New Beginnings – moving during a pandemic

The pandemic moved from raging around the periphery of life in Singapore to forcing those of us on the little red dot into our homes to join millions of others in off-campus learning. 

Then I said a ‘hard goodbye’ to my awesome Year 6 teaching team and my home for the last six years in Singpaore and moved to Romania.

I wish had something wise to say about moving during a pandemic but instead these are my incoherent ramblings..

Hard goodbyes – to the bestest teaching team ever.

Shout out for those who moved during a pandemic

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Cheers to flying horizontal

Moving countries is complex at the best of times. Throw in flight cancellations, contract uncertainties, changes in visa and entry regulations. That’s a lot of extra stress and worry.

Years of travel hacking have led up to this very moment – lots of patience, watching award availability and having Singapore Airline’s frequent flyer programme on speed dial I managed to score a business class flight to Bucharest.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there for transition but in the meantime, let’s raise a glass to arriving.

We are all starting at a ‘new school’ this year.

Many schools will start the school year online and return. Others might return to a physical school under physical restrictions. Some might spend the whole year online. We are making connections under stress and uncertainty.

Any personal challenge seems just that more difficult to overcome. Asking for and accepting help is not my strong point. Moving during a pandemic has repeatedly tested that personal limit.

Taming AMOS the lion

Every teacher packs along AMOS (‘At My Old School’) lion with them in their luggage when they arrive.

AMOS can be helpful, bringing in new ideas and fresh perspectives into a school.

But…

We all know that new teacher who starts every sentence with and then spend an unhappy year first year trying to turn this place into the idealized version of that place.

This can be very annoying to people not new to the school.

When AMOS wants to be fed when what I really want to communicate is I am confused, I am anxious, or I really miss my old life right now.

On Friday I found myself returning to the class traditions I’d normally do at the end of the week.

  • Jump Jam – getting your groove to theme of ghostbusters with 3rd graders is the best way to spend a Friday morning.
  • Shout Outs – a chance to recognise and praise members of class community (parents, TA included).
  • Peaks and Valleys – an opportunity to collectively create, learn more about what is going on with students in school and beyond.

All good practice no matter the context – but still worth examining the why of traditions.

For those starting the year online, AMOS might hang around longer this year. The between-session conversations that you’d have at the start of in-service didn’t occur. You aren’t seeing people in the hallway for a chat.

It’s a lot easier to connect with people you know well from your old context than strangers you’ve mostly interacted with through a screen at your new one. But that just leaves you in transition that much longer.

AMOS’s real danger it is can stop you from learning and growing from the fresh ideas and perspectives your new school has to offer which brings me to…

Eat Your Kimchi 

I grew up in a household where black pepper was an exotic spice.

And then I moved to Korea and encountered Kimchi.

It was not love at first bite or even the hundredth.

However, working in a Korean school not eating kimchi was something that put a barrier up between myself and my co-workers.

Gradually, I developed a taste for the side dish. Although kimchi is not something I actively stock in my fridge, I can’t sit down to a Korean meal without it!

Key learning practices that might seem normal in one context might be actively discouraged in others and vice versa.

Eat your Kimchi is a reminder to keep an open mind to new experiences.

AMOS doesn’t like Kimchi.

The Benefits of Slowing Down and Spacing Out

Slowing down is not something that comes naturally to me.

My brain moves a million miles a minute and last year I clocked 150,000km in the air.

150,000 in the air looks like….

But due to our new reality there was no mass exodus out of Singapore on overseas holidays the minute school let out.

People were able to meet but only in groups of five. As a result, I was afforded the luxury to spend time in small groups brunching, lunching and enjoying dinner which made for a far more meaningful goodbye.

Instead of one big shin dig – lots of smaller gatherings

Likewise, on arrival into Romania was slow. Instead of mad dash to get my new place in order- I had a 14 day quarantine to potter around my new apartment. Although it’s not how I would have chosen to spend my time, I did manage to fully stock my freezer and get delivered a whole bunch of necessary household supplies without stressing about being home for delivery.

Procastbaking during quarantine

Quarantine, starting at new school year online forced me to actually go out and socialise rather than passing out in an exhausted heap on the sofa at the end of a school week.

Language 

You say recess, I say morning tea but used to call it snack. ‘Students’ was verboten but it is commonly used term here.

BML is now EAL.

Educators love their jargon.

As I sat through a transition meeting, I wished I had a google translate for all these new terms.

But then there’d be no struggle.

Benefits of being lost

After six years at the same school, things were a little too conformable and I knew how things worked.

Changing schools involves humbling that lived experience.

Ms Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Innovator, MEd in EdTech managed to accidentally end the Zoom meeting for the class instead of closing breakout rooms.

Twice.

In the spirit of being uncomfortably lost – on Saturday I jumped in an uber and heading downtown with my DSLR.

I put my phone into airplane mode and set myself a challenge to find my way back.

Being a little lost is good.

It keeps you alert, it keeps you questioning, it keeps you scanning the horizon for your bearings.

And it makes finding your way home just that little bit sweeter.

When you are lost you never know what you will find along the way…

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