Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Second Day of School

There are so many resources - books, DVDs, websites - that prepare you for the first day of school.A full day of teachers college is dedicated to it. You can fill the first day with icebreakers, get-to-know you games, your own introduction, how-to procedures, and arts and crafts. I had my name on the door, a name tag on every student, a welcome sign on my board, my kid's notebooks and text books neatly placed on their desks and their first assignment ready to go the minute they set foot in the class. What they don't prepare you for, is the second. It was the second day of school that really hit me: holy shit, I'm a teacher. I've got a lot of work to do and have no real idea where to start. Up until the wee hours of Friday morning, overwhelmed with the task before me, I managed to plan a days worth of work for my students, thanking god that it was Friday and I had the weekend ahead of me to 1) sleep 2) run 3) work.

The other teachers here and the administration have been so helpful and supportive. My principal, acknowledging the fact that I have a difficult class with a wide range of abilities, has already come to my aid on a number of issues. Three other teachers have also been kind enough to supply me with resources that I was without.

What's happened in Kash is this: in 2006 there was a very dire water crisis, and mid-way through the school year the entire town was evacuated until the problem was resolved. As a result, all students missed a half year of school. It was decided that ALL students would be held back a year. This created a double cohort of students (now affecting the grade 3). Last year there was 3 or 4 grade two classes, this year there are 2 more grade 3 classes that in years previous, one of which I am teaching. My classroom used to house grade 2s. When I entered my classroom before school began, there were no grade 3 resources, books, etc, and they hadn't ordered anymore. Teachers at the end of the year purchase resources and supplies for those filling their shoes the following September - and since I wasn't replacing anyone in a new grade 3 class, I haven't had any supplies ordered yet for my classroom.

However, like I said, a few teachers have been extremely helpful and us grade 3 (and a grade 4 teacher) teachers have agreed on a open-classroom policy of sorts - so now I have math text books and am sharing social studies, science and literacy texts with another grade 3 teacher across the hall from me. Since art is my stronger suit, I've agreed to help her (Kris) out with that, meanwhile, she's going to teach me all she knows about running literacy centers (which I have no experience with) so I can begin to tackle the mixed abilities and interests so prevalent in my students.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Day of School

Wow... what a day.

School started in the high school gymnasium, with children and their family members pooling around the gym enterance. The atmosphere was chaotic - students standing with their friends talking, smaller children chasing each other around - meanwhile the new principal attempts to give a heartfelt welcome. Slowly classes were called, and more than an hour later I went to the front of the gym, microphone in hand, and called my class to whoever was listening in the crowd. Then we walked to our portable.

I had about a 3 minute honey moon.

Then the roller coaster of a day began. I can't and won't give out details of my kids (as it would not only jeopardize my job, but it is also very disrespectful to the kids and the community as a whole. What I will say is that, holy sh*t, do kids ever have energy.) All i can speak to is my role, my job done. I survived, at least! Exhausted, so utterly exhausted, but I survived. My pacing needs work (I rush when I'm nervous!), I must learn to fully demonstrate anything I expect students to complete. Model behavior. Model expectations.
I'm too tired to write, much less plan for tomorrow... I fill "you all" in soon, perhaps this weekend after a nap. Or two.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In Kash

Where to begin! How about in London... while saying good bye to Ozzy I was swallowing tears... when it came time to say goodbye to Dad and Jill... not to mention Scott... I wasn't able to remain so composed. I was still a little upset as I left London for Toronto, but by then I was alright, and thinking positively. I had no problems getting through security (except in London, they checked my carry-on for at least 5 minutes, emptying every pocket, convinced I had some dangerous fluid inside...perhaps it was because my eyes were a little red from the tears... turns out it was my travel coffee mug made a funny image on the x-ray...) On the flight from Toronto to Timmins, little did I know that I was sitting across from Olena, my future roomie. She also stayed in the airport that night with me in Timmins - she was going to get a hotel, but when she saw me settling in for the night, and is as cheap as I am, we both tried to get as much shut-eye before leaving the next day. Olena was flying Aircreebec, while I was on Thunder-Air. Thunder-air actually has its own little hanger about 10 minute walk from the airport. It was a tiny airplane ( I took pictures), only a nine seater. There were only four of us on the flight, and 3 well-behaved chihuahuas. We landed in Moosonee first to refuel (I took more pictures), and I met a really nice girl, my age, also engaged, also her first year teaching, heading to Fort Albany for the year. After dropping her off, another 5 minutes later we were in Kash where the rest of us departed. Rosy (Director of Education) met me at the airport, and first stop was the Education office where I signed contracts and benefit papers.

How to describe Kash... its DUSTY! My hair loves it. Its collecting so much of it already. Its been pretty hot. There are no trees in the community (except a few by the grave yard, Rosy pointed them out as "the only trees in Kash") but if you look over the dike there's lots of pines. It is really flat here, all dirt roads. Every drives around in a truck or in the bed of a truck. Or on a four wheeler. Most kids I've seen on one four wheeler is 4, however I've only been here for 3 days. There's quite a few husky dogs around - however not too many strays yet. I've been looking hard for puppies under porches- my new favorite past time when there's not much else to do. I hear they hang around the teacher's portables because we are nice to them. I guess the peope are scared of dogs here, and throw a lot of stones. Some are tied up to porches though, and a few teachers have dogs as pets, too. A lot of small portable-like houses, a lot of broken windows and smashed up cars on front "lawns." People for the most part have been friendly or ignore my hello. The kids are very curious, always asking if I am a teacher and what grade I will be teaching. I haven't met any grade 3s yet though. Olena and I went to the Northern Store - holy shit, is it ever expensive. Natural peanut butter was 10 bucks. A tin of Nabob's grind in 17. Kellogg's cereal is 9. So we sucked it up and bought a few things, but CAN'T WAIT to get food shipped in from Timmins. I hear it's easy and will save us tonnes.

Our apartment: was a great surprise! I'll send pictures soon, but its big and clean and everything is brand new. Olena and I had a great time opening up all our new utensils and pots and pans, mops and pillows.... everything... I was feeling pretty spoiled yesterday. Only thing I can think I'd like is a toaster, but I hear we can easily and cheaply order from Sears. Which reminds me - all of my boxes came in the day I arrived! So I have all of my text books, all of my clothes and supplies. The last of my boxes (which we sent on Tuesday before I left) is at the high school waiting to be picked up tomorrow. We got the internet a few hours ago, and should be getting a phone connection tomorrow asap.

Olena is great. She's also engaged, is from Toronto - and is (is it possible?) cheaper than I. We are getting along really well so far, which is great, because there's only one set of keys...

Earlier today we hopped into the back of a pick up and drove to the Albany River ("the beach") for a dip. It was pretty rocky and there's quite a current, but we stood waist high in the river and met a few new faces. One of the teacher's boyfriends is a cop here, and he set up a paint ball field not far from the community, so hopefully I'll get to try my hand at that before the snow comes....

We just got back from a little get-together with a lot of the teaching staff. Everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming and giving a lot of positive energy. I'm thinking that I couldn't really ask for a better place to begin as a teacher - EVERYONE who teaches here had their first year teaching here, so everyone will know what I will be going through and can give advice/resources. I'm hearing that the new principal, Judy, has been in Kash for years (and for the last 2 or 3 years ran the high school magnificently) and is married to a local, runs a very professional show and is extremely supportive and positive with lots of feedback to give...

The only downer I've heard so far that has me a little worried, is that my classroom might be a little empty when I go in tomorrow. It seems as though no teacher last year did an order for my classroom this year, so I'll be without supplies (ie: notebooks, art supples) for maybe a few weeks. I'm hoping a rush order can be made... but I'll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm sure I can borrow from other teachers... again, we'll see. In the meantime, I'm optimistic.