Friday, August 12, 2011

New Teacher Training

On Thursday afternoon Katie and I flew to Kotzebue.  It was rather interesting.  We didn't know when the plane would be arriving.  On Sarah's recommendation I called Bering Air in Kotzebue to find out what the routing was.  The plane was flying Selewick, Ambler, Kobuk, Shungnak.  Unfortunately, that knowledge didn't seem to help.  We could have listened oh the VHF radio to find out the plane was approaching, but we don't have a radio and we decided it would be nicer to simply sit at the airstrip rather than sit in the school office and listen to the radio there (although if it had been raining or later in the winter I'm sure the school would be the more preferable option).
Around 4 we went to the airstrip.  Several kids joined us and then the school secretary and pre-k teacher came and joined us.  Then as the Era plane was approaching (it came first yesterday), a bunch of people came.  Several stayed until the Bering plane arrived.  It was fun.  We got to know several people and know some we had met before better.  Also, several of the kids were trying to scare us.  It became quite a game.  It was also interesting because the kids were clearly concerned about our leaving.  Several of them were like, "you're leaving?" and we had to reassure them that we were returning.  It was quite heartening to have people concerned about our leaving.

The plane didn't arrive until after 5 (I had told my dad I was leaving between 3:45 and 5 well I was wrong).  There were still quite a few people on the plane and even more cargo (by the way quite a few means about 7 including us) so the pilot asked for a volunteer to sit in the co-pilot seat, just to Shungnak.  I quickly volunteered.   It was kind of fun sitting there and so when we got to Shungnak (and offloaded a lot of the cargo) he told me that I could stay in the co-pilot's seat if I wanted to, so I did.  Off and on through the flight he pointed out a few things to me and I think he might have pointed out more if I hadn't fallen asleep (it's kind of hard though because the engine noise is really loud and he would take his headphones off one ear before talking to me - I'm assuming to make sure that he was speaking loudly enough for me to hear, when he spoke to air traffic control it would be really quietly into his mic.)
When we got here I discovered several things: 1) my colleagues in Kobuk were right, most teachers come directly to Kotzebue without going to their villages.  I was surprised a number had just flown up from the lower 48 today 2) there were very few who are directly out of college.  Because of the number of layoffs throughout the country there are quite a few rather experienced new teachers.  When I spoke to many of them they had taken the job because it was a job that was offered.  That makes me nervous.  Most of them know nothing about Alaska and I'm afraid some of them are in for quite a shock.  One lady went into the home of one of the teacher's here in Kotz and she said that she didn't think it was very nice.  The three of us (all in the AKT2 program) who had been to our villages already looked at it and thought it was REALLY nice.  I hope the housing in her village is a lot nicer than in Kobuk (although from conversations it sounds like in a lot of places it is quite a bit nicer than in Kobuk). 3) I learned that the district teaches 6th grade as part of elementary school.  Katie and I are the only ones who are teaching 6th grade as secondary students.  This is because Kobuk is so small that we only have a k-2 and 3-5.  They didn't want to make the elementary grades include 4 grades.  However, the 6th grade will be taught reading separately (according to the current schedule we received they will have language arts with Katie and perhaps with some high 5th graders and then go to the 3-5 class for more reading.  The rest of their subjects will be with the 7th and 8th graders though).  4) The final thing I learned is that most teachers in the district are not teaching as many subjects (or grades as mentioned in 3).  Tom (my friend from the program in Shungnak) and I were the only ones in our group that were teaching 2 subjects and looking at the other schedules Katie appears to be the only other person teaching more than core subject.  I'm sure this is part of why Corrine said when we were at training that we should look around at people and think, "my job is harder than yours."
Katie and I also got a schedule today.  I'm not sure how this schedule came to be and Katie is pretty certain it isn't going to hold.  The other teachers didn't get schedules so I don't really understand why we got one.  However, our site is rather different from others so that might be how this came to be.  I think most of the other schools have things more set by the principal.  I don't know.  There's lots to learn.  The way the schedule goes now I am teaching 7-12th PE (first period), math and science then a middle school technology - keyboarding elective and some sort of high school technology elective (I think it is also some sort of computer based elective).  These should be pretty fun so I hope that at least that portion of the schedule remains.
Here are pictures our trip to Kotzebue.
 The view from the Kobuk "airport"
 Here comes the plane
 Here's our ride.  I got to ride in the co-pilot's seat
 Kobuk from the air.
 Another picture of Kobuk from the air.
 A cool building in Kotzebue.
I tried to get all the village names in the picture, but I didn't succeed.  I know I missed Ambler and I can't read the right side, but I think I missed some others to.  Anyway, this is our district office it is directly across the parking lot from the middle/high school which is actually connected to the elementary school (even though they have different names and offices and everything).

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