed downhill and on more level ground through twisting turns on a narrow jungle path. I kept up that is until catapulted over the handlebars when my front wheel met an intractable cluster of roots which I landed amidst deflating my lungs, leaving me gasping for air and hoping not to have broken my ribs again. Luckily no bones were broken and along with the wind a little bit of pride were also knocked out of me. Just enough to let in some sense. I picked my battles with a little more discernment for the remainder of our day, taking breaks and copiously hydrating and really enjoying the rest of the day, only taking one more spill.

batam000 I took solace in the fact that I had no more effort give - I had pushed myself as far as I could go. Oh yeah, the pig ran across the path just as we were a.most done for the day. I swerved ever so gracefully, close enough to get a good whiff but we both escaped unscathed. Of course I was bringing up the rear of the group and there were no non-porcine witnesses to my most elegant move of the day.