Psychology class has been such a rewarding experience. It’s a lot of work, but I strongly feel every class is so valuable to the students lives. I am anxious to come home and read the text book and find clever new ways to apply and share the concepts with class.
We watched some really fun prank videos that portray perception, analyzed experiments conducted by famous researchers like Milgram and his study of obedience, demonstrated some in-class activities on shaping and conditioning behavior, and learned how we learned by recreating studies like Bandura's bobo the clown experiment. The second half of the year we will focus on about 5 more chapters while simultaneously preparing them for their semester long research project. They will either create an experiment or create their own. I am very anxious to see what they come up with. Of Course, Syracuse requires I guide them, and thoroughly review them along the way.
This year I have two Technology Education assistants. This is more easily described as an internship for them. They are working closely beside me and learning how to use the latest gadgets at our school. We just received 2 new Go Pro 5, two DJI Osmos and Phantom drone. Additionally, they will be teaching other students how to use these items.
But this program is not all fun and games. I have asked them to make a year long goal sheet to share with me and each other. They will host workshops for teachers and students that focus on technology education "101" seminars. The whole year is going to be about learning and teaching themselves. They will shadow me, but I'll try to let them figure out as much on their own as possible.
Student Henry really wants to learn the Adobe products and create Adobe 101 lessons for students and teachers. Amy is really good at advertising and design so she'll make some graphics for school clubs. What got us really moving along was the advancements Google Sites has made. We share a page to communicate and mark down our ideas. I'm really looking forward to building these students into leaders and experts.
Our school has a fantastic college preparation program they adopted from the United States. Syracuse University Project Advance trains teachers on their campus at Syracuse to instruct introductory level courses. Last year I had the opportunity to study Entrepreneurship. It was a semester long course with with sections. It was fast paced and very much learn on the go. Like AP or IB, SUPA sets the bar very high. The workload is three x times a high school class. If it's your first time teaching a college course, you may feel constantly unprepared. However, the thrill of providing a class of this stature to your students makes it all worth it in the end. If the students successfully complete the course, they will receive three transferable college credits from Syracuse.
This year I applied for Psychology. We figured it's one of the most common courses taken by an undergraduate student. The course will be one section, one year long. This should make it easier to focus on fundamentals and in depth coverage.It should be a challenge for me, academically, but I am confident Syracuse has given me the material and training to provide a quality instruction.
We successfully completed our first TEDx event. TEDxISHCMCAmericanAcademy was a year in the making. This was hands down the most exciting part of my career. I am thankful to all those who helped make it possible.
To orchestrate a successful event, you don't need a rule book. You'll need about 100 rulebooks. TED has guidelines for you to adapt the TEDx Brand legally. If it was an easy event, everyone would be doing it. What made it possible was the incredible Co Organizer I had, the incredible support I got from teachers and the hidden talent held by our students.
For the schools or teachers that are eager to run their own TEDx event, I would like to give you three key pieces of advice. First and foremost, make sure its something everyone wants to do. Without buy-in, you'll never get off the ground. Administration marketing, teachers and parents all need to know in advance this is a school priority. Secondly, be certain you have a core group of teachers and students to head the event. Explaining the complicated jargon TED uses and weeding through the fine print is a full time job. Without a team to do this, you'll burn your teachers out. Students or a TEDx club can be an invaluable resource. And third, start small. There is no need to make this the biggest event your school has ever seen. The more speakers you bring in, the more time the event will take, the more training you have to do. All this will lead to less quality and overlooking of detail. Paying attention to detail is so crucial.
If you still need some advice on whether or not a TEDx event is for you, let me tell you,it is! It won't be easy, but it will all be worth it. I suggest going to a nearby TEDx event and participating in the follow-up dialogues held a day after.
Please take a look at our event and watch some of the students Tedx Talks here
Tet is coming! TET is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. I aligns with most of Asia in their Lunar New Year. This whole continent is celebrating at the same time. But each country has its own unique culture and storyline for this holiday. All sorts of delicious snacks like, bánh chưng (see below) are created for this holiday. Teams of dragon performers run around the city banging on drums. There used to be an awesome display of fireworks, but the government recently put a crack down on that. You can read about it in this english version of Vietnamese news online Tuoitrenews.com or Saigoneer
I've been studying vietnamese for a bit over a year now (on an off). I wish I would have started earlier. It really is a fun language to learn (once you get it). Tonal and complicated, words don't sound like words and the letters all sound different from what you think they sound like. To my ear I'll say a word correctly, but a vietnamese person will have no idea what I mean until I guess the tone a few more times. Know the language or not, the vietnamese people are very curious about us foreigners. Particularly in the country side, vietnamese people will ask you a lot of personal questions. This is just their way of showing they are interested in you. The first 3 questions are almost always: :Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married yet? Even in cities you'll be greeted with a smile by a taxi driving lounging on his motorcyle reading the newspaper while having a coffee and smoke. It's an incredible place to live, and the sights never get old. You may become immune to the #stuffonthebacksofbikes , but its always exciting to face the road and watch.
Recently, I have been studying with VLS. They are very professional, welcoming, accommodating and enthusiastic about teaching. As a teacher myself, I find it nice to be on the other end of the table and have a professional teach (try to teach) me. They run field trips and charity programs. They are passionate about what they do. When they asked me to be in a video to promote their school, as embarrassing as I knew it would be, I knew I was helping them with their business. If it can helps them continue the awesome program they are doing,I'll make a video every week.
We've made some significant improvements since last year. Things are growing! It helps to have a massive rainy season. But with the rain came floods. We had a few emergencies with the drainage on our roof and in our garden beds. With a bit more time on our hands, Mr Tatloack and I have been able to experiment with a few projects. We got some funding to buy plants thanks to our AD Darren. It actually looks like a garden now. Now that rainy season is over we are hoping to get some coverage from the blazing sun soon to keep our plants alive. Plants grow well, vegetables need a lot of care. Take a look at the most recent photo and see how much fun these kids have after school.
Learning2 just took place, in Ho chi Minh City.It was the second L2 I attended. I suggested it for most of my colleagues. Though it was applicable to most of them, you usually get out what you put in. I attended all three days of the event. Last year I came away with hundreds of ideas and I tried to implement all of them at once!. This time around I told myself I was going to try to hone in on one great idea. Well... that didn't work. Though my plans for this school year aren't as grandiose, there are many ways I can have a positive impact on the school. Two major projects I am taking away are: To build our schools technology department so we have a team of tech teachers to integrate technology, Ensure all our students have a blog/ online presence that they can build and take with them when the graduate. This may even be a portfolio for them to keep all their work.I'll try to start this by helping increase student awareness of social media with our school twitter account and twitter beam.
But what I was most proud of was the performance my students made. For about 3 weeks we prepared a presentation to give to teachers from around the world. Three students of the Sunbearsound put together an incredible presentation to show off what they've been doing for the last year. Actually, L2 is where the idea came from. When I was in Manila I saw a group of students present about the Bamboo Telegraph. My principal and colleagues we so impressed by the presentation they give. They even put together their own video for the event. Have a look below
What started off as an idea, quickly morphed into a massive event on March 4, 2017. The strategy to slowly integrate TED talks into our assemblies and homerooms created a "TED culture" in our school. Soon students were looking to create their own TED Ed club. Four months into the school year and the kids are actively helping to organize the event. after a long and tedious audition process, we had to make some difficult decision. we chose the best 12 speakers based on their 3 minute pitch. No buy in from our neighboring school, which is unfortunate because all our speakers are students.
In order to increase buy in for this event I promised to make it happen with very few meetings. And the meetings we did have would not be our traditional agendas. Instead, I cranked AC DC and asked teachers to come for a 20 minute meeting after school. Most of the teachers had other responsibilities that day, but still made it. I hope this was because of our hand delivered invitations. It had that dramatic effect. Teachers were happy to be there and the objective was simple; find out your role. The meeting only lasted 15 minutes, so they all left happy.
Now, with the help of the volunteers and the dedication of the TED Ed club, my co organizer, Andrew Mathie, and I can focus on accomplishing some tasks. We are thrilled to have such dedicated staff. The first week of speaker coaching has happened. The kids will have over 3 months to put together their presentation and the best part is they'll have a coach along the way. There's so much more to say about this, but in all honesty I don't have a time. Organizing an event of this magnitude is a fulltime job. so I'll update when we've some more information. Below are some students gaining real life experience marketing our event.
The Moon festival of Vietnam, the first major holiday of the school calendar year, came and went already. The kids had been preparing this event since the second week of classes. Its a holiday with folklore and family traditions. I think it sums hope the historical legends of Vietnamese history with a touch of magic. Think of it like a cross between Christmas and Memorial day in the US.
School has been well underway and the fun is in full swing. After schools activities have taken control of the school. Boys basketball and volleyball, gardening club, board games and the Sunbear Sound are all at maximum occupancy.
The start of the new school year was much smoother than last year. We had 150 new students! Our total student number increased by about 60 students. Many students graduated or left to go to school in the US. Its hard to retain these students for their entire high school career, but we wish them the best. Here are a few photos of our Moon Festival
The following is the letter I sent to my students following the completion of their Passion Projects. They worked on this for a few hours each week for 6 months. What they came up with was remarkable and reminds me why I am a teacher.
You all did such and amazing job! I am so unbelievable proud of you. You are the first class I ever did the passion projects with and you far exceeded my expectations. You should feel very accomplished.
Hopefully this project steers you in the right direction, or even changes your mind about your career aspirations. You can consider it, for some of you, a mini internship. I've seen a lot of great projects in my 5 years teaching, but nothing, I mean nothing, comes close to seeing you create something you are passionate about. Some of you sang, while others cooked. Some of you designed and created while a few you traveled. A couple of you pursued philosophical ideas or focused on a unique area of interest like trends around the world. Many of you failed, failed and failed again until one day you succeeded. That moment when your idea became a reality brings me joy. When your smile indicates you found something you loved it brings a tear to my eye and makes me proud to be your teacher.
I know this project was hard, and I know it was long. Several of you emailed me at late hours of the night concerned about the legitimacy or the eligibility of your project. You all figured it out on your own in the end. You managed your own time and broadened your knowledge. Your pursued something inside you, something a standardized tests could never bring out. I want to say thank you for allowing me to be a part of something so great!
Please watch yourselves and leave a comment about one of your classmates! I'd like to see a discussion started and some positive thoughts exchanged about what your classmates did.
Pay attention to your speaking skills and learn what you can improve on."
I kept them off of the school website to maintain your privacy. With your permission I will add them to our school Youtube channel.
Here they are on my personal blog
This is the playlist, if your video is not on there its only because I haven't labeled it yet and well fix it tomorrow.
The event was a huge success. With a lack of rehearsal and last minute videos changes, the students were all a bit nervous. The best part about this whole event was watching the faces of students who are generally quiet light up as their images and videos came on the big screen. The Sunbear Sound Team did an incredible job putting it all together at the last minute. The feedback from teachers was all positive and the kids are already talking about next year. This was such an amazing event to be a part of. I am proud to say I work atISHCMC-American Academy
My latest endeavor at AAVN was not actually my idea. In fact, the film festival idea belonged to my awesome principal, however, he conceded he has no idea how to plan something like that. We were just chit chatting about all the great things we can do at our school and the fun we have doing it . He told me a story about a colleague who once hosted a film festival with other international schools. I thought, "whoa, that's the real deal. Lets do it!" Only we wouldn't start out as grand because we've already got a lot of creative ideas floating up in the air. A few devoted students in our 1x a week meetings would be the ones who really put this together. After all the Sunbear Sound video club was not part of my job description coming into the school, but the club was created because of the video creating passion all the students and I shared.
As we speak, the kids are working on invitations, web design, the logistics of the event, ways to promote, advertisements and trailers to show at the next assembly. Getting them to all work on a common project really united the club. I told them they all have to submit a video for the festival too. They were thrilled about being able to showcase their work in a friendly competition.
As soon as the idea emerged it took on this whole new dimension spun into a partial grammy-like event. The kids want to wear a suit and gown while they walk the red carpet and receive trophies for their work (well see how that goes on a Thursday night after school). I am so thrilled to be leading this initiative. The video culture in our school has kids working on projects for classroom presentations in nearly every class. They love it. The event has given me more duties and responsibility to ensure the event runs smoothly, but its worth it to see so many kids are creating! A few students recently got detention for filming after school unsupervised. And a big thanks to our school marketing team who are going to help us host the event. I cant wait to show off the videos.
Below is the advertisement they came up with!
They also started a news and video segment to inform the student body of upcoming events
What an amazing opportunity it was to be part of something so real and so valuable to other people's lives.
With that said, let me back track. After studying our unit on the world's food supply, students were assigned with a public service campaign as their project. This aligned perfectly with the upcoming TET holiday. Two groups of students from two different classes came up with the idea of a food drive. I had to push them a little bit in the right direction, but most of what was done was completed entirely by them. For two weeks, before and after school, students made announcements to the student body and took turns standing by the gate to collect donations. We gained some support and organization from the Global Issues Network (GIN) in our school.
Gin helped us contact families and friends in desperate need of support during TET. It was originally supposed to feed 7 families, but that number quickly increased to 80 by the end of the first week! We were collected sugar, oil rice and dry food. 80 families living in the countryside revived a large food donation from our students before the holidays. When they asked me to come deliver the food I felt honored.
We took a two hour trip to the countryside and spent the whole day meeting younger kids and their families. The high school students ran fun demo lessons and sang songs with the children. It was such a delight to be part of this. They made me prouder than ever to be their Teacher. The students even spent another weekend delivering remaining food to other families. They truly gained a valuable experience during all of this and one that may change the course of their careers.
Not too long ago we were just some students with a passion for making videos (myself included because I'm a beginner). It was a film shown in the first assembly that grabbed the schools attention. I made a fun infomercial to explain what type of device was approved for class. After that, more and more kids wanted to make videos for our assemblies. The student council had some talented film producers and so did GIN. I grabbed the most talented student and asked her to help build a program. Gradually, we gained some traction and started meeting as a group once a week.
We had 2 cameras and only one of them had a working battery. We had dozens of wires that I still don't know what they're for. Luckily the kids had their own cameras. We discovered it doesn't take much filming to make a great film, We have Adobe premiere pro and effects as our a editing software . The hard part was deciding what to produce. Was it just for fun and games or was it to get an important message out to kids? Either way we had to compete with our neighbor and friendly rival ISHCMC who had a whole program devoted to video production. We settled on the idea that our videos would unite the school and community in an entertaining way.
The professional development I attended in Manila, Learning 2, which is the source of a lot of this years ideas, lead to another development in our group. Three students at the International School of Manila held a cohort for a school news channel. The Bamboo Telegraph is entirely student ran with state of the art of equipment. The Program has been around for 20 years. Those kids were so talented and so confident speaking in front of a room full of teachers (I think they knew they were brighter than us). If I wanted to build our schools group within my two year contract I knew we had to act fast. Upon my return to ISHCMC American Academy I asked the video club to think of a name so we could buy the domain. Behold The Sunbear Sound
We are currently working with the school magazine to develop a fully online platform for appropriate, school related articles and entertainment that is entirely produced by the students.
Here is a taste of what we produce:
Not too long ago my class started something called a passion project. This slightly mimicked Google's Genius hour. My instructions started off kind of sloppy and unorganized. I felt as thought I confused my student. However, we went back to our passion project every Friday. Students would spend about 30 minutes on this project every Friday in class. The students were also instructed to spend more time on their own outside of class.
Two key points for any teacher who wants implement a passion project concept.
Develop a weekly/ biweekly check-in. - I found that when I checked in with students from week to week, they made much more progress than if I let them hand it in at the very end (I compared two years of passion projects and the second year I was much more diligent with my check-ins). The monitoring and feedback sessions we had together turned out to be really helpful for the kids.
Help them find their passion- The number one complaint of students will be, "I don't know what I am passion about. " Sit with them, talk to them, interview them, help them choose an area to focus. In the past I have assigned students a passion just to get them started, As it turns out, knowing what they don't like helps them find what they do like.
Be flexible, show your own example, show off students working hard and good luck.
Its that time of year again! The leaves have fallen, snow has dusted the ground and Christmas trees fill the neighbors windows. Oh wait, I am not in New York anymore. It's sweltering hot, motorbikes rule the road and Christmas decorations are thrown up at every major sopping center. But few locals actually celebrate it. In Vietnam, Christmas is more of a shoppers holiday and good reason to take selfies. Oddly enough the streets and malls are decorated from floor to ceiling with holiday cheer, but only 7% of Vietnam's population is catholic. Nonetheless, it is still a lot of fun. More and more kids at younger ages are being exposed to Christmas, not as a religious holiday, but as a fun day that is filled with presents and songs. So when I found out our music teacher wanted to play Christmas songs all week with his band I thought it was a perfect opportunity to show up and show some of my students what Christmas is all about... Santa!
In the blazing sun and smoke filled highways I left my house every morning decked out in a Santa suit. Bikes with children on them nearly cut me off just to wave. Not to mention it was hard to steer with my backpack as my belly. Others drove by like they've seen it all before. In fact, nothing really phases me on a motorbike anymore. #stuffonthebackofbikes.
Upon arrival, teachers all smiled and foreign staff took photos with me. It took a short while for some of the kids to come around. Once the photos started they didn't stop. A few kids snagged a video of me dressed as Santa playing basketball. Though it may not be big in their country, a lot of them will go to America or another Western country to study. If anything, the kids got a kick out of their teacher dressed as Santa. And Mr. Scott did an incredible job getting all the middle school kids to play along. Merry Christmas!!
A few weeks back I attended a professional development called learning 2 in Manila. Teachers gathered from international schools around the world to discuss the possibilities of change in the classroom. "Stop. Rethink. Change." was the mantra. It was there I first learned of a passion project or some may call it Genius hour.
I came back to HCMC, Vietnam and immediately invited my students to start a Passion Project once a week. I promised we'd spend 10-15 minutes a week working on something they love! I never really figured out exactly what the project would be, but the kids just loved the idea.
Whenever I ask my kids to do a big activity, I usually do the project too. For example, we each created a Food waste diary during our unit on the world's food supply. So this time around I was going to do the passion project also. It helps me model and establish good rapport with the kids.
I asked myself "what was my passion?" I loved making videos, I loved travelling and I loved being outdoors. I had to look real hard at my surroundings and history. I thought of my time doing construction with my brother, the massive vegetable garden I grew for 3 years at my mother's house and the landscaping I used to do for a private employer. I loved to get outside and get dirty. I thought, why not grow a garden? The benefits of a school garden are endless. Our rooftop was the perfect space that wasn't being used. Plenty of sunshine (maybe too much) and plenty of kids who would be willing to help.
When I asked these kids how many of them have planted a seed only 1/4 of them raised their hand. I was shocked. I guess this generation grew up with tech and some of them missed the planting a seed class in elementary school. At first it was a struggle to get the idea going, but word started to travel. Science got involved and GIN is planning on creating their own compost.
Students were encouraged to use recyclable bottles to start their seedlings. We planted everything from pumpkin and cucumber to Brussels sprouts and Ghost pepper. We still need to plant broccoli and spinach. Extra credit was given to kids who brought in their own potted plants (not vegetables). Once the seedlings started to grow I was receiving endless requests from the students to have class on the roof.
I just recently purchased a small amount of lumber at a ridiculous price compared to wood in the US (it was actually much more expensive here). I would have loved to find some recyclable stuff. The idea is to make an Urban Garden. This is how it begins.
A couple months back my Assistant Deputy Head asked me, "What if we did an amazing race-type field trip where the kids had to do challenges around the country. Would that be crazy?" My answer was, "Lets do it!" From there she headed the logistics and preparation until the very last day of the trip. Well done Heather (check out her blog) It truly was an incredible trip. With the assistance of EXO Adventures we were able to make it happen.
5 teams, 5 teachers, all on buses, completing physical and psychological challenges for 5 days in Central Vietnam. We produced a very basic itinerary: Fly into Hue, Travel by Bus to Lang Co and then to Hoi An, Fly back to Ho Chi Minh City from Da Nang via Vietjetair.
Everyday the kids were asking us, "Whats next?" But we didn't really know because we were involved in the game too. Surely we had an idea of in order to ensure all the safeguarding practices were met, but we didn't let the kids know what little we knew.
Teachers only encouraged the kids to make decisions, we tried to stand back as much as possible This was so difficult at some points. Once the first clue was given, students broke out in a mad dash and raced for the boats across a river to search for a former tiger and elephant fighting arena. It was a really cool first clue. The next task involved sprinting around the Hue Citadel and completing a series of riddles based on the images and stories of the past. We started to notice heated exchanges between students here and quickly gave a sportsmanship speech to settle things down. Points were tallied and at the end of the week and awards were given out (all the kids got the same award with the exception of one group who had a mid-week foot massage)
Travelling everyday was probably the most difficult job, but students quickly learned they weren't staying in one place for long. Another challenge involved high wire ropes, zip-lines and ruining up big hills. Students had to conquer their fears and work together to finish the tasks. The following day was spent on the Beach in Lang co with a series of mind bending and body twisting tasks in the sand. By this time the teams were really into it and so were the teachers!
It' hard to retell these events day by day because there were so many great things that occurred in between. Students encouraged one another, applauded other teams and showed real respect to everyone involved.
The last day in Hoi An was the final challenge. This was what closely resembled the Amazing Race!
Teams were finding clues on old bridges, interviewing foreigners, locating local dishes and eating them, and interviewing natives to Hoi An on their history. It was incredible to say the least. They all finished in high spirits.
Throughout the week EXO Adventures and our team from ISHCMC American Academy encouraged students to put together a karaoke performance. Well the kids did a great job, but it might have been the teachers that stole the show. We were a surprise act at the end and we performed "Up town funk" by Bruno Mars. I have to compliment the girls on this one for preparing and organizing our dance rehearsals. Andrew and I had a good time, but didn't really do a whole lot.
Upon reaching the airport, none of the students wanted to go home. We talked about their experiences and what they appreciated most about the journey . We only had to give out two band-aids and had one missing ID card. we didn't lose any students and no hospital visits. Mission complete. I can't wait until next year!
One of the best parts of being a teacher is that everyday is different. You never get bored of your job, your constantly busy and students always surprise you with their questions and talents. But another perk is the time off. Being in the hub of South East Asia, you can travel anywhere nearby for really cheap. I can fly round trip to Thailand for the same price of a ticket from NY to DC. Not bad hey? This time I chose Taiwan. I've been putting it off forever, because I always said someday I would work there.
After studying Chinese in Beijing for a year, I gained valuable conversational skills. But 2 + years of being away and those skills started to dwindle, much like my Spanish skills. It was so rewarding to be back in a Mandarin speaking country and refresh that ability. Surprising locals and communicating with people who may have never used English in their life is comical to say the least. There is something about living in a country that doesn't speak your native tongue. Its like each daily task is a challenge. It keeps life interesting. If you want an easy and simple life don't come to Asia. But that moment you learn a new word, or realize what something means, its like being a child all over again.
Have a look at whats going on inside my school and classroom. I absolutely love teaching! Everyday is unique and it never gets boring. The Middle School Basketball Team is undefeated and the kids are all improving their video making skills
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