Sunday, June 2, 2019


  1. Time is certainly closing in on us and with sixteen days left in Egypt, it is the perfect time to reflect on all that has happened in this wonderfully eventful year.

  2. I definitely used the cooler weather as the impetus to get out and about to see as many sights as I could. My somewhat lengthy list of Must Sees in Egypt is slowly diminishing.  Unfortunately, there will never be enough time to see everything I want to experience. I've recently traveled to Fayoum and spent a weekend in the quaint little pottery laden village of Tunis.  It was the perfect blend of green space and a touch of shopping! And a visit to whale valley appealed to my sense of finding out more about hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whales.  It was so much fun to go dune-bashing in a 4-WD and I loved encountering some very interesting fossilised mangroves.
Lazib Inn - a gem!

Tunis pottery

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Wadi Al Hitan

  1. It was a somber experience to visit the WWII site at El Alamein where my grandfather fought. At the beautifully maintained Commonwealth war cemetery, I found the gravesites of seven men who fought alongside him in his 9th division - 2/2 machine gun battalion. I was eternally grateful that he was one of the fortunate ones who made it safely home from Egypt to Australia.

  1. I've hosted four more sets of visitors and taken a week-long break to Cappadocia and Istanbul with the first group.  The second lot of visitors were kindred shoppers, so we hit the streets of Cairo on my days off and whilst I was working, they capably managed a hectic sightseeing schedule without me.  Having me living and working in Egypt this year has been of huge interest to various friends and family from all over the globe.  Trillian has the perfect sized apartment for hosting visitors and living in a very walkable area has been appreciated by my international guests.
  1. As we motor through the final part of the school year I am at ease with all that is happening in our Pre-K learning environment.  The children have recently explored a lovely kite-making project and they have thoroughly enjoyed the change of season.  Spending time outdoors has led to many opportunities to learn about Spring and now Summer.  The CAC campus is really pretty and the children embrace the joys of developing their self-management skills as well as their social skills in such an engaging and interactive environment.     
  1. In February I relished the chance to attend a conference at the Australian International School in Singapore where Fiona Zinn challenged and confirmed my beliefs about the role of documentation in early childhood education.   Some of the biggest takeaways for me:
  • The thing that separates pedagogical documentation from other forms of observation and record keeping is the use of analysis and reflection. 
  • Moving always towards offering a pedagogy of play for Under 8's is paramount.  It's their right, after all. 
  • Documentation is in fact data.... it can be mixed media data - quantitative and qualitative - hence, it can be multi-modal.
  • Documentation is a team sport!
  1. And, to finish, something very close to my own heart - she made a plea to all of us at the conference... to embrace and honour moments of surprise and wonder brought to us by the children each and every day.

Fiona Zinn workshop - the best kind of PD

Life in Cairo, at CAC, and beyond has been interesting and heart-warming, as well as vibrant and intriguing. This year has far exceeded my expectations for a chance to renew myself in both work and play. Immense gratitude and thanks to everyone who made it happen! 


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Update from Mumbai!

This has been an incredible year, and I can honestly say that it has been life-changing in many ways. I have had some extreme circumstances in my personal life that prevented me from updating the blog as regularly as I had hoped, but I am back to provide details on the past few months at school. It’s been such a wonderful experience at ASB, and it’s hard to imagine that it will be coming to an end soon!

The parent community at ASB has been welcoming and engaged, which we have had the pleasure to experience not only at drop-off and pick-up times, but also at conferences and at our learning mornings. Parent-teacher conferences were wonderful opportunities to have conversations about the children’s journeys as learners over the course of the year. Our final conference of the year was student-led, in which the children designed a plan for their hour at school with their family and then taught them about several engagements they had experienced during the year, such as cooking, sewing, creative movement, writing, painting, etc. We have also enjoyed learning mornings together, in which the entire PreKindergarten community comes together to share learning experiences as a group. The children choose guided play experiences, as is our normal routine, and families engage in these activities with the children. This is a great opportunity for families to learn about the “how” and “why” of play-based learning, as well as what their child’s day in our program. It allows us to strengthen our connections with families and children as we spend time learning, playing, and laughing together. It has been a joy to work with the families through all of these opportunities and I can hardly believe that these close connections have formed in less than a year.

Through the year, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible people at ASB. Not only are my colleagues wonderful educators (and human beings), but everyone at the school is supportive, welcoming, and friendly. I have felt very valued here, despite my short tenure. Collaboration is at the heart of almost everything we do, and I have so enjoyed being able to work with my Pre-K team, my PLC groups, vertical teams, specialists, and support. I have learned so much from everyone I have had the chance to connect with and I hope that I have been able to contribute with my own knowledge and creativity as well.

My students have been on an incredible adventure this year as they have grown, explored, played, and learned so much about the world around them! It is astonishing to reflect back upon each child’s growth, and upon the growth of our group as a community. This class has an unprecedented amount of personality, a great sense of humour, and they are resilient and flexible learners. They have adapted to change over the course of the year as we wished Ms. Nina the best of luck in her transition to a new classroom and welcomed Ms. Neeta as our new assistant teacher. Both the children and their families have been so welcoming and excited about the prospect of Samantha and myself embarking on this learning adventure, despite the nature of our program being a two-year Pre-Kindergarten class in which children arrive for Pre-K3 and remain through Pre-K4. The children’s positive nature and enthusiasm for learning, life, and adventure has made each day in the classroom so enjoyable. I feel lucky to have been their teacher this year and I am so happy that Samantha will get to meet them upon her return.

One of the children’s engagements this year that grew as my ‘passion project,’ so to speak, was an inquiry into the idea of expression. As we began to think about how to support the inquiry, ‘How We Express Ourselves,’ an exploration of the Reggio Emilia concept of the Hundred Languages of Children, Nina and me discussed an idea that has been floating in the back of my mind for several years. The time, place, and atmosphere at ASB was perfect to launch the ‘White Room,’ later known as the ‘Rainbow Room;’ an Atelier for Expressions. We began by covering half of our atelier (creative arts space) with white fabric from floor to ceiling. We then invited the children into the space to co-construct the room, using whatever method of expression they desired. Rather than presenting a provocation (paint, markers, beading, etc.), we hoped to derive from the children what their ideas about expression might be. Over the course of eight months, the room was transformed using paint, light, bubbles, string, wire, beads, sculpture, body paint, and more. This became a testament to the power of children’s ideas when given trust and time from adults, and I was fortunate enough to share the experience at the Early Years Conference at Saigon South International School in April. 

Outside of school, I have had wonderful experiences in India. I truly love this country and the compassion and kindness I experience daily here. I have been able to travel during time off from school and I have enjoyed visiting Kerala, Mathura, and Shimla. I’m looking forward to returning next year to explore the beauty of this country further!

Taking in the beauty of Agra; photos do no justice!

I spent a month volunteering at Wildlife S.O.S. in Mathura, a sanctuary for abused animals including some amazing elephants rescued from tourism and temples here in India! Please be sure to inform yourself about animal welfare when planning your trips, and consider visiting and helping out at a place like Wildlife S.O.S. or any of the other great sanctuaries working to save and protect animals!

The sanctuary also is home to many sloth bears, rescued from the truly sad dancing bear trade.

A relaxing view at Varkala, Kerala

As I am looking forward to the last days of school, I have nothing but gratitude for this experience. It has shaped my life, both professionally and personally, in ways I never could have imagined. I am excited to return to Cairo and share the things I have seen and done here, and to maintain my connections with the friends and colleagues I have connected with here in Mumbai. It’s almost time to get packing!

I will miss my charming, gorgeous neighborhood!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Approaching the midway point...

Our CAC Pre-K parent community is supportive, visible and very interested in developing the ways in which their children approach learning.  Many of the children in my current class have older siblings at CAC and the families are somewhat aware of how play-based learning looks and feels.  They are receptive to what they are reading in our blog and provide us with feedback that is positive and affirming.  To further strengthen these important home-school connections, our KG and Pre-K teams decided to hold a series of Community Meetings to delve a bit deeper into some of our approaches to learning.  Our administrators were extremely supportive of our decision to hold the Community Meetings at two different times on the same school day, to ensure that there was a chance of one hundred percent attendance.  They offered to provide cover for the morning session so the children could be interacting outside while we hosted their parents in our indoor learning spaces. 

I wanted to share with the families some of my beliefs around the notion of the environment as the third teacher and setting up intentional learning spaces to provoke inquiry.  The parents were very interested in knowing more about this.  I ended the session with a tour of our room and spoke briefly about the documentation panels we create to showcase student learning and we looked carefully at how and why provocations are set up and in what ways the children choose to inhabit these spaces.   

Pre-K Community Meeting

Another highlight at work was my first time ever to witness Santa visiting school on a real-life camel.  It doesn't get any better than this! 
Yes, this really happened at the CAC Winter Holiday event!

Professionally, it was so lovely to work with our Arabic teaching team to plan a field trip to a working farm.  The children gained so much firsthand knowledge about animals and plants that are indigenous to Egypt. Living in a largely urban environment, unfortunately, doesn't provide many opportunities for the children to witness plant growth and to observe wildlife, so we relished the chance to get up close and personal with nature.   
Our field trip to an organic farm

Recently I have been taking advantage of the cooler weather to get out and explore some more parts of Cairo and its surrounding areas. When my family visited from Australia in December they spent a week visiting sites while I was working. Their first foray into Egyptian history and culture was truly incredible. My family learned much about the way of life in Egypt and together we spent 5 days on a dahabiya, sailing from Luxor to Aswan. Our 100-year-old sailboat was truly beautiful and the crew of 10 were such wonderful ambassadors of this incredible country. We took fascinating day excursions to villages, museums, tombs and markets. We received the best possible introduction into how people live and work along the majestic Nile. It was honestly the trip of a lifetime. 
Superb travelling opportunities with team Australia!
Our encounters with Egyptian people anhistory have opened up our eyes to what we had only ever read in history books or seen in movies. There is a vast amount of opportunities to expand your knowledge when you visit Egypt and doing all of this has immensely enhanced my teacher renewal experience. 

Finally made it to Abu Simbel - it was truly amazing.

Close friends who’ve worked with me in both Zurich and Jakarta come to stay in the lead up to Christmas.  Having old friends visit is just so good for the soul! Then my winter break took me further afield to Hurghada to meet up with an old friend from my Munich days.  We joined an 8-day liveaboard diving trip. The Red Sea is spectacular and we saw many beautiful reefs and did some extremely interesting wreck dives. I travelled overland to Luxor to meet a friend from CAC and we cruised down to Luxor on a dahabiya.  Again, it was a constant reminder of how vast and deep the culture and history of Egypt really is.
ZIS and JIS friends - photographer: me!

It is truly wonderful to be here and I look forward to continuing on at work and at play, in the fashion to which I am already accustomed.

~   Samantha


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Life in Cairo.....

The Great Adventure Continues!

It’s hard to believe we’ve already finished month two here in Mumbai! It feels like I’ve only just begun my journey, while at the same time as if I’ve been here forever. This has been such an incredible period of learning and collaboration for me, and I still have nine months of school to look forward to at ASB.
Colors and textures of India

My morning alarm clock in Bandra.

My beautiful home.

Working in an open setting such within Pre-K team at ASB has really allowed my professional thinking and practice to change and grow. In a grade level without walls, where an hour of each day is allocated towards group learning as a whole grade, my beliefs about community and relationships have been re-defined. This is reflected in my interactions with the students, with my teammates, and with colleagues and staff in the school. I have noticed that there are so many opportunities where people take time to compliment others’ practices and construct knowledge together, simply because they are able to interact so frequently. I can’t wait to adapt my own techniques next year, in a classroom with walls, to allow for more frequent interactions with other teachers, students in other grade levels, and colleagues in other divisions to allow for higher levels of collaboration and, in doing so, more opportunities to reflect. Physical walls are a barrier, but not one that can’t be overcome!

A Learning Morning session on emotional wellbeing.

Within the classroom, things are lovely. We have grown into a special community of learners who enjoy building, drawing, hunting for clues, and helping each other. My associate teacher, Nina, is supportive and wonderful both inside ASB and while helping me navigate Mumbai. Next week we will have parent teacher conferences, and I am excited to spend time speaking with each family about their child’s growth over the first two months of school.

While thinking about professional development, I have been a part of a Leadership PLC during my time here with the head of school, Craig Johnson. Today we had the opportunity to sit down for an hour with six heads of school, from Singapore, Johannesburg, Cary Academy (North Carolina), Nueva School (California), Frankfurt, and Mumbai. The conversations, as they have been at all meetings of the PLC, were fascinating. One big take-away and question that I have is, how to foster a culture of zest for innovation at school. How does one create an institution where people are excited about the work they are doing in their classrooms and with their students? I have been very lucky to find this in my international teaching experiences, but I understand that it is not always the case. How did CAC and ASB develop this culture, and what does it take to sustain it?

Positive school culture.

Living in Mumbai is a dream come true for me. I couldn’t have imagined a better fit. The vibrancy, greenery, busyness, pockets of quiet, and culture everywhere fascinate me. After school each day I go exploring to learn more about my neighborhood, Bandra. There are plenty of restaurants, and shops galore with treasures like drawers full of beads, reams of fabric, a shop that sells only baskets, you name it. If I went out walking every single day that I was here in India, I would always see something different!
Stray dogs in India are generally well-cared for and healthy. Luckily for me they are also friendly!

Exploring the markets- a stuffed animal shop.

Elephanta Island, home of beautiful temples and temperamental monkeys.

Sunrise at the sea.

We have also had several festivals during August and September. One festival, called Dahi Handi, marks the birthday of Krishna. Because Krishna, according to the texts, loved sweets and would climb high to reach them, this day is celebrated by participants forming a human pyramid to reach a pot placed strategically on a wire or building ledge. The pot is usually filled with money or some other prize rather than Krishna’s favorite treat, yogurt.

Thank you to Emma-Jane, my Pre-K teammate, for the video!

Another big celebration here in Maharashtra was Ganesh Chaturthi. To celebrate Ganesh, Krishna’s elephant-headed son, the people here create special idols and venerate them for one week. At the end of the week, the idols are brought to the sea with much fanfare, and immersed in the ocean. There are many special songs and chants, and as this is one of the biggest celebrations in Mumbai, the streets were filled with celebrants dancing. I was lucky enough to be invited by a neighbor to accompany them as they brought their Ganesh idol to the sea one night. A band led the way with drums and firecrackers. The trip took several hours as we stopped every few meters to dance and pass out fruit and sweets to the people on the street. When we reached the sea, the idol was carried out to the water and then several men swam a distance into the sea before letting him go.

A wonderful family and celebration.

I appreciate so much that a variety of different religious, cultures, and choices are all openly celebrated here. They begin to be a part of the city's identity. I love learning about the publicly celebrated rituals and cultural events here. This particular procession, the largest of its type so far on my street, was quite solemn and when I inquired about it, I was only told "this is god." 

A procession passing my door.

I have felt more than welcome here in India and at ASB. The people in my neighborhood make me feel safe as I explore a new city and culture. My wonderful team- Marisa, Kate, Emma, Nina, Nilu, Delysha, and Gayle, plus the creative arts, physical education, learning support, iCommons, and host country studies teachers- have helped me reflect on my teaching every day. Professionally, I have been able to join PLC’s that allow me to grow and, more importantly, to apply my learning immediately. I’m very much looking forward to the next nine months which will include a quick trip back to Cairo, visits from family and friends, travel around India, and more learning at ASB than I can envision right now.

Fabulous, fantastic, and supportive Pre-K teaching team. 

Keep looking ahead- Diwali and more personal and professional adventures on the horizon!

A new project Nina and I have just begun as an installation on expression.. 
look for more on this in the next update!

Cheers to the adventure, and another big thank-you to everyone who is making this possible for Samantha and I!
All my best, Trillian.