Saturday, December 11, 2010


We have one more week of school until winter break starts.   I’m looking forward to spending a few weeks with my wife back in Wenatchee.  When she asked me what I wanted to do when I got home, everything I thought about involved eating.  And if it didn’t involve eating, it was sandwiched between eating.  Yes, I know I just used a delicious combination of meat, cheese, mayo and bread as a verb. 

This past week I said a phrase that I’ve never said before.  No, it wasn’t, “No thanks, I’m full” or “I think I’ve had enough to drink” or “Now that I look at it that way, I can see how I was mistaken”.  As I was sitting at my desk looking out the window, I said “What a beautiful sunrise this afternoon!”  The shortest day of the year is still a week and a half away, but it does take awhile for the sun to come out now.  The horizon starts to lighten at about 10:30, but it takes until after 12:00 to fully come over the horizon.  Even when it does, it doesn’t get very high in the sky, like in the summer.  It hangs just above the horizon, uneasy to stray too far in the sky. 

Last week also included Pearl Harbor Day, 69 years after the attack.  I asked the class on Tuesday morning what had happened 69 years ago.  I don’t think anyone watched CNN that morning because the only answer that followed was “that the dinosaurs became extinct”.  I guess their teacher should get on the ball and teach them something.  I had told the class earlier in the school year that I had been stationed at Pearl Harbor, so of course they all wanted to know if I was there during the attack.  I hope I convinced them with a time-line that there were many years between the attack on Pearl Harbor and my birth.  Now I have to convince one student that when I was born, dinosaurs were not roaming the planes; they were busy being oil. 

With less than a week until I head south, I’m trying to decide how to pack.  I will have to wear my cold weather gear because we are below zero here, and it looks like it will stay that way for a while.  I need my parka and boots for the plane ride to Bethel, but I don’t want to wear them once I get on a big plane, since they take up a lot of room and aren’t very comfortable.  But I need them incase I have to stand outside at one of these little airports here.  This decision will take up most of my time between now and when I leave, so at least I’ll keep busy.  Plus I’ll have to decide my meal plan when I’m home.  Maybe if I’d spend as much time planning what I will teach as I spend planning what I will eat, my students wouldn’t confuse me with the Flintstones. I’ll get to that right after I figure out what I’m going to make for lunch. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I wish I could get excited about snow the way kids do.  There is joy in their eyes as they watch it fall. These kids have lived their entire lives in Alaska and still run to the window when someone says, “Hey, it’s snowing!” They also run to the window when I say, “Is that a bear eating a bucket of chicken?”  The reason they have such delight in their eyes when they see snow is because they never had to pick up a shovel and move the snow.  

I guess snow can be fun until you’re up to your greater trochanter in a snowdrift (look it up on WebMD, and no, it’s not dirty). The wind blows most of the time here and the snow is able to organize itself and block our way to the school. I had to help a fellow teacher out of one of those drifts yesterday morning. When she asked for help, I explained that I didn’t want to be an enabler, so she should learn how to work her own way out of the snowdrift.  I couldn’t see her face since it was dark, and I couldn’t hear what she was shouting at me because of the wind.  I’m sure she was smiling and thanking me for the sage advice.   I wonder what she’ll get me for Christmas this year.

I hate to darken the mood of this blog with sadness, but I received some terrible news yesterday.  The Nalley’s chili plant in Tacoma is being shut down and will be moved to Iowa.  I hope it’s not something I said or did.   Iowa for God’s sake!  First, they took our basketball team and now our chili.  Wait, that was Oklahoma. This outsourcing of our jobs has to stop. 
With no disrespect to SPAM, I do have a favorite food that I eat up here.  It is Nalley’s chili over rice, with cheddar and Tabasco.  I learned of this culinary delight while I lived in Hawaii.  Chili and rice is popular there, as is any food and rice.  I eat chili and rice 2-3 times a week because it is easy to make and so damned delicious.  But now I’m not sure if it will still be available. It’s too soon to start looking for other brands.  Even if I try a new chili, I’ll still be thinking of Nalley’s.  Nalley’s, I will not accept your friendship request on Facebook.

With the calendar showing that my trip south is getting closer, I’m getting anxious about the weather.  If the weather is not cooperating, aircraft can be grounded for long periods.  This past week we had visitors from the state department of education and they had their stay extended by two days.  They sat in classrooms with their bags at their side for two days, waiting for a break in the weather.  Although they were eager to run to the window to see if it was still snowing, they weren’t enthusiastic about a bear eating fried chicken.  Apparently they aren’t very curious.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Now that Thanksgiving is over with, the countdown begins for the next major holiday: Groundhog Day.  When the Groundhog pokes his head out of the hole and gives presents to all the boys and girls, we know in our hearts that this is what makes this country great.  That and a fast food restaurant that cavalierly discards the bun in favor of more chicken.  

We had an impromptu holiday dinner at my house on Friday.  My place was chosen because I happen to have a table large enough to fit seven people, not because of my hosting abilities.  And I have a TV.  The weird part was nobody but me cared that there was football on.  We had moose, swan, and lots of stuffing.  I didn’t have to break out the turkey SPAM to share with the guests, so the dinner was a success.  The swan, moose and cranberry sauce were all locally hunted or foraged by someone other than me.  Monica sent my green bean casserole ingredients, so I can’t really claim to have contributed much to the dinner.  I did use a manual can opener for the beans.

With no radio station in the area, I have been curious about how the kids find different kinds of music.  Not many of the houses here have satellite TV and even less have Internet access.  I suppose they get some of their musical taste from their parents, just like I did.   One of the first singers I remember listening to when I was little was Johnny Cash.  The other day I was absently humming Ring of Fire, when one of my students materialized beside me and began singing along.  I asked him if he knew any other Cash songs.  Listening to an 8yr old’s rendition of The Ballad of Ira Hayes with a Yupik accent is something.  I think a person can go anywhere in the world and still find a Johnny Cash fan.  We were on break, so I brought up iTunes and started choosing Cash songs.  Since they will only give you 30 seconds of each song, he was yelling at my computer because the songs were interrupted.  I did have two Cash songs on my computer, but I don’t think he’s ready for Cocaine Blues.   At least I’m not ready to listen to an 8yr old sing it.

With only three more weeks until school is out for the break, I’m getting excited.  I will leave directly from my classroom to the airport on the 17th.  I can walk from the school to the airport in about the time it takes to walk through a major airport anywhere else.  When I say we have an airport here, I don’t mean to imply there is a building.  We have a gravel runway with a turnout to pick up passengers and turnaround so it can take off again but no TSA pat downs.   I will have a four-hour layover in Anchorage, so I may try to get to know a nice bartender while I’m there. 

Since I don’t have any leftovers from the holiday dinner, I have to continue eating what I normally do.  Eating turkey for the next week would be nice, but I don’t have that option.  I think I may try a new SPAM sandwich, but this time without the bread.  Colonel, you are a genius.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I’m sitting here wondering what to watch on TV.  On one channel, the View offers great insight in many of today’s most important topics.  For example, I never would have thought to use my extra moisturizing cream as a laxative.  On another channel, I can watch a sack of hot air shaped as a character, entertain and receive cheers from a crowd of holiday-crazed onlookers.  Or, I could watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  (I hope Oprah isn’t reading this.) 

I was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner a day early.  The school put on a holiday dinner for the community yesterday, which drew a crowd of a hundred or so.  The cooks did a great job of cooking turkeys, potatoes, stuffing, fry bread, cake and the rest of the feast.  My job was to be the Thanksgiving Grinch, chasing students off the climbing bars in the gym and telling them to stop running around the tables. The kids decided to make a game out of it by pretending to ignore my scowls and harsh words. 

Monica has taken care of my Thanksgiving feast for me.  She, along with her mom, packed a box full of traditional cuisine; including stuffing, gravy, pumpkin bread mix, and turkey SPAM.  SPAM is there when your family can’t.  Maybe I should submit that to their ad campaign people.  When I proposed that same idea to the fine people at Jim Beam, I received a lukewarm reaction.  Which was better than the response I got from Coors about bacon flavored beer.  It was a letter from their attorneys, demanding I  stop sending them letters.  Whatever dummies; I’ll continue to take a bite of bacon and a drink of Henry’s.

I would like to say that I am thankful for Monica, allowing me to quit my secure job and go back to school to become a teacher.  She’ll come up here next year, and begin her career change.  Teaching couples are very valuable to school districts up here, so we both should have jobs as soon as she’s done with her college.  Then she can write a blog and I can become lazier than I already am.

I am going to get back to watching TV.  I’ll sit back and watch the NFL all day and forget about the parades.  I was looking forward to seeing the Glenn Beck balloon, but they had troubles with it, so it’s a no-go.  Apparently the substance he was filled with couldn’t get it aloft.  I guess warm crap and tears don’t float.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I want to warn you before you begin; this post will cover subject matter that is considered boring by regular folk.  Those who do find this interesting, please put down the sharp object you are holding and move away from the children. 

In our district, we don’t give out grades and we don’t promote students to the next grade at the end of the school year the same way traditional schools do.  We are on a standards based system, where each subject has a set of standards that a student has to master before moving to that subject’s next level.  In the traditional system, a student would move to the next grade at the end of the school year, assuming he passed, moving up in all subjects (math, science, reading).  In our system, the subjects are not tied to each other for movement.  The student advances a level when that particular subject level has been mastered.  Mastering includes presentations, tests, and other work.  When all of the standards in a particular subject have been mastered, the student must pass an end of level assessment in order to move up to the next level in that subject.  This would work great if all students advanced at the same pace. They don’t.  A student could be in the 4th grade, but be in level 3 in math and level 5 in reading.  Some 4th graders are almost done with their science standards in level 4, but others have just started, making it difficult to teach to each student at their current standard level. Excuse me; I just gave myself a nosebleed typing this.  It’s really much more complicated than it sounds. 

I think this approach to education can work, but it will need some tweaking to get it right.  If I could convince the students that it is some sort of Pac-Man game, eating his way to each level, this could be a motivator for them.  (I realize I’m dating myself when I reference a video game and Pac-Man is what comes to mind.)  I am aware of the arguments against the standards based system, and have made many myself.  But by trying new approaches like this, we can improve how we educate our children. Learning how to differentiate teaching to each student is the difficult part. (I told you it was going to be boring.)

I now wish one of my superhuman abilities would be to teach to each student at an individual level.  Since we can only choose three abilities (don’t be greedy), I would have to give one up I’ve already wished for.  I think I want to keep the invisibility power. It would come in handy during those awkward moments at a dinner party, when it is my turn to contribute something intelligent to the conversation.  Instead of sharing the time I got my head stuck in the staircase banister, I could quietly disappear and go back to the bar for another drink.  To be honest, I’ve never been to a dinner party and nobody has ever turned to me with expectations of something intelligent coming out of my mouth.  But I’m keeping it just in case.  I’d probably trade my ability to walk fast.  I know that isn’t really superhumany, but I think I would use it more than some sort of fast running ability.  I really don’t have anywhere to be that quickly. So my ability to walk fast will be traded for the ability to teach my students at an individual level.  The other superhuman ability I will keep will be my power to pretend to care about other people’s problems. 

This is the kind of blog you get when nothing exciting happens here during the week. Tying together a standards based system with superhuman powers in one post is not easy.  Or as you have just witnessed, not possible.  Last week, I had the great fortune of watching a dog take a crap on a frozen lake.  No such luck this week.  I have not seen a cat in the village yet, but they’re not that funny anyway. They are more discrete about where they crap. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I have just a little over a month until I’m going home for the winter break.  34 days, 6 hours, and 14 minutes to be exact.  The other day, someone asked me what I missed most.  The first thing that popped into my head was what I said: “Beer and Pizza”.  If that person asking that question had been a guy, the conversation would have ended there, with a nod in agreement.  Unfortunately, the questioning individual was a female.  “Beer and pizza?  Not your wife?”  In hindsight, my best response would have been to pull the fire alarm and run, but no, I continued.  I explained that Beer and Pizza was my term of endearment for my wife.  I know she didn’t believe me, but I cannot back down now.  Like a teachable moment, this should have been a learnable moment for me, but I really doubt it was.

Teachable moments are moments that arise unexpectedly throughout the day and can be used to help educate a student.  Sometimes I am present when they happen.  I will occasionally take a student out for a walk in the hall as reward for good behavior.  The reward isn’t really the walk; it is the candy I hand out with some worldly wisdom included for free.  What kid wouldn’t appreciate that? 
While gazing out the window with an eight-year-old boy, we were treated to a viewing of a dog taking a crap on the frozen lake.  I didn’t look out before I asked, “What do you see out there today?”  “There’s a dog pooping.”  Marvelous.  A lone dog hunched over on the frozen lake and me without my camera.  The teachable part of the moment was when we discussed how it would be frozen by the time he walked home.  Unfortunately, neither one of us thought of making a ‘poopcicle’ joke at the time.

My wife has convinced me that I haven’t written about my walk to school and dead people.  Since the terra firma here isn’t so firma, regular cemeteries won’t work.  The ground, when thawed, feels like a sponge when you’re walking on it.  So instead of burying someone after they pass away, they stay above ground.  And the cemeteries are not a centralized collection of caskets and tombstones.  They seem to be placed randomly around the village, including next to walkways.  That does make sense, since cemeteries elsewhere are near roads.  I walk by three ‘cemeteries’ on my walk to school each morning.  One casket is placed so close to the trail that a person can bump into it if you’re not paying attention.  The cemeteries in the village are not very big, usually just a half-dozen or so in each group.  I don’t know how it is decided where to place a casket, or who decides.  I was a little disappointed at Halloween when nobody hid behind these casket boxes and jumped out at people.  I think it would be funny even on Thanksgiving.

I am looking forward to spending some time at home.  Not having a store in town isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but it will be nice to expand my menu once in a while.  Although having chili and rice twice a week hasn’t diminished it’s appeal to my taste buds.  I sure miss my Beer and Pizza.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


A polar bear, an Eskimo, and a Rabbi walked into a bar.  I have nothing more after that. The strangest part of this scenario is that everyone knows that polar bears and Rabbis are mortal enemies.  I’m pretty sure they just accidently showed up at the same time.  Maybe the Rabbi and Eskimo showed up together, discussing how to interpret the Talmud into Yupik, and the polar bear just showed up because he was thirsty.  Plus, polar bears love nachos.  Can you tell nothing exciting happened here the past week?

I had an uneventful Halloween.  It turns out there was some candy left over and I had enough to hand out.  I even had enough for some to come through twice.  Apparently, covering you face with a hood is a costume.  The candy I handed out was Whoppers.  I hate Whoppers.  I ate a whole carton of them once when I was a kid and I got sick. I still have troubles eating them.  I had a similar experience with Southern Comfort.  I DID NOT give out Southern Comfort as treats. 

Winter has settled in here.  We have about 6 inches of snow on the ground with more to come.  It is getting down in the mid teens at night and mid 20’s during the day.  The old timers say that the winters are not very bad.  The interior of the state will routinely get into the -40s, but since we are on the Bering Sea, it keeps our temps quite mild.  Mild is relative, so I’ll get back to you with the meaning of mild.

It is only the first part of Nov and it stays dark most of the day now.  It gets light around 1030 AM and dark at about 7 pm.  We lose more than 5mins of daylight each day right now.  The sun is also low on the horizon, so it takes a while for the sun to get up and do its job.  I haven’t seen it in a week since it has been cloudy for a while.

Our first Friday each month is used for in-service for the staff, so that’s what we did.  I do think it is a good reminder for teachers to understand how boring it can be for the kids to sit there and listen to us drone on about something they really don’t care about.  I’ve heard that teachers make the worst students.  Doctors make the worst patients.  Nuclear physicists make the worst pastry chefs. I had a lawyer joke to insert, but I have a brother and a couple of cousins who might get upset.  You’d think they would have thicker skin.

If anyone can find a punch line for the joke I started, I’ll include it on my next blog.  I’ll try out making this an interactive blog; interactive meaning somebody else writes it and comes up with funny things to post.  That’s what teachers call “student centered learning”.  Letting the students chose what they want to learn about, and have them look it up.  If you can tell a student to use a dictionary to look up a word they want to know how to spell, why can’t you give them an algebra book when they have a question?  Even if it is about germs.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


This past week I had two different and separate events.  At the beginning of the week, I went to St. Mary’s, AK for two days of meetings and Friday night I worked as a pinsetter at a Halloween carnival for the school.  I probably didn't have to alert you that these are different and separate. All in all it was a good week.  Except for the carnival.  Man I loathe them things.  A child’s enjoyment seems to be directly proportional to an adult’s misery.

My principal wasn’t feeling up to flying, so he sent me to St. Mary’s for a meeting with the local advisory school boards (ASB), the district’s regional school board (RSB) and our principals.  Our school district is as large as Oregon, so logistically the district is difficult to run out of one office with one board.  Each school in our district, there are 11, has it’s own elected advisory board, which helps to advise their local school.  The regional school board works just like school boards in the lower 48.  The two-day meeting was to hear from the ASB and try to implement some of the ideas that came out of the meeting.

My favorite part was talking with ASB members who had lived and worked in their villages their entire lives.  I learned how some of our schools have programs that include traditional hunting and fishing into their curriculum.  Students will spend a week or more in fishing camps, learning how to use traditional skills.  Many people here, including my village, continue to live a subsistence life.  Unfortunately, my school does not offer the same programs.  Listening to people who have lived most of their lives in this area can give you a much better perspective about what the communities are wanting and needing in their schools. 

Learning how other schools in the district involve cultural activities makes me think about changing schools in the future.  It is common up here for teachers to relocate, and going to a school where trapping beavers is considered homework would be a great experience. Plus, how cool would that look on a resume?  Do you have any special skills for us to consider?”   “Why, yes I do.  I alone trapped a beaver and made a hat from his fur.”  I would then proceed to show off my headwear, inspiring a look of awe on my interviewer’s face.  The special skill I currently have on my resume, able to sit motionless on a couch for hours, doesn’t seem to enthuse people the way it does me.

The carnival went off last night without any problems.  Other than me being there.  To say I am not a fan of crowds is an understatement.  The school had ordered the prizes for the games, but they didn’t arrive.  The staff pooled our Halloween candy and used that for the game prizes.  I’m not sure how that’s going to play when the kids show up at my house for candy and I don’t have any.  I guess I’ll just tell them it is a life lesson and that knocking on people’s doors and then demanding they give you candy is just plain rude.  That will be my cue to duck.  My duty at the carnival was to run the bowling game, which was a plastic bowling set.  Bending over and setting pins over and over for three hours is a short, young man’s game.  I think I was the only one in the gym who broke a sweat last night.  But I made it through the night with only a minimal amount of bitching.  The meaning of “minimal “ is subjective I was told. 

Having a busy week makes the time go by quickly.  We also had our parent/teacher conferences and the end of the quarter.  I was able to meet some of the parents I had not met yet, so now I don’t have to pretend to be hard of hearing the next time someone asks me how their child is doing in class. Sometimes I would pretend I was spooked by something behind them and just run away.  The back of my legs are sore this morning from squatting and setting pins last night, and my butt is sore from sitting in meetings for two days.  But, I know the worst part is yet to come: handing out only advice to the trick-or-treaters.  I’ll let you know how that works out.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


One of the great things about living here is that I get to see things I had never seen before.  For example: watching a neighbor butcher a seal in his front yard.  I’ve seen many animals get themselves butchered and I’ve even assisted in the chore on occasions, although never to anyone’s approval.  To my credit, the animal has never complained.

Watching a seal being butchered is analogous to watching the grass grow, a bit boring.  Except that instead of watching life spreading out and flourishing, you’re watching a seal’s guts and blood spill on that same grass.  I did learn that the head of a seal is very similar to that of a small dog.  Pinnipeds for $400 Alex.

Eating seal is commonplace here, so all of my students have developed a fondness for the taste.  I ate it once when I was going to school in Sitka 25 years ago, and the taste still lingers.  We were talking in class about how people who live in different places eat distinctive foods.  I asked them what they ate and they listed many things, including seal and beluga whale.  Of course they asked me what we eat where I’m from.  I said “beef.”  They weren’t sure what that meant, so I said, “cow.”  I could have said “boogers” by their reaction.  And pig;  “ewwwww!”  For the next 10 minutes, they had to sit through a lesson in the righteousness of eating pig meat. Where did they think bacon came from?  I pointed out that you can’t buy seal and eggs at Denny’s in Anchorage, but they do have bacon and eggs.  They pointed out I wasn’t mentally stable.  I guess I should never use Denny's when trying to convince someone of how good a food can be.  It is a logical fallacy.  

Today we had a pretty good storm.  The walk to work this morning reminded me of what is to come for the next six months.  Wind and snow in my face will be a good way to wake up.  Plus, it will be at my back on the way home as it was tonight.  I left before the rest, and asked them if they find a lump beneath the snow, give it a kick to make sure it’s me and not a sack of crap.  The nice response would have been, “Of course Clay, we’ll look out for you.”  The reply I got was “How can we tell the difference?”  It’s that tight knit kind of community we have at the school and it keeps me warm inside.

While I didn’t have seal meat for dinner tonight, I know I will have some soon.  I’m not sure if it will be a rite of passage sort of thing or an I ran out of Spam thing.   I hope it’s a rite of passage thing because I’ll need the Spam to purge the lingering taste.  Yes, you can use Spam to cleanse the palate.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Report cards are coming out next week.  That statement use to scare me when I was a kid because it usually meant I was in trouble.  As soon as I had my ass chewed for the current one, I was already worried about the next one.  Now, I have to fill out report cards for my students. 

Because of my anxiety dealing with report cards as a student, I am careful about what I’m writing on these cards.  “Does not apply himself” seemed to be repeated often on mine.  “Shouldn’t eat paste during math” and “ Why does he talk to himself all day?”  may have popped up once or twice.  High school was tough.

We had a volleyball tournament at our school this weekend.  Three other schools came in Friday and we started playing shortly after they arrived.  We took a break and served dinner, then resumed until about 10:30.  Since there is no place for the teams to stay in town, they each took a classroom and rolled out their sleeping bags.  These teams are also co-ed, so we did separate the boys and girls. 

My responsibility for the weekend was to help make sure things ran smoothly.  The principal was out due to medical issues, so I took his place as the person of responsibility. (You may stop laughing now.)(Seriously, I can hear you.)  I actually had to answer people when they asked for permission to do something.  “Can we have a dance after the games tonight?”  “Can we have seconds on dessert?”  I found quickly that the best response is “No”.  By answering “yes”, I can see there are other consequences down the road. 

I know that makes me an old man by answering that way, but it was already past my bedtime.  I have no idea how to put on a dance and I know it’s not a good idea to allow high school kids to plan a dance on the fly.  After carefully contemplating the dessert inquiry, I think I made the right choice.  We were out of cake. I may have been wrong about the dance.  The next morning while the kids were waiting to leave, I heard Johnny Cash sing I walk the line.  After investigation, I found a small group of Yupik girls sitting on the floor with an iPod.  Maybe they could have pulled off a dance I would enjoy. 

Well, it’s 9:30 in the a.m., dark outside and 23 degrees.  Plus, I have the NFL on the TV, so I am not motivated to walk the half-mile to school to do my report cards, write my lesson plans for the week, and write two days worth of substitute lesson plans.  I’m going out of town for two days, so I may get to a store to buy more potatoes and onions.  I ran out this week.  My report cards are due tonight by midnight so I better get motivated.  Which reminds me of something else that seemed to appear on my report card as a child: “Clay procrastinates on almost every assignment”.  Go figure.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


As I’ve mentioned before, shopping for groceries here is a little different than shopping at most places.  When I run out of saffron and fresh charoli seeds for my base sauce, I can’t run down to the corner Whole Foods to refill my pantry.  Ok, I made that part up, I have no idea what saffron or charoli are.  I think they may have won a Grammy in the late 80’s.  Anyways, I’ll start again.  When I run out of canned chili or spam, I can’t run down the nearest Safeway to buy enough food for the next three days.  I have to get on the internet and order online.
Last summer before I came up here, Monica and I did some shopping and shipped up some of my favorite food.  This consisted of canned chili, rice, tuna, spam, rice, macaroni, Velveeta and rice.  I had other things, but those are the staples.  I did learn to bake bread, so we sent up flour and other bread ingredients.  I would list them, but then I’d just be bragging.  I had plenty of food to keep me fat and happy for about three months.  I’m at two months, so it was time to make an order online.
A few stores and companies will ship orders to the bush.  I used Fred Meyer’s online store last week for the first time and found their offerings odd.  It wasn’t what they offered, but what they didn’t.  I wanted to stock up on butter.  Not margarine, but real butter.  They didn’t have it listed on their website.  I bought eggs, onions, potatoes, and cheese, but no butter.  That wasn’t the only thing I really wanted that they didn’t offer online.
They did not offer toilet paper.  That’s just mean.  They had paper towels, napkins, Kleenex, and baby wipes.  It makes no sense.  They flaunted a bulk-sized canister of Metamucil, but nothing for the aftermath.  At least they could have offered a free Imodium sampler with it.
After I filled out the order, it came out to $165 without the shipping.  I didn’t find the prices to be outrageous, but they are probably 15-20% higher than at home.  I did not price compare, so I could be off by as much as 60-70%.  Unless you count the 5% discount for using my frequent shoppers card.  Then they will tack on an additional 20% for handling and add the cost of shipping, depending on the volume and weight.  Got all that?
Most everything we get up here is shipped through the post office.  The parcel post schedule is very erratic because things come in only if there is room on the airplanes.  If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, the airplanes are not large.  They are tiny and cannot carry much more than passengers and their baggage.  So when a plane is not full, parcel post packages can ride along.  That means that a package can sit in Bethel for days because there is no room to send it.  Or it can get stuck in Emmonack because there is no room on the plane.  It can take 2-6 weeks for an order to arrive, so if you wait too long to place an order, you may have just learned an important lesson.
I’m learning the importance of patience.  I also have to learn where and how to order toilet paper. Patience only lasts so long without that. Then it’s panic. I should have learned how to order toilet paper years ago.  Instead, I spent my time listening to Saffron and Charoli. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Because we have a small school, teachers here have to take on many different responsibilities.  We have six general education teachers (K-12), a special education teacher, and a counselor.  For some of these jobs, we get a stipend at the end of the year.  These could include coaching, student council advisor, or lead teacher.   Sometimes you volunteer for one of the positions, and sometimes you are asked.

 I was “asked” to be a co-lead teacher.  One duty of the lead teacher is to help other teachers with curriculum and other “teacher” stuff.  That responsibility would fall to my co-lead teacher since she has the experience.  My responsibilities will usually involve chores commonly done by a pack mule, my area of expertise.  Luckily we don’t have crops to grow.  Yesterday my job was to pickup the volleyball team from the airport.

Calling it an airport stretches the description slightly.  It is a gravel runway with a beacon.  The only way in and out of the village is by boat, which is not very convenient, and by plane.  The plane isn’t very convenient either but it beats walking.  The modes of transportation are very limited in the village, so the school is responsible for picking up and dropping off their personnel at the airplane.  So, I drove our four-wheeler out to the airport to pick them up.

The volleyball coach called me from Mountain Village, which is where they were playing.  She said they were leaving and would be at Nunam Iqua in a half-hour.  I put on my new parka and boots, and headed out to get the four-wheeler.  I got out to the airport with about 10 minutes until they were suppose to arrive.  There were two problems with what happened next.  First, the plane they thought was going to Nunam was not going to Nunam.  So, they headed back to the school in Mountain Village to wait for their plane.  The second part was that they forgot to call me and tell me they would be coming later.  But the day was sunny and 35, so it wasn’t too bad to be sitting on a four-wheeler for an hour.  Plus my beard, whom I’ve named Awesome, kept my face warm.

When they arrived, we loaded half of them with their bags to take them home.  The four-wheeler has room for 3 in the cab, and three in the back with their bags.  Two had rides for themselves so I had the rest.  I had no idea where these kids lived, so I asked.  Like a typical teenager, the response was pointing.  We don’t have roads in town; we have boardwalks.  Some of the boardwalks are new, but some are still waiting to be rebuilt.  There is a crew in town that has been rebuilding the boardwalks, but they will have to finish next summer due to the weather.  Nails and broken boards are everywhere, so there is some hazard in driving here.  Awesome and I had our work cut out for us.

I was able to see parts of town I had not been to before.  Well, I’ve seen them from a distance and now up close.  They look exactly like the rest of the houses in town, including mine.  The conversation with the students went something like this: 
“Where is your house?” 
Back there.” 
“Crap. How about yours?”
Keep going.
“Yes, but can you be a little bit more specific?”
Sure, keep going that way.”
“Well, just let me know when I’ve gone past it.”
I’m not sure if he was nodding in agreement, or if he was nodding to his iPod.  Whichever, they all made it home safely.

So, I’ll be taxing students and other school staff to and from the airport for the rest of the year.  When packages arrive on the weekends, I will also be packing them back from the airport, so this may become my new hobby.  After 10 years with FedEx, I thought I had moved away from that.  So, when you hear people calling me a jackass, you’ll know why.  (It’s because I’m doing the job of a pack mule.  Right?)

p.s. It snowed today.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I’m learning that one of the things that teachers don’t like is having new things thrown at them without notice.  I realize that isn’t unique to my profession, but it’s my blog so I get to do the whining.  Monday, my class increased by over 7% without anyone mentioning this to me.  He just showed up, stood inside the doorway, and looked at me. 
I’m not usually comfortable with people staring at me. This was no exception.  He looked intently at me as if he was expecting me to do something for him.  He stares and he’s needy.  What could a child want in a school?  I realize it took me way too long to figure out that he was a student, wanting me to find him a desk so he could sit down.  The principal said that it wasn’t the school’s policy to surprise teachers with students that way and he apologized.  I smiled and asked if I had to keep him since they violated school policy.  He’ll fit in fine with the other 14 students.
On a related note, Subway does not sell its foot long for $5 in Alaska.  It is a $6 dollar foot long.  The good news is that I don’t have to listen to that stupid commercial.  The bad news is that the $6 foot long song is worse.   This is all true.
As you’ve probably noted, if you have continued to read this far, it has been an uneventful week here. I received my winter gear from Cabela’s just in time for my furnace to quit working.  It hasn’t been too cold yet, but it has been freezing at night.  Pushing the reset switch seems to make the boiler work again.  I apologize for being technical here, but we have to be able to fix our own problems since there is no service tech in the area.  When I say we, I mean Joe.  I gave him my keys and asked if he could help.  God, he must be disgusted with me by now.
The new slippers are treating me well, and my new parka fits well.  It is made with real coyote fur, so I hope the wolves don’t snicker.  I wanted one with bear fur around the hood and bear teeth for buttons, but realized that would just be mocking the bears.  So, coyote will do.  Did I mention that it has been dull here this week? 
Now, I need to close the curtains; I think someone is staring through the window.  I don’t need a roommate. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I’m not sure how I could teach without the ability to use a computer.  I exploit YouTube and Google on a daily basis.  I also discovered that they list curse words on Wikipedia. That’s on my own time, not for making spelling lists.  But, if student engagement is more important than content, I may be on to something.  %$#@*ing Cuss Words for 4th Graders: proper usages will be on Amazon’s top 100 list for Christmas 2011.
I don’t want people to see my Google history. Some people, judging people, would get the wrong idea.  I’ve googled dehydrated whiskey.  My brother KC was the one who brought it up to me, so I decided to check it out.  I found nothing, other than learning that if you drink too much whiskey, you will become dehydrated the next morning.  Who knew?  I also googled grow lamp.  Yes, I did check and it was not listed back to back with dehydrated whiskey on the history.  People who judge may presuppose nefarious reasons for my inquiries. 
I used a YouTube video to show the students about base-jumping.  After we watched it, the students wrote about what they saw, and whether they would like to try it someday.  One of the fourth graders was not happy with me that morning.  Most of the students are not shy when it comes to letting you know when they are not happy with you.  “You suck!” roughly translates the same here as it does in WA.  I thanked him for being honest and reminded him he needed to write a complete sentence letting me know how he would feel about base-jumping.  He wrote the sentence “Me and Clay cliff jump and clay die”.  Just in case I couldn’t understand what he wrote, he drew me a picture: a parachute crumpled up next to me laying on the ground, complete with x’s for eyes. As you can imagine, I was upset.  I had just explained how to use the past tense properly in a verb and he completely ignored me.  I thought I had explained it clearly.  “It’s Clay Died!!!”  But, I held in my anger and walked away.
I’m learning that I can’t force kids to like what I want them to do.  If I could, boy this teaching gig would be a hell of a lot easier.  But since it isn’t that way, I’m using the premise of outlast.  If I can outlast a student, I may get my way.  That’s how Monica became my wife.  Patience.  A half an hour later, the student walked up to me and showed me his reworked sentence.  “Me and Clay went cliff jumping and clay did not die."  He even changed the picture, this time with me standing, eyes wide open. Both problems were solved with his rewrite.  I lived another day in class and in one student’s story.  That hasn’t stopped me from continuously googling patience to see if it has an update. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Traveling for a school-sponsored event is a big deal for teachers out in the bush.  We load up in a small plane and hope we can make it there without crashing.  Maybe the last part is just my interpretation of what happens when we get on.  Not many airlines have their pilots estimate the weight of each passenger and then arrange them to make sure the weight is distributed correctly.  The pilot picks the heaviest first, and then checks down in order by weight, politely pointing to which of the four seats we’ll be sitting in.  I’m pretty sure the pilot picked me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat because he liked me, not because he needed some weight up front.  Plus, in case of an emergency I could assist him in panicking the rest of the passengers.
We had our teacher’s in-service in Hooper Bay, the district’s largest school with about 400 students.  The school is much larger than ours is, which serves about 65 students, K-12.  The school is about 5 years old.  It was built when their old school burned down, along with most of the teacher’s housing.  The town has a grocery store, which mine does not, so I was able to get some groceries.  I didn’t have much room in my bag, so I only bought a few items.  Here is the list:
1 jar of Ragu: $6.50                                                                                                     
2 20oz bottles of Coke: $5.50
2 lbs of onions: $4.50
5 lbs of potatoes: $6
18 carton of eggs: $5.50
2 sausage ropes: $16
One of the reasons I didn’t have a lot of room was because we had to pack our sleeping bags and air mattresses.  That almost filled my duffel bag, so I went ahead and threw in some clean clothes for the two days.  We slept in classrooms, rooming with people who didn’t know us.  Or didn’t know that I snore.  Two teachers from my school and I were sharing a room with another guy who we didn’t know.  He did not seem to be interested in knowing us either, since he resisted any attempt at small talk from each of us.  The most he spoke was when he was leaving the room at 2am, mumbling something about not being able to sleep in this racket.  My two other roommates pointed out that the racket he was referring to was my snoring. I can add that guy to the list of many others who do not enjoy hearing from me.  I also drove out a co-teacher last spring in our cabin during science camp, citing the need to sleep for his reason.  Monica must be getting some good sleeping right now.
We sat through seminars both days, each one about different strategies on teaching reading skills to students.  District wide, our reading scores on the state assessment have been low, so that’s where the concentration is right now.  It was good to learn about new tools to use in the classroom.  It was also good to hear from other teachers, many new just like me, talk about what struggles each of us are going through.  It is true that misery loves company, because there seemed to be a lot of misery.  But, that is why we have these gatherings, and I think I learned some ideas to try in my room.
The plane ride home had us facing a strong head wind, so it took us about a half-hour longer than the flight there.  The view was great, with no clouds at all.  I did feel a bit apprehensive once when I saw a flock of geese that looked very close beneath us.  I glanced at Sully but he seemed unconcerned, so I guess it was ok.  I was a big help in the co-pilot seat, with the fact we didn’t crash as being the evidence.  I understand that correlation does not equate to causation, but in this case, I’ll let it slide. Plus, he picked me first.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This post will be brief and not very well thought out.  I’m sure you’re thinking, “How is that different from the rest?”  Haha.  Now you're wondering why I’m having a conversation with imaginary people, people who are gently mocking me.  I don’t have an answer to that, so quit asking.  I’m trying to post a blog here.

I’m leaving this afternoon for Hooper Bay, a town south of here, for two days of teacher in-service.  It sounds like it will be a nice, relaxing place to collectively think and discuss how we can serve our students better.  But it is another village; similar to the one I’m in, so there is no resort for us to stay.  The fine dinning will be at the school cafeteria, and as for our sleeping arrangements, we have packed our sleeping bags and air mattresses and will be sleeping in classrooms.   This will be like summer camp, sans the initiation practices.  I hope I don’t have to eat another frog.  Ok, I didn’t have to eat it, but when curiosity takes over….

I’ll be back Friday evening, so I won’t be away from here too long.  Hooper Bay does have a small grocery store, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab a few things to bring back.  And to answer the question I’m hearing; no, it’s a dry village too.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a blog to write.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


One of the nice things about a small school is the ability to plan whole school outings without a lot of preparation on the part of the staff.  Ok, no planning on my part.  The high school science/math teacher did the planning and did just fine without any input from me.  I wonder why she didn’t ask me for any help, but maybe it was because I was avoiding her knowing that she may ask for my help.  Whatever the reason, I’m satisfied it’s not my fault.  Our outing was to go out and do some berry picking.  Many types of berries grow out in the tundra and they are the only fresh fruit that grows up here.  Most of the students have gone berry picking with their families many times.
Berry picking is not a dangerous endeavor. However, picking berries near an airport without a reliable schedule can be.  So of course, students ran straight for the airport.  As they say up here, “The berries are always more plentiful on the other side of the runway”.  If there was a giant, spinning wheel made of broken glass shards and rusty nails, (I’m not sure why there would be one of those) kids would walk as close to it as they could.  Well, some would walk closer than they should.  This is why we have rules and procedures keeping us from doing fun things.  I would love to stand and watch that wheel, but for the safety and survival of others, we must stay back.  Ok, back to the airport.  When the students were told to stay on this side of the airport, they seemed angry that they couldn’t pick berries where they wanted to.  Some of their complaining was drowned out by an unexpected airplane.  I suggested that they could come out after school and pick berries over there, since they wouldn’t be under the strict control of the school.  They just looked at me like I was recommending they listen to that new polka album.  
Overall, the berry picking was a huge success.  The students spent two hours talking, playing, and picking a few berries.  The sky was clear and it was about 55 degrees out on the tundra.    Some of the older students were complaining about how hot it was outside, and they asked how I could wear a jacket in this heat.  They knew the answer, as it was implied by the tone in their voice (wimp).  The older students did do a great job of helping the little ones in picking.  They shared what they picked, because my students were trying to pick the most berries in the class.  We didn’t have a trophy, but berry picking bragging rights carry a lot of weight.  In case you were wondering, Naomi picked the most: 1440 cranberries. 
We used the berries the next day in our math lesson.  The high school students came in the classroom and helped us count and weigh our berries.  The most amazing part of this was that after class was over, there were no berries squished on the floor.  With over 5,500 berries counted, not one made it under somebody’s shoe.  My class works very hard on respecting their new school and taking care of it.  The older ones in my class get on the little ones if they drop a piece of paper on the floor.  The grossest part was that some of them made juice out of the cranberries while they were in the Ziploc bags.  (The berries, not the kids)  They then drank it from the corner of the Ziploc bag.  But still, no mess.
I’m sure Miss Fina will plan more outings for us since this one was such a success, even without my input.  I’ll remind her of that if she does ask for my help.  Good luck to her on finding me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


You never really know hate until it is directed at you.  On my way home from school, I was called a stink-butt.  You never think it can happen to you; that it happens in other neighborhoods, to other people.  You can rationalize it by thinking, “Yes, kindergarteners can be mean”, but in the end, it still cuts the same.
If you have read some of my past posts, I had described an encounter with two kindergarten girls.  Instead of leaving my porch when asked (politely I might add), one began to yell at me while the other chewed on a nail sticking out my porch door jam. Yeah, you know, what any kid would do.  Well, they must have been holding in their anger and hate for the past few weeks, and let it go today.  They followed me home from school today.  Follow can also be defined as: “cling to a larger person on his way home to eat dinner”.  When I didn’t extend an invitation to them for dinner, they lashed out with that hateful word.  The Spam and Ramen noodles didn’t give me the joy it normally does. 
Other than that, it has been an uneventful couple of days.  I’m coming down with a cold, so I have that going for me.  I never remember if I’m suppose to starve a cold and feed a fever or the other way around.  I cover all bases and feed any illness.  Botulism?  Feed it.  Sprained ankle?  Feed it.  A little sad after watching 30 Rock?  Ok, you get what I mean.  Since we have no substitute teachers here, I guess I’ll stick it out. 
The whole school will be going berry picking tomorrow.  There are wild cranberries in the tundra, and I guess the picking is fine.  I’m looking forward to getting the class outside for the afternoon.  The weather is supposed to be nice, about 55, so it will be fun.  We’ll count and weigh the berries on Friday for our math lesson.  That’s about as far as I’ve planned.  I’m not sure when the eating is going to happen, but I’m sure it will.
The kindergarten is not going to be going on the berry picking expedition, so it will be safe.  I’ll hold my head high put this night behind me.  Anyways, I’ll have some berries to help ease the pain.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I’m spending my Saturday afternoon like most people in Nunam Iqua, watching the Sooners beat Florida State. It is almost like being at home, except for the fact this a dry village, so my beverage of choice is tap water. And the time I spend with my wife is on Skype instead of her waiting on me hand and foot. I had a Spam sandwich, which I made from bread I baked last weekend and Spam that was caught wherever they live. Living the High Life.

Since my wife could see me on Skype, she made reference to the graying of my beard. After extensive research, I conclude and will maintain the reason is because my beard is blending with its environment. The only, and I stress only, flaw in that reasoning that my hair has not begun to re-grow in response to the impending cold. My best response is that maybe it’ll be a mild winter.

Last night a group of high school students, Natural Helpers, had an open gym for the community and it was my turn to help supervise. The Natural Helpers are nominated by their peers as students they would most go to in a time of crisis. Teen suicide is much higher here than the national average and this group receives training on recognizing when there is a problem with another student. They host a night of games for the community every couple of weeks so the kids can have a warm place to hang out and play. They also get to go on a trip at the end of the year. They were able to go to Hawaii last year, so they have an incentive to participate in the program. I think they receive their funds from a grant. However it is being paid for, I think it is a good organization to learn leadership skills and hopefully help someone when they need it. Plus, they are able to let kids have some fun on a Friday night.

We had our first birthday party on Friday. We had two birthdays, so we watched a movie, complete with popcorn and juice. Monica sent a box with microwave popcorn and it arrived just in time. (Thank you honey) They must have been practicing for the time they get to go to a theater, because I have never seen one cup of juice compel so many kids to use the bathroom. The kids are fond of lying on the floor when they are watching a movie. They kind of bunch up together, like they are huddling for warmth. One student asked if she could use the bathroom, and when the other students heard the door shut, the rest of the class popped up like a cluster of gophers. We resumed the movie after they all returned.

Now that the Sooners squeaked out a win against FSU, there seems to be plenty of other choices to keep me occupied on the sporting front. I don’t think I have to cook tonight because of an invitation to another teacher’s house for dinner. I cooked last weekend, so we try to spread it around. God I hope it’s not Spam.

Happy Birthday Lynn!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


After the three-day weekend, the kids were happy to be back in school. The weather is the same 50 degrees. Sometimes it is windy and rainy, and other times it’s rainy and windy. But mostly windy and rainy. The change up is nice. The weather isn’t too bad except when it is blowing in my face. Which is why I’m not shaving until I go home for Christmas. Ok, I’m not shaving because I’m lazy and have an aversion to dragging a sharp piece of steel across my face.

I want to mention that there have been several very nice comments posted at this blog. I will also clear up some apparent confusion; there will be no payment for kind remarks. But I do appreciate them. I’m getting free advice from my favorite principal in New Zealand (Don McLean), but I’m still searching for the definition of biffing.

I had been without water since last Thursday, but Joe Strongheart worked hard and fixed the problem. Joe is the maintenance man at the school and even though it wasn’t his responsibility to fix the problem, he did anyways. The crew who was working on it left last week for a two-week break, so I’m very glad that Joe would take the time to get me back in water. I also traded some plastic totes that I used to move my stuff up here to Joe and his wife for about 3 lbs of moose meat. I made bread and moose-chili this weekend. I had plenty left over, so I’ve been eating chili every night this week.

The town is also rebuilding the boardwalk throughout the village. The land is almost a marshland out here since we are on the Yukon River delta, so the ground is low quality for walking. Even where it is dry, it is like walking on a giant sponge. The boardwalks have little driveways that run right up to people’s houses. Most people have ATVs for the summer and snowmobiles (snow machines) for the winter. I’m going to just hoof it this year. It would be expensive to order one for this winter so I’ll do it like the old timers have done for years: lots of bitching and complaining.

The kids and their teacher are getting to know each other a little better each day. They mock my attempt at a beard and remind me “That’s not how Grover did it”. Grover was their teacher last year. I would like to ask them to cut me a break because I’m winging it here, but I smile and tell them “I’m not Grover”. They give me a confused look and tell me they know I’m not Grover, and ask why I’m shouting. Grover is probably wondering why I always give him a dirty look in the hall. He’s teaching social studies to 6-12 grades.

Now that I have water, I can get my dishes and clothes washed, admire my beard and eat another bowl of chili. I also still have time to figure out how to biff my textbooks without getting fired.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The first full week of school is over and if I keep learning at the same pace, I’ll be a genius by Christmas. At times, it seems that new information is made up just for my frustration. Since everything here is new to me, there is a lot to absorb. I know that first week was my hardest, so I should hit my stride by mid-May.

The most difficult subject for me to teach is the subject I like the best: social studies. It is tricky to find prior knowledge with the students about community when all of the examples the text/workbooks give is about things the students have never seen. We have no law enforcement or a fire department in the village, so the chapter about city services and how they work together drew blank stares. Or maybe I was boring them into unconsciousness. When we talked about business services that citizens provide, I heard disbelief. Surely there could not be a store that sold only shoes. They are used to the only “store” here in town, where they sell only pop and candy. Well, mostly pop and candy. They do sell toilet paper at Rockefeller prices, but I suspect they can set it at any price, because if you have time to try to negotiate the price, you probably don’t need it that badly. They should offer bran muffins with the toilet paper, kind of a two-for-one deal.

Most of the students have not been to a town larger than 3,000 people, so they have been spared the spectacle of a large town. The cost to fly to Bethel, the closest town that offers services, is $450 round trip. The only road in our town leads to the dump. This town is isolated not only by geography but by poverty. Flying to Bethel is out of the question for most families because of the cost. Every student in the school qualifies for free breakfast and lunch at the school. Unfortunately for some students, these are the only meals they’ll get for the day. One of my students has worn the same clothes for the seven days we have had class. I doubt they have been washed in that time. Alcohol and poverty affect most students at the school in one way or another. The problems most of these students deal with daily dwarf my petty troubles of temporarily having no water. I have food and the means to get water into my house. They have to rely on others for their survival. Sometimes the ones they rely on cannot provide what they need.

I also want to emphasize there are many families that are doing what they can with what they have. They provide the best they can for their families. There is no economy in this town, so those who fish in the summer must make their money at that time. If they don’t, it can be along winter. Some people work for the village, school, post office, or electric company. A large diesel generator in town provides electricity. There are no individual businesses in town. Well, legal businesses. Alcohol is either made or bootlegged into the village, both of which are illegal. The encouraging factor is that the kids in my class want to be in school. A few may not really care about what is being taught, but they want to be there. Most really want to learn and I don’t want to let them down. The majority of families want their children to learn and will support their students in their education.

One student was yawning the other morning, so I asked her why she was so tired. She said she stayed up until 2am watching movies. (Kids stay up late around here) I asked her what she was watching and she said “Scary Movie 2”. I’m not sure I’m happy about the Wayans Brothers being a cultural compass for 5th graders here. So I did what I could and found YouTube videos of rodeo wrecks for them to watch. Most of the students were not sure what a rodeo was, so we watched and wrote about the videos.

I was able to make some bread this morning, so I can survive without running water. I’m able to get water from my neighbor for my kitchen and I can use the shower and the bathroom at the school. It is a ½-mile walk, so I skipped the bran muffin this morning.

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?)