Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Ghost in the School?

Today was crazy busy with Hallowe'en activities taking place throughout the school in the afternoon. I got running around trying to finish up a few things before I leave at the end of the week so I didn't have time to get any pictures. But I was able to duck my head into a few classrooms and the smiles and laughter told me how the afternoon was going. Hallowe'en visitors started showing up shortly after 5pm. I don't know the exact number but I'm guesstimating I had in excess of 100 scarey visitors again this year. By 6:30pm I was cleaned out of goodies and the kids were starting the dwindle. There was a community gathering at the community gym so I was expecting a quiet night to allow me to focus on this weekend's tournament.

Just after 7pm I got a call from my housemate who is housesitting for our principal. Apparently, the alarm had been tripped at the school which then automatically called his house. Monty and I booted down on a 4-wheeler and checked all the doors. The gym is sectioned off from the rest of the school and was full of people for Hallowe'en events so I checked the door linking the gym to the school thinking someone beat through the door. This didn't seem very likely as our school is wired with cameras. A fellow would have to be just plain dumb to pull a stunt like that. I checked all the primary end doors while Monty checked the senior end. All the entrances were secure. Nothing. We were left scratching our heads. The number one suspect was found lying on the floor just past the junior high classrooms. It appears a banner left over from this afternoon's Hallowe'en bash had fallen off a wall and triggered the motion-sensitive alarms. We'll check the video cameras tomorrow just to be sure but unless we were visited by a ghost I'm pretty sure the fallen banner was the cause. How appropriate for a Hallowe'en night!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Different View

Its been quite interesting to see the workings of a school from an administrative point of view rather than that of a classroom teacher. I've learned a lot - though sometimes I find out a few things I wish I didn't know. But all in all, I can say my multi-tasking abilities have definitely improved and I am glad for the experience and the vote of confidence I have been given.

Quite a busy week this week with Halloween tomorrow, court proceedings currently underway in our community gym, teachers out with the bug and 3 staff (including myself) heading out at the end of the week for a soccer tournament. Court times are always interesting. Aside from the fact that it wipes out soccer practices right before our tournament (grr!), you notice students tend to act out a little bit more if they have relatives involved in the court proceedings. Halloween helps a bit since we can take a break from routine and run some fun activities in the afternoon, as we plan to do tomorrow.

Having a lot of Ill teachers can be a bit of a nightmare for administration depending on the time of day and the classes affected. We essentially have no qualified subs to work with and sometimes you can run through your entire substitution list and not find anyone available. This has happened a few times the past couple days so I've had to cover temporarily for ill staff members or use a classroom assistant. Last Friday afternoon I was my own substitute as no one was available to cover my afternoon classes while I filled in for our principal (I didn't know something like this was possible). At any rate, I expect Tim to be back by the time I return from Iqaluit next week so I can return to my regular duties. I've dealt with many big issues the past couple weeks about which I really can't say to much here. However, I do my best to deal with them keeping in mind that I am on "Acting Admin." and that there are many issues that simply too large for one person to solve on their own. Having said this though, if this same opportunity to help out the running of our school presented itself again in the future, I'd be game.

On another note, after a few minutes of happy anarchy I distributed all the soccer uniforms after class today to my young charges. They are all pumped (as am I) for the big tournament this coming week in Iqaluit. If all goes according to plan (and the weather cooperates!) we should be on a van and headed out to Nanisivik early Friday morning. This is the biggest tournament yet. 26 teams spread across 5 age divisions from 9 communities should be there. Something like 71 games will be played. And how will we do among all these numbers? I'm very confident that all 3 Arctic Bay teams will medal. It's just a matter of what colour those medals will be.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Qamutik Racing

Off to the races!

The younger grade 5's and 6's held their own against the older students.

Sometimes you wish you had used a bit more tape.

Qamutik Making

Here are a few pictures from the cardboard qamutik making in our school gym this past Friday. The basic idea was to have teams of 6 students design a qamutik (traditional Inuit sled) using only a large sheet up cardboard, a role of duct tape, a piece of rope and a little imagination. The students dove right into the challenge. They had an hour in which to design and build their sleds. A few teachers jumped into the fray to help a few of the younger teams finish their sleds within the one hour time limit so that they would be able to race later that morning. The kids tended to use 2 basic designs: 1) traditional qamutik design or 2) a flat sheet of cardboard with the front end bent, folded or curled up.

You have to have the team logo just right.

My roomate Monty helped out some grade 5's and 6's with their sled. I think this design finished 3rd in the races. The thing I liked about this sled was that the rope was actually just meant to be wrapped around the arms of the student riding it so that the kids pulling it would only be pulling the kid aboard rather than the entire contraption. (Less chance of the rope detaching or the sled disintegrating mid-race>)

This is more or less what a traditional qamutik looks like except of course they were made out of whale bone (or wood today).

Our grade 9 teacher Nick assists some younger students with their creation.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ice Ice Baby

Slowly, Arctic Bay (the water) is starting to freeze up.

Relaxing on the Weekend

Quite a busy week for me this past week with all the goings-on at the school. After the Career Day on Thursday we had qamutik races in the schoolyard on Friday. I hope to get some pictures from that posted up shortly. I'm anticipating holding my acting-VP duties for one more week until our principal returns. The past couple weeks have indeed been challenging at times but I have gained some valuable experience. The most frustrating part (and one I didn't think would be that big of an issue) is just dealing with people. I consider myself a bit of an introvert but really, I have to step up to the plate of course in my new responsibility when "stuff" comes up. I think I've been doing a good job and I've received lots of positive feedback from a lot of the new young teachers on staff.

I find it a bit frustrating when people who are supposed to be educated and know better make ignorant or misinformed comments.......people with important roles within the community who really should know better. It really serves no purpose and only makes for hassles and hurt feelings. Friday afternoon my substitute didn't think it worth her time to inform me that she would be unavailable to sit in for me. So I was stuck with looking after my class and trying to help run the school at the same time. I went through the entire sub list and couldn't find anyone available. Fortunately, being Friday, my students were content to work away on some assignments or watch a DVD in class which saved me quite a bit of grief. Anyhow, as I mentioned, its been a good experience for me.

Next week will be a short one since I will be down to Iqaluit for the soccer tournament. Daylight Savings Time I believe is moved to next weekend which is a good thing. The tournament will need that extra hour. From what I've heard, this will be the largest indoor soccer tournament ever held, with about 71 games to be played, assuming none of the teams get weathered in. Speaking of weather, its been getting progressively colder. Ice out in the bay has formed and is starting to thicken up. This is about 3 weeks earlier than last year but still not quite as early as it used to be in the past. I no doubt will be checking weather forecasts a bit more than usual this week, looking for decent flying weather for when my teams fly out Friday morning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Career Education Day

The Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce was in town today holding a Career Education Day in our community gym. I played a small role in helping to organize the day and apart from a few small glitches, the day went quite well. It was a long day though and I know I will be happy to see the weekend roll around. I attended a community feast at the end of the day and accepted a banner on behalf of our school for hosting today's big event. Tomorrow we are having qamutik (sled) races at our school and I am really looking forward to that. I didn't get many pictures from inside our gym today as I was all over the school as called upon but I hope to get some good pictures for race day tomorrow.

I snapped this quick photo from my classroom window this morning around 10am. I have a couple better shots but was having difficulty posting them this evening. My photo doesn't realy show it but ice is finally starting to form out on the bay.

In other news, it looks like at least one (and hopefully both) of our new hires will be here in the community by the end of next week which will do wonders for our staffing nightmare. Next Friday is also the day my teams fly out to Iqaluit for soccer regionals. I've always found November to be a rather busy month but tournament time is always a good time for players and coaches alike. The kids are getting excited (they only remind me 20 times a day that they can't wait to get to Iqaluit) and so am I!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sigh.....I'll Never Live This Down........

Last week I wrote up a post about a fire drill at our school. This prompted my sister to comment about how there just must be something about me and fire alarms. She was referring to a tale I thought had well been buried over by the passage of time. Nope, little sis had to remind me. I guess that's what sisters are for. Anyhow, to entertain my sister, embarrass myself and set the record straight all in one fell swoop (and because I know I'll NEVER live this down) I recount the event at my peril.

I forget how old I was, probably 13 or so. Anyhow, I was helping my step-father one summer re-tile one of the portables at one of my old elementary schools. My step-father had to leave for a few minutes to pick up something or see another client (I'm not sure which) and despite his warnings to "be good" because "I'll be back in a few minutes", I decided to poke around a bit. I mean really, how many times do you get to be inside a school during summer break. In my youthfulness, I felt like I owned the place. I could do handstands right in the middle of that portable and no teacher was around to tell me to act sensibly.

Anyhow, it didn't take me long to notice the fire alarm on the wall. Gee....I wonder? Most fire alarms I remember from youth had these little glass bars in them that I presumed would break once the lever was pulled down. In this particular alarm, though, I noticed the little glass bar I expected to see there was missing. HMMMMMM? I wonder what would happen......would it still work? Impossible! It was summer afterall. Should I satisfy my curiosity once and for all? What possible harm could that do? I debated with myself. Nah, I'm sure it's harmless. Slowly I stepped toward the little red beacon on the wall and tempted fate.

Damn! Did that little thing ever make some racket! The resulting bell scared me half out of my wits! After I calmed down a bit it dawned on me. How the heck am going to shut this blasted thing off before my step-father gets back here? To my horror and growing panic, I realized this was impossible. What to do now? Well, I did the only sensible thing I could think of - a very brave thing. I ran away. I beat it home (breaking a land speed record in the process I'm sure), ran into my bedroom.....and hid under my bed.

A few minutes passed by and my step-dad came home. There is no worse feeling as a kid knowing you did something wrong and that you know that your parents know. I was soooo busted. I remember my step-father coming down the stairs to my room and then his voice, "Darcy, is there something I should know?"

Luckily, being the perfect child that I was, I think I got off pretty light. Looking back, I can count myself lucky I wasn't charged with mischief or causing a public disturbance (or beaten with a big sitck for that matter.) A quick call to a school custodian brought an end to the screeching alarm and I was left with the helpful realization that when a parent tells you not to touch something, its a really REALLY good idea to pay attention and listen.

It's A Bit Crowded With the New Housemate

Monty and I picked up a satellite dish a few weeks back......when exactly I can't remember. Our work and coaching schedules have kept us from being able to set this bad boy up though we did manage to at least attach the brace to the back of our place last weekend - in near gale-force winds it seems. I'm hopeful of getting the dish up soon as the idea of setting it up in freezing cold pitch black conditions doesn't appeal much to me. For the moment, the dish sits in our small livingroom. I'm thinking the curved disk portion would make a fantastic sled for the hills once we pick up a bit more snow. We'll be glad to get it up to have the extra space back. I feel like we've adopted it...or its adopted us.

I Have No Catchy Title For This Post

I must say that for a Monday the day passed by rather uneventfully. It was refreshing to have to exactly zero discipline issues to deal with which freed me up to do some organizing and a few small things in advance of Thursday's Career Education Day at our school as well as the Cardboard Qamutiq Races. I even had the opportunity to sit in the big comfy principal's chair to get some marking out of the way.

For some reason all the school's mail that was sent by cargo was delivered to my door this evening - a few heavy packages that I'll get over the school somehow. What I was most excited to see however were the two pairs of soccer shorts I needed for my boys' team. I had lent out the uniforms back in the spring to an older soccer team and a couple pairs of shorts were (quite frustratingly) not returned. Uniforms are not exactly the easiest things to get here so I guard them with my life now. I'm pleased that at least the team will be spiffily atired for the tournament which is now just around the corner.

Speaking of soccer (as I am wont to do), we had a fantastic practice today. For the first time in quite some time all players from both the girls and boys teams made the practice and it was a good one. It can be a challenge at times to get everyone to show up. Hunting, babysitting and other family obligations mean that I don't usually see 2 full teams in the gym and rearing to go right at our 4pm practices. Its a treat to see how much they have developed and improved in the two and half years I've been working with them. Not that I am by any means a great, or even average, coach. We get though it with enthusiasm, teamwork and laughter and let the tournaments take care of themselves. I am confident of their chances next weekend though. At least the days of getting blown out of the water by the bigger communities are long long past us.......yeah okay, I admit I'm a tad biased here......I know they'll score a gold. What can I say? I have a team other schools only wish they had.

We never really had a team name or anything like that, though the boys did start calling themselves the Arctic Bay Impact at last year's Regionals. I like the name. Certainly these kids have had a very positive impact on my life!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Movie Night in the High Arctic

I'm not the biggest movie-goer or even much of a t.v.-watcher but a couple movies have caught attention here tonight. The first is "Casino Royale". I pretty much came across this one by accident. I'm not a big James Bond fan, though I will admit to seeing a couple of Hollywood's remakes. The only real reason this movie caught my attention is because some of the scenes were shot in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) in the Czech Republic and I recognized some of the larger hotels from when I visited there back in July. I didn't watch much of this movie ( the poker scenes only reminded me of how horridly I played in our Friday poker match here). I started flicking around again and found a real northern gem.

The second flick, one I HAVE been trying in vain to see for some time, is "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen". I joined the movie "in progress" though I hope to see the entire movie from start to finish soon. (Perhaps Santa will see fit to drop off a copy in my Christmas stocking!). Unlike Isuma Productions' first movie, "Atanarjuat", this one has English as well as Inuktitut. It may also have some Danish or Greenlandic in it as well but I'm not sure since I'm watching away as I type here. I have to admit, after seeing "Atanarjuat" several times, I find it odd seeing a lot of the same characters playing new roles. The Inuk actor Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq had a small role in the Canadian production "The Snow Walker", but I will always think of him as Oki from "Atanarjuat".

I'm finding I understand just enough Inuktitut so that I don't have to contantly read subtitles off the tv screen when the characters perform the Inuktitut dialogue. Entertainment and education rolled into one.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

There's A Big Chair In The Principal's Office.......

........but I haven't had much time this week to actually sit in it. I must say though that this week, while challenging and a little crazy at times, has been a good experience. I will be happy when next Thursday is over because there are two big events I am helping to coordinate for that day: a Career Education Day put on by the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce and a Qamutiq (sled) race by Skills Canada. The other administrator had here own plate of things to deal with so much of the responsibility for coordinating/liasing/scheduling has fallen on my broad (yet skinny) shoulders. Its been a challenge getting things organized. I have a couple teachers helping me out but I was conscious of putting too much on the plates of rookie teachers with all the other challenges they have to deal with.

For the time being I teach full time in the mornings and fill in as Vice-Principal in the afternoons. My substitute for the afternoon made a dentist appointment for 2pm and I didn't find out about it until she approached me about it in the afternoon. So I was stuck to find a sub to replace my sub which turned out to be me. It was just as well as I've been trying for well over a week now to have a unit test for my afternoon grade 10 Social Studies class and students felt better to have me there to do review with them rather than someone else. We've had a lot of missed classes due to a long weekend, a suicide, and a funeral plus my own teacher intuition which told me there were a few days when the students simply weren't prepared to write a test. I am also taking two soccer teams to Iqaluit in two weeks' time for Regionals. As tends to happen after a funeral as the result of a suicide, I tend to notice a little more aggression and acting out by some students, so I stepped quite delicately in dealing with discipline issues today.

Needless, to say its been a challenge but so far so good. If I can pull off everything that's on the go without any serious glitches it will be a big plus for me when our Principal returns here in 3-4 weeks' time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Other Side of the Desk

Its been a couple years since I've done any administrative duties so I knew this morning I might be a little rusty but all in all it was a good (if long) day. I won't bore you with all the minutiae that takes up my day (okay, just some of them) but I was kept on my toes. I was out the door a little earlier in usual so I could have some quiet to organize my thoughts and get some extra work out of the way. Naively I brought my laptop in with me and set it up in the office with the idea of being able to soothe the soul with a few Scarlatti keyboard sonatas I had put on it over the weekend. It would have been nice if I actually had time to sit in the chair. The laptop sat opened but unlistened to throughout the day.

I am planning out for a subsitute teacher who just graduated herself from grade 12 last week (qualified substitute teachers are in pitiful short supply in the North). I had to spend a bit of time in my classroom helping my sub (can't really blame the girl though, she was trying her best) this afternoon as I have a couple unit tests in the near future (couldn't plan these around my principal's time out of the community) and I just find reviewing for tests a difficult thing to do when you have a substitute in your place.

There is also a trade show going on in the school gym next week that I am helping coordinate. I forget off the top of my head where the group putting on the trade show is coming from but they will be in the community next week......all 45 of them. They will be in the community gym during school hours running and career fair for students in grade 8 and higher. And I also had to make sure a lunch is prepared for the day of the trade show to feed our 45 guests. No worries there though. They don't have to suffer through my poor cooking. I asked our community librarian to put something together and was very grateful she agreed to do it.

Representatives from Skills Canada, an organization that promotes hands-on learning, are also coming up in the near future and interested students will be constructing cardboard sleds (or qamutiqs as they are known here) and a course to race them on. Thankfully we now have enough snow on the ground for this though it would be nice if the bay was frozen over so the races could be held there.

I helped our acting-Principal locate some forms that needed to be faxed off to a teachers newly-hired over the weekend. I know one of them has visited my blog for information on the community before moving here. Hope it was useful. Hello to Petra and Alesha (hope I spelled that right). Yes, we finally have a full staff of teachers at our school...woo hoo!

I ended the day with a full 2-hour soccer practice which went well. The rec. director was by to let me know the tournament dates. The first weekend of November my teams head down for Regionals in Iqaluit. I'm hoping I will be finished my administrative duties by then just so I can focus on the team and not leave our other administrator in a bind.

Well, so far so good. I had only very minor discipline issues to deal with in the afternoon so I feel like I'm off to a good start. I can rest well after a good start to the week and be back at it tomorrow. Now if only that darn sewage truck would make an appearance the day would be perfect!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Graduation Pictures

Here are a few pictures from last week's graduation ceremony at Inuujaq School.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pssst......Don't Tell the Teachers!

Our Principal left on his flight this afternoon so I found myself helping out with administration. I will officially be the Acting Assistant Principal until he returns. I'm not sure how long I will find myself in this role. It will be at least 3 weeks but there is the possibility it could be 4, or even 6 weeks. During this time I will be teaching my regular course load in the mornings and then head down to the big chair in the main office for the afternooons.

My first big test, though was something I made a bit of an "oops" on. We were scheduled to have a fire drill in the afternoon. At lunch a couple teachers mentioned we might have one but I hadn't heard about it so I wasn't sure. Anyhow, once I was working the office in the afternoon, I decided it would be quite collegial of me if I mentioned the looming fire drill to other teachers to give them a heads-up. I spent a few minutes in the early afternoon going from class to class doing exactly this. As the 3:15pm deadline approached I was discussing my responsibilities during the fire drill with our other Principal It was then that she mentioned to me that she was a bit puzzled as to why many of the older students in particular had been searching out for their coats over the past few minutes. Hmmmm.....It was as if they somehow knew something was up.

"How did they know?" she asked me with a puzzled look. "I didn't mention anything to them about a fire drill." Oops! As it turned out, both teachers and students were not supposed to know about the fire dril ahead of time. A bit embarrassed I admitted my mistake, and took a good bit of ribbing from the rest of the office staff in return.

As it turned out though, the drill went off without a hitch. I only had to close one classroom door that had been left open during my walk-through. The one thing I can't take any blame for was that after the alarm had been wailing for a few minutes, I learned that there would be a small delay in getting the students back into the building. Turns out that once the alarm had been set off, the boys from the fire department had a few difficulties in getting the thing to stop! Luckily our weather here is still quite mild by Northern standards so the extra wait outside wasn't all that uncomfortable. Once the alarm was shut off and students were safely back in their classes it was just about time to send them home for the weekend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Soccer Gods Are Smiling

It seems the soccer gods are smiling on my boys team. I got the list of teams we'll be facing at Regionals from our rec. director this afternoon and as luck would have it they are the same three teams we faced last year in Iqaluit. This bodes well for the boys' chances of breaking through the glass ceiling and getting to Territorials! We know we can put up a good challenge against them. The other bit of good news, which came as a shock to me actually, is that there is no team from Iqaluit in their age division. With its larger pool of students to pick from, Iqaluit would definitely be a dominant team had they had one. The boys didn't face Iqaluit last year in 13-and-under so I was expecting they would definitely have a 14-and-under team. But this is no longer the case so we no longer have to blindly guess at what kind of competition we would have faced. Part of me is disappointed though. It would have been interesting to see how our team stacked up against them. At any rate, the boys were definitely excited and upbeat when I gave them the news on the competition after school today.

The tournament is less than a month away and my goal is to repeat as Regional champs and get the team to Territorials, the next level. It would be the first time a team from our school has gotten that far in a competition and this years team would definitely be one to do it. I really like their chances now!

Above: A couple scenic shots from last month.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Never Good When Your Principal Calls at 5:30am

We got an early morning phone call from our principal telling us the District Education Authority had decided to close the school for the day because of a(nother) suicide in the community last night. I always wonder what goes through a person's mind during those last few seconds and why someone would choose such a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I spent most of the morning on pins and needles hoping and praying it wasn't a student from school. As it turns out it, it was a man with a wife and small children, which makes me feel no better. I have no answers today, it just plain stinks.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Switching Hats

With our principal Tim heading out of the community for a short spell, I will be switching hats temporarily. I'm not sure how long the "temporarily" means but it could be for as much as 4 weeks. I will continue with my regular teaching responsibilities in the mornings and fill in as "Acting Assistant Principal" during the afternoons while Morty fills in for Tim. It's a hat I've worn a few times in the past and I look forward to the challenge and responsibility. Its always interesting to see the goings-on of a school from a different perspective. I'm flattered by the vote of confidence and plan to roll up my sleeves and dive right in.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanksgiving Long Weekend

It was a pretty quiet weekend at home here. I enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving dinner of moose meat, ham and veggies with my roomate and a couple other teachers last night.....fantastic. If you've never had moose meat before, you're definitely missing out. I know moose meat might seem a bit out of place way north of the Arctic Circle, but my housemate Monty, as a dyed-in-the-wool Newfoundlander had some sent up from the island.

We've had quite a bit of wind the past few days, enough to help form whitecaps out on the bay. This is something that doesn't occur all too often, especially since the bay here is surrounding by high bluffs on three sides. It made for a few chilly strolls up the hill on my way back and forth from soccer practices and Thanksgiving dinners.

On another note, I had a chance to speak to our MLA at last Friday's graduation ceremony who told me he had received my e-mail along with a few others voicing concerns over the lack of teachers here. I also took a call from Nunatsiaq News and spoke about the issue with them as well. Hopefully, once it gets into the media it will light a few fires under the government's posterior and some action will be taken. I basically told the reporter that I would give him the whole story as long as my name wasn't published. Of course, if some government mandarin traces things back to my humble blog, it could make life interesting. Nunavut can be a small place so I doubt it would be that difficult to figure things out - even for a government bureaucrat. But....... I do my job everyday. Its only reasonable to expect government mandarins to do theirs. Besides, its not like they'd set out and fire me. They obviously have a hard enough time trying to hire teachers as it stands right now.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Grad Night

It was a super busy week around this school culminating in last night's graduation ceremony. It was a bit tricky organizing things this year because of all the new faces on staff but as always, it all worked out quite splendidly in the end. Inuujaq School had 4 graduates for 2007. This grad was special for me because unlike the two earlier ceremonies that have taken place in the time I've been here, this graduating class had students that I had taught one or two courses to. Northern students face extra challenges along the road to a high school diploma so we all celebrate their successes and wish them all the best in their futures. I have a few pictures from last night I hope to get up in the next few days. My computer was a being a bit fickle earlier today.

In a completely unrelated note, I learned last night about a very interesting visitor in town. Our mayor, who also works for First Air, told me last night that news anchor Dan Rather is here for a visit to do a story about the Northwest Passage.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Past Due

I really must start eating my Wheaties....

......although seeing this I'm not so sure.

Cereal that's been in Nunavut almost as long as I have.......scary.

Well, if I do put in another sealift order next year, I can add cereal to the rice and spaghetti on my list of things not to go crazy with on the order sheet.