Some of the elements normally found in the weekend update can be found in bold italics throughout this update, see if you can find them.
This weekend I flew to Bethel for 2nd year inservice at the District Office. Friday night had me arriving in good spirits, happy to be away from the island, and in the company of my awesome friend Alisha. The night turned out to be pleasant and relaxing filled with good conversation and comradery.
Saturday I attended the inservice itself at the DO. It was centered on little break out sessions for age and discipline specific discussions and sharing. As far as inservices go I can honestly say I've been to much worse. I thought some of the most valuable information came from sharing with other first and second year teachers, brainstorming and comparing ideas and experiences. I had some good epiphanies about holding debates in class. I especially appreciated Julie M's topic groups on science and health curriculum. Since my graduation from my master's degree at UPS I can honestly say I miss being able to talk about academics and learning with people in a collegian atmosphere. Being out here, not only can I go weeks with out holding a sustained conversation with anyone, but I can go months without talking about education in an open progressive forum. One of the major reasons I do enjoy coming into Bethel for inservices is so that I can communicate with other teachers, administrators and district employees in a setting where my opinions and thoughts might be appreciated and noted.
Julie (the Science and Health Curriculum District Office Guru) also talked about how in two years, after they redesign and tool up the science curriculum for the district, they'll be hiring two new teachers to travel around the district to villages training teachers on the new curriculum and how to use it. I thought to myself how I would be perfect for that job and that it would be the type of project I could really sink my teeth into, being able to be part of the LKSD science curriculum reset button, being able to use my passion for life and science with people who may or may not be comfortable teaching the important subject of science. Unfortunately landing that job would probably require a lot longer deployment out here on the Nuni-rock then I had imagined.
After a short shopping trip to Swanson's for produce and foreign food spices, I headed over to meet up with a bunch of friends at the Tundra Oasis. There Jim, Lee, Brian (thanks for the inversion), Erin, and a few other new acquaintances socialized, talked teacher shop, and enjoyed cheese burgers and french fries courtesy of Jimmy (thanks !) Lee told me during a conversation that I had made a small positive name for myself around the district office. He said that people knew my name and where I taught and that good things were being said. It was a peculiar to hear, I only share it here because I talk so much it seems this year of having my efforts falling on daft ears. Even though I often take a bit of a rebellious approach at my methods as a teacher, I always try to back it up with educated, well intentioned insights and concerns. I'm not afraid to talk to people much much much higher up the payscale about issues that really matter to us foot soldiers out here in the trenches of bush Alaska. If we don't communicate our challenges and needs to the people in central office, then the same top down decision making processes that have yielded problematic policies will continue to trickle down.
So I'm glad my name is swirling around office from time to time, they know where I am, and they know where I stand, if only they knew about Radiate Warmth.
Later that saturday night found me rocketing down a frozen but patchy and ultimately very bumpy back trail to Oscarville (smaller village 7 miles from Bethel even smaller than Nunivak) on the back of my friend Erin's one seater snow machine with her dog Macy sitting in her lap. In the dark, in the cold, with the stars twinkling through my watery eyes in a spotless sky, I almost felt an emotion for Alaska again. I don't know why but many of my deepest pleasures and serenities in Alaska this year have come at high speeds on personal motorized vehicles. It felt good to have cold burning cheeks, it felt good to smell the snow machine exhaust, it felt good to be somewhere uncertain and dangerous (although it wasn't really).
That night Erin, her roomate Christina and I relaxed watching tv, drinking soothing teas, laughing, and playing Nintendo Wii. We watched a semi funny Saturday Night Live and the season finale of a show I've never seen called Toughest Jobs. Warm conversation and sweet dreams gave way to the next morning where I slept in all the way till 9 am, the latest in about 3 weeks. After some coffee over the new Mike Gordon Album "Green Sparrow" (truly fantastic), Erin, with added daylight, shot up the river trail at even higher speeds and joined me for more coffee at VIP Restaurant while I waited for Alisha and Avery to arrive for breakfast. Erin had to return to Oscarville (thanks for the sweet trip to O-ville!) and after Avery talked a bunch of smack about how he was going to beat me at Madden Football on Gamecube we finished our breakfast (mexican omelette...more on that later), we went back to Alisha's to play videogames
I have to say, for the record, Avery (or Averonius my wizard apprentice in training), beat me at Madden Football on the GameCube fair and square. I publicly declare that he has bested me and that the student has become the teacher. Nicely done young mage, nicely done.
After I finished up some grocery shopping with Alisha at the AC shopping center, she dropped me off at Grant Aviation (thanks for everything Lish!). Despite the gaudy and ridiculously painted interior of Grant Aviation (like a bad jungle themed 80's dress shirt), it is normally a dull, drab and dreary place. I does have a nice coffee stand and wireless internet, but with the coffee stand closed for jesus and the wireless spotty at best my hopes for a latte and myspace (and my last chance at a metropolitan) moment were smashed. Oddly enough Grant exploded into a display of intense all be it concerning entertainment. Across the median a horrifying head on accident took place which drew smoke, injured passengers, firetrucks and many rubberneckers. After the commotion cleared, a young native boy erupted into a violent rage over not being bought an iPod destroying his headphones and slamming and cracking the door on his way out as he and his mother screamed at each other in some unintelligible language shoving back and forth.
On the flight back we saw 6 moose together in a mini herd. Andy the pilot (my favorite one) said that it was "Rare, not super rare, but rare enough." I barely saw them as my eyes were glued to "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemingway, a book Erin gave me (6 chapters in and loving it, I'll listen to her more often).
I got picked up at the airport by my principal Gary and woefully looked out the window at the barren tundra as we drove back to town. I couldn't tell whether it was the mexican omelette or the melancholy prospect of returning to work tomorrow that gave me the awful ache in my stomach and weight on my heart. It made me think of the oh so different butterflies I got when I rode down that road into town for the first time two Augusts ago.
Alisha said something to me this weekend that stuck with me even as I dreamed on the plane. It was something to the effect of how I've been more negative/down this year and that she just thought I was the type of person that could be happy anywhere. That really confused me because I don't think that way of myself sometimes.
I was happy here last year. I am happy at times still. But tonight, exhausted, lonely, with a stomach ache and no lesson plans, I can't say I really am. Hopefully the 7-Up and Pepto-Bismal concoction I'm sipping on will improve my situation.
Regardless, I do sincerely hope this doesn't start your week off with a furrowed brow or heavy heart, it is just simply a recap of what happened over the weekend in Bethel. While the time spent with my good friends was uplifting (and feeling thankful for such awesome people in my life) the fact that it was simply a temporary escape, a trip in every sense of the word, in the end was the lasting effect.
Now I have four solid weeks of class till the next break. It will be a long cold dark haul as temperatures are skating closely towards 0 degrees F and the sun becomes less and less interested in showing its face round these parts.