Thursday, October 3, 2013

How does one get it all in?

I am tiring myself out trying to do justice to my job and I can't get it all in. I go home tired, worn out and bring things home that sometimes keep me up late into the night grading, planning... to make sure I am doing my job diligently. My dad works for USFWS and he is on furlough. He has been calling himself a hobo for two days now. 70 year old man who has been working all his life trying to call himself a hobo because he is on furlough. He was wanting to retire and I smiled and said "Dad, this is what retirement feels like." I just had to get back on my 'therapy' since I can't afford a real one. The good thing is time is going by quickly - a little too quickly. I can already see growth in my students and the first of our 4 marking periods on the horizon. My son is in Kindergarten and I can see his learning despite his proclamation that he doesn't learn anything in school. Those are the things that keep my wheels turning. When things look like they are going down I notice things that "pay" me in gold. The look of utter concentration of a student who just "got it" and is now racing to get it done. The second glimpse of a student where you realize just how young they are. The instant smile when you make a joke and they get it.Despite all the hoops I need to jump through it is worth it. I just wish the government could put such demands on their own performance.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Well I survived my first three weeks as a 3rd-4th grade teacher

As I was subbing for a teacher in Newtok I was offered a permanent position at Kasigluk for 3rd and 4th grades. I jumped at the chance. In the time I had to accept to the first day of class my emotions were all over the place. I was told the class was a tough group of kids who had a rough start. Other than that I did not know what kind of situation I would enter. I felt like I was closing my eyes, praying and jumping into the unknown, not knowing where or how I would land. This was a relatively new emotion for me - uncertainty. On the bright side, I would be stationed close to Bethel and home and I know some of the people there. Correction - I had known some of the people there from when I went there for conferences as a child. There is also a Russian Orthodox Church there - and I know some of the people from my attending the church at Bethel. I knew of the challenges such as a tough group of kids, no running water or toilet in the home provided for me and my son and babysitter... All things fell into place in time. I encountered a very unorganized classroom - things everywhere in piles and a group of kids who provided me with ample challenges. I had to literally force myself to just look down at what was directly in front of me so I would not allow the sense of being overwhelmed diminish what momentum I had in me. The few times I glanced at the classroom I found myself deep in thought, wondering how a classroom could become so unorganized. I teared up thinking to myself, "If I feel so impacted with confusion and loss as an adult being in the classroom for as little time as I had how would a child of 8-10 feel having to be here every day?" I still need the prayers I requested from friends and family but by Christmas break I felt like I was able to at least provide a classroom organized and in some sense of order so that the children, my students feel comfortable and safe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I am never taking my amenities for granted again!

I never knew how much I took modern conveniences for granted until I moved here. Waking up and jumping in the shower - even turning on the faucet for a drink of water sounds like some lost treasure for me today. It didn't a year ago - or even a month ago! Funny how something I thought so little of is now thought of as golden treasure! I admire the dedication it takes for the teachers who come from places that have modern conveniences and enter a place that do not...yet they endure so they teach. The teachers here make the best things. I admire their positive attitude and smile at their antics. A Christmas party the day I arrived at the end of September - "because we can!" A pair of youthful teachers draping another teacher's house at Halloween - "Its our tradition!"I am so glad I met them!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thoughts as I contemplate their situation

I have been subbing for a teacher who has 9th and 10th graders with the age ranging between 17-19 years old. Of these 11 students, some are no longer eligible to receive credit for the semester due to unexcused absences, yet they come to school each and every day. One might think, "wow, talk about dedication!" Sadly, they do not come to do assignments, nor to do any work at all... Today after ruining their day yet again because I told them, "When you come in to the classroom as a student, it is automatically assumed that you are here to do the work for that class." Previously, I told the student if they are unwilling to do the work, they can leave. I received a prompt "You are supposed to encourage, not discourage students!" along with a few mumbled threats. I replied, "I am encouraging you - to do the work you need to complete to pass the class." Today I went a step further. I told the students, "If I am saying anything that you do not like, please write down the words I need to say in order for you to become a successful student so I will know what to tell you. I need to know what words need to be said for you to realize you need to do the work in order to earn the grade. School is just like a job: if you don't do the work you don't get paid. Your grade is the payment for the work you need to do each day. I do not know of any job that would pay anyone for doing nothing." The end result was that I still had the same students sitting in my classroom. However, today they were not as distracting to the rest of the class. I know this is not the only classroom that encounters this dilemma. I know it will not be the last I have - although with my elementary degree hopefully I will not encounter the aforementioned circumstance in the future. What I cannot get is the attitude that it is my fault. I am the mean teacher who forces them to think on their lack of motivation... Sorry - I just needed to vent... still... no solution... still end up with kids hanging out in class, doing nothing...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I can say "I was there!"

Newtok is going to be in the news again and I can say "I was there!" It was amazing to witness first-hand the power of the wind and weather. Although, I would not say the weather is what was impressing me during my long-term substitute teaching position here at Newtok, Alaska. My greatest impression has been with the people. I thank the staff of Newtok Ayaprun School for welcoming me into their team. I have been substituting for a teacher since October 1st. I have already been to one Christmas party, a movie night... Looking at the size of this community and the school I keep thinking: Gosh... This looks just the size of Russian Mission when I was in Elementary School. Lots of memories. I keep telling the kids... "You don't know it but you are in a very historical place. You are one of the last people that can say 'I went to school in Newtok.'" I would look out into the village and remember my Grandfather showing me places in Ohogamiut. He would look over the remains of the village remembering where things used to be. Each time I walk down the boardwalk or look around the village here in Newtok I find myself wondering if my Grandfather felt the same sense of nostalgia when he realized that the village will soon be empty if he stood thinking, "in a few years there will be nothing here." I often wonder if that was the reason my family returned to Ohogamiut for summer fishing - because of the family we left buried there. The feeling of community and people resonating through time - felt even only grass remained where houses once stood, where roads intersected. For this little while at least I can say, "I was in Newtok when all those houses were there..."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Has blogging gone to the wayside?

Its been such a long time since I even considered blogging that when I decided to try this again I could not find where to begin due to changes in format. I checked to see updates and noticed that no one else had anything written for ages. Has it become a thing of the past?

Monday, January 16, 2012

My mind is too busy - Midnight thoughts

You ever see the time and say "Darn! already? I need to get to bed PRONTO! Maybe if I read this book (required reading for class) I will get so sleepy that going to sleep will be a breeze," only to have the exact opposite happen? Really? It never happened to you ever?? You are so LYING! lol
My book is Place and Community-Based Education in Schools by Gregory A. Smith and David Sobel.
Russian Mission has a great community based or place based system they have used for years so I thought I would say "oh yeah, I know..." and I admit I scanned some parts that seemed too... what is the word.... lets just leave it at "I skimmed over a few paragraphs" then got to underlining a few phrases. Then got to thinking over a few statements. Imagining the responses to some of the things I would have liked to say..... then I realized I was making myself all the more awake with all this thinking.
So I turned off the lights and kept thinking..tossed. Thought. Tossed. Thought.
I got so tired I decided this can become something worth talking over with some people.

So here goes:
My thinking process accelerated with the sentence "it is important to acknowledge that public education has from the beginning been more concerned about diminishing community ties than strengthening them." (31 Smith, Sobel) Instant flashback in fast-forward of the stories of boarding schools, punishments for speaking languages other than English... a kaleidoscope of comments about what kids are doing wrong in school, how they just 'don't care' about their education... the root of our problem with school today from low scores to low attendance.

Solution? Teachers - put your pride in your pocket and really see your students as children - human beings - feelings - emotions..... and expectations from others other than the school. No assumptions needed, wanted or otherwise. Learn more about the communities you are joining. (let me say that again - the community you are joining as a member) and let it not be only what they need to do for you.

I know. I opened a can of worms. Before all the snide remarks come flying let me ask. 1. Who actually knows the history of the community from a community member's viewpoint? I will take myself as an example. I can thank my teachers in elementary and high school for allowing elders into our classroom to tell us about starvation, famine, illnesses, family kinship ties and traditions and how that affected how the elders saw life and the importance of doing what is right as opposed to what is easy to do. That those factors instilled a sense of community such that when one member is lost the pain reverberates to the whole community. That grief is not something dealt in a day - so we take more than one day away to help console each other to deal with the loss. That is why the namesakes of the loved one is so closely tied to the family who has lost a loved one.

Even as we teach and even as the children are attending school they are a part of a larger world which in a lot of cases the teachers refuse to "see" they look, they judge, they critique... rarely do they live as a member of the community. Yet, they occupy such a large part of someone's child's day.