Saturday, December 7, 2013


I blogged a couple of weeks ago about my students and I think I said they cheat and lie. I know that may sound harsh, since they are kids and all. But if you asked them, I think they would agree with me; only it would be in the form of a lie.

Then they would smile and try to confuse you by asking for some candy. 

They try that tactic a lot. They think that if they switch topics on you, you’re likely to forget about the butt-chewing you were about to give them, and joyfully begin discussing their favorite Spongebob episodes. “Spongebob!?” I shout. “Spongebob isn’t even a real cartoon! I’ll tell you what a real cartoon is. Bugs Bunny. Now there’s a cartoon.” Then they’ll agree and skip back to the group and I stand there mumbling to myself about being duped again. By a seven year old who’s missing his front teeth. The one who wants to be referred to now not as Christopher, but as Crazy River. I comply.

Since the boys in my class are boys, I don’t trust them to go to the boys room unsupervised. This gives me the opportunity to hear and witness some of the most foul and disgusting sounds, smells, and ideas anyone should bear witness to. To me, using the bathroom is a private affair. I don’t want to talk to anyone, look at anyone, and for God’s sake, I don’t want to hear anyone. But these boys firmly believe this to be their social event of the day. And what would a social event be without some kid walking out of a bathroom stall, gagging and gasping for air. He’ll say, “That is so gross!” Which apparently is Yupik for “Hey, take a look at this turd!” And they all rush into the stall to gawk. They all agree that it is truly gross and proceed to high-five each other. I have even honest-to-God heard one kid singing “What a Girl Wants” while taking a crap. I assured him that in fact, it is not what a girl wants. His reply was a wet rumble that is still echoing off the tile walls. Touché, Crazy River.

But they are very helpful when problems arise in the classroom. For instance, when I am having technical difficulties with my interactive whiteboard, they have all kinds of supportive hints for me. They will kindly start shouting out pointers on how to fix the problem: “Turn it on!” “Is it plugged in?!” “Turn it off!” “Try turning the knob!” “Turn it back on!” “Give us candy!!” What? I calmly turn around and logically explain that yes, I know how to trouble shoot a technical problem. I point out that I’m 47, they’re 8. I remind them that at 8 years old, they haven’t been through a divorce, endured a mortgage/proctology ordeal, or ever had to decline a food because it was too late at night. Their response to my point that I have have life experience and they don’t is, “Haha!! You’re old!” It is the finger pointing and laughter that hurts the most. 

They’re right. I am much older then they are. So I sit down and explain to them that when I was their age, we didn’t have fancy computers or interactive whiteboards. Wikipedia didn’t exist; we had to open books. With our fingers. They stare at me in astonishment. This look has been called the ‘No Way’ effect. Just now. By me. I continue to explain to them how lucky they are to have all of this technology available to them to help them learn about the world around them. They nod their heads and ask if I tried wiggling the power cord. 

Everyday in the classroom, or the boys restroom, I hear something interesting, funny, or disgusting from my students. This is why I enjoy my job. If you walk by your office bathroom at work and hear the conversations I do, you may want to report them to your supervisor or to Homeland Security. I get to blog about them. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We moved. Not to a different town but to a different house. We moved across town to a new 4-plex housing unit built by our school district for the teachers. This was a move unlike any move I’ve done before. Mainly because I couldn’t find an excuse to get out of it.  Well, I had plenty of excuses. She just wasn’t buying any of them.

Housing availability in most Alaskan bush village is a tricky deal. Land ownership in the village is not obtainable for individuals, so we can’t buy a house up here. The Native Corporations own the land and they usually build the houses and sell them to native residents. When the government began to build schools out here, the teachers needed places to stay, so the school districts built housing for the teachers to rent. So yes, we pay rent on our teacher’s housing. It is subsidized, but I could rent a house in Oklahoma for about the same as I rent here.

The housing that I lived in for almost 3 ½ years was a half-mile walk from the new school. It was located near the old school and we are now moving in to the housing the district just completed at the new school. The old housing was just that, old. I think my house was built in the late sixties or early seventies, as part of the BIA school they had here. It had issues, but mostly it kept us dry, warm, and the toilet flushed when we pushed the handle. We would get snow through the ceiling in the kitchen if the wind was blowing in a certain direction, but that didn’t happen often. The rugs in the bathroom would freeze to the floor in the winter, making that first step out of the shower a second wakeup for the day. But it served us well. The half-mile walk will not be missed in the winter storms.

The move itself is a long process. There are four families moving up to the new housing. We don’t have any vehicles for the move, except the ATVs. So, we have been shuffling plastic totes on the back of the two ATVs for the past week. And we still are not completely finished but close. And it’s been an ordeal. It is exhausting, complaining, as I tend to do. Monica claims she is getting tired of it too, but sometimes she lies. Also, it takes a lot of effort on my part deflecting angry glares coming my way. It seems as if she’s almost annoyed with me.

This is what has been keeping me off the floor.
I'll take blame for some of this sadness but not all.
Now we have a new house. And most importantly, we have new furniture. Our old furniture was awful. It was uncomfortable, falling apart, and I’m certain contributed to my hair loss. It did keep us up off the floor, but barely. My chair was held together by duct tape and I had to use extra pillows for cushions. The couch where Monica ruled the house from also used old pillows and cardboard for support. Now we have new furniture that reclines with footrests. The only problem is that they are made of microfiber. When I stand up out of my chair, between the fleece and microfiber, I have enough static charge to power a Prius for 50 miles. But I usually use that electrical charge to shock my hand on the refrigerator door. I think I am going to put duct tape on the handle.
New chair, new house, old me.

The weeklong move using four-wheelers is nearly complete and I am enjoying the benefit of being less than 50 feet from my place of employment.  Now, when I forget something back at the house, like maybe pants, I can go back and get them. Instead of when we lived across the village, I would just have to figure that whatever I forgot must not have been that important. Also, the school is going to strictly enforce the “wear pants” rule. I’m anxious to see what ‘strictly’ means. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I realize that it has been a month since my last post. I have lots of excuses as to why, but it all boils down to one thing: it’s always someone else’s fault. I feel that it’s important to point the blame fingers in the faces of the guilty. The guilty ones have small faces because they’re children. And I think it’s time we stop sheltering them from accountability. It’s their fault because they take all my time and energy. In this blog, I will point out how trying to protect the children is actually hurting the adults. And yes, I am including myself as an adult here because I can legally drink. Just not where I live now.

First fact about kids that we tend to gloss over is that they are liars. Children lie to me everyday of the week. If I don’t see a child during the weekend, I usually dream about one talking falsehoods to me. Their lies aren’t big, but they’re there. An example:
Me: Who took my pencil?
A child 'claiming' he isn't hanging on the the tire.
Child: (While holding my pencil and       looking straight into my soul) Huh?
Me: Who took my pencil off my desk?
Child: I didn’t take it.
Me: Why are you holding my pencil?
Child: I’m not. This is mine. I got it from  home.    
Me: You got a pencil from home with my name on it?
Child: (Still looking at me) Yes.

Then they become indignant when I take it back, like I just took their lunch money. They’ll fight me a little, but since they are 8 and I’m a bit older, I usually win that tug-o-war. Which brings me to my next point.

They’re grubby. My pencil will come back with little teeth marks on it and some dark stains. Yes, stains. I will watch them wash their hands in the morning. We will stay inside all morning, yet before lunch, their hands are grubby again. I don’t know how this is happening from inside the classroom. I hypothesize that the grubbiness seeps from under the skin layer to the surface. I see no other explanation. And their favorite thing to do with their hands is to touch my beard. I have not had a good ‘thinning of the beard’ in almost 6 months now. There are not many beards out here and I guess they just enjoy the feeling of.......Wait. If their hands were clean but somehow get grubby without going outside.......?  I’ll get back to you on my hand-grubby hypothesis. I may have to tweak it some. (Not twerk.)

Actual proof of students draining energy from room.
So how is it their fault that I haven't written a blog in a month? Well, it just is. Children can usurp energy from adults like a black hole. (Again, I’m including myself as an adult here.) If we need to blame anyone in our country for over-consumption of energy, the judgmental eyes should be staring at the children. Scientific fact: Idling a SUV while watching Titanic on the backseat DVD player consumes less energy than a single eye-roll by a 9 year old. I’ve been unable to write because I’m too tired having energy usurped from me......gotta go. Football is on.

P.S. To future employers: This is a satirical look at children in general. Of course, students at your school would never behave in this manner so you shouldn’t get too excited over the post. 
        To my present employer: This is a satirical look at children in general. So just stay calm and chive. (Whatever that means. I saw it on a T-shirt.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Trying to find the treasure.
One of the refreshing parts of teaching elementary schools is the fact that students have no filters between their brains and their mouths. For example, I have a student who comes up to me every morning, pats my stomach, and says,”You eat too much.” Most people say that behind my back, but not the Dr. Phil of Nunam. I have a daily reminder that I do, in fact, eat too much. I remind her that sometimes telling adults things like that could hurt their feelings. She just smiles and says, “I know”.  She must be made of sugar. 

I hear things that make me laugh. During Social Studies, we were talking about different jobs in different communities. Since there are few jobs here, it didn’t take long to list them. I then started talking about the jobs available in Anchorage. Remember, I teach a multi-grade class: 2nd- 4th grade. Kids brought up the regular jobs, like police, firemen, and Walmart. I told my class that they could even make pizza at a Chuck E. Cheese. One student got real excited and even asked if I was kidding. I assured him I was not. He then asked how much he would have to pay them to work there. I had to reteach my lesson on employment.

Let the competition begin!
And I hear things that make me cringe. We have only one bathroom for our students at the school. This includes all of the high school students. So when I give my kids a break, I am always in the bathroom with them. Bigger kids can sometimes bother the little ones, so I make sure I protect my littles. Plus, left alone, they can make an awful mess. The other day, two boys went into the two stalls. As they did their business, they began talking about who could poop the most. It became a bragging point for one, who seemed quite proud of his earlier accomplishments. I guess if you can deliver the goods, flaunt it.

But when adults have that same missing filter problem, it is neither amusing or cute. We see these adults on Facebook, telling the world how their Irritable Bowel Syndrome has  been affecting them at work lately. Or people shouting to the world about how outraged they were at Miley Cyrus and her twerking. I didn’t care, so I never watched the video and continued with my life as usual. But more and more people complained, so I had to find out what twerking was. So I googled it and found out that twerking meant “to dance in a sexually suggestive manner”. So of course I had to watch it, several times. Miss Cyrus seems to possess some above average athletic abilities, but I was not outraged. My takeaway was that she was going to have some lower back problems when she gets older. Maybe as I get older I will become more outraged at what other people do with their own time. But for now, we should filter out outrage a little, because we are sounding like angry, old men, shaking their fist at the kids and telling them to “Get off my lawn!”

So, I would much rather listen to my kids talk about poop (daily) and remind me that I should cut back on my chili and rice portions. But I don’t think I want to hang out with them all of the time, because they do complain about some silly things. Like, “Why do we have to write so much?” “Why do we have to learn history?” “Why do we have to do your laundry and wash your dishes?” To be fair, they had a point on that one. But, clothes don’t wash themselves, so what are you going to do?

Sunday, September 1, 2013


This weekend was our 10 year anniversary. That means Monica has been hearing me say for the past 10 years, “Well, deal with it, we’re married.” And I have been hearing a boatload of things from her. Mostly instructions. “Don’t eat that.” “Pick up your underwear and socks. The ones in the kitchen.” “Take a shower. With water” “Throw that away, that’s not a suppository!”

With a directive purpose, I have become a better person under her supervision. I have been a much happier person because of Monica. I know the next 40 years of my life will continue to be a happy adventure with my best friend. 

Recess. I'm the one in the tan jacket.
In other news, school started last week. With the first day of school, there were new students in my class. I am teaching a younger demographic this year: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. The 2nd and 3rd graders are new to my classroom, so there is still some anxiety with them. They are not sure how to deal with me yet. Their last teacher was a quiet, elderly lady who is much kinder than I am. I’m big, hairy and loud. Not what the kids wanted to see and hear from their new teacher. It was more like a bear encounter for them. It didn’t help that I hid behind the coat rack and jumped out at them and roared when they came into the room for the first time. They’ll get used to it eventually.

Our school has lost several students from last year, so my class has only 10 students as of now. The number will probably change during the year, as families and kids tend to move around a lot. So I expect to add a few more students as the year progresses, but right now I have about half as many as I had last year. That doesn’t always make it easier, but I promise not to complain. I realize there are teachers at other schools who are dealing with 30+ kids in their classroom. A real bear would come in handy for them.

Our school and our new housing.
Learning to manage younger kids will take time. It’s been only four days of school, but I am proud of myself that I haven’t made a student cry yet. Some have looked like they might when I was ‘redirecting their behavior’, but they held strong. Monica says they are still terrified. I think they are just being polite. I am excited about our Big Ten and what we’ll learn this year.

If there is an afterlife, I feel confident I will be allowed into the good part of town, the one they call Heaven. I imagine the scenario would go something like this: 
St. Peter:  Wow. (Shaking his head.) This does not look good.
Me: What do you mean? (Drinking a beer.)
St. Peter: (Pointing to a list of several violations against humanity) These!
Me: Oh, those. But what about this? (Pointing to a picture of Monica)
St. Peter: Well, if she put up with you for 50 years, I guess we could put up with you for eternity. Now, throw that away, that’s not a suppository. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I think our's will be the door on the left.
If not, somebody's going to be surprised
when I barge in on them.

The first week of being back to work is done and was spent sitting in the library in front of our VTC (video teleconference) monitor. We still haven’t had students in the classrooms yet because of the many changes that are going on in our district this year and the hours of training we need to endure. 

So we sat for six hours a day last week, listening to lectures on new reading curriculum and a new behavior plan to be implemented this year. Best practices states that long, boring lectures are the worst way to transmit knowledge. So of course, that is exactly what our district inflicts on us. When I got caught drinking whiskey and smoking a cigarette at age 5, my mom removed the contraband from my hands, took a long drag from the bottle and then the cigarette, and told me “Do as I say, not as I do.” (Editor’s note: Clay’s mother does not drink nor has she ever smoked!!) (Author’s note: When the hell did I get an editor? And why isn’t she on my side?) So I’m sure that more time was spent district-wide on Pintrest than on paying attention to the training. I will not name names. 

We spent two days receiving training on the new district-wide behavioral plan. The behavioral plan is for correcting student behavior, not staff.  Although, I think it would be in the best interest of any organization to be able to modify or correct a behavior of staff and administration. Except my behavior of course. I was thinking more of how the underlings, us teachers, could work behavior tricks on the administration in order to have some common understanding of the priority levels of needs in a school setting. But that would necessitate the use of magic, not tricks, which doesn’t exist. (Editor’s note: Clay’s school administrators don’t approve of magic or tricks to manipulate students or staff.)(Author’s note:  Noted.)

On the happy side, our new housing is looking like it will be done by Thanksgiving. Our district is building a new four-plex directly behind our school. Our walk to school is now about a half-mile each way. When we move it will be exactly 34 ft. each way. This will be great on those blizzard days, but it will become more difficult to hide from the principal. I don’t mean ‘hide’ in a bad way, but more of a ‘not being able to be found’ way. I work better that way.

Kids will be showing up at the school door on Tuesday. They have already expressed their desire to start already. They have come to our house, reminding us when school starts. Yesterday, we had two of my students come to the window of the classroom where Monica and I were working. They asked for math worksheets to work on outside the window. And they turned them in! We’ll see how long their excitement of receiving school work continues. One of my soon to be former students asked if I would come to his new classroom and holler at him, just for fun. I wonder how many other students will be missing my hollering? Maybe just the fun hollering.

So with our VTC meetings done for a few weeks, I’m looking forward to school starting. I enjoy the routine of the classroom and using my new behavior strategies with the students. Instead of yelling “Sit Down!!”, I will calmly inform them that sitting down will be in everyone’s best interest. (Author’s note: I’ve tried this approach with Monica. So far with little success.) (Editor’s note: Noted.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013


My wife reminded me yesterday that I hadn’t updated my blog in almost 4 months. I think her exact words were,” You smell bad and stop making that sound with your face mouth.” So, I stopped playing Rockband, took a shower, and sat down to write about our summer.

It all started in May with a plane ride from Nunam Iqua to Fayetteville, Arkansas and ended in August with the exact opposite flight. In between we took a trip to Washington, D.C., one to South Dakota, watched 6 baseball games and saw/heard over 25 musical acts. I will not disclose the number of beers I consumed, mainly because I lost count on the second day back. I smoked 12 racks of ribs, grilled about 14 chickens, and grilled more than a dozen pizzas. I was also distracted most of the summer with text messages from someone named Carlos Danger. Very friendly guy. 

In addition to all of that, my mother spent three weeks with us in Oklahoma before we drove her to Washington, D.C., where she will be residing. She wasn’t there to mother me, she stopped that years ago. When I was like two or three. She was there for her own entertainment. For example, after coming back in the house from a walk this summer, I explained how I stepped on a snake. And when that happened, the snake coiled itself around my calf. I reacted like any worldly 46 year old man would have; I screamed like a 5 year old girl and kicked. When I kicked, the snake slipped off my leg and out into the brush. When I explained my near-death experience to my mother a few minutes later, she did what any 71 year old woman would do; she laughed. Very similar to the way she laughed about my pants accident last year.  I let her stay anyway.

Planning our trip back home to Nunam Iqua is always an event. We left Oklahoma on Sunday morning and arrived in Anchorage about 8 that evening. It was a long flight (7.5 hrs) from Houston to Anchorage, but we managed to get there without anyone getting punched in the face. We did not have Drunk Baby sitting in front of us showing off his collection of tantrums. Drunk Baby has traveled on the same plane as us in the past, and his parents have placed him either directly in front or right behind us. Kicking, screaming, crying, and yelling are all part of his repertoire. But, his frequent flyer miles must have expired, allowing the flight to be was a pleasant one. We also ponied up the extra money in order to have an exit seat and more leg room. I wasn’t happy about being extorted by the airlines, but the fact that my knees didn’t block my view of my book made for a pleasurable flight.

We spent Monday morning shopping for food and other items we’ll need up here to survive for the year. Along with ordering our meat for the year and most of our groceries, I bought two pinatas and about 15 lbs of candy. Watching kids use a stick to beat candy out of an donkey made of paper is always a delight. 

We made it back home to the village three days ago and it feels good. Not just because I’ve been forced into better personal hygiene, but to see our Alaskan friends again. The hugs from the kids are always a good welcome home. And now that I’m back in my rickety, uncomfortable chair, I will be updating my blog for my fourth year teaching at Sheldon Point School again. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013


It’s time again for the yearly ritual of high school kids joining together to awkwardly stand around in a darkened gym. Yes, it’s prom time again. And nothing makes me feel older than listening to the music ‘kids these days’ are listening to and trying to decipher what the song is all about. Just when I think I’ve determined what three words of a song are, it changes into a new song. Or maybe it just started over, I can’t tell
 them apart. I’ll probably need a high speed drill to get that Gangnam Style out of my head.

Staff parking lot at 1030pm.

The prom devolved into a basketball game about an hour into it. Which was fine by me because as my wife says of my dancing: “You scare me when you try to dance.” I don’t think I’m actually frightening when I dance, just embarrassing.  I will quote someone from Twitter that defines my dancing: “If you’ve ever seen me waiting impatiently in line, then you’ve seen me dance.”  So I don’t think the prom died because I wasn’t out there busting a move. It died because we had only about a dozen kids there, 7-12th grades. And as with most small towns in the country, most of the kids were related to each other in one way or another. The prom king and queen were first cousins and the prince and princess were brother/sister. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather play basketball with my cousins than dance with them. So they took down the decorations and played basketball for the last hour. The shame of the night was all the hard work that was put in by many of the school’s staff, to only have it become a basketball shoot-around. They put in several hours after school last week to transform the gym to a ballroom. Sorry Essie and Brittnay. 

With the prom finished, that means that school is almost over for the year. We have less than 3 weeks left until we fly to the warmth of Oklahoma. That means that in about 4 weeks I’ll be bitching about the heat. We still have most of our snow here and are barely  getting above freezing during the day, despite it getting light at 7am and setting at 11pm.  Once it does warm up, the snow will go quickly. The Yukon will still be frozen for a few more weeks after we leave, although I don’t think the river stays frozen for our benefit. If it did anything for my benefit I hope it would produce fish that tasted like cheese burgers. Maybe next year.
Not cheese burger fish, but our neighbor's catch from his fishing lines.

After a breakfast of coffee and biscuits and gravy, I’m still trying to get those songs out of my head from last night. I like to think I have good taste in music and don’t fall for the common denominator when it comes to music I listen to. I like my lyrics pretty straight forward, without me straining to understand what the song is about. And I don’t hop around riding an imaginary pony. I suppose I’ll listen to my own iPod today to erase the carnage from last night. RIP George Jones.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Have you ever made a decision and then found out more information that would make you regret your decision? Like when a ‘friend’ offers you a candy bar and you gladly accept. You devour the candy bar only to find out that your ‘friend’ had ‘found’ the ‘candy bar’ on the side of the road. Thanks ‘jerk’. Well, I had a similar experience, but without nefarious intentions or a bout of violent diarrhea. Nope, I took a job at another school for next year.

I requested a transfer from my school in Nunam Iqua to the school, still in our district, at Hooper Bay. We really didn’t want to leave, but the situation of my classroom caused me to rethink what we wanted to do next year. The number of students in our elementary were climbing but the number of teachers, two, were not. I would have been teaching 1/3 of the school’s population while the other 4 teachers would take care of the rest. For those of you who are not good with numbers, this meant that it would be an over burden for Clay and instead of whining, he was willing to move. This was not anyone’s fault, just the way the numbers fell. So, I felt that I would see what a larger school could offer. My transfer was approved and we thought we were heading to Hooper for next year. 

One of the reasons we did not look forward to moving was because of how we had to move. Moving a household is not an easy task, but try doing it through the US Postal Service. This would need to be done by hand. We had already sent our snowmobile to it’s new home, so our local pack-mule (me) would be loaded down with boxes and shipped to our new home. Luckily, we don’t have any appliances or furniture to move but still, it’s not like I enjoy manual labor. Or even automated labor. Labor Day is something I enjoy. So the thought of having to move this way was making me rethink my decision. And since Monica is all about not procrastinating, I had to avoid her in our house. I spent a lot of time hiding in the shower and bedroom closet. It was probably more effort hiding than it would have been than to just pack the damn stuff. Or so I’ve been told. Whatever, Mussolini. Maybe I enjoy crouching behind the dryer.

But on Friday, our principal ask me if I would reconsider staying if they added another elementary teacher. I lowered my voice to a shout and asked him why he didn’t ask me this two months ago. Before the superintendent approved my transfer. Apparently that wasn’t considered at that time. Which, by my recollection, coincided with the time I asked them if they were going to add another elementary teacher and I was told no. But now, here it is. I knew that if I requested another transfer I may look like a waffling turd. Which is not to be confused with the band of the same name. But I took the chance and filled out the proper paperwork and submitted it again. And it was approved again.

So the blog that I had written about our big move had to be aborted and instead I wrote 600 words explaining how I have troubles making up my mind.  I guess I could have just written 3 words: We’re not moving. But since I don’t have to hide from Monica anymore, I have more time on my hands. 

Monday, March 25, 2013


Being the only adult in a world of 3-5th graders can sometimes be daunting. Even though we think alike. I mean, who doesn’t love a good fart joke? But sometimes they aren’t old enough for some of my references in history or pop culture. They haven’t lived in a world where people went to record stores to see if Springsteen’s new record came out yet. Or they have not had to live through the time-consuming efforts of filling out their NCAA bracket by hand. Or having to painfully wonder what their BFF is “doing” at any particular moment in a day because texting had not being invented yet.

Sometimes I feel like the guy in a current TV commercial. The commercial has a male adult sitting at a small table surrounded by four kids, asking them if faster is better. I think the commercial is for ATT, but it could be for a laxative. A fast laxative seems like it would be better. If it is a commercial for a laxative, I’m not sure why kids are there, because I’ve never heard a kid complain about being constipated. To be fair, I’ve never heard an adult complain about being constipated either. That is something I’d remember because I’d probably get punched for laughing at them. So I guess we’re all in agreement that it’s for ATT.

The commercial is like my real life. It starts innocently enough; me asking a simple question. Like, “Who has ever found a box of fireworks and a lighter?” Then one child goes off on a tangent, telling me a story that is not related whatsoever to the question I initially asked. This will then remind another child of a totally unrelated story, usually having to do with eating candy, that we have to listen to. It usually ends with “ ...and I forget the rest”. Then just silence. The kids look exhausted from their efforts in storytelling. I feel exhausted from my efforts of listening to their storytelling. It is true, kids do say the darnedest things. They also say the strangest, disturbing, and most unintelligible things. But Art Linkletter didn’t think that title would sell any books.

Last weekend we were in a world of over 70 elementary students. Our school hosted a tournament for elementary basketball teams for 7 teams from our district schools. Our entire school population, K-12, is under 70 so we had to close our school for a day and a half in order to have room for the extra players. Not only do we need to use the gym for the games, we had to use all of our classrooms. All six of them. When teams travel in our district for games, the hosting school puts them up in the school for food and lodging.

Monica and I were at the school by 7:30am to help set up breakfast and headed home at 11pm after helping cleaning up after the late night snack. We played 12 basketball games in one and a half days. On the third day I made 13 trips from the school to the airstrip hauling basketball teams and their luggage to meet their planes. This was not all at once, but from about 10am-4pm. The tourney was a success in many ways and the reason was because of all of our staff working long hours to ensure it went smoothly. I am lucky to work with a staff that is willing to volunteer their time to make sure events like this are fun for the students.

We finished our third quarter last week also. We have already bought our plane tickets for our trip home in May, which is about 50 days away. I can assure you that I will not be sitting at a table surrounded by youngsters, listening to them drone on and on about one time they kicked a ball. That is if I get to move up to the adult’s table at family gatherings. I was promised that when I turned 40 I would be allowed. Maybe this will be my lucky year.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Living in a remote village in Alaska means that if an emergency arises, you may have to wait a week or two before the problem can be addressed properly. Last week we had a
This is Nunam BBQ. Pulled pork for dinner tonight. 
scary encounter with a terrifying event. Spoiler alert: we both survived.

The ‘we’ in this emergency scenario were my pants and me. I tend to have a good
relationship with my pants. I make sure they’re washed regularly and my pants do their
job of covering what needs to be covered, giving me a place to store my keys, and
providing me with modest protection from the elements. The crisis came when the pant’s main responsibility was compromised.

A student asked me a question, so as a kind and caring teacher, I squatted down to assist the student. As I did, I heard a disturbing sound coming from my crotch region. I had a combined feeling of relief and terror all at the same time. Relief that the sound wasn’t coming from my body and terror realizing it was the sound of my denim quitting on me. My student and I looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity. He politely looked back to his paper and I stood up gingerly. My undercarriage suddenly became much cooler and I realized I would have to stand for the rest of the day for reasons of modesty.

At most places, this would be a temporary problem. Up here, it is more complicated since there is not a store were I can buy new pants. To make matters worse, my other pair of jeans had given up on me a week before in a similar fashion. I was confident I would be able to make it until the end of the school year with my only pair of Levi’s intact. But the pressure of being the lone pair of jeans was just too much to bare (I know), so I was left with a problem. My next move would be important.

I called my mom. When she answered the phone, I told her I had ripped my jeans and needed a pair sent up ASAP. Her motherly response was to laugh out loud in a malevolent tone. I waited until she had finished and told her of the size of Levi’s I needed. She began her laugh all over again. But, being the caring mother she is to her only middle child, she agreed to send me up a new pair the next day. She also sent up Easter candy, so she is forgiven for her mockery.

The real hero in this situation was Monica. She promptly grabbed one pair of the quitter jeans and cut out a patch. She then used a needle and thread to sew a patch on my Levi’s so they could return to the starting lineup. I was saved from having to walk to work in sub-zero temps with air conditioning or wear Dockers to work. Both equally disconcerting.

So the pioneer spirit lives on. Monica has crocheted me a pair of socks, I wear a hat made from dead animal hides, and I walk to work every day. In the case of a medical emergency, I’m fairly confident that Monica can take out my appendix if the need ever occurs. And she’ll use old Levi’s to patch me up.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


It has been almost a month since I’ve written on my blog. The main reason for the hiatus is that it can get pretty boring up here. I know some of you think that being up here in Alaska is a continuous adventure; chasing bears one day and then making socks out of seal skins the next. But no, most of our time is spent in front of children, planning on spending time in front of children, or thinking about planning on spending time in front of children.
Our evenings are spent mostly the same; eating dinner, watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and then going to bed at nine so we can get back up at five. Our conversations typically go like this:
Me: (Right before finishing dinner) What should we have for dinner tomorrow?

Monica: Chili and rice.
Me: Didn’t we have that last night?
Monica: Yes. How about rice and chili?
Me: That sounds different. Can we put cheese on it?
Monica: Yes, you can put cheese on it.
Me: (At TV) Come on Sajak, give Vanna some extra time to walk across the floor!!!
Monica: Put your pants on, we have company coming over.
Me: My pants are on.
Monica: Put them on your legs.

I could go on with more examples of our stimulating conversations, but I’m sure everyone gets the picture of how mundane it can be up here. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to people about what it is like up here. Hell, I’ve written over 100 blog entries proving that I can go on and on about my life. But, I see the weariness in the eyes of the unfortunate stranger sitting next to me on the non-stop from Denver to Anchorage. At first I thought it was their natural uneasiness of flying, but I’m suspecting it may be my 5 hr answer when they ask me what it’s like to live in the bush.
It has been cold since we sunk our snowmobile in the river and so the machine actually froze. Mechanical parts that should move have been stopped from preforming whatever it is they do. Turning, I think. I’m not mechanically inclined so that is as much as I know. Thankfully, a high school student is looking at it and hopefully in a week we’ll be able to go for rides. But at -20, we don’t feel like joy riding and he isn’t having much luck
in the thawing process. There is no shop or indoor garage in the village to put a snowmobile into so it can thaw.
Now that we are getting more sunlight, maybe more adventures will happen for me to write about. We have basketball games and tournaments coming up next month. We also have our village’s potlatch the first part of April, along with our State’s annual testing. That may be a rant for a future blog entry. We can also start planning our summer out now. But until then, I’ll be working hard, putting my fantasy Iditarod team together. The new rule this year is that you may not have more than one Seavey on your team. It’s not as popular as fantasy football or fantasy South African cricket, but give it time, I’m sure it will catch on. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Up here, January means we are in month four of living in a deep freeze. The good news is that we only have four more months of this. When we head south in May, we’ll go from below freezing temps to whatever Oklahoma throws at us. And whatever is thrown will be appreciated. I figure (unscientific guess) I spend more than 5 mins each day just bundling and unbundling each day. That’s roughly a half and hour I could spend each week developing a conveyer belt that delivered sandwiches from the refrigerator to my chair. Now, if I can just convince Monica to build several sandwiches so I can stock the fridge.

With the temperature getting a bit cooler, its -17 as I’m writing this, everything stays frozen, including the Yukon. But it isn’t frozen solid, so there is still water moving beneath the 3-4 feet of ice. Because of the huge volume of water flowing, it sometimes breaks through cracks in the river-ice and creates an overflow. Sometimes these overflows can be a couple of feet deep. A couple of weeks ago Monica and I encountered an overflow in the Yukon River while driving our snowmobile. The outcome wasn’t disastrous, but it did include getting wet and almost losing Monica’s boot.

Our school bus. Kids ride in the sled.
When the overflow happens, it becomes like a huge Slurpee,only without the nasty colors and taste that 7-11 unapologeticly provides. Usually, a snowmobile can travel across an overflow, provided the driver has enough speed. This driver did not have enough speed, but he did over indulge regularly in desserts. The result was that we went 22 ft over a 25 ft overflow. We got stuck. We were near the edge, so Monica made a break for it and tried to get to the shore. She had one step to go when she went knee deep into the slushy mess. When she pulled her leg out, her boot was missing. It was still two feet in the slush, filled with water. Monica has always told me that her favorite sound is hearing me laugh. Apparently this does not include having a finger pointed at her while I was laughing. We were able to excavate her boot out of the mess with a shovel. Getting the machine out required some help from that same shovel, a rope, and most importantly, the help of two friends. Once we were out, we headed back home to thaw Monica’s foot out. 

This is how we travel to our basketball games.
Now that her foot is non-frozen, Monica will be heading to Anchorage on Monday for a week. She will be attending an early education conference where she will be able to talk with adults about the best ways to educate small children. I will stay here and talk to 8-11 yr olds and try to convince them that it is inappropriate to fart and burp at the same time. At the end of the day I will make my half mile walk in subzero temperatures to a cold house and a cup of coco. Monica will end her day in a comfortable room with an ice cold drink. I know Anchorage is not Honolulu, but she can have a Mai-Tai if she wants one. 

The one bright spot about being alone is that I’ll have plenty of time to work on my Rube Goldberg conveyer belt instead of wasting my time doing dishes and laundry. I don’t have access to a Home Depot, so I’ll have to make due with Lincoln Log and Tinker Toy parts. Now, I only have one day to convince Monica into making a week’s worth of sandwiches (13) before she leaves. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013


We finished our second quarter and are starting down the backside of the school year. At halftime, it is always a good idea to assess what worked and what blew up in your face. The idea is to avoid repeating the disasters and double down on the successes. Or in my case, the idea is to prove that the disasters were caused by something other than poor planning and incompetent execution on my part. 

As I may have stated before, (I sometimes forget things) I teach a multi-grade classroom; grades 3-5. While I only have 19 students, I do have to figure out how to teach three different lessons at the same time. There is no way I could do this successfully without the help of my very competent classroom aide: Monica Miller. 

I’m familiar with the comparison of trying to get several people to work together is like herding cats. I think in my case, it is more like trying to logically talk (yell) to 19 different cats who are purposefully defying my every wish. I try to keep them in three different groups, away from the litter box. Sometimes the bigger cats don’t like what the little cats are doing. Sometimes the smaller cats crawl under they tables instead of learning about fractions. But they all scatter out the door when I open it at the end of the day, only to be back the next morning. 

I look at my classroom as a stage, where I get to practice my comedic skills on 9 year old cats. While their humor may not yet be refined, they laugh like hell when I say ‘poop’. I can easily tell when a joke falls flat because of the rolling of the eyes by the 5th graders and the frightened looks of the 3rd graders. The 5th graders have been with me for three years, so they are not afraid of me and are more honest. Keeping with the stage comparison, teaching three different grades simultaneously is similar to juggling. Chainsaws. While on fire. While I’m attending to one group, I have to have something for the other two groups to do. The trick is to keep from dropping one of the flaming chainsaws and burning down the classroom. This is why I spend almost as much time planning as I spend actually teaching. 
The guaranteed wrong way to diagram a math lesson on
the white board.

I know I just compared my students to cats and chainsaws, but not in a bad way. The students are why I enjoy teaching so much. Everyday will be different and everyday they will look to me for some sort of help. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I really mess it up. I will use two pictures to explain. This first picture is how I tried to teach my 5th graders what diameter and radius are. As you can see, I should have used the second way. They started to giggle when I drew the diagrams on the white board. It was then I realized what I had done. But I was stuck: Do I acknowledge my mistake by erasing the diagram, or do I continue and pretend I don’t hear them snickering? I continue, but understand I should not do that again. Lesson learned, Mr. Clay.
A better and parent approved way to diagram
a math problem on the white board.

The second half of the year is long up here. We do not have a day off from school until we end the year on May 16th. We do not get MLK Day off. Nor President’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, or a spring break. By now, we are tired of the cold, dark winter. Four more months can seem like an eternity. But luckily, we have students who try their hardest to keep this place from being anything but boring. We’re ready for the second half. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Well, if you’re reading this, we made it through to the new year. I spent my New Year’s Eve like I usually do: hiding under the bed like a household pet.  When the clock struck twelve, several residents of the village stepped outside and celebrated with their rifles. I wasn’t concerned much about the noise, although I was pretty sure someone was just outside my bedroom wall. I was more concerned with their ability to aim away from houses and point toward the Bering Sea. I know some may have been impaired, but they successfully missed our house. I don’t know about anyone else’s yet. 

Monica and I spent six days in Anchorage over the break. We flew into Anchorage on Christmas Eve afternoon. Once we got checked into our hotel, we made a dash to the nearest Safeway. Monica was concerned that we should get some food, since everything would be closed that night and the next day. I was concerned that we should get to the liquor store in time, since everything would be closed that night and the next day. Luckily, the liquor store was attached to the Safeway, so both of our Christmas wishes came true.

For the next six days, we contributed heavily to the Anchorage economy. We watched a movie, bought a seal skin hat, purchased an iPhone, and visited several restaurants. We also bought more groceries and had them shipped back to the house. All in all we spent a lot of money but we did have a good time and are glad we took the time to visit the big city. 

Since we’ve accumulated enough snow, we decided to get our snowmobile up and running. We’ve had a cold winter, but not a lot of snow. But the past few weeks, we’ve had a few small storms that gave us enough snow now. The first thing we had to do was get it started. It has sat since last May, so I wasn’t sure how easily it would want to fire up. Also, I have no mechanical ability whatsoever. If it didn’t start, my only option would be to mutter something about the carburetor, whatever that is, and go back inside and watch football. It started, so we took it to the gas pumps to get some gas and oil. Thirteen gallons of gas and two quarts of oil set us back $107. I guess we weren’t done spending money yet.

Well, since the new year is here, I have to look back at my resolutions from last year and see which ones I accomplished (none). Realizing that I’m not good at completing my resolutions, I resolved to lower the bar a little bit. I resolve to watch more TV and read less. I also put this one on last year’s list, last night, right behind something about stopping procrastinating. So far I’m doing well with this one.  I am also resolving to being more aware of my surroundings and audience when I say things out loud. This should help not frighten the students as much. And not frightening the adults too. I’m tired of hearing people say, “He’s a teacher?”

With a new year, we all get the chance to start over and try again. This is my 46th new year and 46th time of trying to do a better job. Hopefully I will, even if it’s just a little better. It’s always worth the effort. I remember when I was two, I resolved not to poop my pants anymore. Boy, did that one pay off.  Happy New Year.