Sunday, August 29, 2010


“If you want poop to run down an eight-foot pipe, you need water.”  It does make sense when you spend some time to think about it.  This quote came from an article in the Anchorage Daily News.  The article was about an engineer, named Baron, who worked over the past 20 years to provide sewer and water to houses in rural Alaska.  The quote was his, about how he determined the best way to “move the poop” out of the house.  You may wonder why I included this in my blog.  First, the village where I live, Nunam Iqua, is just now getting running water and a sewer system installed.  I can appreciate how important this is to the community.  Second, I believe they teach people in journalism classes that if you can utilize the word poop in the first sentence, you will grab the reader’s attention.  That may be just the University of Nebraska, I’ll have to look into that.  And third, I think the word poop is funny.

The first week of school is over and it went well. We spent our first two days going over the classroom procedures and getting to know each other.  The school serves breakfast at 8:30, but many students were standing outside my windows, banging and waving.  They were excited to start.  Luckily, it wasn’t raining or cold outside, so they waited the hour and a half to get into the school.  The weather here has been normal according to the people who notice such things.  The clouds conceal the blue, and the temperature stays between 45-50, both day and night.  We have had some rain, but only at a mizzle. 

I have 13 kids in my classroom: grades 3, 4, and 5.  I realize that is not very many, but I’m learning how to teach to three different grade levels at the same time.  I am fortunate to have a full time aide in my class, so I will be able to have her stay with one group while I work with another.  Now, I just have to figure out what I’ll do with that third group.  Teachers do it all of the time up here, so I’ll adjust.  The students are very happy to be in school and want to learn.  It’s a very comforting feeling to look up and see so many toothless smiles.

In most villages, the students call their teacher by his/her first name.  This makes it much easier for me, since responding to “Mr. Miller!” is difficult for me to remember.  My students in Cashmere always called my name twice, since they knew I didn’t respond the first time.  My wife does something similar, but the volume increases greatly the second time.   So does my reaction.

Now that the first week is over, I’m working on week two.  I’ll have five days to prepare for, instead of two.  Since they appear to be attentive, I won’t be able to fake my way through it.  Next weekend will be a three-day weekend, and I have a feeling I will need it.  Having so many little people depend on me is something new, but it is a responsibility I want.  I just need to make sure I have enough material to keep them learning, and not give too much of time on their own.  When I asked what would it be like if we didn’t have rules in our class, one student said “I take a chair and bop someone with it”.  I believe her, so I took her chair away.  Not really, but I’m keeping my eyes open. 

Poop.  (See?)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Ok, I know it’s not the end of the week, but I wanted to share with everyone that I now have full water pressure. Apparently, there was a situation somewhere up line from my house. Up line from other teachers’ houses. The men working on the waterline couldn’t tell me why the water pressure in my house, in addition to others’ houses, was so low that I couldn’t get any water out of my shower head. “There’s no telling what could be causing that.” Well, they found out what was causing that today and solved the problem. I don’t want to bore you all the technical plumbing terminology, but it seems that they have a device called a valve. And by positioning the valve in a certain position (open), the flow of the water will be at its greatest force. They must have missed the “lefty loosey righty tighty” seminar. The good part is that all of this work is because the village is now getting sewer and water to all of the houses. No more honey buckets, so I guess I should not be so nitpicky.

I haven’t seen Stanley for the past two days. I don’t think Stanley is an early morning person. I have been leaving my house at 6:30, headed to school so I can have a shower before the workday. (See above) I have not seen anyone around here at that time. It is still dark, mainly because we are on the western edge of the Alaskan time zone.

I did have two little first graders come over last evening, asking if they could visit. I’m not sure what we would have talked about. They were climbing all over my front porch, conversing with me from my window. I told them I wasn’t entertaining visitors and they needed to climb off my railing and be on their way. One told me “No, you stinky”, the other began to bite a three-inch nail sticking out of my porch door jam. Biting is not accurate, since she was missing her two front teeth. When I asked her why she was chewing on that nail, she responded by biting the nail again. I pulled the little girl off the nail (not a phrase I ever anticipated writing) and sent them on their way. I’m not sure where their way was, but they weren’t going to get hurt on my porch.

Now that my house has water pressure, I will be able to shower here in the morning. Since I don’t have to leave so early, maybe Stanley will be up for a walk in the morning. I just hope I don’t have to pull him off a nail sticking out of my house. And no, I don’t have a hammer. Quit judging.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I know it would sound cool to start this off with an anecdote about me fighting a bear. I’m uncomfortable with that, because I’m not sure how that scenario would play out. I’m thinking less fighting and more running and screaming.
I landed in Nunam Iqua, AK Thursday at noon. It was a nice flight from Bethel to Kotlik to Emmonak and then to Nunam. There are no international airports for these villages, just gravel runways. I sat in the co-pilot seat of the small Cessna from Emmonak to Nunam. The pilot looked nervously at me while I pretended to fly the plane before take-off. Apparently, it was the airplane sounds I was making, so I took my hands off the instruments and pretended to be asleep.

The walk from the airport to the school is about a quarter mile. There are no cars or pickups in town, because of no roads. There are boardwalks that run throughout town, which are used for walking and for ATVs. In the quarter mile walk, I was greeted by a half-dozen children asking me “Are you my teacher? Are you Clayton?” News travels fast around here. I’m just wondering what other information they have on me.

Stanley keeps me company on my walks from my house to the school. The weather has been nice since I arrived, no rain and about 60 during the day, so the kids are all outside. Stanley isn’t sure what grade he’ll be in next year, but he told me he’s ten and he wants to be in my class. I said, “I bet you tell all the teachers that”, and he smiles and says “Yeah”.

I have a two-bedroom house that is mostly furnished. I was told that I had to bring my own kitchenwares, but the teacher who lived here last year didn’t take much with him. He even left a big TV for me so I’m set. I have satellite TV and internet access here at my house, so it’s kind of like living in WA. Except it is illegal to possess alcohol and I can’t order a pizza.

The custodians, Joe and his wife Dominica, have hauled all of my boxes of food and other things to my house. All told, it must have been at least 500 lbs. We have no store in town, so everything I eat has to be shipped in here. I bought a cooler, filled it full of meat, and checked it on as luggage so I have some frozen meat. Without Joe and Dominica, I’d still be dragging my stuff from the school to my house. In case I have not mentioned it, it’s a half mile away.

I start work on Monday and the students show up on Thursday. I guess I should get started figuring out what I’m supposed to be doing in the classroom. I have 3/4/5 grades, so I hope they’re not too hard on me. Maybe Stanley will know what to do and I can sit in the co-pilot’s seat and make teacher noises. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why that name?

     Ok, first about the name of the blog.  Monica told me that  Ignorance Without Arrogance is itself an arrogant statement.  I told her to keep quiet because I knew what I was doing.  She thought Irony With Arrogance would be better.  My reason for the name is because, as others have stated, there seems to be a connection with the more ignorant people are about a subject, the more arrogant they are about that subject.  Also, S#!t My Students Say might be a bit too much.
     Because I am ignorant about most things, I'll try to keep the arrogance out.  This is just a forum for me to keep people who are interested updated on what I'm doing and what it is like to live in the Alaska bush and teach in their schools.  I'll include pictures and some video.  Uploading video takes a long time, so I won't do too much.