First Days (& What We Didn’t Eat)

For starters, please note that all haikus are written and posted by Prescott …

Secondly, here’s what we did not order at the vegetarian(?) Chinese restaurant last night:

  • Braised Veg Intestine
  • Cold Black Fungus
  • Sesame Monkey Head Mushroom

I don’t know if the problem here is with the translation or with my unwillingness to be adventurous, but these menu items were not exactly inspiring.  We did, however, find some of the most delicious baby bok choy I’ve ever had.

Now for the real update:  I had my first day of school yesterday!  More precisely, I had my first entire day in the building, though there were no students around.  But I did start seeing kids as I shadowed the experienced counselors’ meetings today (new students have begun coming in with their parents to register for classes), and I will meet with kids in my own meetings tomorrow.

I will give it to SAS (Singapore American School) that they are doing a great job of trying to be the best school around.  The people here are hardworking and have really done their homework (which they call R&D) about what other great schools are doing.  For some reason, this comes with a lot of jargon, much talk of “excellence” and “standards-based grading” and “Strengths” (think Meyers-Briggs with more categories).  I need to get used to a whole bunch of not-Park-like language.  Park’s History Department would run screaming from this place.  Why?  Well, here are my “strengths”:

  • Learner
  • Achiever
  • Relator (looks like realtor)
  • Input (does not mean what you think it means)
  • Intellection (not a word)

We talk about these all the time, and we talk about how our strengths will help us as teachers/counselors, and we compare strengths.  It makes for interesting conversations, but it’s not the kind of vocabulary anyone is going to start implementing at The Park School of Baltimore.

The upside is that the people are really nice.  They come from all over the place, from New York and Sao Paolo, from Prague and Jakarta, from Barcelona and suburban Missouri, and everyone loves travel and has an impressive amount of courage and adaptability.  There are about forty new teachers at SAS this year, and about fourteen of them are in the high school.  Here are most of the new high school teachers, with the admin guys (Principal in blue; Deputy Principals in white) at the top of the table:


We’ve received many, many warnings that SAS is a difficult place to start as a new teacher, that everyone is type A and works long hours and takes on too many projects (all of this sounds familiar to me …).  I can’t figure out whether this means things will really be back-breaking or whether they’re just managing our expectations.

As for my immediate responsibilities, well, it sounds like back-breaking is the most likely scenario.  They’re pretty much throwing the counselors into the water without any swimming lessons — and people acknowledge that this is pretty much the way it’s always been done around here.  For example, we were told to shadow other counselors in meetings today, but it turned out that there were precious few meetings for us to sit in on (I was able to find a total of one meeting for shadowing purposes, and it was one of the shortest meetings I’ve seen in a while).  So Kristen and I are about to start registering kids for classes without knowing much of anything about the SAS curriculum (and knowing nothing at all about the registration software).  It’s good that I like a steep learning curve, or I’d be freaking out.

A surprising amount of my time in the past two days has been spent walking to and from bus stops, waiting for the bus, and sitting on the bus.  All told, my commute is somewhere between 45 minutes (if I catch the bus just at the right time) and 1 hour 10 minutes.  It’s pretty unbearable.  Though I must say that, while the time suck is dreadful, the bus itself is fairly nice.  Here’s my bus stop:


I see a lot of this (HDB housing, or “blocks”) from my bus windows:


But I also saw this today, which I found puzzling.  Thought the Park folks might appreciate it …


At the moment, I would say that my commitment to traveling by bus is very much up in the air. Lots of people ride share or grab taxis from my neighborhood, so if I can get over the cost, I may start doing that.

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