Sunday, December 16, 2007
The following day we had our staff x-mas party. Another potluck, the school had bought turkeys and had over 20 dishes to choose from. Needless to say it was easy to gain weight.
For the kids it was decided on the final Wednesday to have a sing along. Below are a few pictures of us at the NCC (Native Community Center), and a sample of the grade 3 singing the 12 days of Christmas in Naskapi (sorry there was very little light.
Then, on Thursday we had class parties. The kids came in at 10am for two hours. The sec 4 and 5's decided that we would play games... aka poker. The morning went well, we cleaned our rooms, moved the desks and chairs and left for the holidays (Dec. 14- Jan 7 (but we work several Saturdays and start early).
First things first. From the moment I arrived I was taken aback by the many packs of dogs that wonder freely between Kawa and Schefferville.
The issues with the dogs has become bothersome, pulling on my heart strings as the temperatures drop and food becomes increasingly rare. The first photo shows Andy providing food scraps to one of the packs. One point of interest is that a husky is always the pack leader, you can tell as he pushes his way into the window after the last of the scraps.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The temperatures are dropping fast, its -26 today with the wind-chill, and you can feel it. The cold if different though, its light and dry which in some way makes it more bearable. But I've heard that it’s more dangerous. You don't feel the cold the same way and are more likely to under dress. A few of the Newfies got frostbite last year in only a few minutes while they were shoveling while wearing only thin gloves.
Christmas is right a round the corner =)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
But little did I expect that I would also have to become accustomed to the ways of the Newfie. The Newfies make up the majority of teachers in the school, and so they have become natural allies. In fact, it has become custom to meet on Fridays for a few beverages and live East coast music (guitar and accordion). This brings me to last Friday, when I arrived at 7:00, the boisterous Newfies were already three sheets to the wind, and one of the youngens had a little to much to fast. I quickly suggested that we get him some food. Agreeing with my diagnosis, the host sprang to work frying up what smelled like dark meet chicken. And so I sat and talked with the inebriated fellow, when the plate of food was sat before him.
Smelling delicious, I took a gander at the plate to see what looked like oval meatballs in gravy on a slice of home made bread. My gut wrenched when one of the pieces rolled from atop the pile towards me and I noticed a ventricle. Closing my eyes, I quickly asked the Chief what he had prepared. His response was "Chicken Hearts!", and I broke into uncontrollable hysterics of laughter as I leapt to my feet and turned my back to the plate.
I sat, claming my laughter and apologizing to the unphased crowd. The thought then stuck me, if I can bring myself to eat Caribou... why not? Before loosing my cool I asked "Can I try one?". Offering me a place, I had to reaffirm the ONE! But it was too late, the laughter and anxiousness had returned. I sat curled in a chair, and finally went for it. I popped the small, warm piece of meat into my mouth. It was firm and slightly fibrous. I concentrated on two things, chewing and not gagging. And it was down. It tasted like chicken, but the idea was haunting. Still, writing about it nearly a week later has caused my to loose my appetite.
But it is strange how new experiences are all around us. The most recent is the insane obsession to cut my hair. It has been 9 weeks since my last haircut, and each day drives me a little closer to madness as the ends curl and shift independently. There had been a plan for a group of us to have our hair trimmed last week, but the
woman was a no show. Tomorrow brings yet another opportunity, that if unsuccessful, will drive me to the brink and cause me to take drastic action. The local store does not sell trimmers, so I fear that I will be forced to take scissors to my own head-- ever cautious of my inherited big ears.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I know that it has been a long time, and I assure you that there is a reason. In the third week of October there was a major storm which blew the antennia that controlled the internet away (like it went missing in the snow). Anyway, the guy that controlled the thing found the antennia and put it back on the roof in the hope that all would be fixed… but it wasen’t. He then went on a trip to Sept-Iles (I guess as a vacation for having put the antennia back up), and was informed that the net was still not working. So he came back this week to find out that it is a problem with the server (I think that’s what I heard). Anyway, he isn’t sure if he can fix it, and the buisness doen’t do well, so I don’t think he is motivated enough to fix it.
The luck thing (if you could say it), is that the net was a pay as you go system, and I needed to buy more hours before this started. But there are talks that he may be reimbursing some of the money (which means he has given up…).
Unfortunitly, the only working connections are here at the school and they are super strick on usage (15 minutes each day plus lunch). I have wanted to update the blog on the snow, Halloween and my recent snowmobile trip, but have been unable to. I’m looking of a solution to my problem, but so far the best is to buy a 300$ satillite and pay 50$ a month… not something that I want to do if I only stay a year… That reminds me to mention that the place is growing on me. Now that the snow is falling, and I can’t see the garbage everywhere, the place looks nicer. The kids are a little better now that the really bad ones are kicked out, and some have been sent to jail or juvie.
So, I figure that either the internet is fixed by Friday, or I start using a lunch hour a week to updat those that care… Fingers crossed that I can do this from home,
Saturday, October 6, 2007
That is the word that I would use to describe my experience thus far. I have been unable to accomplish my academic goals. My efforts to facilitate learning have flopped; my application of best practices are ineffective. And I have had to ask myself why.
Through conversation with fellow teachers with far greater experience, I have been told repeatedly that the students “don’t care”. Being an eternal optimist in the potential of students, I felt that perhaps I could motivate my students. Many refuse to talk; literally looking in a different direction and ignoring the fact that I call their names. I have to contort my body to find their eyes, which then roll as I’m asked “what”. I am used to the idea of difficult students. But my frustration is compounded by the fact that the difficult students represent a majority. I feel as though I live in the “Bizzaro world” described on an episode of Seinfeld. Last year I would have 1-3 students out of 25 fail my tests. I now have 1-3 pass. And the results are drastically different. 10-20% of the class get less than 30%. I have been told to be happy with these results (which I find appalling and depressing). Last year only 15% of students passed history. Many of those that failed are now in my class.
I continue to be optimistic, believing that as long as I follow what I know, I will see some results. Lisa Delpit in “teaching other peoples children” describes the need in First Nations Communities to connect to culture and ancestry. My students don’t respect their culture or ancestors and don’t know their history. Trying to teach them their history and culture (outside of the curriculum requirements) was met by the same response as all classes. Lecture is like talking to a wall. Questions are not answered, and asking specific students results in shrugs or being ignored. Students don’t read or talk for jigsaws, they don’t speak to one another in group discussions. They won’t create non-linguistic representations… the only thing they will do is take endless notes. But this is an ineffective means of learning, and I continue to try what I know will work through the hostility.
I had my art classes create personal representations and the results, although creative, are disturbing as they were created by 11 and 12 year olds.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
On a side note - This evening was meet the teacher, the school got only about 25 parents (between all grades). They came, had coffee, I spoke to the one couple who's son I taught. Of course he was one of the best students and was skipped ahead two years ago. Then the parents came to the gym, we say in a circle and all introduced ourselves. Then the secondary parents got a review of school policies and a plea to help us support these efforts (but they were the good parents). Next there was coffee and cookies, and a draw for 1 of 3 certificates for gas. In the past they gave out bingo cards to encourage parents to come, but we voted against the idea of supporting gambling.
Anyway, that explains why I was at the school until 8:00pm. So on the way home, the blockade, was in full swing. They had about 15 men, a giant fire and huge cement blocks. They then stopped the bus (the short bus) and asked us what we were doing. Then let us through. It was strange, we waved on the way by to show our support. They are in fact blocking the outfitters from using the main road to the hunting grounds. But, as I found out, the outfitters have many other ways to get to the rounds. Oh well.
Tomorrow is Caribou day. The teachers that dare to cross the area that is blocked can go hunt, while the rest of us have a PED day. They of course have to make the day up on a later Saturday, but still several are going. I wish them luck.
On a lighter note, and I say that metaphorically, we got our first snowfall yesterday. The snow started falling on the drive home. I had a nap, and by 9:00pm we had about 5cm on the ground. Then this morning it was still snowing and looked like a winter wonderland. It was the 12th of September. I woke up and would have sworn it was December. Actually, one of the teachers from NFLD got on the bus and jokingly wished us all a Merry Christmas. It was very different.
Monday, September 10, 2007
1. The water in Kawawa is under a boil order. We were not told this until the beginning of school and so several of the teachers had already gotten their glass of water for first period and taken several mouthfuls. Others had tea or coffee that had not been boiled for the recommended 5 minutes. All of these teachers were feeling ill on the way home. I had been very upset that I had forgotten my water glass at home, but it wound up being a blessing in disguise. Have I mentioned that the school doesn't have substitutes. If a teacher is sick/ unavailable (like a doctors appointment) the students are sent home for the hour.
2. There seems to be hostility brewing. The Montaigne (who live in Schefferville) have set up a barricade to prevent the outfitters, campers and outside hunters from getting to the major lake because in recent years they have been scaring off the Caribou. I got only part of the explanation on the way home, but it had something to do with the hunters coming in to the lake by water planes which scare the Caribou far into the bush. Some have said that the large (1.5mx 3m) cement slabs are just the beginning. They already have tents set up. A rumor suggests that they may try to block THE ROAD; that is the one road that connects us to the school. I hope all goes peacefully and quietly.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I was cautious, having seen the stakes in the vacuum packet bag, filled with dark red blood. But they looked similar to beef after being prepared. And, unlike moose, which has a seperate and distinct texture and taste, caribou is just like beef. In fact, the two would be indistinguishable.
So for the record, I have eaten (and enjoyed) caribou. Also known as reindeer. Sorry Rudolph.
Last night as we gathered, a pair of teachers drove by the large viewing window of Lyndon’s living room, and saw our gathering. They came up only to say hi, because one of the teachers was sick. The older of the Naskapi women said that she would make some medicine for her that will help her heal quickly. She was asked what was in it, and told us that it was a secret, but that we probably didn’t want o know. This sufficed most peoples curiosity, but not mine or that of one other teacher that has been in the community for over 20 years. She asked if it was
My chance came later in the evening when we moved to a local bar known as the Disco. There was no disco music, but there was a live band that sang Montagnais pop-rock. The older Naskapi woman was slightly inebriated by this point, and so I asked about the medicine again, and received an answer that I thought could not have been correct. To clarify, I asked “beaver’s paws?” which was replied to with “no, beaver’s balls”. Trying not to create an awkward silence I think I replied something stupid like “isn’t that interesting”. And I was told that the medicine has a variety of purposes. The woman has diabetes and will be going in for hip replacement surgery very soon, and swears that it keeps her blood sugar regular and helps the body heal quickly. Let me just say, I hope I don’t get sick, and if I do, I’ll be sticking to my Tylenol and Nightquil.
After a shower, I decided at around 9:00 last night to settle in and read. That was until a knock came at the door. Lyndon, me neighbor and fellow teacher, was at the door with Francois. They told me that they were entertaining next door and that I had to come. So I quickly changed and went next door to find several of the Naskapi teachers from Kawawa (cow-wa). They wanted to show us the town as they knew it. So we jumped into a truck and drove into the middle of the woods in this middle of nowhere town. It was the caribou bar. A pub like establishment build to keep the hunting parties entertained. On the closest wall was the head of a stuffed caribou, the first I have ever seen, I resisted the peculiar urge to reach out and touch it.
The topic arose on how little information we are given about the region before me arrive. I asked (on a hunch) if we would get dark and light periods. The answer was yes. They said that sometimes it ill be dark when we come home from school (4:20pm) and that the sun has been known to rise at 2:00am. I was advised to cover my bedroom windows with tin foil (which must be why there is tape residue on all of my windows). We sat on the patio which overlooked a dark lake. One the lake were about a dozen water aircraft, tied to the dock like one expects to see ships. And we sat and had a drink, my single rum and coke cost $8.50. I was then told to turn around. It was strange, like waves of translucent silk, similar to the light green light given off by Christmas lights. The northern lights came upon the ski. It was beautiful and mesmerizing like a lava lamp. This is a beautiful part of the country. I’ve been told that it is still early in the season, and that the lights will get brighter. I will try to take a picture to post, but my cameras night ability is limited.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
On August 30th, following a full day of classes, I was invited to join a group of fellow teachers on a fishing trip. Without even having changed, I jumped into the back seat of a pick-up and we were off. Out first stop, the local corner store, for worms. Then off we went towards the cross, driving through a cove which lay between the mountainous walls. We stopped along the way to better affix a canoe which was tied to the roof of the vehicle. Along the drive I was assured that I didn’t need gear because we had borrowed the schools rods (yes, the school had rods).
We hadn’t driven for very long when we came across one of the hundreds of pristine lakes that surround the town. We piled out, and untied the canoe. I was passed a bottle of bug spray and liberally dowsed myself in the nauseous spray, knowing that it was much better than the massive red bites I would otherwise have received from the small black flies that swarm in clouds around Schefferville.
We then walked through the dense brush to a small (2 x 2 meter) clearing which revealed a beautiful, monstrous lake of still dark water. Or at least it was almost still, with the exception of dozens of fish that continually slapped the waters surface with their tails looking to eat some of the millions of black flies.
And so I was volunteered, being the newest to the lake, to a canoe tour. I piled in, and was lead around the edges of the water by Andy, one of the adult ed. Teachers, and one of the nicest Newfoundlanders you could possibly meet. This being his second year, he pointed out the large hill that lay behind us, and told me that it was the sight of a ski hill that existed in the 80’s. But that we would be back there this winter for a winter carnival where the children will slide down the former ski hill and we (the teachers) will prepare hotdogs and hot chocolate from the near by cabin.
Andy then told me that last year he often cross country skied though the clearings of the woods. That was until he was warned of wolf packs that were known to frequent the area.
We arrived back on shore, and I was passed a rod and a beer. Not being a beer drinker I took the rod and cast into the water. On my first case I felt that slight tug on the line, and gave a slight jerk. At once there was thrashing in the water and I brought in the 9 inch speckled trout. François, the French teacher, eagerly removed the fish (which I had hooked through the eye) and snapped its neck with several stomps of his foot onto the wet marshy shore. I had forgotten how it felt of fish, and how non-vegetarian it was.
And so I continued to fish, left alone as some went in the boat, some waded out in their boots and some (using a hatchet) carved their way through the wilderness to create a new path. I again, in several minutes, managed to land another fish. I excitedly brought it in, and went to remove the hook as I had many times my childhood. The 12 inch rainbow trout reminded me of how slimy fish skin can be. The hook was well planted into the side of the animal’s mouth, which gaped as it wiggled. I firmly held onto the body and removed the hook with little difficulty, only to be covered in the watery blood. Rather than try to squish the fish to death, as François had done, I tried to slap its head against a rock. This proved difficult, and the fish slipped from my hand several times, and nearly wound back up in the water. I refused to let it go after such troubles. So I finally placed it of the ground, slapping around as fish out of water tend to do. I lifted my foot and brought it down with what I believed to be a sufficient force to cause death, but not create a fish mush beneath my shoe. To my surprise, the fish continued to look at me as it mouthed and flopped around. Determined, I tried again and again. Then I finally heard and felt in my toes, a SNAP. I lifted my foot, having finally killed the fish, and turned to the water to wash my hands. I felt no guilt, as one may think of a former vegetarian. Instead I felt somewhat nauseated by the prospect of having to clean, remove the head, and then eat the little fish. It reminded me of a pet beta I had owned only years before. I cast my line and began to feel yet more bites when, to my surprise, I heard a rustling come from behind. It was that cursed fish, come back to life, and thrashing around in the grass filled impression that had been left from my stopping on it. I pulled my line out and resolved to place a large stone on the fish, to keep it in place. And there it lay, continuing to struggle to move, but finally unable. It died without my knowing, becoming one of the pile that was accumulated by all of us.
I continued fishing with minimal success as the sun began to set. My hands grew cold from their contact with the water as the in couching winds blew. The flies retreated with the chill. Then I felt the same feeling on my line, I jerked and wound in my line, which seemed drug down by the massive weight at the end. Only there was no thrashing. And so I looked down and saw, through the dark water, a massive piece of drift wood I had snagged as small fish nibbled at the worm.
The worms that were bought were unlike any I had ever seen. They were comparable to small snakes, with their girth close to that of my baby finger. One worm was enough from half a dozen casts. With the dexterity of my fingers minimized by the cold, I was forced to use the sharp, inner edge of a pair of pliers (intended for wire) cut the things into pieces. And as their wiggling bodies were threaded onto the hooks, white goop leaked from within.
Throughout the evening I managed to land four keep able trout; however, the last fish I hooked was no more than a few inches. I grindingly removed the hook from the little bleeding slimy body and gingerly placed it back into the water and watched it spring to life and swim off. By this time it was dark and cold. The canoe was on its way in, and a understanding was reached that our three hours were sufficient fun. We gathered our things and headed back to the truck. The sun was setting, as a small fire was lit, to warm our selves before tying on the canoe. The moon began to raise in the sky, nearly full, a deep shade of yellow.
We returned the canoe to the teacher we had borrowed it from, and gladly offered up our catch to her and her guests, several research students from McGill. None of us had eaten since lunch (I had had a sandwich and apple), so we hurried home. I walked up the stairs, turned on the heat, and went to change. And only then did I truly realize how badly I smelled. Covered in bug spray and fish slim then fire ash I was sickened by myself.
All and all, it was a wonderful experience that reminded me of simpler times. The people I work with are a barrel of laughs and will surly keep me sane for the next ten months. I have recently had many offers to try caribou, with none yet coming to fruition, but I’m sure it will only be a mater of time. I’ll keep you posted. My goodness... I'm getting long winded.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Well, the town is overrun my dogs. They are the constant. I have had dogs pawing at my classroom window as I try to work, and see gangs of them as I make my way to work. They always seem to be playing though, so they keep me happy.
Then, on Friday, I saw my first first real signs of nature (well kinda). As I waited for the bus I noticed a little blackish rodent running around in the parking lot across from my place. Then it crossed the street, jumping cutely down the cement edges. I commented that I thought I was seeming a chubby little mouse, but was told it was a shrew (like from the episode of the Simpson's where Homer and Mr. Burns get buried in the cabin...).
Then, on the way home on the bus, we say a red fox (much like the one in the pic) that was jumping through the woods.
Other than not seeing the Canadian flag regularly (like across the road from my old place, in Mr. Lee's window), I miss squirrels. There are no squirrels up here. It's strange. I have never lived in a place where I didn't see the occasional squirrel (Moncton has few, but some).
So, I decided to take a walk today with my camera so that I can better let you (my friends and family) where I am living. So, as I left my door (seen above) I remembered that I had forgotten to tell of the "gift" I received. On Tuesday morning, as I left for work I found a can of beer, left with some care, on my step. There were also several (about 6) empties. My neighbor let me know that several of the town drunks had been drinking behind "Bla Bla" the town restaurant on Monday afternoon- evening. We guessed that in their inebriation, as they walked all the way across the street, they must have gotten tired and thirsty and decided to stop for a refreshment. The most interesting part is that they were so out of it that they had forgotten their last beer.
Then I continued on my walk, and at the end of the street is the Northern. The town store. It is usually packed with smokers (age 10 and up) standing at the door, and even just inside. So as I walked by, at 3:00pm, I noticed one of the town drunks facing the side wall of the store. It was a few seconds before I realized that he was urinating on the building. I had to hold back from both laughing and taking a picture.
Then I approached the back of the store, where there are two sculptures that the bus passes daily. And that represent some of the only art in the city. I noticed only yesterday that one was a miner (Schefferville has a long history as a mining town). I took my first photo, and realized and laughed about the anatomical correctness with which the sculpture was build. The second sculpture was, as usual, covered in children who have no park to play. The streets and lawns are so full of broken glass that this may be the safest place to play. Far from the street, homes and bar.
Across the lake one can see what is left of the old train. Apparently it takes 12-14 hours to get from here to Sept Illes, and even longer to Montreal. I think I will take the train home on holiday's. The little 9 seat plane hit a lot of turbulence on the way here.
Next it the infamous cross, similar to that which used to keep me awake when I lived in the tailor park.
Next, the ever present reminder that I'm not in my home province. The blue and white flags outnumber even the Naskapi national flag. There are only two Canadian flags in the region. One on the restaurant, the other on the school. Something else I found interesting, there is no Oh Canada. Instead they play the lord's prayer in the morning, and it's in Naskapi. So I don't even get to understand it.
Yes, then there is this piece, located at the end of my street. It has a very Austrian feel with the black and red bird, which reminds the town of the past riches it had while mining. Apparently, some talks are occurring between between a Newfoundland company and the Kawawa band. But not much is known.
Then to end the tour is the constant, even here in Schefferville, the CBC. Mind you that I had to create a makeshift antenna, but never the less it is coming in.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Tomorrow will be another day I'm sure. I have sec. 4 history and art with the sec 2 a's. Which I'm told stands for academic (b for Bad). So right now I feel a little spoiled.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Well this is Schefferville from outside my door and window. In the first pic, although it may be difficult to see in the distance, there is a giant white cross atop the hill. This just so happens to light up at night and shine in my living room window. The ground looks a little dirty and gross, but I'm assured that I will forget the ugly first impression, and only remember the snow, which begins in October (enough for snowmobiling on Halloween) and stays till May. I hope I learn to like snow...
The one thing that is not in the pictures is the filing cabinet. Being the organized person I am, I spend the greater part of two days reviewing the files and folders inside. I discarded anything that I could not use and made room for tests and files to come. I labeled the now empty folders and worked long and hard to get things the way I wanted. This seemed important to me, to be organized from the very start. That is why on day one, when the key I was given didn't work in the cabinet I went to the VP's office and gut the proper key.
Yesterday, my room looked wonderful, the files and extra boxes had been thrown out and the place looked clean and orderly, so I took these photos. Shortly after the teacher across the hall came to ask if the cabinet I had was my own. Forgetting momentarily that I had needed a different key I replied: " I think so, why?"
He told me that he could not get into the cabinet in his room, so it wasn't his. And so, satisfied my my response, he continued on his search. It wasn't 5 seconds after he left that the notion of what I had done hit me...
I had gone through his lessons, tests and texts and organized them, discarded what I couldn't used and placed the books from within onto my shelves. Oops.
He finally returned and I told him that I had his cabinet, he did not seemed bothered by my rearranging and discarding of his things (thank goodness) and we had a laugh at my waste of time. Then, out of curiosity I wondered over to his room to look at the cabinet that was to be mine. It is an even bigger mess. But has slightly more applicable materials than the cabinet of the sec 3 teacher from across the hall.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I'm living in a 2 bedroom quarter-plex. I have a fellow new teacher living next door (from Newfoundland) and a couple living under me (also from Newfoundland). In fact all the white teachers at the school are from Newfoundland (13 in total), except for one from Saskatchewan and another from the Miramachi. Everyone is nice and willing to do anything for you.
The people in town are nice in general, except that everyone recognizes me as the new teacher. Yesterday I had a crowd of kids at the window pointing at me and saying, "look it's the new teacher!" Then they sat and watched me for 20 minutes as I continued to set up my classroom. Yes, I have my own classroom, and I'll have a homeroom. I've been told that I'm teaching Sec. 5 English, Sec. 4 History and new to me sec 1 and 2 visual art. I'm looking forward to the term, especially now that I don't have to teach econ. The down side it that the province give the kids provincial exams that are worth 40%, unless their is a discrepancy of more than 10% between class grade and test grade- then they take the test grade alone. I was told that history is the class that give most difficulty. 14 of 14 failed first term. and only 9 of 12 passed 2nd term. And they need the class to graduate. So part of me feel like I'm teaching to the test. The same thing in English, but the test is on reading comprehension. And for a lot of the students, English is a second or third language. But my hopes are high and my fingers are crossed that all of my students make the grade (60%).
Today, I had another visitor to my window. A big chocolate lab. He was cute and whining. There are dogs everywhere. I'm resisting the urge to ask if I'm aloud one. It's one more thing to bring home. Speaking of which, it cost an arm and a leg to ship my stuff up. Air canada charged me 230$ for my bags, then in Sept Iles I had to pay 7% per kg over 20kg. That was over 400$.
Okay, now on to some of the pics.
This is my stairwell.
Living room... I hope this is working.
And a bad pic of my bedroom. I'll try to get pics of my classroom tomorrow.