Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 20, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

How the cookie crumbles


I grew up in a large Catholic family in small town Nova Scotia. As youngsters, we feared God, but we feared the nuns who taught us far more than the Creator. Not only did they try and pound some knowledge into our questionable malleable brains with the three R’s, but they also provided spiritual guidance. We attended a Catholic school and religion was a core subject. The Sisters prepared us for the sacraments. If our attention wandered even a little bit, we might get a short, sharp rap on the knuckles with a ruler.

Why, in the dead of a northern winter, where the temperature rarely dips below -35 (maybe I’ve finally found the spot where “hell freezes over”!) would I be pondering the sacraments?

This is complex so bear with me. The sacrament of confession is a complicated piece of work especially when you are a youngster. Rather than try and explain it, for your reading pleasure, here is a story I wrote in 2013 about preparing for my first confession. Obviously, some of the material is dated. There is a reference to Lance Armstrong .Cheating in sports has always been in vogue.

I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment here in Kangiqsujuaq the other day staring aimlessly at the cupboards. I’m not sure if I would consider this a spiritual moment or not but I was having an “examination of conscience” of sorts. In the Catholic tradition, before confessing your sins to a priest inside a dark confessional box, you were expected to examine your conscience and ask yourself some heavy- duty questions about how you may have offended God since your last confession. Now, truth be told, I wasn’t thinking about going to confession. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I could be a better teacher.

I won’t lie. Lying is a sin and I would have to confess this. I’m finding teaching very difficult especially after a 40-year hiatus. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I could improve the classroom experience for my students. My mind suddenly cleared. I opened the cupboard and pulled a bag of Oreo cookies off the shelf. I quickly polished off a row (only one row?) washed down with a glass of ice-cold milk. It suddenly dawned on me that this was the answer to my question. I can be a better teacher by eating Oreo cookies. You won’t find this in any pedagogical journal.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was given a photograph by someone who was a school principal here up north 50 years ago. Three teenage boys from Kangiqsujuaq were attending his school. I vowed to try and track them down. One of them is alive and well. His house is a stone’s throw away from the school. Last Saturday was bitterly cold as I made my way to Charlie’s home. I made some cookies to bring to his family. Regrettably, Charlie was far off in the wilderness at his fishing camp and wouldn’t be returning for a few days. I did, however, have a wonderful chat with his wife who got a great kick out of the picture. She suggested that I call to arrange a visit with Charlie.

You know how shy I am. I asked Charlie’s wife if Charlie might consider taking me ice fishing sometime. “Yes, but you’ll have to dress warmer than that.” At first, I thought she was joking but when she explained that the camp was 80 miles away by skidoo, I started taking her very seriously.

I already look like the Michelin man as I waddle to and from school every day with my new winter wear. Throw in my new goggles and I look like some space alien. How is it possible to dress warmer? “You need another jacket and pants and warmer boots.” I’m standing in front of her. Fully clad, I just about fill the doorway. I ask her about the parka. “Just go and find someone bigger and borrow theirs to go over the top of yours.” Northern logic 101. I’ll let you know how this goes.

Jordan Tootoo, the retired hockey player from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is coming to our community this week to speak to our students and people from the village. Jordan’s story is well-known to hockey fans. He was the first Inuit to play in the N.H.L. He was an alcoholic and his brother committed suicide. I am certain that he will deliver a powerful message.

This past week, we had two young women educators from Quebec City visit our school to talk about “project daily active”. This program fosters the notion of getting students and teachers to incorporate more activity into their daily routines for better physical and mental health. I first found this notion amusing and a bit counterintuitive. In the north, students are already very active. I would be interested in a program to try and slow them down. All kidding aside, this was very instructive and helpful. The two women (who had never been north before) commented that the children in our school are far more active than their counterparts down south. This probably has something to do with the absence of cell phones in the school. There is no cell service up here.

If you missed this last Thursday, here’s a true story about a colleague who got locked out of her apartment late at night when the temperature was -50. She wasn’t wearing any winter clothing at the time.

Have a great week.

P.S. I’ll be hearing confessions when I come home for Spring break in April!!!

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Highland Hearing Clinic

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