Thursday, February 24, 2011

Great Moon Gathering and visit from Scott

Last week started with Valentine's Day on the Monday. Luckily students didn't bring the tonnes and tonnes of candy and sugar and cards until the afternoon and we were able to get a bit of math work completed before the full afternoon party. We decorated paper bags with dollys and paper hearts and hung them from our desks to collect the many many Valentine's Day cards - reminded me of when I was in primary school. Its kind of neat to repeat these memories with my own students. Tuesday was also a shortened day due to a funeral (the whole community usually attends funerals held in the afternoon, so school is often cancelled). On Wednesday we were also granted an early dismissal so that all teachers could get out of Kashechewan for noon. We had an EXTREMELY bumpy 3 hour ride on the winter road to Moosonee, bags and butts flying around the back of the bus. On the train I ran into an old friend Mark who is a grade 8 teacher in Appawatiskat (a community north of Kashechewan, also on James Bay). I met up with Scott at the Cochrane train station, and we headed to the North Adventure Inn - a small hotel on the outskirts of town - with the rest of the St. Andrew's School crew.

The Great Moon Gathering was held in an old high school that hadn't been used for about a decade. The workshops I attended were really great - the highlight was meeting and speaking with the creator of Rabbit and Bear Paws, a series of graphic novels based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Ojibwa. I learned alot about how he started his comic, what inspires him, and just how much work goes into each frame and page. Check it out - its good work. I attended a few workshops on literacy and math, and Olena and I learned how to square dance. It was great being in Cochrane (its about an hour north of Timmins) - we went to Tim Hortons and Giant Tiger (yippee) and even the LCBO. Its amazing how excited teachers on reserve get at discount stores - the place was packed after the workshops - just imagine what the LCBO looked like.

Our trip home is well worth sharing. We got back on the train (Scott too) to head back to Moosonee on Saturday morning at 9am. Within the first few hours, rumours were being muttered throughout the isles that the winter road was closed due to a large blizzard that had hit hard in Kash and Fort Albany. Five hours later we were stranded in Moosonee - the keys to the bus were in Kash and with the river closed due to snow drifts we'd have to spend the night in Moosonee. Local teachers stayed with family and friends, the rest of us were put up in a church hostel or in the army barracks. The next morning we found out that the tide was high on the Albany River and therefore wet and uncrossable, it looked as though we would be spending another night in Moosonee. Eager to get home, 6 of us decided to spend a little to fly. We chartered a 6 seater from Moosonee to Kash.

A 6 seater is really a 7 seater - 5 of the seats are in the back, and the pilot and co-pilot's seat making up the remaining two. Scott found his way into the co-pilot seat and immediatly began joking with the pilot that if he happen to find himself tired, Scott would take over for him, no problem. Jesus. 20 minutes into the flight the plane starts banking left and right and left again, up and down. Scott's flying the freaking plane! I'm clenching the arm rests while Scott's having a hell of a time. At one point the tiny plane did an unexpected little but quick nose dive and I had a bit of a panic attack as my butt lifted off my seat. I think Scott wants to be a pilot now...

We had a good few quiet days here in Kash, watching movies, going outdoors, planning the summer and the year to come, and playing Scrabble. We officially booked a trip to Cuba for April! Neither of us have been to a resort before, and coupled with the fact that Jill and Zach are coming along, we are super excited!

Scott's currently on the train headed back south. Its business as usual again at St. Andrew's. March will be a busy month. Unit plans and report cards are due, and I have my second evaluation at the end of the month.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"I can teach but I cannot force"

January was a very strenuous month. After returning from 2 weeks of vacation I had to readjust to the slower pace of reserve life, meanwhile my students have been extremely reluclent to do much work. February hasn't been much of a picnic, either. Students have been very untrusting of eachother and of me lately - quick on the defense, and a lot of attitudes forming. Staff attendance has also been down with alot of teachers on sick leave and my assistant has been pulled from my class most days for the past few weeks to supply in those teacher's classrooms. As a result, its been extremely difficult to address every student's needs, and they are a very needy bunch. I've changed desks around and our daily agenda, am using even more visuals than before, while attempting to incorporate more group work to encourage cooperation and independant work. I'm trying to be more consistant with consequences for inappropriate behaviour. This job is so exhausting. I've never been so tired, and I feel pretty unappreciated at the end of most days, just happy I made it through. I'm making mistakes, which is to be expected I think from most first year teachers, but I face-palm myself every so often, rethinking my actions or reactions to situations.

Harbour flew out today on ThunderAir. He's gone to stay with the people of Moosonee Puppy Rescue and might already have a place to call home. I gave him one Gravol before he was put on the plane, but I guess it didnt work and he was whining from Kash to Timmins (a half a Gravol usually is enough to put me under!) While he chewed a bit much for my liking, he's a really great dog, love to cuddle and play fetch. I miss him already. It was nice having a dog around again and am glad I got that little fix that I needed. I hope to recieve updates about him.

I've been undeniably homesick here, however I'm finding that I am appreciating winter like I never have before. Its so unbelievaly white here, and there is no need to worry about driving or shoveling. Olena and I tried our hand at snowshoeing last week and I really enjoyed it. We took off across the frozen river to set some rabbit snares (didnt catch anything). The snowmobiles make good hiking trails through the woods and I enjoyed finding new paths while walking Harbour. While it is super cold, its nothing another layer of clothing and some good long johns can't handle.

The entire teaching staff is headed to Cochrane on Wednesday for professional developemet workshops called the Great Moon Gathering. After a half day at school we are piling into a bus to Moosonee, a 3 hour drive via the winter road, and taking a chartered train for another 5 hours to Cochrane. Looking forward to getting out of town for a little while, getting some Tim Hortons and cheap food in restaurants, seeing a movie, and most excitingly seeing Scott who is traveling to Cochrane to meet me!