How to Exercise in China

You can’t go far in China without coming across people exercising in the outdoors. In fact, it is such a common occurrence that you might begin to notice that there are a few rules that you must adhere to.

  1. You must start exercising the moment you retire and not a moment sooner.
  2. Continue this routine up until the point that there is no possible way of getting one foot in front of the other.  If you are able to take even one step, you must continue exercising.
  3. You must always start with a rigorous stroll on the walking path closest to your home.
  4. Turn on your radio from the 1930s and strap it to your hip. Turn up the volume to it’s highest level.
  5. While you are walking make sure to swing your arms as high as possible, just to the brink of dislocation.
  6. Once you have completed the walking path complete the same path while walking backwards.
  7. Find a location where many people can watch you perform the next part of your regiment.
  8. Begin by clapping your hands in all directions. You missed one. Keep clapping!
  9. Circle your arms in both directions until they begin to feel like jelly.
  10. Now that your arms are warmed up it is important to use as much force possible to smack all body parts. Start with your neck and move downwards.Yes, even there!
  11. Locate the nearest tree.
  12. Throw yourself backwards as hard as you can against this tree. Repeat until you experience shooting pains up and down your spine.
  13.  Rest throughout the day.
  14. When the sun goes down, be sure to find your local grocery store dancing troupe. Join them as they dance the night away.

All humour aside, it is amazing how active the elderly people are here. I just wish they would lower the stress levels for the younger generation so that they could get outside and join in too!

This is of course a generalization, but I really enjoy observing the different routines. They seem to take it so seriously and don’t seem to mind how silly they may appear while they are doing it. I wish I was as self-confident as they seem to be.

You are you

You are you

not me

or he

or she

you are
















than me

and he

and she

you are




Your thinks are your thoughts

your breath is your rhythm

Your heart is your drum

all uniquely you.


than me

and he

and she

you are


perfectly you!

Your journey

takes twists

and turns

and ups and downs

Round and round

Passing me

and he

and she

this makes




You are absolutely

not me

but I love


and you should

love you



My Literacy Shift

I have been attending a Literacy Institute over the past few years in Hong Kong. Matt Glover, Stephanie Harvey, Kathy Collins, Dan Feigleson and many other Literacy gurus have come to share their passion and ideas with hundreds of excited teachers. I attribute the change and improvement in my literacy practice  directly to this Institute.

There was something about Matt Glover that spoke to me in my first year. Is it normal to have a crush on a literacy guru? His passion and humour towards engaging young writers pulled at my heart strings. I found myself signing up for all of his workshops, raising my hand at every question, like an excited Kindergartener who wants to impress their teacher.

A few years later, I met Dan Feigleson. I read the schedule incorrectly and accidentally ended up in his workshop. I think it was fate. Although, I felt guilty. Was I cheating on Matt Glover? Practical Punctuation? Yes please! When he passed around an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut to use as a mentor text, I knew he was my new literary love. Sorry Matt, I have moved on but you will always hold a special spot in my heart. I decided to go to another workshop of his on Reading Projects.

Yes! This is what was missing in my classroom. I don’t know about you but I dreaded guided reading time. I knew that it wasn’t making a significant difference in my students’ reading practice but I felt as though everyone had to do guided reading. What could I do instead? Reading conferencing and projects, it seemed like such a perfect approach!


The workshop really made me think…

™Do we have enough books in our classroom that inspire children to read?

™Are we talking about books that children might be interested in ?

™Are we giving children time to talk about books they think their classmates might like?


Thankfully I was working in a school that encouraged and supported us to try new things.

That evening I went to the store and purchased some new book baskets. Monday morning I headed to the library to check out a cart full of new books. I spread them around the classroom and when my students arrived we talked about books. We talked and we talked and we talked. I talked about some of the new books around the room. They talked about the books that they had been reading and then we read! Some children took their library book out of their bag. Others took a book out they had brought from home. Most children found an exciting new book from the baskets. I sat and savoured the sight just for a moment. Yes, this is far superior to guided reading.

Notebook and pen in hand, I began!

I quickly glanced over the summary of what a reading conference might looked like…

  1. ™Find out what they have been reading lately
  2. ™“What are you thinking about while you read _____?”
  3. ™“Can you tell me more about that?” x 3
  4. “It sounds like you are the kind of reader that ______ (name the skill).
  5. ™Explain why that is an important skill as a reader (build their confidence)
  6.  Co-create the project-™ an opportunity for the child to solidify something we know they are doing as a reader. Not time to teach what readers do.
  7. Reiterate that what they are doing is really important and we want them to inspire other readers to do the same
  8. Decide when they will share


My first attempt:

Me: I see you have been reading some books in the Fly Guy series.

Student: Ya!

Me: What are you thinking about in these books so far?

Student: I am thinking about Fly Guy.

Me: Can you tell me more about him?

Student: He is funny.

Me: I heard that he was a funny character. How do you know that he is funny?

(Student started flipping through pages)

Student: Here is whistling and copying Buzz. I don’t think flies can really do that. Over here he stamped in the water and it looks really funny.”

Student: It sounds like you are the kind of reader that really gets to know the characters in the book.

(Student shakes her head)

Me: This is a really important skill to have as a reader because authors don’t always tell you with words about the characters personality but often they show the readers by their actions. It sounds like you really look for those examples in the book to get to know your characters.

Student: Ya.

Me: Do you think as you are reading this Fly Guy book you could keep track of the times where you see the author showing us that Fly Guy is a funny character?

Student: Okay!

Me: You have showed me 2 examples already, let’s put a post-it note on them now. How many examples do you think you can find?

Student: I think I can find 4 or 5.

Me: That is great! This will really help you to get to know Fly Guy and it will help you when you come to reading a different book because you will know how to get to know your characters in those stories too. Do you think you could share this with the class when you are finished?

Student: Can I share tomorrow ? 

Me: (barely containing my excitement) That sounds great.


Yes, I love this! Time for round two! I found another student with a stack of books that she had found in one of the baskets.


Me: What have you been reading?

Student: Lots and lots of books about animals.

Me: I know you love your animals. What have you been thinking about while you are reading these books.

Student: I have lots of animal books at home too and I just really want to stop people from killing animals.

Me: Can you tell me more about that?

Student: Well I keep seeing more books about different animals and in every book they tell me how people are hurting them and I just want them to stop.

Me: Could you show me an example of that in one of the books.

Student: Well I didn’t know that people can hurt sea otters too but if you look here the sea otters sometimes get covered in oil and they can’t keep themselves warm and if they try to clean off the oil they are poisoned. People also use their fur to keep warm, like jackets and gloves. It just makes me sad. (grabs another book) I already knew a lot about rhinos but I didn’t really know why they used their horns for medicine. This part shows me that they make medicine for so many different things and there is no proof it works. No one knows if it even works and the rhinos are almost extinct. (she continues for a while because she is desperate to share everything she has learned)

Me: It sounds like you are a researcher when you read.

Student: I am always researching animals.

Me: There is a lot of information in these books though, how do you decide what is so important?

Student: Well I read it all first and then I go back to the pages that I remember were really interesting and I read it again.

Me: Re-reading is a really important skill to have as a reader. I find myself re-reading a lot of different parts when I read non-fiction as well.

(Student interrupts)

Student: I like to write down what I learned like on a poster or a book or my writer’s notebook or something.

Me: (Again, barely containing my excitement) Wow! That is such a great way to help us to remember what we have learned in our reading. Do you think you could show me how you do that? Can I give you some post-it notes to mark the pages that you thought were interesting?

Student: Okay, can I have some big poster paper too so I can write down all of the important things. I think I will need 5 sheets of paper.

Me: Sure, let’s go get those. I think this will be really wonderful if you could share your project with the class because readers read non-fiction texts differently than fiction texts. It will be great if you could show the class how you pull the important information out of non-fiction texts as you read and re-read a text.


Once students started sharing their reading projects, it inspired other to try out what their fellow readers were doing and the classroom was full of excitement towards reading. I had students begging to come to me and tell me about their books. Yes, this is what learning to read was all about!


Do you do reading projects in your classroom?




Advice from the Train

Hong Kong has the most amazing public transportation system. I take the subway with my daughter just about every day. It is fast, convenient and clean. If I was asked to improve the train system, I wouldn’t add more routes or even increase the frequency of trains. No, that is perfect already. I would add a rule. actually a ban! I would forbid the elderly passengers from giving advice. I would put an end to the terrible advice that they spew to other parents, whether or not they speak your language.  Since having Marlowe, I have received some funny pieces of advice from the local elderlies.

Advice from the train…

  • “Uhhh excuse me” as an elderly man scurries across the platform “I think it better to hold the baby like this” as he uses his hands to gesture that my husband should have the baby sling in front of him rather than on his hip.”

I think it is just fine!

  • An older woman sits down next to me and peaks at the baby in my arms “Your baby is too young, she must be inside, very, very bad. The wind is not good for baby!” She proceeds to use her hands to demonstrate the way the wind will blow through the air.

I think it is just fine!

  • As I am changing trains a woman runs across the platform to inform me that “Many babies maybe will be afraid of this toy.” This particular toy is a crocheted cartoon with a large smile on his face.

I think it is just fine!

  • While I am breastfeeding Marlowe in her sling, a woman notices what I am doing, sees that there is a row of men in the seats across from us and she reaches over and pulls the side of the sling up and over Marlowe to cover my breast.

I think it is just fine!

  • A woman yelled at me in Chinese as she grabbed Marlowe’s long sleeve shirt then tried pulling the legs of her pants down to try to cover the small patch of leg showing in the 19 degree weather. I can only assume she was concerned that she was not dressed in 27 layers.


Thankfully I have had just as many words and gestures of kindness and support while on the train as well.








The case of the disappearing pants

This morning as I rushed around the house, preparing for a visit with an old friend. Late as always.  I grabbed my daughter’s clothes and brought them downstairs. I packed her food, diapers, water and shoes. Only 5 minutes late, I thought. Not bad! I put on her sweater and socks but couldn’t find her pants. I was certain I had brought them down with me. I ran upstairs to see if I had dropped them along the way but they were nowhere to be found. I dug through the mountain of clean laundry to grab another pair and rush down the stairs, as the minutes flew by. On my way down I thought, I wonder if she had moved them somewhere. She has been obsessed with opening and closing the drawers lately. SO I started peaking in our drawers around the house. Sure enough, there in the bottom drawer were her pants. When I took them out she looked at me and smiled! I on the other hand laughed. At least I had a good story to tell when I explained why I was so late!



Teaching Philosophy

Recently, Jeezy and I have been in a fog of applications to schools all over the continent. Is the job application process for other professions as time consuming? Every school seems to want something a little different. Between Jeezy and I, we could put together a novel of cover letters. Recently I have been working on my Teaching Philosophy. I find this particular document difficult. When I am speaking face to face with someone, I know my passions come through, but I worry that on paper they aren’t quite as evident.

This is my teaching philosophy that I have sent to a school that follows the IB curriculum. Any suggestions?


As an educator, I use an inquiry-based, constructivist approach to learning. I believe that children are naturally curious and it is our job to nurture and encourage their natural desire for information. I teach my students the skills they need to find the answers to their questions and direct them to go deeper in their personal inquiries. I have spent the last six years in International Baccalaureate schools and I strongly believe in the five essential elements of the IB curriculum.

I consistently seek out new research on best practice in the classroom and take part in meaningful discussions in a variety of professional learning communities to explore techniques that promote learning in my classroom. This allows me the opportunity to continually reflect and refine my practice.

I find that students learn best in a classroom where they feel safe, valued and respected. In my classroom, students are encouraged to wonder, ask questions and are given time to find the answers to their personal inquiries. I help my students to develop a growth mindset in which they feel comfortable making mistakes and try things again and in different ways. To meet the needs of all students I use a mix of collaborative and independent work, differentiation strategies and flexible groups. I use creative learning spaces as an opportunity for my students to choose a place where they feel comfortable working, learning and reflecting.

I believe that students should see themselves as readers and writers at the very earliest stages of their learning journeys. I use a balanced literacy approach; establishing a reader’s workshop that that uses a mix of guided reading, shared reading, interactive read alouds, independent reading, reading conferences, book clubs and reader’s notebook. I believe that a love for reading should be the ultimate goal of my teaching. My writer’s workshops include a short mini-lesson where we look to mentor texts for authentic examples of the teaching points, followed by a large block of writing time with student conferences, and always ending with time to share and celebrate their peers writing. I am an avid reader and writer myself, and feel it is important to model my reading and writing alongside my students by sharing my personal challenges, successes and excitement towards literacy.

In my classroom, mathematics is taught through inquiry where we focus on the concepts, this allows for natural differentiation because students can explore the concept at their own level. Students learn how to solve problems in creative ways and understand that there is more than one right way to find a solution. I give my students the opportunity to develop their inner mathematician and scientist while they are playing and discovering indoors and outdoors. I feel that it is important for students to be exploring and learning in nature whenever possible. When planning for all areas of curriculum, I first look for natural connections to the units of inquiry and then create stand alone planners to ensure students are developing in all areas of their learning.

I believe that social and emotional development goes hand in hand with academic development. I use mindfulness in my classroom as a tool to reduce stress, improve classroom management and help my students grow both socially and academically. I take time each day to practice mindfulness in a variety of forms so that my students leave with a toolbox of strategies to bring with them into the world. I have quiet spaces in the classroom where children can go to when they need time to reflect and regroup.

I find that a working partnership with my students’ parents is key to helping my students reach their full potential. I use email, daily communication books, weekly newsletters, class blogs, student portfolios and progress reports to ensure that parents are able to reflect with their child on their learning more effectively at home. I have an open door policy, where I encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom and come to share their expertise with the class.  

I am committed to nurturing a community of learners who care about and support one another and their world. I strive to inspire and empower my students to be life long learners and have a positive impact in their local and global communities. I am authentic in all that I do, and while I may make mistakes, I will never stop learning, reflecting, and growing. I hope that my students see that in me and strive for it in themselves.


Life lesson

Jeezy and I have decided that our time in Asia will come to an end at the end of this school year. It is hard to believe that we will be moving back to North America.

When I left my job in Canada, I was angry. I remember telling everyone, “I AM  MOVING TO ASIA AND NEVER MOVING BACK!”  I did not receive much encouragement and I left holding onto a lot of guilt. Goodbyes were especially hard when no one seemed happy or proud of my decision to teach abroad. It was hard but I can’t imagine spending those 8 years any other way.

Looking back now,  I can see that I wasn’t meant to be in Canada at that point in my life but I think I am now. I know that if we move back, it doesn’t need to be forever and that makes the move so much easier. I have notebooks full of lessons that I have learned along the way (that’s for another post) but the one that stands above all the other is:

“This is my life, I am the only one who gets to choose how I live it.”

It’s mine

It’s not yours

It’s mine like yours is yours

Parents have theirs and their parents had theirs

and you have yours

I’ll live mine and you live yours


No regret

No guilt

No shame

No remorse


Did you hear me






It’s mine

It’s not yours

I’ll live mine

you live yours


We are free

Wait, what should I do?

Co sleeping is wonderful

                                                   You’ll suffocate her!

Breastfeed only


No bottles

                                                  Pump for freedom!

Glass bottles only

                                                  Plastic, glass will break!

Transport with a carrier

                                                  Hip displaysia is real, strollers only!

Get outside

                                                  Oh god the sun!

Feed on demand

                                                  Schedule, schedule, schedule!

Follow their sleepy cues

                                                  Didn’t you hear me, SCHEDULE!

Soothe every cry

                                                  Cry it out!

Breast to soothe

                                                  You aren’t a pacifier!

Solids at six months

                                                  Why wait?

Help her walk if she wants

                                                  Stop, she’ll be bow legged!

Purée her food

                                                  Not enough texture, baby led weaning!

Baby led weaning

                                                  She’ll choke, purée everything!

Don’t bathe too often

                                                  Scrub that baby every night!


The hardest part of having a newborn is learning to ignore everyone’s advice and opinions!