Panthers Of ISKL #57 - Monica Tindall - The Educator & Lifestyle Blogger
This week, we met up with Monica Tindall, who has taught Grade 1 in Elementary School at ISKL for the past 18 years!
Monica was born in what she describes as a 'tiny country town' in New South Wales, Australia, with only 100 people! Following university in Newcastle, she worked for a year in Australia before moving to Singapore, Caracas in Venezuela, and finally to Kuala Lumpur.
Monica is also the founder and editor of The Yum List, one of Malaysia's most prominent and established lifestyle blogs.
Here is her story.
"Not long after moving to Venezuela from Australia, I met my husband, Caning. South America was a fantastic place to be as a young person with exciting travel opportunities and vibrant art, music, and gourmet culture. The plan was to keep moving around the international circuit to see the world, but life was fun in Caracas, and I thought I might have stayed up to the seven years allowed at that time. However, after five years, the political situation and safety levels rapidly deteriorated, and we needed a better plan for the future. My husband studied for a postgraduate degree in education, and so it happened there were jobs for both of us in Malaysia.
'My undergraduate specialty is in Early Childhood Education (birth - 8 years), and I also have a master's degree; however, my heart has always been with younger students."
'I know I am biased, but I think 1st grade is the absolute best year to teach! It's the year where you see the most growth in students, and I find that motivating. Seeing the enormous growth from the beginning of the year to the end and knowing that I played some part in that is incredibly fulfilling. So, I guess it's the six-year-old who inspires me!
'We always have something on the go in Grade 1! Since moving campuses, one of our biggest goals has been greening up the space. We've been learning to compost ourselves this year, and so the students have the first-hand experience in seeing their organic waste turned into useful soil. The natural progression is planting edible gardens, which we began just before we moved to online learning. (If you are moving and have any plants that need a loving home, Grade 1 welcomes donations!)
'I think our Grade 1 readers' theatre is the best thing since sliced bread! Every year we get students on the cusp of making that leap in early reading, not yet confident, stumbling across words, and readers' theatre turns them into different human beings. Our fluency unit focuses on small groups and repeated readings of scripts at a level just beyond the child's instructional level, and the culmination is a reader's theatre performance. That growth that first grade is known for rises to its pinnacle with the production. It is a truly beautiful thing to be part of!
'The biggest challenge (and asset) of the younger grades is the wide range of skills and abilities. Some students begin the year learning the alphabet, while others are already reading chapter books. As Early Childhood teachers, we strive to acknowledge where every student is at and take each child to their next personal step. It requires a lot of observation, planning, and open-ended instruction that you don't see from the outside.
'While it might look as though all students are reading or engaged in mathematics, for example, the subtle questioning, scaffolding, and adaptation of activities have been carefully designed to meet each child's needs.
'I started The Yum List blog 11 years ago as a community resource, and at the same time, I was blogging with my students. The platform was an excellent tool for sharing the classroom experience with families, and I thought it could also benefit our expatriate friends. The Yum List was supposed to be a place where everyone would post restaurants, hotels, and spas where they had positive experiences. The idea was that we'd have a community-generated list of recommended places to visit; however, it soon turned into people messaging me saying I should write about such and such a place! While rudimentary at first, I took it on, and it gradually evolved into what it is today; an internationally recognized site highlighting gourmet travel.
'When it comes to my hobbies and interests, I pack in as much I can into every day. To pay for university, I had qualified and worked as an Advanced Fitness Leader in Australia, and the fitness habit has never left me. Every morning I exercise at 5:00 am before the school day begins, and over the years, my exercise regime has evolved with different passions such as aerobics, Latin dance, and lifting weights. And right now, my current obsession is kickboxing! I'm also a voracious reader, mostly enjoying nonfiction and autobiographies. The past year has been challenging in many ways, but one blessing has been additional time to read.
'Another keen interest I have is in sustainability and natural systems. Over the pandemic, I studied a university course in Permaculture and set up our edible balcony garden. I've been studying passive design and dream of one day creating a self-sustaining community."
What does 'Be All You Are' mean to you?
"I have a strong belief that you get to choose who you want to be, and one of my most important jobs is getting students to understand this. Many buzz phrases fit, such as a "fixed" versus a "growth" versus an "innovator's" mindset, but in the end, I maintain that it comes down to deciding what type of person you want to be and then trying to align everything you do and say with those beliefs. For me, that is the secret of happiness and being all you are."
Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions to bit.,ly/PanthersofISKL!