Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lots of changes

This week was quite eventful. I can truthfully say that the entire mood of the school changed. My roommate, Jennifer, was asked to resign and leave her position as the 1st/2nd grade teacher at our school. Sometimes a person's mouth can get them in plenty of trouble. We are now back to scrambling to find people to cover her classes. It's definitely hectic.

We also had a death in the community last weekend. He was an elder and one of my student's aapa (grandfather). It is really interesting to attend an Inupiat funeral. When there is a funeral in the community, the school is used instead of the church. People come from all over and the gym was full of people. School was dismissed at noon and there was a visitation from noon to 1:00. After that, the funeral begins. Anyone who wants to speak or sing is allowed to. They also have singing groups that go up to the front and sing in Inupiat. I couldn't believe the amount of emotion. It was such a wonderful, unsanitized grieving process. Funerals in the lower 48 always seem so regimented, whereas this was more of a celebration and a community event. All of the family contributes to burying their loved one. The sons and grandsons all work together to dig the grave, which isn't easy in the middle of winter. Everyone comes together in a massive effort of support. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tundra Attire

This weekend I was put in charge of watching my rooommate's dog, Oakley. This includes taking him for walks and letting him take over my bed. This morning I took Oakley for his daily walk. It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to get ready to make even the smallest trip across the village. Usually in the morning it requires an additional five minutes to get dressed in the appropriate outer gear. On days when you're going to be out longer, you can probably double that. For my adventure this morning, I wore: fleece pants, a sweatshirt, wool socks, snowpants, my heavy coat, 2 hats, snowmobiling mittens that go half way up to my elbow, a scarf, and my "good to -100 degrees" boots. All for a 20 minute walk around town. I was exhausted just dressing myself.

What cracks me up even more is that once I got outside and looked around, there were kids running around in little Chuck Taylor Converses (no socks either) and capris. Not a jacket in sight. It completely blows my mind. These kids can't even feel the cold.

Two weeks ago, we actually had school cancelled. It was so cold and so windy (42 mph) that our principal cancelled school. Teachers still needed to attend so that we wouldn't have to make it up at the end of the year, but we went out for a walk to get the mail and kids were still running around and playing outside. Nothing can stop this kids. They are all way too tough for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Well, it has been a very busy month. School has completed the first quarter, we all survived Halloween, and only a few more weeks until we get a break. I have found myself buried under piles of paperwork, trying to get a hold on things before I get too far behind. Last Tuesday, we held parent teacher conferences. Our conferences here run much the same as those in the lower 48, but fewer parents seem to come. Of my six students, I talked to four of their parents. Ouch! I just wish I could see more support for the students coming from the parents side. Jenny, my roommate, had asked a parent what their belief on discipline is, and received the reply, "We let them learn from their own mistakes." In other words, there is no discipline or any sort of repercussion for acting out in school and getting bad grades. Bummer.

Yesterday, we had a big Halloween carnival in school. Janey and I were in charge of the Spooky House, and I had a wonderful time scaring the pants of kids. It seemed to go very well. After the carnival, students went around the village to trick or treat. At 6:00, the community put on a celebration called "Puuqtaluk." This activity is where community members dress up to hide their identity. They stuff their clothes, wear two different shoes, walk funny, and basically do anything they can so they can't not be recognized. Not everyone participates in this, but most of the people show up to watch. Each age has a different category, so only the little kids compete against each other and adults compete against each other. Once the age category is called and all the contestants have a number, they must do a dance. Once as a whole group and then again individually. Winners are determined by a panel of judges and they win huge cash prizes. First place was $250 and each place after that got less money, all the way up to 4th place. This activity was so much fun! Jenny and I sat through the whole thing and tried to guess who was who. We really had a great time.