Sunday, April 27, 2014


Well, the year is winding down. With less than 4 weeks of school left, I start to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the classroom this year. I think about how much the students have advanced in their knowledge. I see how much they have physically grown over the past 9 months. I also reflect on the scars and physical damage they’ve inflicted on me. The loss of hair and memory, the graying of my beard, and the twitching I’ve developed in my left eye. I’m no spring chicken, but holy cats, they can beat a man down. 

Nine months is a long time to spend with a group of kids whose central plan is plotting my demise. But we have had a successful academic year. During this year, I have implemented my School House Rock learning plan for the class. I want them to learn grammar the same way I did; by watching cartoons. So, during free time in the classroom, I turn on the School House Rock DVD. If I can get my adverbs from Lolly’s, then by god so can they. When the kids are learning their adjectives, they look up at me when the “he was a hairy bear, he was a scary bear” part comes on. Not just because I’m large and hairy, but because I ate one of my students my first year here. I was new, inexperienced, and I just lost control one day. Do I regret eating a student? Sure, but he kind of had it coming and looking back I can justify it to myself. Maybe not to the parents, but to myself. 

Our math didn’t go quite as well as our language arts. I noticed some problems from our last assessment and it taught me 2 important things:
  1. Borrowing from zero is a difficult concept in subtraction.
  2. Understanding the differences between area and perimeter can be difficult.
  3. We’re not learning the basic concepts of math.
Now, that’s not to say that the whole year was a waste when it comes to math. We did spend a lot of time working with perimeter and using Call Of Duty to explain what it means to check the perimeter. We learned fractions from pizza and probability by my angry outbursts. (Is it more likely that Mr. Clay will explode if 2 of us are making farting noises or 10 of us are making farting noises? They like to perform their own experiments.) 

A science fair experiment. It was a new torture devise they
made for me.
We had actual experiments for our science fair and we learned why people want to live near water. We’ve had kids spinning and revolving around one another pretending to be planets. We’ve had arguments over who got to be the sun. The sun seems to be a popular role since everyone else has to move around them while the stand there and gloat. We learned why people came to Ellis Island and why island has a stupid ‘s’ in it. (Because we’re pigheaded and don’t want to change things, even though we know it would be easier.) I don’t want to get sidetracked on a rant here, but if the Internet word Nazis really wanted to make a difference, I wish they would focus their efforts on fixing our problems instead of condescendingly pointing out when people mess up these complicated and convoluted grammar rules and spelling. We also farted. A lot. Everyday. Everywhere. 

We were picking up trash around the school last week.
Nobody was injured.
Now that we’re almost done, I start thinking about next year. I’ll have most of the kids again next year, so it’s not like I can just pass them off to the next teacher. I am the next teacher. I get to see my teaching mistakes next year, so it pays to keep working till the last day. But they will soon have 3 months free from me. They are already in their summer mode. I’ll look outside and the kids will still be out at the playground at 10:00pm. They’ve had a head start since it is much warmer this spring than normal; we have very little snow left. Now, I’ll leave you to continue humming your favorite School House Rock song. Your welcome. (See what I did there?)

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Since I write this blog about teaching in rural Alaska, people who are wondering about working out here often contact me to ask questions. I decided to share some of these questions with the good people who read my blog. And for people who are wanting to know what it is like to teach up here. These may or may not be real questions asked by real people. 
  • A lady from Springfield asked me what type of conditioner she should use for dry, frizzy hair. (Bear fat, of course.)                                                                                             
  • A young graduate from Harvard asked me if he should continue to date his current girlfriend, even though she has this “unhealthy fascination with stripper poles” while listening to Johnny Cash. (I told him no, and he should send her up this way so I could look at her Johnny Cash collection. I’m a big fan.
  • What is teacher housing like up there? (This varies by village but we don’t live in igloos. The housing I live in was just constructed this past fall, so it is nice. We have two bedroom/two bathrooms. Other places have older units that have troubles with plumbing and keeping the rain out. And no, it is not free rent. Most places have housing built and provided by the school district, who then leases it to the teachers.
    This is a picture of our school and our housing.
    It is very close to each other, in a good way.
  • A retired teacher from Montana asked if we still had to poop in buckets in the morning. (When and where I poop is my business, thank you.)
  • A mortician from New Orleans asked if it is ok to paint his customers’ faces as clowns. (If you don’t make them sad-clown faces. I think that would send the wrong message.)
  • A young man from Dallas asked if it is true that there is no law enforcement in some rural villages. (That is correct. The village I live in has no law enforcement. The Alaska State Troopers have a post about 20 miles away and will usually respond within 3-7  business days.)
  • An elderly lady from the Washington D.C. area asked if I still eat my vegetables. (Mom! Stop hassling me!! We don’t have the opportunity for fresh vegetables out here. Most will freeze on the cargo plane before it reaches our village. And canned vegetables are out of the question. We can get frozen vegetables sent up here, but that would take up valuable freezer space allocated for the bacon supply. So, you can see why we have a limited amount of vegetables.)
  • A duck call manufacturer from Louisiana asked if beards are compulsory for the people up there? (That is a very good question. The answer varies depending on whether or not you can grow one. Women are discouraged, but allowed. Children need written approval from their parents before attempting to grow a beard. Manly men are required and men who are trying to be manly grow one to avoid being pushed around. fyi, using halloween paint does not fool anyone, they only push you around more.)
  • A prince from Nigeria asked if I would send him $2,000 in order for me to receive $1 million from one of my Nigerian relatives. (No)
  • A teacher from Maine asked if it was true that teachers only had to teach for 10 years and they then could collect a large pension. (No. don’t be an idiot. there is no pension for teachers. we pay into a fund, which we get back when we feel there is an adequate amount for us to stop working and begin drinking daily. we also do not pay into social security, so keep that in mind when planning for retirement.)
  • A student from Amsterdam asked what did it mean that most villages were “dry”? (A dry village means that purchasing or possessing alcohol is illegal. that doesn’t mean that there is no alcohol out here, it just means that I don’t have any alcohol out here. I want to repeat that: I don’t have any alcohol out here. so that means that i am on a first name basis with the owner of the liquor store in Jay, Oklahoma during the summer months.)
I hope that answers some of your questions. I may have to revisit this when I get (or think) of new questions. Now, I have to download more Cash from iTunes and begin construction on a new stripper pole. Yes, I said new.