Week 8 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 8 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.


I have gained knowledge in teaching English to speakers of other languages. I read and applied Paul Nation’s work in Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing and Teaching ESL/EFL Speaking and Listening. I am working to apply the learnings in my tutoring and lesson preparation to focus on meaningful and attainable content, equally dividing instruction time between four areas:

  • meaning-focused input
  • meaning-focused output
  • language-focused learning
  • fluency practice


I had to learn so much technology last year. I have always been a leader in educational technology, but I, and all my colleagues, took leaps and bounds in our knowledge and application of technology resources to be able to continue teaching. I wrote a little more about technology skills learned here in Week 4.

In addition, I have grown in lots of other skills that have helped me stay grounded in all this at home time–poetry, sourdough bread baking, using spices, and blogging. I’ve even begun to crochet more.


I would like to think that my attitude softened, became more understanding and loving and patient with my students and the parents who have worked so hard during this long chapter. The corona virus has made us all fatigued. I hope and pray that I have become better and more empathetic. Of course, working part-time during the past year has probably made the most difference in my attitude!

Week 7 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 7 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

I think participating in this #8WeeksofSummer blog challenge over the years shows me how quickly the weeks peel off the calendar. I can’t believe it is already Week 7! Thank you, Penny, for hosting us again this year.

My situation is evolving. I know I will need more professional development as I continue working literacy to English language learners. I don’t know what I will be doing exactly when I move back to the U.S. in January, but I will keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities.

Week 6 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 6 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

I have to be planning for a school year like none other this year. The first semester, I will volunteer at the school where I’ve been for eight years. I will continue and expand the literacy screenings and tutoring I did last year. However, in January, inshallah, we will be moving from Bahrain to California.

When I saw the prompt I got nostalgic thinking of my time here and how it is coming to an end. I took time to do art–this Art Date with Ms. Kate was a grounding activity where we drew a tree in the style of Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life.

Life’s Trees

I keep?

I will keep
my love and
prayers for
Al Raja School’s
children and my hope
for this School of Hope.
That they will grow into a
new chapter even richer and
fuller than all the ones that
came before. I will keep my friends
and family. I will keep my love for
lifelong learning and creating, along
with my zest for life. I will keep writing
and cooking and baking and being hospitable.
I will keep my faith in God and a commitment to


will I lose?

I will lose seeing my
friends daily, chatting on
WhatsApp like we aren’t in
a pandemic. I will lose the
Al Abraaj hamour dinner, sweet
mango juice and shawarmas on the
street. I will lose climbing to the
fifth floor and living in a diverse
culture which has become home.
I will lose our walks to the
souq. I’m afraid
I will
lose my
for a


will I try?
I will try to find
a new place. A place
where I can continue
to teach children English
and how to read and write.
I will try to make a home in
California after forty years of
living away. I will try to do my
part to fight injustice
and to dismantle
I will
to be.

Week 5 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 5 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. The prompt today is “Describe what improved or challenged communication this year.”

I feel communication was challenged by pandemic living much more than it was improved. I live in a country where there are many languages spoken. Then to bring everyone together, either English or Arabic are used. Lots of different pronunciations and ability levels can make communication a challenge.

Communication is enhanced when we speak in person. When you can look someone in the face without a mask and speak to them, it really helps. When they (or I) see a blank look, they (or I) can try again, speaking more slowly or finding different vocabulary. When the pandemic started, we weren’t able to be together. Even when we do have face-to-face time to communicate, the masks are still there bringing barriers to communication.

But communication still happens with recorded voice messages or written text messages, mostly on WhatsApp.  And lots of emails.

However, there may be one area where communication was improved. Quick collaborative or clarifying meetings were so easy to have on Zoom. (I mentioned this in the collaboration reflection during Week 2 of the #8WeeksofSummer.) We have had many of these quick Zoom meetings over the last year.

Week 4 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 4 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What a great prompt, Penny! I will look forward to hearing what tools others have mastered or experimented with this year!

New tools I discovered are more than ones I mastered, to be sure. It was a good year for new tools. Here are a few of the most significant tools I picked up.

  1. Zoom – Without a doubt in one year we went from amateurs floundering around in a foreign program to successfully running all kinds and sizes of virtual meetings. After a year, I’ve run Zoom meetings with one and two students for tutoring sessions to classes full of English learners to a hundred in church school general sessions. In addition, we have been to funerals, weddings, surprise birthday parties, going away celebrations, family gatherings, all staff meetings, and more. Really, when I think of the growth, not only in the ability level of myself and participants to use the program, but also in the growth and available features in the program itself, the difference is startling. I was able to work with first through eleventh grades this year. It was so fun to use annotation tools, the whiteboard, breakout rooms and more with all of the different age groups. It really was amazing what we all learned. I don’t believe our futures will ever be the same. We are not going back for a lot of our meetings; Zoom will stay with us after the pandemic.
  2. Flipgrid – It is hard for me to believe that my first assignment on Flipgrid was only in March 2020. It was the first assignment  gave after the lockdown began. I learned so much about this program, as did my students.
  3. Nearpod – When I did a long term sub position in high school this year, I used Nearpod, and made a mistake showing the teacher’s view instead of the student view on a slide that definitely would have been better to keep anonymous. That was an example where I definitely had not yet mastered a program.
  4. Google Classroom – I had only toyed with Google Classroom earlier. I had created a classroom for my second graders a few years ago, but I never learned enough or had reason enough to commit to really learning. Fast forward five years, and we were all thrown into learning how to use Google Classroom. KG to grade 12 students and every teacher in our school. That is one of the monumental tasks our Senior Leadership Team pulled off this year. Wow. They did it and we did it.
  5. Google Drive – We really polished our skills in using Slides, Forms, Sheets, and more. The students did too!

Those are the ones that come to mind right away. What about you?

What new tools did you discover and/or master this year?


Week 3 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

This post is week 3 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. This week’s prompt is to describe new or additional supports your learners needed this year.

Wow, this is difficult to answer. There were so many needs–

  1. Physical needs – I think especially of sicknesses due to Covid infections in staff, family and students, sometimes affecting large groups of family members at the same time. There were a few deaths of family members during the year from Covid-19, so that has certainly affected our community. Children and teens, too, sometimes had to miss classes due to Covid. Of course, when they were sick at home, they did not have to turn in their assignments on time or be expected to attend classes. One good thing is we did not have any Covid outbreaks at school. We did daily testing of staff members, and all the students who had permission to be tested. Strict protocols were maintained, and school was closed several times during the year “in an abundance of caution,” as the emails always read. (An aside: Especially in the last two months, children started getting Covid. We have a high vaccination rate among adults here, but our young people are spreading the highly contagious Delta variant. Therefore, the country has been on lockdown since June 1. The Delta variant is starting to spread in the U.S. Please keep getting vaccinated!)
  2. Social and emotional needs – It was evident that some students were struggling. One way we tried to help was the pro-active way the social counselors did their jobs this year. They were added to the schedule and taught regular classes for all the grade levels. They made a lot of phone calls, but, of course, some children did not get the support they needed because we didn’t know about their needs.
  3. Academic needs – One way we identified academic needs in the elementary was to do DIBELS screenings for all students in grades 1, 2, and 3. I was the volunteer reading interventionist this year, as I did not sign my contract last year, thinking we were going to be leaving in December. Instead we stayed one more year, and I was happy to help at my school. After identifying the students who needed extra support, we invited them to join the S.T.A.R. program (Speaking, Thinking And Reading). I would work for six sessions at a time on thinking, speaking and foundational skills they were missing on the DIBELS. It was very successful. After six sessions, I would retest students. If needed, they could continue my program. This was besides their regular English classes on their light class days. (Students had two full days and two partial virtual days. The last day of the week was a makeup day. We would meet on their partial days.)
  4. Technology needs – When we were sent home on 26 February 2020, some people did not have laptops. It did not take our school long to jump into action. They dismantled the desktop computers we still had been using at school for all the teachers. They offered these free to any family who needed one for pick up or delivery. They purchased laptops for the teachers. There were helplines available during school hours and after for families who needed help. Our computer teachers staffed the helplines. We got Google Classroom for KG-grade 12, and teachers were trained on it before the 2020-21 school year began. It was determined the laptops they purchased were not powerful enough (is that the word?) so this summer we had to return them, and they will all get an upgraded hard drive.

I’m not sure we know all the support students needed, but in these unprecedented times, I was proud of the effort of all of our departments and our senior leadership team.

What else am I forgetting? What would you write for #5 listing student needs?


Week 2 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

Decorative image about the

This post is week 2 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. It’s not too late to join us! Click to check out the challenge.

Collaboration has become easier this year than in previous years. For one thing, at our school teachers used to be in our own classrooms. We sometimes could be there all day with children coming and going, but very little time to see or collaborate with peers. This year, the pandemic required a different arrangement for the classrooms. The children were divided into small groups of 8-10 and each had their own space. The students stayed in their classroom all day; the teachers would move into the rooms when it was their turn to teach them.

For the teachers, since we didn’t have our own room, each department was assigned a room. After five years of being in our own rooms and traveling up or down stairs and through the hallways to be able to talk to each other, this was a delightful new development. It was  a breeze to get consensus on something or to teach each other new little technology insights we figured out in our Google Classroom and Zoom programs, which were new for us this year. That set-up really improved collaboration for us.

In addition, having meetings became so easy from home or school, with Zoom. It didn’t matter where people were working. It was simple to attend or call a meeting. I noticed people tended to be more on time and there are fewer disruptions in Zoom meetings.

Of course, I miss the maskless laughter, dates, chocolates and Arabic coffee from in person meetings!

Week 1 – 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge

Hotlunchtray.com presents Week 1 of 8 - 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge with prompt on tropical island background
This post is week 1 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. Starting this week, we will reflect on the unusual nature of the last school year. The challenge is a way to share our reflections, debrief a difficult year. As Penny wrote: “Let’s share the experiences that many of us struggled with and triumphed over. Let’s consider what to retain from this year and what to let go together!”

This week’s prompt is to describe relationships with those you taught this year.

I had an unusual year in more ways than one. Besides the pandemic, I did not have a contract last year, but I was still part of my school. I taught the first quarter for the person who would eventually take my place, but was stuck in the U.S. due to Covid. I was a long-term sub for a sociology class. I screened children in three grades with the DIBELS assessment. I had small groups of children on Zoom practicing (and hopefully having fun with) phonological awareness and phonics.

I continued to be with the same department, helping and encouraging them through difficult times when I could do something. They had the Ministry of Education come for their every three year evaluation, this time looking at how we were coping with “special circumstances.” I was there for finding things and remembering how we’ve done it in the past, since I was the English coordinator for the past five years.

My teammates are amazing, and I have great relationships with them. It has been weird though. When they were stressed out and feeling over the edge, I was not. I have tried to help my old department, but at the end of the day, I did not have the myriad of stressors that happen when you are a full time teacher. Much less also add that it was happening through a pandemic, with virtual and blended learning, the Ministry visit, and all the other crazy!

Most of my work this year, though, was under the direction of the learning inclusion department. I went to those department meetings and worked under the LI coordinator. It was very rewarding because added to the small department of two teachers were two volunteers–myself and a parent who is trained in special education. We made a great team. There was so much more we were able to do, especially helping the struggling students who not part of the special needs program.

We also had time to work with the gifted students. We held a virtual spelling bee, which was a great success, and some of the  children who needed more challenge did a semester-long genius hour project.

The relationships with my colleagues at school are precious to me, and this year was such a nice way to leave gradually. My husband’s contract ends in December, so I will once again volunteer for the first term next year. Then I will have to say good-bye to them.