Monday, September 26, 2011

I Don't Care If Monday's Blue...

I've never really experienced a case of the Monday's, because for the last few years, it hasn't mattered if it was Monday or Wednesday or Saturday, I was working, and I was tired.  So this morning as I was grumbling about it being Monday, I looked at my calendar.  The first thing I couldn't believe was that it's already the last week of September--which means that I've already been teaching for over a month!  The second thing I realized as I flipped back a month, was that I haven't had a day where I wasn't working since New Teacher Orientation in Unalakleet.  Which was the 2nd week in August, and 49 days ago...roughly.

Things I'm not doing right now: complaining.  I'm actually pretty excited because even though I've been working, planning and teaching for 49 days straight, I'm energized, motivated and healthy.  For any of you who knew me a year ago, you know that the primary role I played in my school was not a teacher, it was a germ collector.  I literally got every sniffle, cough and flu that my kids had.  I'm not sure I made it through a single month of school without having to call in sick and had multiple bouts of the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and stomach bugs.  The first thing that comes to mind is that my students this year actually know how to blow their own noses, and generally don't barf, sneeze or cough on me. (Knocking on some wood...)  But after leaving a weekend of inservice completely healthy, where the majority of teachers were feeling the ill effects of the first bout of cold symptoms for the school year, I am pretty convinced I've turned my immune system around.

It could very well be that I've just built up immunities to all germs possible, but I'm in a new location, teaching a new age group--so that probably isn't it.  I'm pretty sure that this new habit of sleeping regular hours for consecutive nights/weeks, adding a multi-vitamin to my diet, (insert I told you so's here from Rachel and probably my mom...) and eating three (really healthy) meals a day (including breakfast...thanks, B!)  So thankfully, Brendan and I have been feeling good and not run down yet, and B has yet to succumb to the grimy germs that infiltrate the school environment.  (I'm still perplexed about how he managed to stay 100% healthy last year, when I was hacking up a lung every other week.) Okay, now I'm seriously knocking on wood. We're happy and healthy and thriving in the arctic. :o)

I came to another important realization this weekend. In-Services are not my forte; I always leave with a much longer to-do list than I came with and a LOT of new information that my brain is not really sure how to process. We usually have to travel (sans Brendan :o( )  This weekend we went to Stebbins, AK, which is a small village on the mainland.  However, they serve a very important purpose.  They supply our orange juice for the time in between In-Services.  Orange Juice.  How do you get good orange juice in rural Alaska without paying big bucks to get it shipped in fresh?  Simple.  You go to In-Service (where food is provided,) and stock up on some 20 oz. bottles of OJ.  Before you think that I go to In-Service to loot up, I promise I only take one bottle per meal...I just pack it instead of drinking it!  Eventually, other staff members start to catch on and before you know it, you've got other people stocking up on orange juice for you too!  After two days in Stebbins, we are set on OJ for a good few weeks.  As you can tell, we're really getting the hang of survival mode...

The other good thing about this In-Service was that I got to see a new village, Stebbins.  I couldn't believe how warm it was there--at least 15 degrees warmer than here on the island.  The sun was out and we had plenty of time to walk and enjoy the beautiful weather.  The village was much smaller than Savoonga.  People were welcoming and the school was well kept.  Overall it was a really informative and motivating weekend!  I have some pictures, but left my camera cord at home (give me a break, it is Monday!)

It might be 10:00 on a Monday night with a full week ahead of me, and I'm definitely still at school working, but it's going to be a good week and hopefully a productive one!  We have a box of fresh produce waiting for us on our porch, a new Netflix documentary, and the sun is supposed to shine all week.  Brendan starts volleyball practice tomorrow as the assistant coach, so you know his week is going to be good.  We're doing great, and hoping everyone else is too!

P.S.  Coming this week...a separate post JUST for what B is doing.  I could seriously write a book, the man is so busy. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Forsake Not What's Around You, For Simple is Close at Hand...

Talk about slacking...sorry for the delay in update!  I also don't have any new pictures from this week to share, so this blog might be a bore!  Hopefully B comes home with some great pics from his XC meet in Unalakleet, and we'll get right on sharing them with you :o)

Week 2 has officially been "successfully" completed! I felt like I was drowning last week, but I think I managed to tread water this week!  I had one rough day this week where I thought I might burst into tears, (and didn't) but one day out of the 10 I've taught so far isn't so bad!  I think that before you become a teacher you have this vision of what a successful classroom looks like, and an unrealistic anticipation that your classroom will look like that by the first week.  (At least I did!)  Well, now that I'm two weeks in, I've changed my perception of a successfully functioning classroom a little bit. (But I don't feel I've lowered my expectations...just reformed them.) I think the combination of being a first year teacher, and also being immersed in a brand new culture, has caused me to reevaluate everything I've learned about classroom management, teaching and learning, and I'm trying to focus it through a new lens.  My educational experiences thus far have been different in almost every possible way than the students' that I am teaching now.  How can I be a successful teacher if I'm teaching them only based on my experiences?  If my students can't relate, then they're not going to learn...and neither am I!  I'm trying to incorporate a mixture of values and cater what I know about teaching to my students' learning needs.  Since I feel like I don't know all that much, it's a challenge, but I'm hoping I'm at least stepping in the right direction!

Updates from the week outside of school:  we thoroughly enjoyed our PB & J's on our freshly baked bread all week!  I'm looking forward to a lazy Sunday at home tomorrow, and perhaps trying out a new recipe! (That's assuming I get everything accomplished that I need to at school today.)  If I can figure out how to get some daiya cheese shipped up here, I'd like to make some pizza dough and enjoy pizza this week!  I caved and ate some dairy last night after paying $11 for a frozen pizza, but would really rather keep the meals dairy-less!  It's a constant challenge, but I'm determined to make it happen!

Brendan may be finally content with our living arrangement, as we acquired a treadmill this week!  It's big and loud and shakes the house a little bit, but it's a means to stay in shape and I'm looking forward to using it too.  I've really enjoyed getting back into yoga and have been putting those and my pilates DVD's to good use.  It's nice having a means to unwind after spending 10+ hours at school most days.

Our mattress pad arrived from amazon...I think it's a blessing and a curse.  Our bed is super comfy now, but it's much harder to leave it in the mornings!  We are losing quite a bit of daylight, and it seems we are losing it the most in the morning.  The sun is still out pretty late, but man is it dark in the morning!  It's an interesting adjustment, and it's difficult to be ready for bed at night when the sun is still up, but hard to wake up when it's still dark!  We haven't been relying on the melatonin to regulate our sleep anymore, and it's a pretty strange cycle we are living on!

We'll be getting into our normal routines this week, as tutoring just started and it will be our first 5 day week of school.  The weeks are already going by fast, I feel like it will be Thanksgiving before we know it!  Even though the days go by fast, the daily pace we move at has slowed down significantly from our lives in Virginia Beach.  

I don't think I realized what a high stress/high speed life we were living when we were living it, but I'm really appreciating the slower pace here.  We are coming from constantly running between two jobs, getting stressed out in traffic, running to tables and customers at work, trying to schedule time to see friends and family (something I've realized should not be stressful...which now seems so blatantly obvious, but wasn't realistic) and literally jam packing every minute of every day to be utilized.  Now we've come to a pretty abrupt halt in Savoonga, where we don't have a microwave and use the stove to heat things up (but the power goes out pretty frequently so we need a back up plan.) We have a 15 ish minute commute every day on foot, depending on which direction the wind is coming from, but we aren't rushing or stressed and we don't have to worry about traffic slowing us down--instead it's relaxing and a quiet time to either prepare for the day or wind down after school.  We traded Starbucks and our beloved bean grinding, delicious coffee making coffee maker for a french press, which we actually have to take time to make every morning, instead of having the timer pre-set.  I think it's the best coffee I've ever tasted, and I can actually enjoy drinking it instead of gulping it down trying to get my caffeine fix before work!  The store is unpredictable in what will be in stock, but we wait for our fresh produce every week and make with it what we can.  It's fun being creative and having to think outside the box!  

We've simplified extremely and are really appreciating the simple pleasures that we have.  The one time of day we are rushing is usually dinner time when Brendan has to be back at school, but how can we complain when we are actually able to eat together? The days are a unique mix of rigorous and relaxing, and I'm not sure how many places in the world you can experience that.  We're learning a lot about ourselves and what we really need, and I hope we can carry what we are learning here everywhere we go in life.  

T minus 2 hours until Brendan gets home from Unalakleet...can't wait to hear how the team did!  We will let everyone know and hopefully have some new pictures to post soon!  He's been an amazing coach so far and has settled into the school seemingly effortlessly!  He'll make a great teacher if he decides that's what he wants to do...more to come on the program he's applying to as well!  Hope everyone has a great week and that all of my teacher friends are transitioning well into the school year!
We love and miss everyone more than words can say :o)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Nobody Said it Was Easy, No One Ever Said it Would Be This Hard..

Okay, okay... so maybe Chris Martin lyrics are a tad over dramatic for discussing our first week's trials and tribulations....but the man's got a way with words, and I've been highly dependent on mellow tunes this week. (Which is soothing in it's own element, but doesn't entirely replace my normal solution to tough days at school: wine. In copious amounts.) And for those of you that don't already know: this. job. is. HARD! And as much as I'd like to say I successfully completed my first week, it's not over yet. As an added bonus to all of us first years hanging by a thread as our week comes closer to an end, we get Saturday School tomorrow! WoooHOOO! (My sarcasm should not be interpreted as a complaint, I'm merely making a feeble attempt at psyching myself up for tomorrow.)

The week has not been completely unsuccessful.  I've managed to establish some crucial classroom procedures, despite the "but our old teacher let us do this" comments, and you can actually pick up on some healthy classroom habits already!  I actually stayed on pace with my first week's lesson plans and have been really getting to know a lot of the kids.  I'd say I have about 95% of my 50-ish students' names down...hoping to secure the remaining 5% tomorrow! (I knew that Saturday School would come in handy somewhere!)  I've of course encountered some discipline issues and moments where I've said to myself "uhhh sh*t, now what?!" but for the most part I've been able to hold my own.  I feel really lucky that the staff here is so supportive and welcoming to new teachers.  There are so many people I ask for advice on a daily basis and I really really appreciate it.  The community has been just as welcoming and my students are working on coming up with a Yupik name for me.  While I doubted myself a few times this week, I don't doubt at all that this is going to be a great first year experience.

Brendan has been just as busy, if not busier than me all week!  So much for him staying home all day, sleeping in and doing housework...HA, we've barely been able to keep up with the 2 mugs and one set of silverware we brought!  He walks to school with me every morning and works on the school website, which our principal has contracted him out to fix.  He is helping out the Special Ed Department (perhaps considering following in his sister-in-law's footsteps? :o) ) during lunch as an aid for a few of the students.  There's a possibility he'll be assisting/monitoring the ALE (Alternative Learning Environment) which is still a work in progress but has potential!  He's in the school store as soon as school is out and then keeps 20-30 extremely energetic kids in line at cross country practice for the remainder of the afternoon.  By the time he's finishing practice, we have just about an hour to walk home and make dinner before he's headed back to school to open the store for Open Gym.  It's only a matter of time before he'll be getting calls to sub!  The kids adore him.  No matter where we are in the village you can guarantee we will hear a "Hey, Coach!" or a "Hey, Running Coach!"  I think his favorite is "HI GIANT!" (which is mainly from the kindergarteners.)

Needless to say, we've both been pretty exhausted by the time we are actually at home for the night.  It's a good exhaustion though, it feels so rewarding to finally be in the position that I want and to be challenged on a daily basis!  The days are long and some have been rough, but walking home watching the sunset over the top of the world every night is a pretty amazing experience.  I'm not sure I've ever felt this peaceful...I'm so thankful to have been given this opportunity!  We've had some pick-me-ups this week too--we received our first order of fresh organic produce on Monday, and were able to pick up our bulk order of groceries on Wednesday!

I think we both feel at home and comfortable in the community and ready to tackle the school year.  We were just discussing on our walk back to school tonight, how confident we feel that this is the place we are supposed to be right now and how happy and calm we feel, despite the fact that we just moved half way across the world.  It's hard going home to an empty house at night and we're really missing Sampson, but Skype and Facetime are wonderful inventions and we've been able to see quite a bit of him! (Oh yeah, and our families too ;o) )

THANK YOU everyone who called or texted or messaged us this morning.  We had no clue there was even an earthquake and I thought it was the melatonin having a crazy side effect when I read the text message "the tsunami warnings are cancelled!"  There are lots of earthquakes in Alaska, but we are luckily far enough north and pretty far away from the edge of the plates that cause the quakes, that we shouldn't be getting too much action up this way.  We really appreciate everyone's concern and love, and are hoping these next couple hurricanes coming up the east coast are less destructive than Irene was!  If anyone needs to escape the lousy lower 48 weather, there's an oceanfront room available in the Bering Strait anytime :o)