After 38 years of teaching around the world it's almost time to retire and say goodbye to living overseas. This will be my last full time year of teaching and my husband's last year as head of school. It's pretty special to finish it in a country that saw a lot of 'firsts' for both of us. We came to Vietnam back in 1994 when we started the first international school in the country since the war had ended. My husband was the founding principal and this was his first headship. Four other adventurous souls came with us and, because the original school building on Nam Ky Khoi Ngha street hadn't been finished, we began the school year in our living rooms - something we had never done before! We had 25 students and our daughter, who was three years old at the time, was the first student enrolled. We had already taught in PNG and Kathmandu (which is where we had adopted our beautiful daughter) but none of the other four had worked overseas. It truly was the chance and the adventure of a lifetime and, although we are not in constant touch with those that took that journey with us, we get together every now and then to reminisce and reflect on how fortunate we were to be in the right place at the right time for an unforgettable experience that set all of us on great career and life paths. That school is still going strong 28 years later and the school song that Pete and I wrote together all those years ago, is still sung at assemblies!
We returned four years ago to a run and work in a different international school. It is has been a rollercoaster ride with Covid-19 happening but it has still been a fantastic place to be and we feel so grateful to not only be given the opportunity to explore this beautiful country once more, but to also be in a country where the pandemic has been managed so well and where we feel safe.
So, one last trip to Nin Vanh Bay and Six Senses resort this week, and then in July, a trip on the Vietage Train. A fantastic and memorable way to retire! I hope that when travel starts up again you will come visit Vietnam and find it as enchanting and amazing as we have.
SCBWI crystal kite award
I've just voted in this year's Crystal Kites Awards as part of the International Central group. The shortlist offered a wide variety of really interesting, funny and beautiful stories and it was hard to choose just one! All of the stories would be great additions to a school library collection and wonderful for diversity and inclusion for readers. If you haven't voted yet, here's the link and a look at the choices below.
Another teaching moment that made me smile happened with my Year 5 class this week. We we're looking at Endangered Animals and brushing up on research techniques, keyword searching, copyright and citations. There were some great discussions happening about why the animals they'd chosen were endangered, how we could find out more, where we could find out more and what we could possibly do to help.
One of the students was researching the Northern White Rhino and shared the information that there are only two left in the world and that both are female. 'So why can't they get them to have more babies?' one of my ten year olds asked. 'Because there are no more males left. The last one died in 2018' I explained. 'But can't they make them pregnant?' he persisted. 'Well you need a male and a female to make the babies' I ventured. 'But why do you need the male?' he continued. 'Because you need the male's sperm to help the female get pregnant.' 'Oh,' he says. 'What's sperm?' 'It's like DNA,' one of the others piped up in a knowledgeable tone.
And with that sorted, we thankfully moved on to other things! Sometimes research can get a bit tricky. . . .
when children make you smile
It's been a tough 2020/2021 for everyone but one of the things that keeps me going is teaching the little ones at my school. This week turned out to be a week of smiles with some of my favourite teacher librarian moments.
My kindergartners are doing a unit on Fairy Tales in their regular class, so I thought I'd mix it up and give them a new way of looking at princesses and Cinderella tales by reading them Babette Cole's Prince Cinders and Princess Smartypants. They are definitely not new but I love Babette, and think she was ahead of her time when it came to gender equality, identity and empowerment of women.
When I showed the class the cover of Princess Smartypants, mister four and a half piped up and said, 'I don't like stories about princesses because there's so much girl stuff in them.' 'What's 'girl stuff'?' I asked to which he replied, 'You know - lots of things that are pink, lots of ponies, the boys having to save the girl ALL the time - and lots of kissing!' 'Hmmm. . ' says I. 'Well, there's not much pink in this one, but there is a pony. Oh and there's a dragon, a motorbike and a racing car in there too. Let's see what you think when we've finished reading.'
After the first few pages he was giggling at all the crazy situations her prince suitors had gotten themselves into and laughed out loud after Princess Smartypants kissed the prince and turned him into a big, fat, ugly toad!
'So what did you think about the story?' I asked him. 'It was soo funny. I really liked when she kissed the prince and turned him into a toad. And none of the boys had to rescue her 'cause she was really smart!' Thanks Babette. It all starts somewhere. . . .
Oh - and her books on reproduction and puberty are told in a funny and informative way without being clinical and confronting. If you don't have these two in your collection for sex education you need to get them - Hairy In Funny Places and Mummy Laid An Egg. They are brilliant.
Sadly Babette passed away in 2017 but her warmth and humour live on in her wonderful stories. Check them out on her website Babette Cole.