Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Teacher Initiation

Only in Kash could teachers be "initiated" into the school community as we were this past Wednesday. 11 of us new teachers walked into the highschool gymansium a few nights ago for a "Meet the New Teachers" night. I was exhasted from a hard afternoon with the kiddies and honestly feeling a little intimidated by the whole idea of the evening. I wondered why the benches were set up in such a peculiar way - about 100 community members and parents were sitting against one wall, directly facing our own chairs on the other far side of the gym. "Very stage like," I thought. After a quick introduction from our principal, we were chauffered out of the gym and (actually) locked in the school kitchen for about 10 minutes, wondering "What (TF) is going on???"

We were called into the gym one by one (I volunteered to go second). When I entered the gym again I not only saw a lot more people had made their way into the gym to watch, but that in the middle of the gym where was a long table set up, cloaked in a paper table cloth with several overturned boxes lined up on top. The simple rules of the "game" were explained and I should have taken a big hint, it was too simple but being the feirce competitor that I am, I thought only of getting the fastest time. The whole game was to start at one end of the table, lift the box and yell out the name of the object underneath the box as fast as you could, before moving onto the next. Betsy stood at the far end of the table with a stopwatch, clipboard and pen at the ready.

Who knows if this link will work... but the video says it all.

For the record, I totally would have had the fastest time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Change what can be changed, accept what cannot be changed and learn to know the difference between the two.

The past week or so has been testing, to say the very least. I didn't come here with unrealistic expectations for myself or my students, nor do I believe I romanticized what this experience would be like - nevertheless, sometimes I think that nothing could have prepared me for what I've been through so far, or what is yet to come. I remind myself on a daily basis that my students' daily struggles are much more complex and trying than my own, and that many of them have yet to build coping mechanisms or behaviors to help them deal.

A few of my students are being shuffled into other classes - clashing personalities and behaviors made learning (and teaching) difficult, and thankfully the support staff here identified this need. Meanwhile, I'm constantly trying to find a balance in my own teaching and planning - I want to be liked by my students, for them to enjoy learning, I want my students to enjoy coming to school - especially with a high drop out rate (yes, even at grade 3). Meanwhile, however, I need to set clear expectations for their behavior and instill a certain work ethic in my students. These students will have to work much harder to get wherever they might aspire to go - convincing them that everything I do for them is in their best interest, I think, will be the hardest part of this job.

I am now into my fourth week as a teacher and getting more and more comfortable in my own classroom. Since discovering my inner goof, I have aspirations to become a great story teller (currently studying one of the all time greats - Robert Munsch) and can successful get 20 students to sit STILL for a whole 5 minutes on the carpet while I read. I've got 4 literacy centers going in the mornings, and now that I think students are easing into the routines well, I'll be starting guided reading groups this week (*fingers crossed*). I'm quite proud of my students in the morning - they settle in well, and hopefully students "run" our morning routine by November, all by themselves. We're beginning a letter-writing unit tomorrow that will go for the next two weeks, and after learning that Robert Munsch writes back to all classes that write him, I'm planning to have students write Bob for the grand finale of the unit. We just completed a study of soil in science - the kids love bringing in worms after rainy days to add to our classroom compost - not to mention watch the food scraps as they collect fuzz and rot. The thing I am most excited about, however, is our independent reading time - which has improved by leaps and bounds this past week alone. Since I've "amped up" my read-alouds, covered "what a good reader looks like (and doesn't look like)", and provided a few small incentives, my kids are actually reading, or even just picking up books - which is sooo exciting and satisfying. Many are using reading strategies we've covered... On Thursday, they read quietly for 25 minutes. I almost cried of happiness - not even kidding.

Some days, most days, I am so thankful for for my supportive and loving family - I had an amazing childhood. I am thankful for the network of teachers here, and for a very supportive administration. I am thankful for yoga and hot tea. Most of all, thank you to friends, family, and family-to-be who call, send me long emails of home and care-packages (even if they have yet to arrive!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Starry Starry Night

Just returned from another trip in the back of a pick up, this time for a bonfire - who knows where. I still smell/stink (subjective to individual tastes) of campfire. I personally love it. The stars here, are, without a doubt, one of those most sights I've ever beheld in my life time. My neck hurts from having it craned for 4 hours. The milky way is crystal clear - its hard to see the black for all the white. The stars start thick at the horizon.

I saw shooting star after shooting star. I saw one cross the entire sky, leaving a thin streak of light for a few seconds after the light had passed beyond the trees, and gasped. I thought I had seen it all. Not five seconds later, (my fingers have been hovering over the keys for the past minute because I am having trouble describing what I saw...) the most beautiful, big, bold star streaked across the sky. All 10 of us dropped our jaws, pointed up. It went from direct north to south, its tail was thick, as thick as if you reached out your arm and put up a finger to the sky, it was as thick as that finger... midway through its path, it seemed to explode slightly, suddenly, its trail expanded at that point before continuing on its way, and so white, the trail remained for at least 6 or 7 seconds. I thought, I could get used to this.

In other news, Olena and I have really begun to paint the place... pictures soon to follow!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

Yesterday, Olena and I did (pretty much) absolutely nothing. A strong westward wind and heavy rain kept us indoors, while an exhausting Friday school day drained me of any energy to do anything except watch a few movies - and every bonus feature. We've begun painting and "tiling" the walls with sketchbook paper, reading shitty paperbacks and cleaning every square inch of our place, busying ourselves and avoiding planning on this long holiday weekend.

Our food from Timmins came in - including a box of chocolate chip cookies, Tetley Tea, milk, COFFEE... I woke up yesterday to Olena making us crepes with sliced red delicious apples and natural peanut butter. Spaghetti and veggies for dinner.

We went for a walk in the rain earlier this afternoon, to get out of the apartment and to take a few pictures before the snow comes (the temperature has dropped severely in the past few days, and I doubt it will be long before everything is white). A friendly white faced husky welcomed us outside our doorstep, and walked with us around the dike and through the town. We saw quite a few packs of dogs today, the most I've seen yet. Luckily, they are all friendly or indifferent to us. Saw many dogs curled up under porches and abandoned trucks, sheltering themselves from the wind and rain. I so badly want to take care of them - the poor things look so miserable. I know, however, that if I feed one, I'll be fighting my way through packs of puppies when the weather gets cold.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I've forgotten an essential camera cord at home in London... so in the meantime, I've stolen some photos from Olena.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rice, Rice, more Rice, and a Seal

Just came in from a run. There is a dike built that surrounds the whole community that is 5 km around that I've been trying to run every day since I've been here - some days I am successful, sometimes not so much. Every morning this week a kid or two has come into class, "I saw you running! I saw you running!" Kids are hilarious that way - they think I don't actually live and breath in this community, I exist only in the portable, or fly in daily. Whenever I've seen a student of mine on the road they point, mouths dropped... I love kids for that.

Tonights dinner? Rice. Its been rice for 10 days now. You'd only eat rice, too, if you saw the prices here. When 6 oranges cost 12 dollars... it is little wonder my students eat junk during lunch and then fall asleep in math class. We (Olena and I) have ordered food from Timmins, a place/service called Zudel's which is a god-send. Simply email them a detailed list with your credit card information, and save probably at least a hundred bucks. I was wondering "what if" I had taken that job in Vietnam - would I be eating as much rice as I am now? Or more? ... oh, the thoughts that cross your mind here...

I saw a seal! (If you haven't already heard) and it was awesome. I was running around the dike, and it popped its big head from the water and I followed it upstream.