On the Right Track

This morning I read a NY Times article entitled The Moral Bucket List. I then posted a link to it on Facebook with this quote taken from it:

“Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

As I read it, I thought about my sister-in-law, Charity, who is the executive director of Gentle Hands, and an excellent example of the type of person described by David Brooks in the piece: “They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.”

A friend thanked me for sharing it and added a link to a short TED Talk entitled, “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes”. I don’t often watch TED talks (or many other videos, I prefer print) but I was on a train so I did and it resonated with me. I followed his steps and was able to make my life purpose fit with my current plan to go to Bolivia to share my love of books and reading with children and adults to increase their opportunities to improve their lives.

Many hours later, back home after a long walk along the Via Jacobi, I was catching up on Facebook and came across a link to this post from the International School Community Sell Your Crap. Pay Off Your Debt. Do What You Love. The title peaked my interest and I decided to watch the TED Talk of the same name that was in the post as I peeled apples for an apple crisp. In the talk, Adam Baker shared a quote from Nigel Marsh:


When I finished listening to the talk, I went and found Nigel Marsh’s talk about How to make work-life balance work which includes the quote and watched it as well.

All of these taken together make me realize I am happy because I am doing what I believe in and I have the freedom to do so. (And that maybe sometimes it is worthwhile to watch the odd TED talk.)

The apple crisp is now out of the oven and I think I will sit and enjoy some before I start sifting through my stuff and getting rid of most of it in preparation for my move in a few months.


From Finland to Rethinking Report Cards

I am sure you have seen the articles reporting that Finland is going to do away with subjects and move to topics instead. (Just in case you missed it, here is one version.)

Each time I saw something about it, I had the same thought: “sounds a lot like what we are already doing with the PYP, MYP, Common Ground Framework and other systems both new and old.” Finally I had enough when Brian Lockwood retweeted Kate Quinn’s tweet about project based learning.

I first heard about project based learning while in teachers college in the mid-nineties but I was pretty sure it had been around longer than that, confirmed by a quick Google search:

I added:

Brian mentioned report cards:

At which point Sam chimed in:

So Brian brought Tosca in:

Cary joined:

and then Marina and Sonya:

And Tania: 

And Stephanie:

Tosca created a Google form to choose a way to continue the conversation*: 

Which she followed up with a Google doc:

And that’s how you get from a frustrated reply to a retweet to a global conversation about rethinking report cards!  


*This came about because the initial suggestion was a Facebook page to which Sonya and I replied that FB is blocked at our schools. Along the way Brian and I had a laugh about what to do with our teachers who are scared of Facebook (and tech in general): Send them to China!

I explained the problem is not with my IT director, tech integrators or teacher-librarians but with some teachers who are scared of tech. I spoke to the IT director this afternoon and he got a good laugh out of the idea we should send them to China!


I wrote this post on my iPad back in January while waiting for a flight at the Frankfurt airport after about 24 hours of travel but when I looked for it in my drive to finish it and post it, I couldn’t find it. I just came across it in my notes app.

I have read many posts by people living abroad (or who have at some point) about how to answer the question, “Where’s home?” I find this a trickier question then “Where are you from?” My short answer for the latter is, “I grew up in Calgary” which while basically true – I moved there at age 10 and stayed through university and a few years after – skips a lot of the story.

I’m on way home from a trip to Melbourne (and Tasmania). I think this was my fifth trip to Melbourne and along the way it has become another home. Each time I go, I have more friends to catch up with. When I visited the first time in 1999, it was to visit Ingrid (as was this trip) and Margaret (who now lives in the US). I met their friends some of whom have now become my friends too. These friendships were reinforced when I moved in with Ingrid for 7 weeks in 2006 during my first long school holidays while I was living in Singapore. The next time I visited I spent a day at the beach with a friend from Singapore, Manjusha, who was visiting her parents. By the time I visited in 2011, I also had a friend from Twitter, Edna, and a friend I met on a trip in Morocco, Chak, to catch up with and I had the opportunity to meet Ingrid’s partner, Jo. This time I caught up with Ingrid, our mutual friends, Edna, Chak, Manjusha (visiting from Perth), Adrienne (who was visiting from Singapore – we met via Twitter, she moved to Singapore shortly before I moved to Tanzania and inherited all my kitchen stuff), and a heap of people who I worked with in Tanzania (some are living in Melbourne, others were visiting from other places).

Melbourne is unique in that I seem to be adding more friends there rather than people moving away as is the case with other places I have lived and visit – namely Calgary, Ottawa and Singapore.


It seems like I’ve been here before…

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.

- Harry Chapin, Circle


Today is one of those days I have written about before in different posts. I’ve connected with friends and family via social media like I wrote about in September 2010,  March 2013 and May 2013. I’m also planning a new adventure which like this one will involve volunteering. I keep thinking I will get this timing thing sorted (in spite of signs to the contrary) but now I find myself already thinking ahead and making tentative plans for what I will do after my next adventure  – the one that doesn’t even begin for nearly another year!

Here’s where things stood when I got up this morning:

  • I am starting my third year in my current teacher-librarian position above the shores of Lake Geneva. Here is the view out the library (floor to ceiling) windows:IMG_0005

  • I have submitted my resignation effective the end of this academic year so my last day of work will be 3 July 2015.

  • I am planning to go and volunteer in Bolivia with an organization called Biblioworks that sets up libraries in rural villages around Sucre. I would like to arrive towards the end of August 2015 so I have time to walk along the Camino de Santiago for at least three weeks as well as spend time in North America catching up with (some) family and friends in person. I would like to stay for about 10 months which would give me the chance to have a holiday and then start a new job in August or July at some international school to be determined.

And then I got on Facebook…

A friend was talking about getting rid of stuff before a move to a new house and her husband saying they wouldn’t be able to afford new stuff due to buying the house. I replied that her house would be fabulous even empty but that she could have my stuff in June. And that let piqued the curiosity of my sister-in-law’s mom so we ended up having a private conversation about my plan to move to Bolivia. She asked what they would have to get me to come to Manila. Initially I said one of the international schools would need to be looking for a teacher-librarian but then I said that if I didn’t find a job after Bolivia, I’d come and hang out at Gentle Hands (if your school blocks Facebook – like mine! – visit the website). I have debated volunteering long-term at Gentle Hands in the past but hadn’t come up with how I would best use my librarian skills there. I then started an iMessage conversation with my sister-in-law, Charity, letting her know her mom was trying to get me to Manila.  I told her that if I didn’t end up with job for the 2016-2017 school year (or sooner if Bolivia doesn’t work out), I’d come and do whatever she needed me to do. And then as I did dishes, a thought came to me that I shared with her – I COULD SET UP A LIBRARY AT GENTLE HANDS. All my teacher-librarian friends could send us their discarded books in balikbayan boxes. Charity got excited and suggested we could also set up a library in Malabon (Gentle Hands does outreach to slum community there). And now my thoughts are leapfrogging ahead to August 2016 and beyond. Oh my.

And while all of that was going on, I was wearing a princess skirt to do housework and bake brownies while connecting with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and iMessage. I definitely do not have a boring life even when it goes in a circle!



It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

- Harry Chapin, Circle

Carpe diem and all that

signs point to yes

I have written before about timing and how I think I have a plan and a timeline all sorted and then things suddenly happen more quickly. I think it might be happening again.

Here was the plan up until last weekend:

  • stay at my current school for a third year
  • start looking for jobs in the fall (ie September for those of us in the Northern hemisphere)
  • go to a job fair in January 2015 if I haven’t found one by then
  • work at a new job for a few years, save money and find somewhere to volunteer after that

But then last weekend, a friend suggested I should just stay here for the few extra years and then go volunteer. That got me thinking but not about staying (sorry Carine). Instead I decided that my finances are already such that I could feasibly look for a volunteer position for September 2015 instead of another international school position. And one day this past week, before heading into work that led me to Google “volunteer librarian overseas” and I found something that has my brain whirring.

Today I got in touch with a good friend who is far away and found out she is starting chemo. If I was looking for a sign of why I should volunteer now instead of waiting, I think that is it. At the same time as I was chatting with her, I was online with my brother asking if he had a Magic 8 Ball because I had a dilemma over whether to look into volunteering or job hunt. When I shared the chemo news with him and said I thought it was a sign, he replied “Carpe diem and all that”. Wise words.

I’m off to compose an email…

“Who are you supporting during the World Cup?”

offical ballA friend asked that question on Facebook about 12 hours ago and I have been pondering it since I read it before leaving for school this morning. Short answer? I don’t know… It’s a tricky question for several reasons as are many involving picking one country when you have more than one passport and ties to more than one country. Typical TCK/TCA thing really. It’s like those other really tricky questions, “Where are you from?” and “Where’s home?” But at least those ones you can chose to go short answer (for me that’s “Canada” the country where I lived for most of my life and the passport I usually travel on) or a longer answer about being born in one country but having citizenship from two (or more) and having lived in X many. For some people the longer answer also involves where one’s parents or grandparents are from, whether or not they have that citizenship or have ever lived in those countries themselves.

But back to the World Cup question and my attempt at an answer. Canada didn’t make it in so that’s out.  The United States of America will be there and perhaps I should cheer for them – I was born in the US, lived there until I was almost 10, have a US passport and lots of family living there. But (and it’s a big but), American patriotism makes me wince and I don’t cheer for Team USA at the Olympics or other sporting events nor do I feel a sense of pride when they win. Blame it on moving to Canada at a young age and realizing how the US looks to the rest of the world.

So what are the other options? Let’s start with other places I have lived. Neither Singapore nor Tanzania will have teams in Brazil. Switzerland will but I can’t say I have much affinity for Switzerland. Not so helpful. What teams have I cheered for in the past? In 2006, I got up in the middle of the night to watch Australia play Italy at a pub in Melbourne. Australia lost. In 2010, I was traveling through East and Southern Africa during the World Cup so games were on a reasonable hour and on at the campgrounds where we stayed. I cheered for any African teams that were playing which was only Ghana once the group stage ended. But then Ghana got knocked out in the quarter finals and I didn’t commit to another team.

This isn’t helping. I still don’t know what team I am supporting. Then again I am not sure sure how many matches I will actually watch so maybe it doesn’t really matter. Maybe I will just watch this clip and think about all the children around the world playing soccer in flipflops with handmade or worn out soccer balls instead.


The last few times I have been planning to move, things have happened faster than I planned.

If I remember correctly, I came up with idea to move overseas in 2004 and I think attended an information session that November. I looked at my debts, my car lease, apartment lease and all signs seem to point to finding a position for the 2006-2007 school year. I decided I would attend a job fair in early 2006, I browsed the websites of some of the schools that had been at the fair in previous years, prepared my application package in September and October and mailed it off. But then I repotted some plants the weekend of October 23 and that changed everything. The newspapers I laid down on the table were the Globe and Mail employment ads. My flatmate at the time wasn’t enjoying her job so I was reading out various ludicrous suggestions when I came across this ad for the Canadian International School in Singapore:


I had missed the deadline for the Ontario interviews (I was living in Ottawa at the time) and something was wrong with my home Internet at the time but on Monday morning, I quickly edited the cover letter I had written for the job fair and emailed off my CV and references. Long story short I ended up with an interview that Saturday and by the next Wednesday I had been offered a job for second semester so I moved in January 2006 instead of August 2006.

When I moved to Singapore, I had an initial contract for two years but I thought I would probably stay for 5 years if things went well. By early 2008 I had decided that I would move on at the end of the 2008-2009 school year unless my position changed – which it did. I moved into the library in August 2008 and stayed for another 3 years which fit with my original 5 year plan.

Sometime in the first half of 2009, I went to a presentation by Gemma Sisia about The School of St. Jude in Arusha, Tanzania. It sounded like she was doing great work and I signed up for the e-newsletter but didn’t think too much about it. The December newsletter mentioned they were looking for a teacher-librarian which was intriguing but I didn’t think I could afford to take a year off so I let it go. Around the same time, a friend and I were planning a trip to East and Southern Africa for July 2010 and I thought about visiting the school. I made a donation to the school in January 2010 and got a reply asking if I would consider coming to volunteer for a year. I visited St. Jude’s at the beginning of the trip and then mulled over volunteering for the rest of the trip. By the time I flew back to Singapore from Cape Town in August, I knew I was heading into my last year there and that I was keen to return to Tanzania. The school year at the School of St. Jude runs from January to December so I figured I would go in January 2012. This meant being unemployed for the latter half of 2011 so I signed up to teach summer school in July. Shortly after I committed to that, I received an email from St. Jude’s asking if I could come earlier, say March 2011, and I ended up going in August 2011.

In October 2010, the principal and PYP coordinator of a school in Switzerland came to my school in Singapore. I was intrigued by the idea of a bilingual (French/English) PYP school and I was very impressed by the presentations and workshops they put on. I filed it away, thinking that maybe I’d look into the school after Tanzania.

I thought that I would stay at St. Jude’s until at least December 2012 and possibly longer. In January 2012, the teacher-librarian job was posted at the school in Switzerland. My initial reaction was that it was too soon so I couldn’t apply but then I realized that if I did get it, I could stay at St. Jude’s until August thereby fulfilling my commitment of one year. I applied, got the job and did just that.

I came here thinking that it would be good to stay for three years. One year to figure things out, a year to put things in place and a year to consolidate, job hunt and prepare to leave. (However my contract is only two years so I don’t have to stay three years.) I told myself last year that I was not to think about where to go next for fear of it all happening too soon. Job postings are starting to appear but I think I will stick with my original plan.


Resign or Resign or Resign?

Although it is still early in the school year (for schools that follow a Northern hemisphere calendar), it is the time in many international schools when teachers whose contracts finish at the end of this school year need to decide if they are job hunting or staying put. Recently a couple of friends joyously posted on social media that they have resigned (signed again) and will be staying at their current school for at another year or two. I have been in touch with others who are resigning (handing in their resignation or stating that they will not be resigning) instead and looking for a new post. I have a feeling I will also be hearing from some who debated moving on but instead have resigned (reconciled) themselves to resign.

My contract is up at the end of this year but at my current school contract renewals don’t take place until February…

pencc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Andrew Magill: http://flickr.com/photos/amagill/85194577/


Too much time online?

I spend a lot of time online and I often wonder if I should take a break from it all.

I read more articles online now and fewer novels. I jump between various apps and sites. I am guilty of checking my phone when I should be talking to the people I’m with. I check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the day (in spite of the first two being blocked at school). I often check social media if I wake up in the middle of the night to pee. I have three email accounts on my phone. I use WhatsApp to connect with some friends, Viber for others. I currently have at least 3 Words with Friends games on the go. I keep track of books I have read and want to read on GoodReads and check what others are reading to find more. I have an iPhone, an iPad and (an aging) MacBook and I am often using two of them at once (right now I have music playing on my phone and I’m typing on my MacBook). I have been known to check Facebook via the experimental browser on my Kindle in a pinch (ie during an 8 hour layover in Nairobi airport). The longest time I have been offline in recent memory was an 8 week trip from Nairobi to Capetown in 2010. (But even then I had things set up so I could send a text to Twitter which both created a tweet and cross posted to Facebook and I recall free wifi at a café in Stonetown, Zanzibar and a hostel in Capetown as well as once paying for some online time while we were at Vic Falls.)

This morning began how most of my mornings do – checking social media on my phone while still lying in bed. I usually start with Facebook, move on to email, check to see if it’s my turn to play on Words with Friends, look at photos and comments on Instagram and Flickr and if I still have time, take a pass at Twitter (I used to check it far more when my TweetDeck app still worked). On weekend mornings when I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, I follow more links than on weekdays and I often spend time catching up on NY Times top news and most popular articles as well. Yesterday was one of those days.

I had a lovely exchange via DM on Twitter with my friend Edna who lives in Melbourne, Australia. (Edna and I connected when she commented on a blog post of mine and a year or so later I spent a day with her at her school when I happened to be visiting a friend in Melbourne). In addition to being active on Twitter (@whatedsaid), she has an awesome blog that I love to read and I often pass her posts on to friends and colleagues (especially those not on social media). Edna is very supportive and encourages me to blog more. It came up today and I promised to blog at least once this weekend. She also asked if I had any examples of tech integration in middle/secondary schools. I said I’d check with my brother (@edtgraff) as he teaches high school history and often incorporates tech in his lessons and assignments.

One of the articles that struck me this morning was posted by my friend, Keri-Lee (@klbeasley):

KL and I worked at the same school in Singapore back in 2006-2007 and she was later one of the people who helped me develop a PLN on Twitter and increase my tech knowledge and skills though she was at another school by then. She also has an awesome blog. I think I had already read another article on the same topic the day before. As all this was going on my phone battery went flat so it turned itself off and I got out of bed long enough to grab my iPad. I plugged the phone in and when it came back on, I chatted with Edna on the phone while surfed other stuff on the iPad. Then my wifi quit working so I got out of bed and opened my (ancient white) MacBook to troubleshoot. It was being painfully slow so I texted my brother to ask if had any tips about Air vs Pro etc as I think it is time to replace it. I didn’t get a reply and his blog appeared to have disappeared so I sent him a PM on Facebook instead to ask about resources for Edna (using 3G on my phone). I then decided I might as well go to the grocery store and checked bus and train times using an app on my phone. I had just missed one so I tethered my iPad to my iPhone and surfed using both. A mutual friend, Adrienne (@amichetti), had replied to KL’s post with a link to the original article so then I read that one as well.  

 Adrienne and I met via Twitter and she ended up moving to Singapore shortly before I moved away. We met up a couple times during the overlap. We have kept up our friendship and she has become friends with quite a few of my Singapore friends. She blogs nearly everyday and I admire her short, succinct posts because I am not capable of frequent blogging or of keeping my posts short.

By that time I needed to head out for the next bus but first I checked the forecast on my phone to see if I needed to take an umbrella and to make sure I was dressed warmly enough.

While waiting for the train, my brother replied to my question about resources for Edna. I found out he hadn’t gotten my text because his phone was out of commission and he gave me tips about a new computer.

I also checked in on Foursquare which I don’t use much but I am connected to some friends there. I read an article about cooking food and early humans that I then emailed to the Year 3 teachers at my school as it relates to their current unit. Once I arrived at the mall where the grocery store is, I posted a photo on Instagram, exchanged texts with a friend who has been in the hospital this week, stopped at the book store, picked up a book for the friend, one for myself and two for the school library (but only after checking our OPAC to make sure we didn’t already have copies and checking the suggested ages and reviews via my TitleWave app). Then I headed into the grocery store where I checked my shopping list on my phone and checked the bus schedule to go home.

At home, my internet had healed itself so set up my iPad to stream CBC Radio, used my laptop to search for recipes – both new ones and ones I had saved to my Diigo account. I used online banking to change my password because the bank had emailed me to say there had been failed login attempts. I also continued to ponder the articles and how my life would be different without the internet and my smart phone. I sent a couple tweets to KL with a short list:


And decided I had my blog post for the weekend. But I didn’t just spend time online, I also made a potato, lentil and spinch soup; a tabouleh inspired quinoa salad; a fruit salad and a pan of brownies. I took all of these to over to my friend who had been released from the hospital and his wife and had a lovely dinner and evening with them. (I even left my phone alone until dessert when we were talking about their former colleague who now works with a friend of mine and couldn’t remember his first name. I checked my friend’s Facebook page and it happened that she had reshared a link he had posted so we had the answer.)

My day would have looked quite different without an Internet connection and it would not have been nearly so rich and connected. I won’t be going offline (on purpose) anytime soon. And now that the author of the article has pointed out that although there was an initial improvement in his quality of life, the internet was not the cause of his problems and without it he liked the person he was even less, I won’t feel like I should.

“My plan was to leave the internet and therefore find the “real” Paul and get in touch with the “real” world, but the real Paul and the real world are already inextricably linked to the internet. Not to say that my life wasn’t different without the internet, just that it wasn’t real life.”




Last Thursday, I blogged about feeling “homesick” on my other blog. (Homesick is in quotation marks because I usually miss people not places and I haven’t even lived some of the places I miss.) Then I spent Thursday and Friday at an SGIS conference in Leysin, Switzerland (and I got to hear Stephen Krashen speak! But that’s not what this post is about).

My school blocks Twitter (that could be another blog post as well) but the school where the conference was being held does not so I was able to spend two days on Twitter and connect with friends new and old along the way. It made me realize how much I miss that connectivity.

At the conference there were only 3, yes 3, people tweeting. Me, my friend Kate and Glenn (a librarian at the host school). I realized pretty quickly that I was not in Asia anymore and it made me sad. At one point I sent out this tweet:

At a conference and there are only 3 people tweeting. #notinAsiaanymore Missing @librarianedge @klbeasley @colingally @louisephinney & more!

— Megan Graff (@megangraff) March 8, 2013


Within a few minutes I had heard back from both K-L and Colin and I missed them even more. However exchanging a few tweets with them and with others was good for my soul.

Today, back at home, I managed to catch up with several friends in Singapore via Facebook and Gmail chat (and to connect with @whatedsaid via Twitter too). Combined with bright sunshine and having gone for coffee (in France) this morning with a friend here, I am feeling more connected. It made me realize I need to make an effort to catch people online and maybe even go so far as to set up chat “dates”. When I lived in Singapore, I made sure I always had phone cards to call friends in N. America and Australia but when I was in Tanzania it was harder and  I got out of the habit and never got in the habit of regular contact with those still in Singapore. This carried over when I moved here. Now six months later I am realizing how much being connected is part of who I am.

I haven’t booked any flights as of yet and if I can catch my sister online perhaps I won’t need to…

Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc


Update: I have changed the title of the post from Disconnected to Reconnected (but not the URL because I already Tweeted it) AND I caught up with my sister, my niece and my nephew via Facetime.