Hello and welcome to my Humanities blog site. If you are part of my new 2015-2016 community of parents or students, then doubly welcome! This is my second year in middle school at SIS, and before that I had two years working with fourth graders. That means you may already know me from the Jing Shan campus or from working with some of my sixth graders last year. I will be working with 6th and 7th graders this year, rather than 6th and 8th graders as in last year’s group. That is because there are no longer three 8th grade classes, so just one teacher needed for that level. Equally, the last two years have seen just two 7th grade classes, but this year there will be three, and so my role has shifted where the need for a second teacher is. To give you quick information, I am a New Zealander and this is my 38th year in teaching, with the last 16 years in international schools. Please take the time to read my blog and you will discover the good things that happen for middle schoolers at SIS, as well as seeing some of the work that they produce over a school year. There will be new pages and all new posts this year too. I will leave some sixth grade pages up, so that parents new to sixth grade, can see what happens for their students. As the year progresses, I’ll be able to create a more up to date picture of middle school learning and events. Hmmmm…wonder what’s happened to this fabulous group of students below?
It’s wonderful to be specialising in my favourite topics of reading and writing, and also social studies. As a high school student I met a teacher who would be one of the biggest reasons for why I do the job I find myself still in today. She taught History and English, was well travelled and was a great storyteller. I was raised by folks who also loved to travel, but in their time this meant using ocean going liners like the P&O Mariposa and Monterrey. Like many of my students, as a child I spent a lot of time by lakes,rivers, and the sea – it’s unavoidable in a place like New Zealand. The photo below was taken this past July and shows the beach that is close to where I spend most of my holidays at home.
I realized early on that if ever I was away from nature, I’d really need to make sure that I could take regular breaks to get back to the green. Having lived in large cities like Shanghai (ten years) and Dubai (three years), I know how important this is for me, even now. Shekou is a piece of green after three years in desert surrounds.>Shekou Green Please watch the video. The two following photos are iconic views of the cities in which I have worked – Shanghai’s Bund and Dubai’s Burj Al Arab are beautiful places to see.
I started teaching when I was 20 years old and have never stopped, and never stopped loving it. 38 years later I’m glad I have an innovative soul that allows me to be an agent for change. This means investing in curriculum that exemplifies best practices, and with students that exemplifies their right to the best learning environment that I can create.
Every class is different. Every class brings challenges and every student brings talent into a room – some of which they might not yet have recognized. Therein lies the joy of teaching.
In New Zealand I taught students aged 5 to 14. In Shanghai American School I taught fourth and fifth grade students, and also worked as an EAL teacher for a short period of time. I was Vice Principal in the Elementary School (Puxi) for several years too. In the American School of Dubai, for three years I loved teaching the fifth grade students.
The photo I’ve chosen for this page, shows me in the Antarctica, in 2007. I flew to the southern tip of Argentina and traveled from there across the dreaded Drake’s passage. My friends and I spent 7 days around and on ice, following penguins, watching a right whale roll up beside our zodiac boat, and enjoying the pristine air and surrounds in that environment. I’m an adventurer at heart, a traveller by nature. When I’m not teaching, I’ll do my best to find holidays that are active, and away from the crowds. I feel fortunate to be living the life I live. If you are interested in finding out how I spent this recent summer vacation, please scroll down to the very bottom of this page.
The photos above were taken in July 2010, when I spent a month on a tall ship that took me across the south pacific ocean from Fiji to the islands of Vanuatu. I signed on as a visiting crew member, and carried out the same jobs as my watch leader from the permanent crew members. My goal was to climb the rigging, get up onto the crows nest (no ladder up) and then carry on up to the top spar. It took me the whole month, but I got there!
These photos were taken in 2004. Alaska in July of that year was sunny and just gorgeous. Ten days hiking up to ice fields and ten days sea kayaking Prince William Sound, with breaks in between to recoup. We used two boat planes that took us to Upper Paradise Lake. It took us longer to land than usual – a black bear sat in the middle of our planned camping spot! The berries were the focus of both humans and black bears in that area.
With just nine of us, all New Zealanders, which included the guide and the cook, we learned quickly that once underway in kayaks or up ice bridges, there was no turning back. We carried everything in and everything out. This included a member of the group, who fell through ice and into a dry stream bed. She had a choice – walk out or pay a fortune for rescue. She walked, with the rest of us shuttling her gear and that of her supporters down to the lake . A collaborative effort made for real bonding and the trip of a lifetime.
Jumping ten years forward sees me in calmer waters. Thailand’s to be exact. Kamalaya is a health spa, where my sister Sharon and I were able to relax for four days. That being said, we both had yoga sessions, while Sharon got in aqua aerobics and fit ball too. The best day was spent on a schooner that took us out to Ahn Thong Marine National Park. You will find a connection with this trip, in my page “Passion Project”. Sharon managed to knit four hats, while I managed two. Kamalaya is a health spa, found on the island of Koh Samui.
Chinese New Year Holiday, February, 2015:
For this last holiday, I headed home to New Zealand. February is a great time to visit. At that time, the weather is at its summery best and the beaches are quiet, as school has started again for the new year. My sister Sharon, took the week off work, to hang out with me. We spent time chatting, reading, going to the beach, enjoying good food and the great weather. It’s exactly what I needed, after a busy 6 weeks at work. In fact, I got to see two more of my siblings as well. This is what keeps me grounded, connected to family and feeling refreshed for the next round at work. Family is number one for me, and I often remind students of the importance of having a family. Some children don’t have that. And talking about families, below is a photo of my brother Paul, sisters Michele and Sharon, and Michele’s husband and children. This was taken at a hired beach house, on the Gold Coast of Australia, Kirin Beach.
While I was home, my sister continued with her dragon boating practices. You will also see the dragon boating girls wearing pink. This is one courageous team – all have had breast cancer, and all remain active sports women.
This picture was taken in my sister Joanne’s garden. My three sisters all love flowers, and my brother keeps a veggie garden. I so enjoy being at home to share in my sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful gardens.
Winter Holiday and time for Summer!
There is nothing like being at home at the beginning of summer, and being with family for the festive Christmas season. Those of my siblings who live in New Zealand, make a point of meeting in one of our homes to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On that day, we start with brunch, and then move onto a late afternoon feast – much like an American Thanksgiving meal. This time we also had an SIS familiar face in the form of Ms. Qavi who came to join us. I was able to show her some of the beautiful sights that make up the North Island of New Zealand.
There were a number of SIS staff members in New Zealand to enjoy summer, and New Zealand’s pristine environment. While Sarah Qavi enjoyed seakayaking, hiking and blackwater rafting in the central North Island, Mark McElroy spent time in the same island, surfing, hiking and whitewater rafting. There is so much to do if you love the outdoors. The Kaituna River is just out of Rotorua, about 45 minutes away from Mount Maunganui, where I was staying with my sister. This was the second time I got to raft down the Kaituna, a level 5 on the whitewater rafting scale of difficulty. If you could see the drop from the last waterfall, you would understand why! I was happy to find that we had the most experienced guide, the reason we stayed right side up for the toughest white water events, and why one group didn’t! Mark went on to do the toughest river of them all in New Zealand, and loved every second. The Wairoa River is a true level 5 – all go for the length of the trip. I was just thankful that my back held up, on the Kaituna. The Rangitaiki River, which is in the same area is more of a family style experience – a level 2.
One other group exploring the North Island, were Mr. and Mrs. Wright – who visited Hobbitsville, and went hiking in Tongariro National Park.
Mr. and Mrs. Wright stayed with friends in Auckland, and I met up with them in Rotorua.They also spent time with Mr. Tuia who used to be the ES principal here at SIS.
Summer Fun continued with Ms. Qavi, when we took a sea kayaking guided trip to Cathedral Cove
on the Coromandel Coast.
What’s in a Birthday?
Just over two weeks past my 58th birthday, and I spent that day being thankful for the life I have. Not many of my birthdays have been fanfares, grand gatherings of friends. My 50th was a blast, but my 42nd was probably more memorable – the first in China. We were a group of adventurers in a city that was still considered a hardship post. It was hard to find butter and milk, and there was one coffee shop. Starbucks was nowhere in sight. I spent three days after my birthday, with food poisoning. Seems that I ate more cream from the top of my cake, than anyone else!
This most recent birthday, my sister sent me a photo of her and my brother Paul, sitting by the sea at a beach in an area called The Mount, North Island, New Zealand. I sent a photo back, of me and Ms. Youssef by the sea too, in Shekou, Shenzhen – a way of connecting across the seas. We are wearing the latest of our hats, knitted for the refugee children of Syria.
I also sent my siblings a photo of my office desk – bordered with hats, along with a pin board of love letters and cards from former students.
And what else do I think of, when I have a birthday? I think of my family – my sister Sharon, who finished her 100th hat for Syrian children, one day after Christmas day, 2014. I think of my other sister Joanne, happily knitting for the same cause. I think of my brother Paul, and my nephew Chris – playing their guitars, as they always do when they get the chance to be together. I think of the green of New Zealand, and get a little homesick.
April 17, 2015 finished in the most wonderful way. I chaperoned at the Spring Fling middle school dance. Very few of my students knew it was my birthday, until a colleague said something within hearing of an 8th grade student, during lunchtime. The word got out, and I had a visit from 8Wind, the advisory group that my 6Wind Funky Twisters adore. They sang, and then later, after the dance, my 8th grade boys said “Happy Birthday, Ms.Walsh!”as I headed home. It was spontaneous and genuine – another reason why I love “my kids”.
Family means a lot to me, and it will for those who choose to keep strolling down to read this work. My guitar playing nephew has been posting images that he’s captured on early mornings, as he finishes his shift work. The photo above is of a place called Mount Maunganui, on the Bay of Islands in the North Island of New Zealand. It’s the classic volcanic shaped mountain in Chris’s shot, and this mountain sits at the end of a spit of land. It’s a classic site for what the Maori (native New Zealanders) believed to be a safe place to head to, before an impending battle with other tribes.
Summer/Winter Holidays – June 2015 to August 2015
I’ve only just returned from New Zealand, and what a wonderful time that was. I was able to spend time with all of my siblings, and found that they are all happy in their lives. They live very different lives too, but every single one of them (three sisters and one brother) are where they want to be and have days that are enriched by friends and family and activities that bring them joy and satisfaction. In a nutshell, I spent my month in New Zealand enjoying family, friends, good food and fresh air. My youngest sister came over from Australia for what we siblings call ISAW – International Siblings Appreciation Week. Below is a photo of me with Michele, enjoying one on one time as we finished a walk around a small mountain that dominates the area I love to return home to. You can see that I went home to Winter – and loved the mix of chilly days with the sun and blue skies in there too.
Like other international teachers, I love to catch up with good friends. The next photo shows me relaxing with a wonderful friend, who was a teaching colleague over 20 years ago. Like me, she loves her work and when we get together, we often talk about yesterday’s teaching experiences, and today’s students and their learning.
Food is an important part of enjoying life. Take a look at this beautiful dessert that was one part of a wonderful dinner with my family. It also helps to have a brother who indulges his siblings with the best home cooking!
Fresh air of course, is something I really appreciate whenever I head home. I continue to promote New Zealand as a great place to visit. Whoever gets this far in this page, should consider New Zealand and especially the Bay of Plenty as a travel option. You’ll see here, photos of Pilots Bay on a sunny morning, the other side of the mountain my sister Michele and I walked around, and pictures of my sister Sharon and I on a kayaking trip to thermal pools in Lake Rotoiti – only reachable by boat. This is part of our history – being on boats and travelling to these pools as small children. We hired a guide to take us there this time, and any visitor to New Zealand can do this trip. Well worth the physical effort.
Dubai and South Africa – reconnecting with friends
I didn’t tell you that my time in June, once school finished, was spent in Dubai and South Africa – Johannesburg and Cape Town. I do love meeting with friends in exotic places, as well as having fun, which often means some kind of challenging activity. If you take a look at the “My Writing” page, you’ll find a letter there that tells about my tandem skydiving adventure.
Taking Flight – Comfortably!
Before I arrived in South Africa, I had in my head that I would do the great white shark cage diving, which basically takes up a whole day. The boats do not leave from Capetown and so an early morning trip to the location starts the beginning of a long but I am sure, exhilarating day. Turned out that the water was going to be FREEZING! And so instead, I chose to do something I expected to have already done in New Zealand. Paragliding is popular in Queenstown, South Island of New Zealand. I just haven’t managed to get there – yet. So instead of facing sharks, I faced a wait to make sure the wind was headed in the right direction.
“Can you run?” Asked the Instructor.
“No,” I replied
“Well, you have to run and don’t stop!”
I ran and kept running straight off the cliff! I have to say that compared to skydiving, paragliding is a gentle ride, but just as deadly if anything goes wrong. It didn’t, and I loved it all. We jumped from Signal Hill and it took less than five minutes to glide over the top of Capetown and on to a strip of grass by the sea. All wonderful!
Exactly HOW many siblings do you have?
When I talk to my students about my siblings, I often refer to SIX sisters and one brother. However, three of those sisters have a different father. My mother remarried, so in total, she had five children to her first husband and three to her second husband. It’s amazing to think that their marriage is now in it’s 53rd year – something to be celebrated. My three half sisters have seven children between them. This brings my number of nephews and nieces to twelve. The oldest is a beautiful thirty year old girl, recently married to a Swede and living in Stockholm. I’m so proud of her. If you look at the first photo on this page, the artwork behind me is her work.