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.