Back in the Classroom – as a visitor at the Singapore American School

We have been in Singapore for a week now. Slowly, we are adjusting to the 7 hour time difference from London, and more significantly, the 90F temps and humidity. We are quickly learning that the phrase, ‘only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ has great validity. We carry sun umbrellas when we leave the house, hats would not provide enough protection, and anyway, Singaporeans do not wear hats. We want to blend in.

We are staying with friends, Bernie and Pearl, and their two children. Gigi and Pearl worked together a few moons ago at Cisco; Pearl actually hired Gigi into Cisco after Gigi had spent ┬átime there as a consultant. We went to Bernie and Pearl’s wedding. Our beautiful backyard irises and magnolia bush were gifts from Pearl when she sold her San Mateo house and gave away all her backyard potted plants.

Next week is the Singapore American School’s (SAS) easter break week, so today is the unofficial, traditional ‘class rewards party’ day. Justin has been invited to come his new friend’s 4th grade classroom party. This would be a chance for Justin to hang out with a group of his age peers, something that has been sorely lacking on this trip. It took us about an hour to get here by the MRT (railway system), and we arrived just as the students were transitioning into party mode. As we walked in, the students spontaneously clapped for Justin and me. Boy, I felt special. About 10 minutes ago, another teacher walked in the room and the students spontaneously clapped. Perhaps this is just Singaporean student custom. At this moment,┬áJustin is sitting on the class couch next to his friend, munching on popcorn and watching the animated movie Rio. The other students are draped around the room, lounging on the floor on pillows, sitting on their desks or in their seats. Pajamas have been slipped into.

It feels good to be back in a classroom, and not just because it is air conditioned. This room could be in Justin’s old elementary school. The teacher has a Promethean board, desks are arranged in squares of 4, baskets of books; teacher made posters about reading, classroom behavior, the writing process. I found the Gary Paulsen book basket and held Hatchet in my hands. I taught this book for many years in my 7th grade classroom. Who knows, maybe I will find myself teaching in a 4th grade classroom come September.

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