Saturday, December 02, 2006

I ate seal last week. It tastes almost exactly like it smells. Mamartuk

And I finally tracked down some photos of this beautiful place. What follows is a brief photo essay of what it's like to live up here. I haven't included any photos of my students, but promise to after Christmas.

When you fly into Kangirsujuaq, you get to see a magnificent fjord surrounding Wakeham Bay's deep blue waters.

The village itself is surrounded by small mountains, upon which grow beautiful flora and whose peaks people have built impressive inukshuks.

Some views from the surrounding mountains.

When the sun shows it's face, which seems to be rarely, it is between 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The short days have forced me to buy very expensive full-spectrum lights to simulate the sun's rays and stave off the fatigue caused by the darkness.

This is my little girl Igaak shortly after I adopted her. Since then, she has grown considerably, and looks completely different.

Finally, Sophie and I.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

4:00 and it's dark

Since my last post, I've been very busy, lazy, and drained of energy. Between teaching eleven difficult students, end of term commitments, dealing with a school that seems to be on a downward spiral, enjoying the rewards of a new relationship, and coping with the shortening and ever-overcast days, I think I can construct some semblance of an excuse for shirking my online obligations.

My students and I seemed to have turned a corner. For the most part, things inside my classroom have been going quite well, considering the rough start we had. Certainly, we are behind (about four years behind to be exact) but things seemed to be coming along nicely. Now that the behavioural issues have settled down somewhat in my class, I have had enough time to worry about just how little I've taught them and how little I know about teaching ESL. Until I got the news today that one of my students was in the hospital because she tried to seriously hurt herself last weekend. We are doing what we can for her, but she has responded so negatively to me virtually every time we interact that I'm not sure I'm doing any good.

Report cards and parent-teacher interviews happened last week. What a long week. Most of the parents came to meet me, which was nice, but, like in the South, the ones who do not show are ususally the ones that teachers need to talk to most, including the student who is in the hospital. So, after leaving the school at 9:00 on Thursday night, I woke up early on Friday, walked the dog, and went back to school until 7:30 p.m. The teachers made and delivered pizzas to last month's "stars of the month", the best-behaved students in each class. After throwing enough dough to make 45 pizzas, I was thoroughly exhausted.

The school situation outside of my classroom is deteriorating quickly. I'm losing faith in our ship's captain. Last year, there were two tools that the school deemed necessary to maintain good student behaviour and a safe school environment: a security guard and an igloo room. The igloo room is a place where students who need to "cool off" can go without all of the embarassment and hassle of being seen in the office day in and day out. Our principal has failed to do two things: furnish the school with the funding for these necessitites; and provide his staff with adequate explanations as to why he has failed to do so. A school with no consequences for misbehaviour is a disaster waiting to happen. The situation has come to a point where, after a seven-and-a-half hour staff meeting, the school has asked the parents to come into a symposium to discuss problems in the school and the community at large.

Outside the school, life is fantastic. Sophie and I are very quickly moving along in our relationship. Virtually no one who has been up here for an extended period is surprised. We hear things such as "Things are more intense here" or "things move much more quickly in the North" all the time. I suppose we have something basic and important in common: we both chose to live here, of all places. The more time that we spend together the more certain I become that it was no coincidence.

Finally, the weather. The days here are getting extremely short. The sun comes up at around 8:30 I think and sets around 3:30. However, until today we didn't see the sun for over a week. It was just a grey haze in the day. The nights, oddly enough, have been fairly clear. Last week, I was treated to by far the most amazing display of aurora borealis in my experience, and coming from Northern Alberta, that means a lot. This past weekend, the clouds opened up just long enough for us to walk Igaak in the light of the full moon.

Yesterday, I had my first taste of an Arctic blizzard, with high winds and a good dumping of snow. I no longer feel cheated by the mild weather. However, the Inuit teachers have assured me that it was just a taste. I can't wait for the real deal. Today, the clouds finally broke and gave us the few hours of direct sunlight we deserve. It was a balmy -18 with the wind chill, but I nonteheless struggled with the idea of keeping my students outside to take in some sun. This place is truly beautiful.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Much More

Most of my posts have been pretty heavy thus far. Sure a great deal has been very challenging. I've been on the receiving end of threats, violence, and obscene gestures, but life up here has been very good to me, especially for the past couple of weeks.

At first, my class was chaotic, extremely violent, and intimidating. I asked around for some sort of help from a number of teachers who have been up here for years. I received answers such as, "I put my time in with those guys," and "I would have left if I had had to teach them this year." It seemed that no one was willing to touch these kids with a ten-foot pole let alone come into my class and give me pointers on how to deal with them. No one but Sophie, another Qallunaat teacher. Her encouragement and advice gave me the ideas and strength to put the kids through boot camp and gain control of an ugly situation. Over the next weeks, we became increasingly close and realised that we have an intense connection. We began to spend a great deal of time together, and realised just how much we have in common. We enjoy too many of the same things to describe here, so I will spare you the details.

It's tough to verbalise what we have without sounding corny and cliché. It's not as if we help each other deal with otherwise difficult lives teaching in the North. I love it here. While some of the other teachers are counting the days until Christmas, I find myself wondering if I actually want to go South. Life in le Grand Nord is wonderful, and I am extremely lucky and happy to have found Sophie, someone who loves it here as much as I do.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Class - Black Monday

Over the past few weeks after boot camp, things had been going relatively well. The students are able to sit in their seats and work for most of the time, with violent, frightening incidents happening less and less frequently. Until Monday morning. By noon, it seemed that all of the hard-won progress that the class had made in the past weeks had dissolved into a puddle of tears, saliva, rocks, and broken bones on my classroom floor.

One student who has a strong work ethic and craves sucess, forgot to take his medication and ended up throwing rocks at my house and threatening my dog's life. Another, normally a good student who can have violent outbursts, threw a volleyball in my face, punched a girl, and spit the biggest booger I've ever seen on her coat on his way out the door. Later, he showed me one of his soapstone carvings. The kid is eleven, and obviously talented. His carvings are better than some of the adult carvings I've seen in the village.

Another showed up with a broken nose. She became upset and tossed her journal on the floor. I reacted by telling her to "stop acting like a child". She blew up. I went down to the office at lunch, about a half hour later, to find her bawling and speaking in Inuttitut. When I went to console her, she stood up, eyes full of tears, bit her bottom lip, and waved a single finger in my face. Twice. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be okay, but how would I know? So I just took it and watched her walk away crying. I felt the tears welling up inside myself as well. There is nothing like watching a few of your own words take a bad situation and make it worse.

Monday was tough, and the rest of the week was not much easier. Yet, I find myself elated and happy. The kids obviously love being in my class. They do not want to leave at the end of the day or at lunch. It appears that I have at least given them a safe place to sit for a few hours a day. On top of that, a pupil in kindergarten has taken an exceptional liking to me. The smallest child in the school, she is absolutely adorable. She runs up to me and grabs onto my legs every time she sees me. However, it is more than this. Much more.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Residence

Some of you may wonder why I've taken so long to post. Believe me, if I had the time, I would. The reasons for my two-and-a-half week hiatus from presuming that people read this blog will become clear over the next three posts, which hopefully will come in the next few days.

The first of these three posts is the least exciting, but that is not to say that it is not exciting. The week at the residence was a lot of fun. First off, I stand corrected. Sec six does exist in private schools in Quebec, but not for the same reasons. Sec six exists in private schools in the South as a means to skip cegep. In the North, it exists to ready students for college and life in the South. However, the kids that I was supervising were not even in Sec six. The residence normally houses these students, but not this year, I will save you the bureaucratic details.
The students I lived with for a week come from small villages that do not have enough secondary students to warrant a teacher. Most of them are very good kids. Few of them are very good students.

My week consisted of waking up at 6:30 or 7:00 and cleaning up after the night's chaos. By eight, I had to start waking up the students, which was my most difficult task for most of the week. My knuckles were raw and bleeding from all of the knocking on the first day, which was capped off at 8:30 when one of the residents opened her door and said "Fuck you asshole" to me, and promptly slammed the door in my face. The regular animator (res. supervisor) Eric relieved me a few minutes later, and when he began knocking, she repeated her morning outburst at him, believing that it was still me. Big mistake. She was minutes away from being sent out to her home community.

After waking up the students, I went to the school to teach all day, after which I returned to the residence at 5:30 to look after the kids until 11:30, when I locked the doors and went to bed at aruond midnight. The evenings were great. I spent a lot of time planning, after the first night, when I sat in front of the television, a luxury I haven't had in a long time. I was well on my way into a four hour shift of underproductivity when I snapped out of the hypnotic laziness which follows thumbing through the channels only to inevitably discover that there is nothing on. I wasn't even watching the box, just looking at it, and unconsciously letting it drain my brain of all ambition and intellect. All of a sudden I realised that I was watching a biography of Julianne Moore. I laughed, shut off the tube, and didn't turn it on for the rest of the week.

The week was difficult, if only for the lack of sleep, until Sunday night, my last night. Around eleven, I answered the telephone only to hear an obviously drunk Inuk wanting to speak with one of the residents. She wasn't there, but he insisted, begged, and offered me money to get her on the phone. About twenty-five minutes later, the student was sitting outside when I went to lock the door. I told her about the call, and she responded that she feared for her safety. After speaking with her for a few minutes, we went inside and I locked the door.

At eleven-thirty five, I heard a knock. I assumed that it was one of the three missing residents. I opened the door to indeed be faced by one of the tardy kids, but also a couple of other Inuuk men, who I assumed were accompanying him. Immediately, I stopped all but the resident from coming in. The largest of the Inuuk, who is taller than me (gigantic by Inuit standards) slurringly sputtered "I want to see my cousin". Instinctively, I thought of the conversation I had had a few minutes earlier. I asked "Who is your cousin?" to which the man responded "Do you want me to fuck you up?"

I tried to diffuse the situation, asked his seemingly sober friends for help, and explained that the residence visiting hours were long over. However, he was determined to get into the residence to "see his cousin" which to me, always thinking of the earlier phone call and conversation, was a euphemism for "rape one of the residents". After five minutes of repeatedly answering no to the question "do you want me to fuck you up?" I suggested that he leave before I called the police. He quipped "Fuck the police. If you call the police, you're dead!", turned on his heel and headed for the door. I reached for the handle to close the door, only to see him throwing a haymaker from his hip in an effort to let me know he was the bigger man. I rolled with the punch, which deflected off of my cheek, and I grabbed him and restrained him, while yelling "Call the Police!" to the residents. The man's friends helped me remove him, which I appreciated dearly, considering I probably would have had to knock him out to do it myself. After I slammed his arm in the door a few times, he finally gave up and left before the police came.

The cops were busy. It took them about half an hour to show up because they had had four calls in a few minutes (there are two of them in the village). They showed up to make sure he was gone and advised me to come in the next day to give a statement. The next day at school, I asked the centre director, a man of some stature in Kangirsujuaq what I should do. Without hesitation, he responded "Charge him."

I went into the police station, where I still wasn't sure what to do. I was unhurt, tired, and confused. The cops made the decision for me, and pressured me into charging the man. They told me that they wanted to "get him" for other things he had done, and made jokes about the horrible ways they planned on detaining him. After leaving the building, I felt dirty and used. The village has been so heavy in the past couple of weeks that I still haven't had the chance to go in, identify his mugshot, and drop the charges.

Why? Well, as a first year teacher, I don't want to cause any trouble for myself. Selfishness aside however, I also do not believe that sending the man out of the community to a Southern jail for a month is a good remedy. It temporarily removes the problem and is a band-aid solution, which may only infuriate him further and teach him a few new tricks. Southern justice does not seem to fit up here. It is the community's problem, and having someone in Montreal deal with it seems to be an excercise in hiding one's head in the sand. Many people, Inuit and Qallunaat alike, have advised me to charge him. It seems to me that they want him to be charged for all of the other things that he has done to the community, and not what he has done to me. I welcome any and all suggestions about what to do, as it eats at me constantly.

My only regret from the week was that this happened on my last night. I was not able to go back in the next day and show the kids that I wasn't afraid, and that I cared enough about them to not let a drunken tirade drive me away. Alas, the school board has decided that I am too expensive to continue to relieve the overworked animators, and has recalled the head animator from Kuujjuaq for the time being. Nonetheless, I now have an enormous amount kind of respect for Eric and Roland, the animators, who have repeatedly borne the brunt of such outbursts. Also, I have gained the respect of some of the residents themselves, who watched the whole thing go down.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Okay, finally I will post about teaching. No caribou hunting or fishing trips. I have written before that teaching up here has its challenges. Now I will elaborate.

Classroom management represents one of my biggest challenges so far. There have been dozens of violent or near-violent incidents between students in my classroom. These obviously did not start this year; they have a long history that has followed this special group of students throughout their careers in school. It is a pattern I work very hard to break.

Since instituting boot camp in my class a couple of weeks ago, things have gone from total chaos at all times to a slow but productive pace interrupted still all too frequently by bullying, teasing, threatening, and punching. Just last week, one of the students whom I thought had turned a corner, turned around and threatened to hit the "shadow". She is someone who is paid to give one of my students one-on-one help because he went to school in French for grade four and five, was pulled out of school by his parents for a year, and returned to take school in English last year. She does far more than that. She acts as an interpreter, a motivator, and an extra set of eyes and ears in the classroom.

I thought that this was an extremely tense and serious situation that required a swift and ruthless response from the school's administration. Suspension, intervention from the parents, something. It didn't come. Granted, the little guy was left to stew over his inexcusable actions in the office for a few hours, but he eventually came back to class that same day.

I've also written about handling the students myself, something I thought I would never do. After a week and a half with no security guard, the school hired a new one. Thank God. Hopefully he sticks around long enough to help us get our classes back under control. The thing is that there are very few immediate and serious consequences for students who do something utterly disrespectful, such as try to bully a person, no a figure of authority, who is there to help them. We had a meeting about such instances this week, and hopefully things will get better on this front.

That said, I think things have been going relatively well on the behaviour front. After all, I'm in one of the best villages up here. Other schools are far more heavy when it comes to this sort of thing. What seems challenging to me is doing something I am utterly and completely untrained to do: teach ESL to twelve year olds. Twelve year olds that are well behind even the village's standards for progress the year before they head to secondary school. At times, I feel lost with them. Where do I want them to be at the end of the year? Can I get them ready for High School over the next nine months?

The first day I arrived here, one of the teachers who taught half of these kids last year (My class, which was grade six, was split into 5/6 and 6/7 so two teachers could split the chaos among them hoping that they would both survive. Only one stayed.) told me of the challenges ahead of me. "You have to take kids that are at a grade four level and get them ready for Secondary school," or something of the sort was what she said to me. My realism kicked in even before I met the kids, and I responded, "That's impossible." Although sometimes I think my remarks ring true, I believe I can still give these kids some skills with which they can make it next year. Sure, they will still be weak students, but hopefully, they can work with the knowledge I help them to gain this year.

Something else, something more profound, eats at me. It's the struggle that I'm sure goes on inside all Qallunaat teachers who come up here. Part of me believes I am really helping these kids learn valable skills in a setting that is not completely foreign to them. Yet, part of me believes that the school is not OF the community at all, but a white, southern concept of learning imposed on these kids and their parents for the last fifty years. Who am I to teach an Inuk how to live and think? Seems to me that only the Inuit, resilient and resoourceful beyond comprehension, have the goods to survive, thrive, and perpetuate in the harsh Arctic climate.

I recall one of the first conversations I had about teaching up here. It was about four years ago, and my graduate advisor and I were at lunch after the first year history class for which I was his teaching assistant. I told him what I wished to do. He responded by saying something such as, "Sounds noble and fantastic," yet warned me "as long as you are not doing it out of white liberal guilt." Words of wisdom. Although I'm sure guilt somehow plays into it somehow, as does money and other selfish desires that I feel the need to fulfill, I've become less and less cynical over the past couple of years. I'm here to help these kids and to help myself as well. Most of the time, it's a lot of fun too. Reflections such as these can sometimes get a little heavy.

This week, I have taken on the added responsibilty of relief residence supervisor, for two weeks out of the next month. The job entails looking after fifteen or so English Secondary Six students. Sec six, which exists nowhere else in Quebec, gives certain kids from all over Nunavik the opportunity to take an extra year of schooling befre graduating. Hopefully, some of them will go on to Cegep or do good things in their community of both. One of the supervisors has to spend the next five weeks in Kuujjuaq while they look for someone to take over the French counterpart in Nunavik's capital (?). It will be tiring, but hopefully a lot of fun too.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Assupmtions. I've always tried to strip myself of them, but...

I guess I still had the notion that all Inuit were a people who live in harmony with the land, have always hunted caribou, and respected dogs, lurking somewhere in my subconscious. No more. This week, I have apparently adopted a puppy, gone fishing at a fished out lake, and found out a few things about the changing climate. In addition, I've found myself doing things that I thought I would never do, even in the classroom.

Last Saturday, one of my colleagues, Sophie, and two little Inuuk (two Inuk) girls came to my house with a cute, dirty, feeble little thing. They told me that the dog had no owner and that I could keep her. I had been entertaining the notion of getting a dog while I was up here, but had not put anything into motion. Yet, I find myself in posession of Igaak (the traditional sunglasses used by the Inuit made from a piece of caribou hide with small slits in it), aptly named by another colleague, Isabelle, because she is white and grey with small dark circles of fur around her eyes.

A few days before, I had been at one of my student's houses, and found out that his dog's female puppies had been brought to the dump and disposed of in an unthinkable fashion, because female puppies are not in high demand. Likewise, the family had decided to dispose of the mother because she continues to have enormous litter after enormous litter. I try not to pass judgement on another culture's practices, but that did not stop me of thinking about Igaak's fate had I not brought her into my house.

I'm not sure where the mistreatment of dogs comes from. The dog used to be a beast of burden up here and was well-treated because of it. Now everyone has a Honda (what the Inuit call an ATV) a skidoo, and various other machines-of burden, so the dog, for so long the best of the beasts, has largely been relegated to a punching bag. On the other hand, some folks around here take great pride in their dogs. One Inuk from Wakeham Bay won the annual dog sled race here in Nunavik.

Enough about dogs. Well, almost. On Saturday, at about twelve o'clock, Marion, a colleague who is married to Jaaka, an Inuk, invited me to go fishing at one o'clock. I had plans, but the chance to get out in open water was simply too tempting to pass up, and that's just how things go here, one has to be ready to drop everything immediately (there will be more to come about this in further postings). So after walking the dog, I got a few things together and headed out the door.

We left promptly at one thirty, and headed out across Wakeham Bay to a place called Kitsujaq (kit-soo-yak). Had we just ridden across the bay and saw the cliffs I sopke of in my first post, and returned, I would have been far more than satisfied. It indeed would be paradise for a climber. The cliffs are undescribable, and I don't have a photograph. So I won't try.

We made it to Kitsujaq with little difficulty, and unloaded the boat at Marion and Jaaka's camp. We walked up a river to a lake and fished for Arctic Char. Along the way, Jaaka told me how there were no arctic char in this lake for as long as he can remember, but years ago, he and some of the other Inuit made a channel up to the lake by removing large stones by hand so the fish could go upstream to their wintering grounds when the water was low in the riverbed. It must have been some kind of undertaking.

The scenery was beautiful, the walk amazing, and the company fantastic. What really blew me away, however, was when Jaaka recounted a story from his childhood (the man was born in an igloo) where the village's elders were arguing about caribou. Some of them believed the animal to be hoofed and antlered, much like the one on the quarter. Others were insisting that a caribou indeed had antlers, but was the size of a wolf and had claws. It appears that the caribou were not in this area until about twenty-five or so years ago, and these elders had never seen one. What a surprise! In my mind, the Inuit of Nunavik and the caribou were inseperable. Apparently, it is the changing climate we hear so much about in the North that has actually brought the caribou here.

We reached the lake, which is pristine, clear, and surrounded by awesome mountains, and I fished for about a half an hour. No luck. Jaaka suggested that he give it a try. On his first cast, he landed a char. "Landlocked variety," he said and quickly threw it back. Second cast... landlocked variety. After a couple more casts, he gave me back the rod and said, "the Char must have moved on."

I spent a couple of hours continuing to fish, with only one good bite to show for it. Later on, Jaaka suggested that the lake might be fished out. I asked, "really? That happens here?" naive qallunat that I am. He replied that he has tried to push for the impementation of some reglations on fishing, but people have flocked to any lake he suggested needed regulation after hearing that there were fish in it.

Marion, Jakka and their kids picked berries all day while I fished unsuccessfully. I felt thoroughly unresourceful and humble when faced with the five gallon pail of berries they had picked. We returned to the camp to find our canoe with which we would retrieve the boat was out in the bay. We had waited too long and the tide was too high. The tides here are around twelve meters, some of the largest in the world. We managed to radio some people who were in the area to retrieve it for us before it sank to the bottom, for the rope tying it to the bottom was less than twelve meters long. By the time we had brought the boat up to shore, it was dark and the winds were too high to return. After several futile attempts to reach people in town with the sattelite phone so they could water and walk Igaak, we settled into the camp.

The next morning, I awoke with the sunrise, about six o'clock. After another unproductive round of fishing, and a couple of hours of waiting for the winds to die down on a larger fishing vessel, we set out for home. Luckily, my neighbour had heard the dog whining and several of the teachers took turns pampering the pooch. Upon returning, the wonderful souls that looked after Iggaak and myself set out to collect mussles, which are ridiculously abundant and easy to collect, along the bay at low tide. What a weekend. I am indebted to them dearly, and will reciprocate by cooking a caribou roast this weekend, after another trying and rewarding week of teaching.

Speaking of the school, it is so completely different from a Southern school. I spent a good eight months at Western University being beaten over the head with warnings to "never touch your students". However, last week I found myself carrying a fourteen year-old young man down the stairs while he was still in his chair, and a twelve-year old underneath my arm five minutes later. It is diffucult , but ultimately worth the effort.

Reflecting on this weekend, it has hit me. I know nothing of the North. Surprised to see the treatment of dogs, astounded by the history of the caribou in this region, and shocked by the over-fishing in some of the lakes, I was stripped of my cultural assumptions about this place, benign and repressed as they may have been. I've begun to realize just how different life in an this village is from the idea that I and so many of my Qallunaat brethren have of the North.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Two Weeks In

So, I've moved to Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec, and I'm two week in to a ten-month teaching contract. The village is gorgeous, the people are wonderful, and the teaching, well, it is difficult. Nevertheless, I am settling in, and beginning to enjoy myself.

Kangiqsujuaq, (pronounced Kang-yi-soo-you-ack) Inuktitut for “Big Bay” is set on beautiful Wakeham Bay. I’ve been to the Canadian North before, but Kangirsujuaq (alternate spelling) looks a lot more like the Scottish Highlands or the Scandinavian Fjords than it does like Yellowknife. Surrounding the village are small, majestic mountains that have huge veins of quartz running through them. In the right light, they sparkle so much that when you are hiking, it feels like you have diamonds on the soles of your shoes. Across the bay from the village are more mountains, jutting so sharply out of the water that it seems to me that an experienced climber would be in paradise. The whole thing seems so surreal, especially when I was expecting something flat and barren. There are no trees here. Not for hundreds of kilometres. Thus, a short half hour hike up one of the surrounding mountains brings spectacular vistas in every direction.

The people here are very welcoming, Well, most of them. As with any culture, there are some who are a little xenophobic, but by and large, the Inuit of Wakeham have been very welcoming to me. I’ve gone on a caribou hunt (although I cannot shoot anything until I get a permit) and will go fishing on Sunday if the winds are not too high.

When we were hunting, although Bernie, my Labrador Inuk (one Inuit) companion, and I were not able to get a caribou, we saw a family who had shot one by happenstance when they were out berry-picking. The father, James, who was field dressing the stag, offered me some meat. Anxious to try it, I accepted. Little did I know that he would give me an entire leg of it! Immediately, I responded, “No, I can’t take it, it’s too much,” to which he responded with a great deal of disappointment, “WHY NOT?!” as if to say, “Is my caribou not good enough for you?” I took it, and an hour later, Bernie was butchering it on my kitchen floor. So, the next day, I tasted the caribou in all of its glory: raw and frozen. As the Inuit would say “Mamaktuk!” It was surprisingly delicious.

Teaching here is something else. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure was a shock to me to meet my class of eleven Grade seven students, who are eleven to fourteen in age, and just as diverse in their learning levels as students. I am a strict teacher, but six days in, I turned myself into a drill sergeant. They were so ill-behaved, so seemingly incapable of sitting in their seats for more than a few minutes, that I decided it was time to try to not merely manage them, but gain control of the classroom.

Before school and after each break, the primary teachers go outside and have their students line up before taking them upstairs. It took me fifteen minutes the first time on that sixth day. So, instead of going to class, we lined up again, went upstairs, lined up outside the door, and I let them in. Eighteen minutes. So we did it again. Twenty-two. After eight consecutive trips up and down the stairs, we were able to do it in under five minutes, which is now a steadfast rule. That day, five of the eleven went home instead of continuing to line up. However, they came back, and we did it again, and again, and again, until they did it right.

It seems to have worked, for the moment. Although the class has been great ever since that day, I will have to keep up the army routine for at least a month or two before letting the reins out. Next week, they get their schedules back, which I had taken away with the stern warning that I decide what we do, not some piece of paper that lists their subjects on it.

We’ll see how it goes.