Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 218

School has begun, and with the beginning of school has come the insanity. I have not stopped; I have not had time to think about awesomes, let alone write about them. But I can guarantee they’ve been happening, and after a day like today (the first really challenging and exhausting day I’ve had since I arrived in Kuujjuaq), I will make more of an effort to savour them.

1. Awesome was a fantastic first day of school. Last Friday, for the first time, I had my students all day. The day was full of introductions, icebreaker activities and warm up games, as well as going over rules and practicing routines. I’ve been blessed with a group of comedians and intellectuals – an energetic class of 15 little people who I can genuinely see myself having a great year with. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better first day of school.

2. Awesome was an amazing birthday (which was on Sunday). I celebrated Saturday night with a sushi-themed dinner party at my house with 10 of my new friends, and was treated, the next morning, to a lovely breakfast of banana pancakes with chocolate sauce, all made from scratch by someone awesome.

3. Awesome was joining all of the new teachers for a potluck on Sunday night at a colleague’s house. With a significantly greater number of colleagues, it’s hard to connect with everybody. In fact, there are some with whom I’ve not had a chance to connect with at all since orientation week started (more than 2 weeks ago). This was a good opportunity.

4. Awesome was the incredible amount of support around me as I work through some typical first-of-the-school-year, new-teacher-in-a-new-village hiccups, and the few behavioural challenges with which I’ve been faced. To have this support, which wasn’t always available to me before, makes such a huge difference!

5. Awesome was having breakfast with a friend from Moncton yesterday morning. Having a friend here that I know from elsewhere not only gives me another connection in my new village, but it also gives me someone to talk to about things other than school and Kuujjuaq. Though I’m loving (almost) every moment of it, it’s good to have that little bit of a breather.

6. Awesome was a number of surprises in the mail, including gifts and birthday cards. Also awesome was an astounding abundance of birthday love that I received on my Facebook wall, in my inbox and email, and over the telephone. Nakurmiik. 

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Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 217

1. Awesome was a smooth and successful meet and greet at school. Yesterday morning, at 10:30 am, students and parents gathered in Jaanimmarik School’s gym to kick off the new school year. Speeches were made by the mayor, commissioner and principal, the staff was introduced, and students were called up one class at a time to line up and go to see their respective classrooms. 

My little grade 6 class consists of 12 students – 6 boys (one of whom I’d taught for a year and a half in Tasiujaq) and 6 girls. They’re an energetic bunch, and I anticipate we have a fun year ahead 🙂

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2. Awesome was being given the opportunity to be the union representative of the school this year. It’s something that I did in Tasiujaq last year and the year before and, though it was challenging, it was a huge learning and professional growth experience. And with 2 years’ experience, some training under my belt now, and the incredible support of the union people with whom I have and will continue to work, I feel fully prepared to do it. 

3. Awesome was a lovely evening in with someone awesome, celebrating a successful first day of school and just enjoying each other’s company.

Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 216

With my return to work this past Monday, along with quality time spent with someone awesome, I’ve barely had time to post.

1. Awesome was, obviously, quality time spent with someone awesome :).

2. Awesome was, over the course of 3 pedagogical days and 4 meetings, the growing feeling of being a strong part of a positive, energetic, hardworking and dedicated, and downright friendly team.

3. Awesome was, after many hours, finally getting my classroom exactly the way I dreamed of. Thanks to some wonderful ideas from my colleagues, from various websites (particularly this one), and the fantastic organization of the teacher whose room I am taking over, I am blessed with the opportunity to teach in a classroom infinitely more bright, spacious and full of resources and materials than I’ve ever had. I am now ready to meet my students tomorrow morning!

Here is a tour, starting from the door and working from left to right:

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The “Organization Station”. On the bulletin board, I’ve posted the daily agenda, monthly calendar and other information students need to know about their day/month/year. On the table, I have boxes for their homework folders, busy books and tool kits (books in which they will put resources they will need for independent work like word banks, tables and charts). I also have a bin for extra handouts for kids who lose theirs or need a new one. 

In the drawers, I have all the school supplies students will need to do their work (pencils, pens, post-its, rulers, highlighers, etc.). Beside that is the “Inbox”. Each student has a slot in which they will put their finished work for me to mark (no more mountainous paper piles on my desk!). On the wall, I’ve posted a “Class Jobs” chart, on which I will rotate students every day. Beside that is the “Homework Checklist” where I will keep tabs monthly of students who return their homework (incentives will go monthly to students who bring it every day). 

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The “English Station” and class library. On the table, I have bins and boxes for their various English-related books. The class library is divided into fiction, chapter books and non fiction. The fiction books are divided into numbered and colour-coded reading levels. I also have thesauruses, dictionaries, encyclopedias and atlases for students to use. 

On the filing cabinet, I’ve hung a pink card for each student to put in the space from which they took their book, so that they can return their book to the same spot. Students will be allowed to take 1 book at a time, and if they have a book, I’ll expect their card to be holding a spot somewhere on the shelf. This will keep my class library effortlessly organized (I hope!)

On the wall, once we start working with the writing process, I will create a chart with each step of the writing process and have a clothes pin with each of their names, which I will move each time they complete a step. I will also have a bin for students’ reading lots for independent reading. And, in the window, I will hang a “clothes line” from which I will hang published work from Writer’s Workshop. 

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The Personal and Social Development, Social Studies Stations and Games Stations. This is where students will keep their books for those subjects, and have access to various board games, card games and the like when the time is right. 

In the cupboards, I’ve organized all of my teacher’s guides, manuals and supplementary resources by subject. Underneath, in the cubbies, I’ve organized them to hold cd’s, stickers and magnets, fancy paper, little whiteboards and chalkboards, big posters I will use throughout the year but don’t need yet, chart paper and extra school supplies. 

The cupboards and the cubbies are “off limits” to the students (there are little white labels that say that), but they can use some of the things in the cubbies if they need to and ask first.

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The Math Wall will be the red and white bulletin board (where I will post things directly related to what we are currently learning), as well as the wall space from floor to ceiling immediately surrounding that (to the other side of the Smart Board). I will be constantly rotating stuff. Once things are no longer very current, but still needed on the walls, I will move them into the yellow space and remove things that are expected to just be known (or have been integrated into their tool kits). This keeps my walls nice and plain (as overstimulation can be a problem), in a nice, systematic way in which students can follow and always know where to find what they need. 

I’ve arranged the desks into clusters. Each cluster will be a “family”. On Friday, students will be arranged in their families and be given an opportunity to choose a family name. These will be the groups they will work in for cooperative learning activities…but they will be allowed to move their desks away (as long as they do so quietly, which I will train them how to do, and move them back in their cluster when they’re done) during independent work time. 

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The red and blue bulletin board and the wall space, from floor to ceiling, around it, is the Rules and Strategies Wall. The green cards are the class rules. As I teach them, I will post cards that depict the learning strategies that students will use. I will also post other important things as they relate to classroom management.

On the side of the filing cabinet, I’ve posted a green, yellow and red card, and have made a clothespin with each of the students’ names on them. Every day, students will start with their clothespin on the green card, which means they are listening and behaving well. If they start to not listen, or to misbehave, I will move their clothes pin to the yellow card, which means “be careful”. If they are really not listening, or misbehaving, I will move their clothes pin to the red card, which means “Uh oh!”. Students who finish the day on the green card every day for a week will have their name put on the “Wall of Fame”, which is going to be immediately under the cards.

I also have a “street light” that I will hang (I needed a nail and hammer so I haven’t done it yet). It also has green, yellow and red lights. I will use that as visual for whole-class behaviour. 

Inside the filing cabinet is the Art Station, full of paint, pastels, markers, glitter, glue and every other Art supply imaginable. 

The chalkboard is the Word Wall, where I will stick cards with words of the week under their appropriate letters. I will remove them after a week, once students have had lots of time to view them, and to put them in their desktop dictionaries, and keep them in a bin to use for spelling games, word challenges and other activities. This will, again, keep my walls uncluttered and effective. 

Under the Word Wall is the Math Station.

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And now, a panoramic view 🙂

Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 215

Life has been nonstop busy. I had a lot of things planned this week, what with new teacher orientation, Aqpik Jam and just general moving to a new place activities. When I wasn’t off doing those things, I’ve been home, with just enough time to put my feet up before I get called off to do something else. It’s been amazingly awesome and tonnes of fun – exactly the change I needed!

1. Awesome was entertaining friends for the first time in my new home on Friday night. We all gathered together to have a spring roll making dinner party and have fruit with chocolate fondu.

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2. Awesome was spending the afternoon with friends from Tasiujaq on Friday. We had coffee and ran some errands, then I gave them a scenic tour of Kuujjuaq which included a drive up to the top of the “lookoff”, to the marina and to the lake.

Kuujjuaq 18Tatyana and I at the “lookoff”.

Kuujjuaq 19Inukshuk over Kuujjuaq.

Kuujjuaq 20Me at the marina.

Kuujjuaq 21Me picking berries at the lake. 

3. Awesome was a moment of “air clearing”, and the time that followed.

4. Awesome was another night out with friends, and meeting new friends. Life here reminds me a lot of life in Dawson City, only significantly less wild and transient. Part of the reason I chose to move here was for the social opportunities, but so far, the opportunities to be social are far more excessive than I ever dreamed of. I know that things will calm down now that new teacher orientation and Aqpik Jam are over, but I also know that they won’t go away completely. I have a feeling that some good memories are in store for me in Kuujjuaq.

Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 214

With my house pretty much in order,  I figured that yesterday’s quiet afternoon would provide perfect opportunity to spend some time in my classroom, setting up. I drove down to the school immediately after eating lunch (a little earlier than 12:00, as I’d both woken up early and gone to the gym). Just as I arrived, all the teachers, released from their respective orientation sessions, gathered outside to wait for the bus. They were going for a picnic on the land.

I was invited – an offer I gladly accepted purely for the social opportunity and the chance to be outside. Thus,

1. Awesome was an afternoon on the land with all of the new teachers.

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After everyone had finished eating, two Inuit women gathered everyone together to announce an activity. Teachers would be split into two teams, each given a tupiq (traditional Inuit tent) to put together. I’m not sure if this was a contest, or just a team building activity, but it was fun.

2. Awesome was this little cultural experience, and to partake in a some of the orientation activities (I was hired late in the school year in 2010, thus I didn’t get to do any of this stuff).

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Me and our tupiq.

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Team tupiq.

After the picnic and activities, as new teachers gathered in the tupiq for a final orientation workshop (throat singing lessons!) I drove back to the school to work on my classroom a little bit. A plan to stay one hour turned into 2.5 solid hours of work.

3. Awesome was getting started, and making good progress on my classroom – thus putting me a little bit ahead of the game for Monday (the first of two pedagogical days before students arrive).

4. Awesome was an evening full of great music at Aqpik Jam, a quiet drink with friends at the Kuujjuaq lounge, and dancing to Dida Heilmann and her band from Nuuk, Greenland rock out at the Kuujjuaq bar, and then watching the fireworks close the festival.

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Simeonie, Zebedee and Jeannie at Aqpik Jam.

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Dida Heilmann and her band at the Kuujjuaq bar.

Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 213

1. Awesome was a fun night out at the Kuujjuaq lounge.

2. Awesome was the opportunity to meet new people – tonnes of new people. Five days ago, in need of someone who could help me with my car troubles, I began my search at the hotel. There, I got talking to one of the women who was working at the front desk.

My request for help turned into conversation, which turned into an invitation to last night’s festivities. It turns out, last night was her last one in town, so it was a sort of a goodbye party, but there were plenty of other people there for me to meet who are staying.

3. Awesome was a workout at the gym, which I had all to myself. While part of the reason I opted to get a gym membership was for the social aspect, it is nice to neither have to wait to use the one elliptical in the room nor feel rushed to get off of it. I’m sure this will change soon, as I’ll be back to work and forced to go before or after work hours (when everyone else is there), so I’ll savour it for the time being.

Daily Dose of Awesome – Day 212

Well Kuujjuaq is quickly feeling more and more like home. I seem to be past all the little hiccups, and seem to have accomplished all of the little transitional things involved in moving to a new place. As exciting as the whole process is (despite the frustrations), now I can really just savour the awesome.

1. Awesome was acquiring a gym membership – a 10 month gym membership! After 3 years in a village with no gym, where I had to be very intrinsically motivated and very creative in order to continue to work out regularly throughout my time in Tasiujaq, I decided to treat myself to this.

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2. Awesome was putting some finishing touches on my home. Now I can post photos!

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Dining room.

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Living room.

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Kitchen.

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Bathroom.

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Bedroom (I’m still waiting for some picture frames to arrive, in which I will frame some of my art and some photos and hang them up).

3. Awesome was an evening of live entertainment (comedy and music) at Aqpik Jam (Kuujjuaq’s annual music festival).

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The stage, just before the show started.

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I even got to indulge in a cup of suvalik 🙂

Afterward, I took some of the new teachers out for a little drive to see some arsaniit (northern lights). They were faint, but they were arsaniit nonetheless (later on, however, I looked out my bedroom window and saw vivid green ones dancing over the hill. Now I know to go a bit later).