Advisory Flex Time Activity

25 Sep
My walking club
One of our staff members at AISL knocked sausage tree fruit off the tree
Sausage Tree Fruit

Our Flex time on Tuesdays and Thursdays is a new addition to our Advisory program at the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) this year. We have developed Flex time within our Advisory program to give our students more choices and leadership opportunities. We kicked this off with the first 3 week options being developed from student suggestions. Next session we hope to see lots of our students proposing and leading opportunities for their peers. Modeled on National Geographic writer Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk, slow journalism, and “slow looking.” Learn more about the sausage tree from this video by Discovery UK. From the San Diego Zoo: “With its peculiar, sausage-shaped fruit and blood-red, tulip-shaped flowers, the sausage tree Kigelia africana (also Kigelia pinnata) is a striking standout” in Africa.

The Sausage Tree | Africa’s Trees Of Life (source: Discovery UK)

A Future for Us All (Sir Ken Robinson)

3 May
A Future for Us All – Sir Ken Robinson

Shortly before he passed away, Sir Ken Robinson called Andrew Park – Founder of We Are Cognitive – to arrange a gift for his beloved community…A new animation, based on what proved to be his last public talk, ‘My Thoughts for The Call to Unite’. Watch this fantastic video from this great teacher, writer, researcher, adviser, speaker, and thinker.


Great Quotes

29 Mar

The Ukraine Crisis – Resources

3 Mar
Photo by Rob Martin (March 3, 2022)
Photo by Rob Martin (March 3, 2022)
Photo by Rob Martin (March 1, 2022)

I paused my lessons on trade in my 9th grade/Year 4 MYP Individuals and Societies (Social Studies) class this week to focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. My colleague, Matt, and I felt it was important to talk about this crisis which has not become a war. Students have been very engaged in the lessons and discussions. We first started with a discussion about why this should matter to us. Being so far from this region often makes students (and adults) think, “Why does this matter to me?” My colleague, Matt, shared some excellent resources from The Choices Program at Brown University that focused on building a historical understanding of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine (text and videos), along with an excellent lesson on analyzing political cartoons, something my students enjoyed doing last year. Students are curating their own resources and creating their own political cartoons. There is no shortage of news stories and video footage on the current events which change every day. There are a lot of real-world events that provide teachable moments and this is one of them.

Language Humor

3 Mar

Maybe this could be used for some form of professional development? Hmmm…

Life in Zambia: Movember, Mangos, & Coffee

2 Dec

A few photos from life in Zambia! Our #Movember group raised $1,600.00 to date. Movember is an annual event involving the growing of mustaches and/or choosing a fitness goal during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as anxiety, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.” The Lusaka League of Extraordinary Moustaches included faculty and parents. Here is my ‘Mo’ Space. To date, I raised $300.00 this year. Many thanks for the support and much appreciation and laughs with my school community team. This year’s Movember, in particular, was an important one for me. Here is an excerpt from my page:

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. My dad, Robert W. Martin (Bob) died on March 27, 2011, at the age of 66 after a long, brave battle with prostate cancer. About 1 man in 8 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. The Movember Foundation is working to halve the number of deaths from prostate cancer by 2030, and I want to help them get there.” – Click HERE to learn more about Movember

It’s mango season in Zambia. I love mangos. We bought all these in this photo for less than $9.00 USD on the road (M9) from Kafue National Park last weekend. The coffee is Zambian is from Bush Brew Coffee. My neighbor and colleague, Trevor, organizes the delivery straight from the roasters. I am grateful for my health, our jobs, our school, and life here in Zambia. My goal is always to try to blog more and to share more about life here, along with teaching and learning. Every time I write a post, I feel bad that I don’t blog more often. Baby steps, small goals.

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia – Part 2 (Oct. 2021)

24 Oct

Ten more photos from our five days in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. We enjoyed our week there and are thankful for opportunities to see more of this amazing country. We hope friends will come to visit as travel restrictions get easier. The past year and a half has given us many opportunities to do road trips, go camping, and to learn more about Zambia. While my site focuses more on teaching and learning, I also want to share photos and experiences that allows others to learn more about Zambia and other places we visit. There are a lot of perceptions of what Africa is like. First of all, it’s not a country. It’s often referred to as one place or a country in the media and by people I meet when I travel or return home (“How’s Africa?”). It’s a huge continent with 54 diverse countries and cultures.

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia – Part 1 (Oct. 2021)

24 Oct

Ten photos from our October school break trip to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. This was our second trip to South Luangwa, two years after our first trip. Our family stayed two nights at Time and Tide Nsolo Camp and three nights at Mfuwe Lodge (The Bushcamp Company). Both provided very different experiences, one very remote and rustic and off the grid and the other more comfortable and family-friendly (ex. pool, air-conditioning, etc.). We saw everything we had hoped to see, lots of lions and elephants. My goal was to finally see wild dogs, something I had not seen in my three and half years of safaris in Zambia. I was overjoyed to see packs of wild dogs (sometimes called “painted” dogs). The cherry on top of the sundae was seeing a leopard in a tree that we got to spend about 15 minutes near before it climbed down and ran into the bush. It was a wonderful way to spend our vacation, and we are very grateful for this experience and to live in such a beautiful country.

New York Times 3rd Annual Narrative Writing Contest

12 Oct

The New York Times invites middle and high school students ages 11-19 to tell a short story about a meaningful life experience in 600 words or fewer. Contest Dates: Oct. 13 to Nov. 17, 2021. For this contest, they invite you to write a personal narrative of your own about a meaningful life experience. Please click on this LINK to read more about this contest and the rules.

Works Cited:
Josie, Melinda. “The Winners of Our 2nd Annual Personal Narrative Contest.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021, Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.

Readicide (Book Review)

26 Sep

Read-i-cide (noun): The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Readicide – How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher is a fantastic book that I should have read many years ago. It was published in 2009, and while some of the references to the the state of educational initiatives and politics seem a bit dated, the information and approaches are spot on. This year, I have returned to teaching Language and Literature. This book would make any Humanities, Language Arts, or Middle School/High School English teacher reflect on his/her practices. It is centered more on the teaching practices in the U.S. but I also think the anecdotes fit a lot of what I have observed in American international schools during my career. Parts of the book that resonated with me, include:

  • The over-analysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. This “chop-chop” curriculum or step-by-step approach that we often see in novel studies bombards students with ‘goals’ and ‘habits of thinking’ is a recipe for readicide.
  • The over-teaching of literature prevents students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be – the reading flow.
  • The need for authentic reading, sustained silent reading or DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read), and the 50/50 goal of having students read for pleasure 50% of the time, while the remaining 50% is focused on classes reading a novel that focuses on the skills needed to unpack that novel.
  • The need to build classroom libraries, in addition to amazing school libraries. The middle school language arts classrooms at the American International School Chennai (India), my former school, has incredible classroom libraries and spaces to read. I felt like I was walking into a independent book store.
  • “Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals, and as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school” (Gallagher 59).
  • The importance of finding the balance between over-teaching and under-teaching a novel or text and what this looks like.

Along with The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, a book I read several years ago when I taught Humanities, Readicide gave me a lot of practical ideas and things to ponder about how we literacy skills. I have often observed very different philosophies between school divisions in how they view the teaching of reading. I feel like this book could bridge the divide and for departments to come up with common agreements and understandings that promote a love for reading while also supporting students to become better readers.

Sanctuary (Book Review)

19 Sep

I am teaching MYP 3 (Grade 8 ) Language and Literature this year and really enjoying it. In class we are currently reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and our unit is called The Human Condition. I will write more about this book when we are are finished with it. Part of our class includes D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time. On the eighth day of our eight day cycle, our class also goes to the library to find new books, return books and to do mini-lessons. DEAR time is something I value, and it’s important to me that my students read a wide variety of genres and books outside of the required novels and texts we read in our class. I look forward to sharing book talks and reviews from my students on my blog this year.

During a recent library visit, I picked up Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher, a new book that was purchased by our library. As a Social Studies/History teacher and news junkie, I am very interested in topics around migration, immigration, refugees, identity and poverty. I am teaching MYP 4 (Grade 9) Individuals and Societies this year too! My goal is to read more Young Adult (YA) novels this year, outside of the books selected for our Language and Literature novels and readings. My plan is to share some of these books here, and to encourage others to read them.

This is my short review on GoodReads. I gave it five stars: I LOVED this book! I would recommend it to adults and teens. It touches on some of the biggest stories of our day – immigration, migration, poverty, government infringement on our freedoms, your identity, etc through a beautiful (yet frightening) dystopian thriller that is set in 2032. It feels like a blend of The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and the Netflix series, Black Mirror. I could not put it down. From the jacket cover, it is as “haunting as it is hopeful in envisioning a future where everyone can find sanctuary.”

From Penguin Random House, the publisher (LINK) of Sanctuary, their description, which is featured on the inside of the cover (the dust jacket flap or flap copy): It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee.

Now on the run, Vali and her family are desperately trying to make it to her tía Luna’s in California, a sanctuary state that is currently being walled off from the rest of the country. But when Vali’s mother is detained before their journey even really begins, Vali must carry on with her younger brother across the country to make it to safety before it’s too late.

Check out this book! I really enjoyed it.

Celebrating Our Cultures Through Journaling

12 Sep

Learning about our students’ cultures is vital to understanding our school community and celebrating our diversity. In secondary EAL this week, I learned that Suomi means Finland in Finnish. I asked my new sixth grade student what Suomi means when he entered my classroom wearing the hat pictured. He was not able to tell me, but we Googled it and I learned that it means Finland. I found this BBC Travel article (LINK) about the “mysterious origins” of the name. During a dialogue journal writing activity, one of our English language learners wrote about the kinds of food he likes, while also sharing examples of Finnish cuisine.

A New School Year (2021-2022)!

27 Aug

The start of our fourth year at the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) has gone really well. As we wrap up the final days of August, all grades are back to on-campus learning and most students are back in Zambia. I am teaching grade 8/Year 3 MYP Language and Literature, Grade 9/Year 4 MYP Individuals and Societies and also providing English (English as an Additional Language/EAL) support in the secondary school. Flor continues to teach MYP/DP Spanish and Maya enters 10th grade. My goal continues to be the share ideas, learning, and reflections on teaching, as well as photos from life in Zambia and (hopefully) travels. Have a good year, and do stay in touch.

Revolutions: MYP Year 3 I & S

6 May

Students in my MYP Year 3 Individuals and Societies (Grade 8 History/Social Studies) are learning about revolutions, revolts, protests, rebellions and resistance. This is a new unit for our class and we are focusing on key terms. The statement of inquiry (SOI) is:

At different times and locations, societies can experience revolutionary change, due to a variety of causes and often with long-lasting consequences.

Key Questions we will address:

Factual: What is a revolution? What are the causes of a revolution? Review case studies from history.

Conceptual: What are the different types of revolution? What factors determine the significance of an event?

Debatable: Do revolutions always lead to progress?

Last week, students had to do the following task:

Demonstrate your understanding of the term revolution by drawing a sketch or cartoon to represent it, using the information you have learned in our lessons and your own ideas. Think about how you could bring the key concept of change into the drawing.

Kafue National Park – Zambia

20 Apr
Sunset in Kafue National Park
Red-breasted roller
Male lion
Elephant near Ila Lodge
Jackal on the M9 at sunrise
Kafue River at sunset
Kaingu Lodge
Baby crocodule
Walking to the rock to watch the sunset (Kaingu Lodge)

Kafue National Park is in south-central Zambia. Established in 1950 and located about 200 miles (322 km) west of Lusaka, the park covers an area of 8,650 square miles (22,400 square km) and consists of a vast and gently undulating plateau, situated along the middle reaches of the Kafue River and its two tributaries, the Lufupa and the Lunga (Britannica). It is the oldest and largest park in Zambia, and one of the largest in Africa. We have visited Kafue a few times, most recently twice this year. We stayed in Ila Lodge and Kaingu Lodge, both excellent lodges.

The Impact of Ideas and Innovations on Me

13 Apr

Our current unit in MYP 3 (Grade 8) Individuals and Societies is coming to an end. In an effort to make connections from our case study – The Renaissance – to our world, I asked students to make a collage and to consider this statement: The Renaissance impacted our personal and cultural expression. What is my culture, and what ideas and innovations have impacted my life?

1. Mind-Map: Create a picture/text collage of your own culture and what influences you. Consider what artists and any other significant people and things influence your own expression or who you are. Use PicCollage, Google Slides, Google Documents or another app/website to create your collage.

2. Rank – Review your finished collages and pick out your top 3 most significant influences on your own culture. For each one, explain why it influences you, and what they tell you about the time and place of your own culture.

3. Write – Write a paragraph describing what your own culture is, using examples.

Paul Salopek (Out of Eden Walk): Guest Speaker

19 Dec

Paul Salopek from the Out of Eden Walk joined 4th graders at the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) last Thursday for a Q & A about this journey, slow journalism and explorers. The students had just completed a unit on explorers where they compared explorers from history to modern-day. Paul’s walk has inspired me since he started in 2013 in Ethiopia.

We did a Google Meet from Myanmar (Burma) where he currently is staying, as he prepares to enter China in the new year. There were so many nuggets of information and words of wisdom from our thirty minute session with him. One key take-away for students is the understanding that explorers do not have to travel long distances to learn about other places. They can learn more about their neighborhood and city through slow walks and close observation…opening their senses.

I am very appreciative of Paul for taking the time to talk with our students. The Out of Eden Learn project and his walk remain something that I am passionate about as they have brightened my days. Follow the Out of Eden Walk and join Out of Eden Learn, if you are an educator. Photos by Tony Potts and Rob Martin.

Adventures in Zambia

14 Dec

I have done a very poor job of maintaining my blog since the start of the school year. Grand plans of posting regularly fell by the wayside, as the school year began with distance learning and all the work that is involved in providing the best for our students (and our families!) during these difficult times. I feel fortunate that Zambia has managed things well during this pandemic. I am grateful for our school community and friends who have been supportive. I am also thankful that I live in a beautiful country where our family can get out and camp and go on safaris to see the amazing wildlife. I have included 10 of my favorite photos from different spots in Zambia, including the Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park. These photos were taken by me or my daughter.

As we complete our last week of school before Christmas break, I wish my students – former and current – all the best. Be safe and keep in touch. I would love to reconnect with you. My email address is:

Wishing you the best during these difficult times. Let’s hope 2021 brings better news.

– Rob Martin, American International School of Lusaka, Zambia

Lord of the Flies Resources

30 Aug

From Ted-Ed: I like their “Why you should read…” videos. My daughter, now in 9th grade, is starting to read this novel. Explore William Golding’s timeless satire, “Lord of the Flies,” which follows a group of shipwrecked boys as they descend into anarchy. After witnessing the atrocities of his fellow man in World War II, William Golding was losing his faith in humanity. Later, during the Cold War, as superpowers began threatening one another with nuclear annihilation, he was forced to interrogate the very roots of human nature and violence. These musings would inspire his first novel: “Lord of the Flies.

Check out William Golding’s Lord of the Flies Video SparkNote: Quick and easy Lord of the Flies synopsis, analysis, and discussion of major characters and themes in the novel. For more Lord of the Flies resources, go to

An audio version of the classic, Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies Video Summary (from GradeSaver)
Lord of the Flies (Full Movie)

This link to the novel is helpful for English language learners. It’s an audio book and you can adjust the speed – LINK (from ESL English Bits).

News of the Week

2 Jun

Two articles/Op-Ed pieces I have read this week that are worth sharing and that resonated with me:

How Western media would cover Minneapolis if it happened in another country by Karen Attiah (Washington Post) – LINK – As a long term expat, I found this very well-written.

How We Broke the World by Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times) – LINK

Distance Learning Resources (The Power of Journaling) – Part 2

28 May
Video source: John Spencer (Youtube) – John Spencer’s Website
Image source: @ValentinaESL (ναℓєηтιηα gσηzαℓєz) – Cult of Pedagogy
Many teachers and parents are seeking engaging opportunities and lessons for students during distance learning, especially ones that don’t require a technology or a device. One of my favorite activities is journaling. I have had students journal for years, and I have always noticed amazing growth in their writing and thinking skills. Whether you are journaling for yourself or for your students, I have been collecting resources during the past two months. Here are some of the best articles I have found on this topic. My top 10!
Students Can Respond to Daily Writing Prompts, Inspired by The New York Times, at Home for Free (New York Times Learning Network)
Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary (New York Times)
My 2020 Covid-19 Time Capsule (Long Creations)
How Keeping a Pandemic Journal Builds Students’ Historical Thinking Skills and Helps Them Cope (Mindshift)
12 Ideas for Writing Through the Pandemic With The New York Times (New York Times Learning Network) – Great ideas here!
How Student Journals Can Spark Curiosity and Inspire Creativity in the Classroom (John Spencer)
Why Mundane Moments Truly Matter (New York Times Smarter Living)
How Dialogue Journals Build Teacher-Student Relationships (Cult of Pedagogy)
Student Journaling During Coronavirus (Facing History and Ourselves)
Innovative Ways to Make Coronavirus a Teachable Moment (Edutopia)

Distance Learning Resources – Part 1

26 May
A photo a parent sent to me doing a Google Meet with her daughter.
Image Source: International Baccalaureate (Living the Learner profile – Learning Online) – Good reminders!
Like many teachers, I have been drinking from the “firehose of information” when it comes to the resources, technology tools, and reflections on what is working or not working in distance learning. I have been sharing articles with friends and educators, as well as Tweeting (@DigitalNomadRob) some that have resonated with me. Here are a few standout sources. I will continue to add ones that I think are keepers and worth a read. These may appeal to parents as well.
Revising Your Teaching Philosophy for This Crisis (Edutopia)
“Keeping a clear head during a crisis is difficult, but drawing on our beliefs can guide us through. Condensing your teaching philosophy to short statements will help you recall what is important in these moments and will help keep you centered and clear—and applying it to your work will help you chart a path forward for everyone.” – Aaron Tombrella
How Can Educators Tap Into Research to Increase Engagement During Remote Learning? (Edsurge)
Helpful Online Resources for Teaching ELLs (Edutopia) – There are some great links to resources within this article.
“If I Knew Then…”: A School Leader Reflects on Ten Weeks of Learning Online (Global Online Academy) – excellent suggestions!
A Letter to Educators Teaching Online for the First Time (Edsurge)
The job of an online teacher is the job of an offline teacher is the job of a teacher. Connect to people and help them to feel connected to you and to the dimension of the world you are leading them to experience. Connect your students to one another in a way that enables them not only to learn content from one another, but also to catch life experiences from one another—to shape one another in the way that only peers can. It’s that simple … and it’s that complex.” – Reshan Richards and Stephen J. Valentine
Distance Learning: A Gently Curated Collection of Resources for Teachers (Cult of Pedogogy) – One of my favorite educator blogs!

Africa Day

25 May
Image source: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

Africa Day is a holiday in Zambia and some other African nations every 25 May. The day celebrates the founding of what is today called the African Union, but originally was called the Organisation for African Unity, which was founded on 25 May 1963.

The Danger of a Single Story (TedTalks)

22 May
“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” This TedTalks video is an excellent one that I recently heard about through a webinar. It’s excellent and I strongly encourage you to watch it. It has been viewed by millions.

Where is Home?

21 May

Paul Salopek (Out of Eden Walk) and other presenters will be talking about the concept of home with a focus on Chicago. This webinar will be on May 26 at 3:00pm (Central Time – US/Canada). Sign up using this link. This talk makes me think about one of my favorite Ted Talks by Pico Iyer, “Where is home?” If you are a long term expatriate (expat) or Third Child Kid (TCK), you will really enjoy this talk. Here is a link to the Ted Talk.

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