Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 15, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

 

So much to learn. So little time.

I am quickly realizing why teachers retire long before they turn 70. The work is physically and mentally draining. Of course, I shouldn’t complain. I did take forty years off between teaching stints so it’s not like I have been wandering the halls of academia for decades. To use a figure skating analogy, for those of us who have had the privilege of teaching in the north, I think the “degree of difficulty” is a notch up from schools in other parts of the country.

The challenges of the north are well documented, and I don’t plan to expound on these in this piece. Any teacher considering teaching in an indigenous community in Canada’s north should become acquainted with its history through books, films and lectures. Flying blind is not a great option for a pilot or a teacher.

I watch the behaviour and attitudes of students inside and outside of the school. In many cases, it is like night and day. Sitting in a classroom studying continents is nothing like going hunting with your grandfather. I continue to struggle to deliver a program that is culturally relevant. This is not a knock on my school board but curriculum in northern schools still has a Eurocentric bent to it. It is a little late in the game for me to change course but by continuing to educate myself, I hope I can do some meaningful teaching with my young charges in my remaining time in Kangiqsujuaq.

I have been reviewing a number of documentaries lately trying to get a deeper understanding of the north. I continue to read books and, of course, I have met and become friends with many Inuit people who are the best educators of all, especially those who lived through very difficult times. The Inuit are incredibly resilient people.

A colleague loaned me a book recently. Thanks, AMB. I believe it should be mandatory reading for anyone coming up north to teach. “Teaching Each Other” (Nehinuw Concepts &Indigenous Pedagogies) by Goulet and Goulet is not light reading. From the back cover of the book…” The result is an alternative teaching model that can be used by teachers anywhere who want to engage with students whose culture may be different from the mainstream.”

Here is one passage from the book that says a lot. “Curricula remain problematic in teaching indigenous students. Mainstream academic knowledge, used as a basis for the development of curriculum materials for schools, seldom recognize or identifies the inherent bias, assumptions, perspectives, and points of view that have victimized people of colour while normalizing identities of whiteness.”

There are many days when I second guess myself and feel conflicted trying to teach a curriculum that is not particularly culturally relevant. There are many great teachers who have been able to adapt the curriculum, but this can take years, something that I don’t have. There’s a lot of trial and error involved and I’m guessing that there is more error than trial before becoming a really good educator. I’m doing my best, but it is not easy trying to put that square peg into the round hole.

Now, I’m not beating myself up here. I am sharing my music and story telling with my students along with math and science. The pen pal project has been a great success. Many thanks to those of you (you know who you are) who have shared your personal stories with my students. They are very excited when they come to school and see a letter on their desk.

I believe that to be a really good teacher in the north two things are essential. Firstly, showing up to work every day is so important. Consistency and stability are very important. Secondly, one needs to have empathy. I should have said three things. One needs inordinate amounts of patience!

There is a great deal to be learned from the Inuit. I will continue to drink deeply from their well of knowledge.

Have a great week.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on February 11, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

 

 

“Love is in the air, everywhere I look around,

Love is in the air, every sight and every sound.”

Love is in The Air. John Paul Young

For the past few days, my students have been using free time to make Valentine’s Day cards. Surely you remember back in the day when you feverishly made a Valentine Card for every single student in your class and maybe even your teacher. A few of our teachers in elementary school were tyrants… the ones with “the bad habits’. You know of whom I speak! The only reason they got a card is the fear that if you didn’t give them one, you might get a ruler across your knuckles. Good job, Len. You just managed to spoil all the good vibes about Cupid. In any event, for you romantic types, there is still time to get something for someone special in your life before Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday and Valentine’s Day (February 14th), I am planning to do a special Pillow Talk at 7:00p.m. Atlantic  (6:00 Eastern; 3:00 Pacific). Send me your favourite love songs in advance and I’ll try and sing them for you. It won’t be quite “Super Sunday” but I’m sure we’ll have fun.

Did you see the Super Bowl last Sunday? I received three different invitations to  attend a Super Bowl gathering that evening but ended up watching the game alone in my apartment. I knew that if I went to a gathering and got caught up in the game, that the following day at school would be especially long. However, there was one invitation that I did accept. I was invited to a Super Bowl brunch earlier that day. Attendees were asked to contribute some food. I was more than happy to participate. The hosts were making eggs and pancakes. I decided to add a dash of protein. You vegetarians and vegans will cringe at my choices. I made sausages, ham and cooked up some slices of steak. I even had some sweet and sour meatballs that I had made the day before.

Thirty minutes before the brunch began, I received a message from the hosts. The brunch was cancelled and rescheduled for this coming Sunday. I looked at the small mountain of meat and even a carnivore like me would have had his hands full trying to get through all of this meat solo. What to do? What to do?

I decided to invite the would be hosts to my place for brunch. They agreed. Now, there is a perfectly good reason why the brunch had been cancelled and this is one of these things unique to the north. As I have mentioned before in this space, essential services come in the form of municipal trucks. The ground is too hard, rocky and cold to install water and sewer lines. Instead, water is delivered to our houses every few days and sewage is pumped out of our abodes on a similar schedule. Now, from time to time, despite our best intentions, we run out of water or our sewage tank is full. When this happens, we have colored lights in our homes that go on when these situations arise. Our hosts noticed that their sewage light was on which forced the cancellation. If they hadn’t noticed this in time, the shit would have hit the fan… literally!

Vaccine is arriving in the village in the next week, enough to administer a first dose to every citizen who wants one. Needless to say, everyone is pleased with this news, none more so than those of us pondering travel at Spring Break. I know, I know. Governments don’t want us to go anywhere other than the bathroom these days. I will make my choice judiciously when the time comes. It’s been a long haul since arriving here on August 1st.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 8, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Jangled. Just like my nerves!

 

“Communication breakdown, it’s always the same,

Havin’ a nervous breakdown, a- drive me insane.”

Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin

Eighty years ago, legendary baseball player, Joe DiMaggio set the record for games in which a player safely hit in a game at 56. If you happen to be a sports enthusiast, that statistic always surfaces when the topic of untouchable records pops up. In sports, streaks are great fodder for the talking heads.

I have a streak of my own of which I am quite proud. For the past 9 years, I have been posting stories on my websites every Monday and Thursday. Every week. Along with a few extra features like tributes and Faces in the Crowd, I have published 1,190 stories. Now, I’m not looking for cheap accolades. This is not the point of this piece. I want to take this quiet time on a Monday morning to discuss my good friend, the internet.

I don’t know if I am dedicated to my readers to the point of obsession or if I’m just slightly mad. It’s probably a little of both. OK. More of the latter. I feel quite certain that if I stopped writing my Musings and Tidbits tomorrow, the world would be none the worse for wear. That day will eventually come. It may happen sooner than later.

Read on.

Most of the time, I have composed my pieces at my desk at home. Typically, this is an early morning pursuit when I’m reasonably fresh and caffeinated. However, because of my wandering ways, I have written stories in unusual places like the pool deck at a time share in Florida, tribal villages in remote parts of India, in airports, in hostels on the Camino and in hotels. Rarely is writing a fresh piece twice a week a major obstacle but long-suffering followers of Week45 can tell when I’m struggling to find a topic when I ramble on for 750 words about practically nothing. No. Writing the stories is relatively easy. Sending them out via the internet is the tough part. Despite many challenges over the years, my streak remained intact until last week when I was convinced that it had come to an end.

I suspect the remote location of my village plays some role in uneven internet service but lately, the situation has become next to impossible. Have you ever tried to push a piece of string up a hill? For most of the past year, the school has been my “go to” place to actually post my stories. Oh yes, up until recently, I posted my stories at exactly 6:00 a.m. Atlantic time regardless of my location in the world. India presented some challenges with a 9- hour time difference. Lately, the school’s internet has been uncooperative. I am being charitable.

Last week, I did my usual thing. I wrote a piece about my wonderful experience practicing with a children’s choir at the museum. It was a story that I was eager to publish on Thursday. On Wednesday after work, I stayed in my classroom and tried to get the post ready for publishing. There are several steps in the process, all requiring the internet. Having trouble sleeping? Message me and I will explain the process in detail. I held a stethoscope up to my SmartBoard and thought I detected a slight heartbeat. Sadly, I was mistaken. I was unable to upload my story and the picture that went with it.

I went home and had supper. For amusement, I tried loading the story from home with predictable results.

Unlike some other service providers (Bell?), I am not here to slag the internet provider. The people who run the local office are terrific people. They work for the mothership and can only do so much. In recent months, the company has issued new modems for its newest customers. For some inexplicable reason, these modems produce a strong signal.

Sharing an internet signal is not uncommon in the north (or the south). Two of the school’s newest employees, Jake and Ayanna live right across the hall from me. When they first arrived after Christmas, I was able to loan them my phone during their quarantine along with my sketchy internet. In due course they were able to get a better sharing option with their friends in the apartment next door to them. They were able to access a stronger signal from 100 feet away than my apartment which might be ten feet.

As they say back east, ‘any port in a storm’ so I wandered across the hall after supper in search of an elusive internet signal. It became apparent very quickly that getting a strong enough signal to prepare my post was going to require some patience. I was able to Airdrop the photo to Ayanna’s phone and from there, she e-mailed it back to me so that I could open it on my laptop. Confused? I thought so. I had the photo on my iPhone but couldn’t upload it to my own computer. The Airdrop was successful, but I couldn’t open the picture file when it arrived. Jake and Ayanna suggested that I take my laptop and sit by the living room window. Apparently, that’s where the signal was strongest. I had a momentary flashback to 2012 when I published a story called “The Man Who Walked His Computer. Sometimes it takes patience and ingenuity to find the best spot in a house or apartment (or pool deck!) to access an internet signal.

I was now getting concerned that my long streak of publishing stories was about to come to an end. I realized that the world would keep spinning the next day if my post didn’t appear. Those of you who know me know that I don’t give up easily. Some would call this stubbornness. I prefer to call it determination.

I messaged two other colleagues, Chad and Emma, the ones with the strong signal 100 feet away. They told me to come right over. Now Chad and Emma have their own epic story in the making. They had cable television before they went south for Christmas. We’re not sure if Santa tripped over their receiver when they were away but when they came back, their cable wasn’t working. Five weeks after their return, the cable still doesn’t work. I loan them my receiver from time to time as they are rabid Habs fans.

I am thrilled to report that after 2.5 frustrating hours from the time I tried prepping the story at school, I was able to successfully load my story and picture onto my website.

Are you getting sleepy yet? Thought so. Here’s the last piece of detail that you absolutely don’t need to know but I’m going to share with you anyway. The good news is that I can set a timer so that my story automatically gets posted in the morning. My website (managed by Simply Ducky – they’re the best) is set up so that my post gets sent to an e-mail list of people intelligent enough not to be on Facebook, to Twitter and LinkedIn. Until Facebook changed its logarithms a few years back, it would also go from my website to Facebook. Even though the story gets posted automatically on all the other platforms, (now at 6:00 EST), I have to manually share from Week45 to Facebook. This means setting my alarm for 5:45 a.m., putting on my winter coat over my pajamas, and wandering over to the school.

Before leaving Chad and Emma’s I was thinking out loud. What if I was unable to share the post in the morning from the school? Chad and Emma were eating dinner. Good friends allow you to use their internet at even inopportune times. “Why don’t you come over here in the morning at 6:00 and share the post from here?” I chuckled to myself. I suggested in might be less bothersome if I just slept on their couch!

“It ain’t over till its over.” (YB).

At 6:00 a.m. sharp last Thursday, I was sitting in front of the SmartBoard, getting ready to do the sharing thing. You all know that annoying little wheel that goes round and round while your device searches for a network. Sure you do. Admit it. You have cursed and sworn at your laptop, tablet or iPhone waiting (im)patiently to get connected. While I waited, I was able to get my classroom ready for the day. I reviewed my lesson plans, wrote the day’s schedule on the old blackboard. I probably could have gone home and shaved. Twenty minutes later, I was able to post the story to Facebook.

While Joe DiMaggio’s streak is quite impressive, all he had to deal with was some fastballs, curves and sliders from opposing pitchers. He didn’t have to deal with the internet which also has its own curveballs.

Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

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