The Sniffles

Sniffle, Sniffle, Sniffle, BLOW!

I am constantly baffled by the amount of drippy noses in my classroom. Have the nerves surrounding their noses not developed yet? Do they like the feeling of the oozing liquid dripping down their upper lip? Do they keep it there for a little extra snack?

I don’t understand it.

For me, the rule is two sniffles and I am off to get a tissue! If there is no tissue to be found, I use whatever I can scrounge up from my purse. If there is nothing in my purse, I use my handy dandy sleeve (come on you have done it too), but I never let nose goop run out my nose!

I sincerely hope that they will soon learn that it is much more pleasant to have a clean nose. If that isn’t possible, I hope that cold season ends soon. Maybe tomorrow?

Introducing, the heart pillows!


The magic of the heart-pillow

Have you ever had one of those days where every single child in your class feels that they must to tell you every single, teeny tiny, itty bitty problem that has happened throughout the course of the day? Have you ever felt that if you hear a child say your name one more time you might explode into a million little fragments?

I had one of those days a couple of months ago, and instead of pressing the self-combust button, I miraculously came up with a new solution to all of the tattling. It amazes me that some of my best ideas come when I am frustrated.  Does that happen to anyone else?

I would like to introduce to you, the heart pillows. Two years ago I bought the heart-shaped pillows with arms from Ikea and they were used to cuddle up with, while a student was reading. In my moment of frustration, I decided that these heart-pillows were going to have more power in my classroom. They were going to help the children solve all of their problems, and mine!

I decided that if a child had a conflict between another child, they should invite them to take a heart-pillow and bring it to a quiet place in the room or the hallway. They would take turns sharing how they felt and explaining the reasons for their reactions. They were going to work together to find a solution and apologize if it was needed.  To explain the new and improved heart-pillows I did lots of silly role-modeling, where I was the problem causer and another student invited me to the heart-pillows.

At first the students in KB were a little heart-pillow happy. Every single problem had to be solved on the heart-pillows and I still needed to help mediate the conversations. Now a few months later, I am amazed by the students’ abilities to communicate their feelings and to listen to the other person. They compromise, empathize, sympathize and solve their problem independently. Rarely do they require my assistance any more. Although I find it very entertaining to listen in to their conversations.

The best part is that they are starting to realize that the heart-pillows don’t have any magic powers.  They can solve their problems without the heart-pillows and that is just what they are starting to do!

Cure to my Winter ‘Grays’

Oh how I miss the blue skies!

Drip! Drop! Drip! Drop! When will this constant drizzle stop?

Although Shanghai is not extremely cold in the winter, it is extremely wet and gray. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a blue sky. The gray does not end with the sky either. The roads are gray, the sidewalks are gray, the concrete sky rises are, for the most part are (you guessed it!) gray! The never ending grayness can really get under your skin. However, I have found the perfect cure to overcome my ‘winter grays’.

I think of my favourite place in the entire World, my cottage. I am quite lucky to have traveled to many amazing places all over the World, but still my cottage is by far my absolute, without a doubt, favourite place to be.

When the winter grays are becoming too much to handle I see myself lying on the dock, in the warm sunshine, as the waves cause the dock to sway gently in the water. I hear the birds chirp and the splashes of the paddles from a canoe passing by. I feel the cool breeze and the touch of the rough sand between my toes. I smell the amazing scent of the freshest air mixed with the aroma of my Mom’s delicious feast grilling on the barbecue. I taste the fresh water filling my mouth and the grit of a little sand that always seems to find its way into my mouth while swimming underwater. I imagine this on those gray days and everything seems to be okay!

The main reason I go home each summer is to experience the magic of my cottage, so that the memory is not far from my reach throughout the winter months, that seem to go on forever.

I am

I am grateful for the friends that I have, and for the friends that I have yet to meet.

I am hopeful for the students that I have taught, and for the students that I have yet to teach.

I am appreciative of the opportunities that I have had, and for the the opportunities that have yet to come.

I am proud of my achievements, and of the things I have yet to achieve.

I am accepting of who I am, and who I have yet to become.

I am me.

I am happy.

Bums Here, Bums There, Bums, Bums Everywhere!

I have lived in China for almost two years now, and I have come to realize that Chinese people are pretty conservative when it comes to nudity. That is, until you walk into a change room.

Oh, how things change! I sometimes wonder if they remove all of their clothes the second they walk through the door. By the time I get to the locker area, I am usually the only person who is wearing clothing.

I am pretty comfortable with my body, and I feel very comfortable changing in front of others (in the appropriate settings, of course.) The problem however, does not end with just changing clothes. They walk around chatting with friends and strangers in the nude. They blow dry their hair and other parts in the nude. They go into the sauna in the nude. They do their make-up and style their hair in the nude.

Needless to say, the first few visits to the gym were a little strange to me, but after some time I thought that it was kind of nice. Everyone is comfortable with themselves and they don’t feel like they need to cover anything up. What a refreshing change to the self-conscious Western attitude.

That feeling changed today!

I wanted to get to my assigned locker, but to one side was a nude lady speaking to a friend and to the other was another naked woman talking on the phone. I was in a bit of a hurry to get to my class, so I politely used my best Chinese to say ‘Excuse me.’ Of course, no one moved. I tried again in a slightly louder voice. Still, no luck. Finally, I tried to squeeze in between them to access my locker. As I bent down to open the door I was hit in the side of the head with nude lady to the left’s bum. I quickly jerked to the right to get away from the bum and managed to hit nude lady to the right’s bum square on with my face.

It was at that precise moment that I realized Westerners cover up in the change room for reasons other than modesty! Nobody wants a bum in the face!


“I apreeshate you!”…

“I apreeshate you!”

Beep! Beep! Beep! Bam. This morning, like most, my sleepy-self disagreed with my alarm clock.  Unfortunately, so did the rest of my morning. Somehow my oatmeal found itself in the microwave without any liquid, the hot water decided it was happier on the counter-top rather than my mug and my toothbrush battery decided to die ten seconds into my morning brush. What a great way to start the day! Today is the day that my school is being evaluated, and hopefully authorized, as an IB school.  I needed this day to turn around.  When I stepped outside the elevator, of course it was raining. ‘Could it get any worse?’, I thought. I soon found out that, ye! Yes it could. Half way to school, I realized that my lunch forgot to put itself in my backpack.  Back to the apartment I pedaled! I needed to put a stop to the snowball effect that was overtaking my morning. Finally ,I arrived at school damp, cold and grouchy!  After scurrying around the classroom finishing last minute preparations for our special visitors my students started to arrive. I took a deep breath hoping this very bad day would not turn into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. In walked a little boy with an envelope in his hands. “This is for you, Ms. Shannon,” He said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. As I opened the note, I realized that a smile had already formed on my face. As I read the words “Dear Ms. Shannon, I apreeshate you.” I knew that my very bad morning was just that, a morning! With a hug and a beaming smile, I was ready to have an amazing day of fun-filled learning with my incredibly caring Kindergartners.  Thanks to my little munchkin, I did!