Wednesday, August 31, 2005

language barrier

The problem with teaching bilingual students is that they know something you don't.

Today I gave a short quiz in my writing class.
Only 5 questions long, it was meant to be a midpoint check of what they have learned and what they still need to work on.

The test failed to accomplish its goals.
It failed because no one did.

I think.

Actually, I have no idea if the test was a failure.
I have no idea if anyone cheated.

All I know is that half way through the quiz a conversation was had.
In Yup'ik.

There was a bit of giggling as well.

I cannot simply accuse them of cheating without evidence.
And I cannot even pronounce most Yup'ik words to check their meaning with the Yup'ik teacher.

Currently I am in my DEAR class. (drop everything and read)
They are talking in a foriegn tongue all around me.

What are they talking about?
Don't ask me, I am just a kassaq.

(Yup'ik for "whitey")
(it's pronounced gussik)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Failure in the classroom

I was doing fine for the first week of this teaching gig.
I thought, hey it's not that bad.

I was wrong.
I have failed at my first attempt to teach my writing class.

My writing students are right about 4th grade level.
They have learned in previous years about the different parts of speech.

Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Pronouns are in the topic of the day.
or week rather.

Since Wednesday of last week we have learned and reviewed and studied the joys of these few parts of speech.

Today, we had a quiz.
It was disastrous.
A fiasco.
A nightmare of educators everywhere.

Only two of my students got would be considered a passing score.
Only two had paid any attention to the work I had put into my lessons.
Only two seemed to care about the scowl on my face.

The rest giggled and whispered.
The rest squirmed and talked.

Other teachers try to comfort me with the words:
This is something every teacher goes through, with lessening frequency as the years go on.
I still think to myself:
This is something that is devastating, with lessening intensity as time goes on.

Tomorrow, we review again.
I will try different methods.
I will try different tactics.

We will quiz again on Wednesday.
They will pass.
They will know this material.

Even if it kills me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Waiting for the uqiiquq to begin

Waiting for the uqiiquq to begin
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Today the women of Kasigluk gathered for a uqiiquq.

A uqiiquq, or throwing, is a traditionally a gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of a young man after his first kill.

Only the women are invited.
The man's mother throws gifts to the female members of the town.

This throwing was for slightly more mundane reasons.
The academic accomplishments of the Akiuk robotics team and the success of the students in last year's standardized tests.

I loved the fact that the boys could not attend. the principal, the man who organized the whole function, had to duck inside the building before it began.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Tammy, Sara, and Carla (in that order) are throwing different items to the crowd.

They were in the first group of tossers. I brought up the rear in the third and final group.

The things passed out varied.
Cups, tupperware
Socks, gloves, hats
Buckets, bags, fishing supplies
Candy, toys, puzzles.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Try to catch the loot as it is passed out to the crowd.

I managed to miss it in the camera's viewfinder but this item is a special one.

The woman laughed.
The girls laughed.

The men on the sidelines turned their heads with a snicker.

As bra was thrown to the crowd.

The boys look on

The boys look on
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Boys and men are not allowed to participate in the uqiiquq.

Technically they are not even allowed to look on.

The rules may have slackened a bit.
Some now look on and laugh as the items are thrown out to the women of the town.

The edge of town

The edge of town
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
I took a walk along the boardwalk.
It streches from one side of town to the other.

This is where the sidewalk ends.
It's a ten minute walk from the other end of town.

In the distance, on the horizen, you can see the town of Nunapitchuk.

It's a long distance phone call to reach anyone there.

When the rivers all freeze, it will be possible to walk over to Nunapitchuk and visit friends.
Who wants to go on a stroll with me?

The cold wind only cuts to the bone a little bit...


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Look at the corner of this building.
There is a funnel at the end of the gutter.

The funnel is attached to a pipe that runs down into a barrel.

The rain follows this mousetrap-like system into the barrel where it is collected.
And used for all your water necessities.

I am, yet again, thankful to have actual plumbing.

Fresh Air

Right before the first day of school,
The Principal walked into my classroom.
Holding a spray can.

Extra strength air deodorant spray.

"Here, for your classroom."

Is it smelly? Am I smelly? Did I bath today?
Just what is he implying?

Seeing the distressed look on my face, he explained.

The people in this area, they're lactose intolerant.
They tend to have a gas problem.

Now, I am young, and therefore invincible.
The gas of a few teenagers cannot faze me.
I mean, how bad can they be?

I have never heard the word "fart" so many times as I did in my first week as a teacher in the Alaskan bush.
Noises ring out in the hallways.
Class is constantly disturbed by the sound of intolerance.

My first thought ran along the lines of, " well, they are teenagers, they like to talk about bodily functions."
Now, I know better.
They all just fart often.

Genetically, they are not good with dairy and the food our culture has brought them is high in it.

I spray the air cleaner each day.
And the windows stay open.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

salmon eggs

salmon eggs
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This frying pan holds the eggs for one silver salmon.

They are fried in butter and garlic.
Served on crackers.

One of the teachers I work with actually knows what to do with a live fish to make it food.

Yesterday she cut and gutted a fish. She froze the peices. She took out the eggs.

Today the eggs were fried and promtly eaten.

I may not be able to eat things with bones.
Or things in their homes.

But eggs, eggs I can eat.
Plus, you eat them with crackers.
I love things that go on crackers.

This is now my favorite strange food so far.

my apartment

my apartment
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This was taken in my tiny apartment.

As you may be able to tell, it's full of children
As you may be able to tell, there is not much room.

They come anyway, ignoring the size, and look through a number of strange things i have laying around.

They love my nail polish.
The nail polish remover is a big hit as well.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Remember when you were a kid and every year your mother took a picture oof you on the first day of school?

Well, I am no longer a kid.
And my mother is not here.

But here I am on the first day or my teaching career.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The First Day of School

The first week of school was made up of two days.
Thursday and Friday.

The best kind of week.

The stress and build-up was unbelievable.
My gut turned over and insisted that the thought that I could teach was a riduculous notion and should be abandoned at once.

Sleep was hard to come by on Wednesday night.
The midnight sun mocked me from it's strange position, high in the sky.

In the lower 48 students are talkative. They have a tendancy to hold an opinion on everything and be more than willing to share it.
Setting up the class rules is a process that typically takes the entire first class period.
Any extra time can easily be blown with a few simple "getting to know you" games.

Here, most students are not keen on talking.
It took 5 minutes to "discuss" the rules of the classroom.
Getting to Know them felt like pulling teeth.

I'm not in Kansas anymore.

The kids are truly bright. The girls have never heard the rumor that they are not to be good in math.
They shine in the subject.

Academics are something important here.
Many actually care about school.

I had a girl doing long division in her head.

She's not an oddity.
She's not made fun of for being a brain.

The day, as a whole, went by without incident.
There was the typical nausated feeling when one realises that the lesson they had planned took only the first 10 mins and they are now staring at another 40 mins of nothing.

I got through it.
They don't call me the Master of the Gab for nothing

The evening gave me another learning experience.

Outside my window were several of my younger students.

They were calling my name.

Finally I went to the window.
"Can we visit?"

I glace around my apartment. Boxes piled everywhere.
I glace at the kids, anxious to see the new teacher's belongings.

"Sure, come on in."

Suddenly, my very snug studio apartment is overrun with earger and inqusitive kids.
They go through everything they can get there hands on.

"Are these your friends?" Looking at pictures.
"Where did you get these movies?"
"Can I use your nail paint?"
"Is this your bed?"
"Do you perm your hair?"
"Can I use your bathroom?"

The questions went on and on.
It's neat that they are so interested in my life and belongings.
But it is a bit trying to keep them occupied.

One, while bouncing on my exercise ball, nearly knocked over my TV.
The ball was moved into the hallway.

I have no problem with them comming over, I just worry about their whirlwind nature.

After a half an hour I provided them with a little candy and sent them on their way.
Oddly enough, the most memorable thing about my first week of school occured after school left out for the day.

By the way,
It finally hit me this weekend.

I'm in freaking Alaksa!
How weird is that?

Monday, August 15, 2005

the villiage

the villiage
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This is a fuller view of the village.
In the top right hand corner you can see the school.

As you can see the village is larger that just a few little house. however, it would never be mistaken as a town.

Water water everywhere...
Boats are a most important mode of transportation.

My Taxi.

My Taxi.
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
Here are a few of the staff members.
Driving the boat is Pete. He works for the school in a number of ways and is married to Tammy, one of the teachers.

In front of him is Carl. He is "The Principal"

On the right we have Ann. She is the new ELL teacher.

This is how we got back from the airport.

roads? we don't need no stinking roads!

cute kid with a puppy

cute kid with a puppy
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
This is just a little girl I spoke with during the feast.

She decided that I am a starfish.
Then I was a moth.
Then I was a tiger.
Then I was a slug.

She spent most of her day as a lion.

I had to take a picture because, well, she's just so damn cute.

a shot from the air

a shot from the air
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
As I flew along, back to the village, I realised that this terrian is different than most places.

I hope that this photo gives you an idea about the amount of water in the region.

and the isolation.

the green you see is comprised by "trees." The tall ones come up to your waist.

this is my house

this is my house
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
I have yet to get the inside of my house to the point that I feel comfortable taking pictures, but i can show you the outside without concern.

It is a cute little place that houses two couples and two singles. if you look closely at the middle two windows you might be able to tell that the curtians are panals from "starry night"

And hanging in the middle of the panes are at least four crystals.
I am a hippy.

the "cool club"

the "cool club"
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
I mentioned that it takes a strange sort to move to the bush of alaska.

Here are some examples. These are the people i ended up spending time with while attending the inservice.

I am proud to say that there was not a sain brain in the whole group.

tall grass at the fishin hole

tall grass at the fishin hole
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
The path to fishing is clearly defined.

I found myself thanking god that there are no snakes in alaska.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

a feast

Think back to a family reunion or holiday gathering where you had many family members in a small area. Maybe a lake house or a park.

Now imagine that that house is a small bungalow reminiscent of a shack.

Add over a hundred of your closest family members, friends, and neighbors.

This is a feast.

Here in the village there are feasts for a number of occasions. Today’s feast was to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of one of the elders.

Over one hundred people packed into a small house.

Feel the sweat.

There was very little seating. A few chairs and a couch were reserved for the very old.
Those in there 50’s and 60’s were on the floor with the rest of us.

My butt cheeks fell asleep.

For two hours gifts are passed out. The family hosting the feast bought gifts for all those attending. Different ages and genders received different gifts.

I was given a mug and saucer, a potholder, a tupper ware container, a bag of candy, and a temporary tattoo.

I desperately needed a potholder.

Other gifts included candle holders, saltshakers, plates, and baby clothing.

The baby clothing and knitted goods were given to the babies that were named after the deceased.

After the gifts came food.

As for the food, it was interesting.
A choice of bird or fish soup.
There was a variety of bird in the soup. I had the turkey; there were bones in the meat.

Large bones, small bones, little splintery bones.

Gnawing on the bone.

For desert we had eskimo ice cream
a combination of crisco, sugar, and assorted berries.

the best part of the meal was that it is very rude not to eat what you are given.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Today I sit in the pseudo civilization of Bethel, Alaska.

Bethel is the hub and largest town of a district the size of Ohio.

Here, there are three grocery stores, nine resturants, ten miles of gravel road, and more flannel shirts than the imagination will allow.
Big city life at its finest.

Until Thursday I am involved in a new teacher training for the LKSD along with 55 new teachers.

Believe it or not there are others as crazy and several a bit futher around the bend than I.
Personalities abound.

After eight gruling hours of lecture and coma inducing power point presentations we were set out on the town on our own.

The activity of the evening, salmon fishing.

A group of us hopped a boat and travel an hour down the river to prime fishing ground.
Two people caught fish.
The lagest fish of the night, caught by a woman in her 40s. She put the men to shame.

I attempted to fish for a whole ten minutes before the repitition assulted my ADD.
Dropping the pole I ventured into the brush in search of adventure, mystery, and most important, dry land.
Standing in one spot for too long left you ankle high in thick mud.

All in all the trip was a success. Alaska is a beautiful state. The area we were in reminded me of the Flordia everglades. Tall trees, murky water, and sandy beach like shores.

Friday, August 05, 2005

i am an oddity

this evening the teachers decided to hold an open gym in the school for the kids.

this is a time that the kids can come into the school, play basketball, run around, or just talk with their friends.
there was quite a turn out.

when i arrived, many of the younger kids, waist height and below, had been pushed from the gym. the high paced basketball games were a bit too much for them.

the accosted me upon my arrival.
a game of tag, where i was "it" 90 percent of the time, ensued.

as the kids began to get tired they started asking me questions.

"what subjects are you teaching?"
"what grades are you teaching?"
"what is your name?"


"why did you dye your hair?"

now if you know me you know that i have natural light blonde hair.
to these children, my hair is dyed.

i told them i did not dye it.
they followed by asking "why is your hair white if it is not dyed."

a good explaination did not come to me.
how do you explain to a young child in a culture such as this that not all hair is black?

luckly i was saved by a renewed intrest in the game.
i became "it" once more and attempted to tag the short and wiggly around me.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

dried fish

dryed fish
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
each year in the spring the people of this and neighboring villages fish to excess.

they then cut, dry, and hang the fish to preserve it for the comming seasons.

it all must be done before a very specific time in the early summer.
this, however, is not a time you can plot on a calander, or time with a stop watch.

it is the time of year when the flies lay their eggs.

if the fish is not dried by that fateful day then it will reak to high heaven.

i passed some fish houses that gave off no smell. this one, however, made me dizzy with its stench.

to the south

to the south
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
for those of you curious as to what the town actually looks like i present you with this shot.

this is a view of town as i followed the boardwalk to the south.

as you can see, the children are most often found on bikes, speeding down the walkways.
i have almost been hit three times.

there are snow machines sitting in the weeds off to the side, waiting to be used.

farther down this wooden sidewalk i saw a pickup truck sittin, unused but in good condition, sitting the brush.
i asked a student "why is there a car here? there are no roads"

he smiled at me as if i was a small child asking why the sky was blue.

"in the winter, when the rivers are frozen, there are plenty of roads."

this truck plays the role of a taxi each winter.

9:30 at night

8:30 at night
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
as i walked past this dock i glanced at my watch.
with the sun so high in the sky and the warmth of the rays i guessed it to be in the early 6 o'clock range.

imagine the shock i experienced when i saw that it was nearing 10 at night.

this whole land of the midnight sun thing is getting old.

my sick interests

my sick interests
Originally uploaded by jleeody.
i realise that it is a bit creepy to take photographs of the cemetary, but i love to look at how other cultures live and, well, die.
this cemetary is just down the road from me. it is 20 years old.

i just wonder what the caskets are made of. we don't exactly have a funeral parlor here to purchase the very best and latest in final resting places.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
this is a veiw of part of town from the plane. this is not all there is on the island, but it sure is close.

the blue building is the school.
the long white building between the school and the river is my home.

it's beautiful.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
after hours of waiting for the boat to pick me up from bethel and deliver me to akuik, kasigluk, i chartered a plane to take me there in a matter of mins.

this is that plane.

tons of leg room.


Originally uploaded by jleeody.
as i sit in my new apartment i marvel at how different everything is here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

i have arrived

3 days of airports, planes, and mile high food later and i have arrived in the frigid north.

i got in yesterday evening and spent a few hours setting up my apartment and getting a tour of the school.

this truely is the edge of the world.

the village looks like a scene from a documentary.
the shacks with peeling paint.
boardwalks weaving between buildings and surrounded by overgrown weeds and grass.

things are different here. i woke up at 9 this morning and kept an eye on the window. i haven't seen anyone out and about yet.
it's almost noon.
i stopped by the other teachers door. he's still in his bathrobe.

i started to think, half the day is almost gone. then, remebering that it stays light until well past midnight, i smacked myself in the forehead.

last night i stared into the sky at a quarter past 10. the sun was still a long ways from the horizen.

pictures of the town will come on a later post. i have yet to establish internet at my own home and am currently using the schools.

as a side note, i might add that all the boxes i so dilligently sent here starting over six weeks ago have not yet arrived. i will be forced to live off only what i brought in my suitcases.
for he past three days i have been cursing those bags of pain. their weight pulling my spirits down. i often wished that i had not packed so heavily. now i am left wishing that i had packed more. god only knows when the rest of my belongings will arrive.

last night, while discussing technology in the classroom with the principal, i found out that the district intends to purchase me an ibook. this information means that i will pocess a total of three laptops. two apples and a dell. (the dell made it all the way here in my suitcase. no scratches cracked screens.) what does a person do with all that computer power?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter