Sunday, September 24, 2006


This week I actually had a chance to do somethings that were not really school related. I have been bugging community members for awhile to take me berry picking. I wanted to get me some bog cranberries. Finally, one of my students couldn't stand my annoying demands and relented and took me with her and her little brother. Apparently the berries are right in Trout Lake, in the bushes. I love walking through the bush here because the ground is covered with soft and deep moss - so typical of bog land. And in admidst the moss were low cranberry bushes with yummy tart cranberries.

It was cool hanging out with a student outside of school. I gathered a lot of interesting information about her family - they do talk about their dead dad and their mother is in Peerless with a new sibling. I also learned some interesting cultural information that emphasized once again our uphill struggle as educators. My student was talking about a girl in the community who is 4 and talks like a local six year old - a very developed vocabulary. My student exclaimed, "She is too young to talk like that." In our society we celebrate those that have advanced communication skills but here . . . Then my student mentioned, "Did you know that it is bad luck to teach your kid how to count before they are three? When ever my nephew (who is 8 months old) touches his fingers, we slap his hand because it is bad luck." I was aghast. No "One, Two, Three Jump"? No self discovery as a child. No wonder our kindergarten kids are only up to counting to four right now and my high school students are so frustrated.

I am not saying that their culture should change. Rather maybe our education system should be changed in order to accomodate their culture. I used to have all the "answers" but now after living here, I am not even sure what the questions are.

On Tuesday, we had a track and field meet in Peerless. It was cold and dreary and the students did not participate as much as I would have liked. But it was fun to see new students and teacher aquaintances. However, at that time I missed my friends from last year the most that I ever have. They should have been there. We should have had our debriefing session afterwards with a bottle of beer or other adult beverage. We should have been able to laugh together about certain situations that only we would find funny. But no instead there was a stranger running the shot put. A stranger that had no idea that our students had once practiced with rocks because our school did not own a shot put. A stranger who does not know that our students are incredibly capable especially at getting out of things that they should do - like participate.

I miss you my friends.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

All the time

God is good all the time.

This week I was acting as principal for a day. These are always chaotic days because not only are you trying to teach your class, with the help of an extra assistant, but you have to deal with all the crap that is happening in the school. The morning ran very smoothly but the afternoon had a bit of a different atmosphere. One of the junior high students had a bit of a break down. He would not participate in PE. He broke the fire exit sign. He swore at one of the teachers. He started to break our only shelf for shoes at the secondary end. He refused to go to class. He refused to come talk at the office. He refused to leave the school. When asked what he wanted, he said, "Nothing. I want to be left alone." Yet in his mood, we could not leave him alone because of the danger he could put himself in and the school in. And yet he didn't want to leave the school where he would have truly been left alone.

The whole time this was happening I felt no anger towards this young man. Only deep compassion and worry over the pain written all over his face and body language. In front of me was a young man with such deep hurt and anger, he could not articulate it or discern what it was that he needed. In front of me was a trapped young person with no place to go. And my heart ached for him. All I wanted to do was take him in my arms and tell him that it would be OK. There was a way of escape. There was someone who loved him and could heal his deep wounds. The hug though would have been inappropriate so I treated him with a gentleness that is not in me. A gentleness and wisdom that could only come from God.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Cast of Characters

So who are the people and teachers in Trout Lake this year? Well let me introduce you to them as I know that they will figure prominently in my posts. I feel like I know them a little bit better now as we met for dinner last night at my house. A BYOB and side (as in Bring Your Own Barbecue although I can not say for sure what was in the ever present coffee mugs which often is used to disquise alcohol from the ever present kids).

First and most important is the Big G - our beloved principal who so often lets me get my own way when it comes to our students and who truly wants to put in the time to improve our school. It is so nice having someone in the office who I can go and talk to and who shows her appreciation to us. So far I have had candy and kisses placed on my desk by her in the morning. Anyone who knows the value of chocolate in the morning is OK by me.

Next to the Big G is the Newfie - the Grade One teacher who often keeps me company in long drives to and from Trout Lake. It is always interesting to hear her views on children and school and teaching but often around her I feel slightly inadequate because as I tread water trying to keep my head from the depths of complete insanity, I often do not do everything that teachers needs to do.

Next to the Newfie is the mysterious M. She is also my roommate in the basement suite below mine. We tend to keep to ourselves or else I fear that we would mutually annoy each other and I would not be able to keep my head above the depths of complete insanity.

Next to the mysterious M is the married newbie. I have to include her husband in the description - our token male - for the two have become one. I love learning about the contradictions in people (and everyone has them) when I meet them. These two have their contradictions. He is Mr. Hunter and Gatherer. He lived in Trout as a youth when his parents taught here and is a gung-ho perfectionist (he felt it necessary to reattach the wheel to our decrepit BBQ before using it). Mr. Hunter and Gatherer is married to a vegetarian. They have had interesting prior lives. She studied film in New York City. He was heavily involved in musical theater and now they are in the middle of nowhere with me. Now there to is a contradiction. They are both super nice people and I am looking forward to getting to know them after the stress of the first month of school abates.

Next to the married newbies is the single newbie who is planning on making Trout home for now and stay here over the summer and everything. I say good for her.

It is great having new people around, although I do miss my own friends. It is fun watching them learn their limits and see their enthusiasm to teach. I feel jaded compared to them. I love my students and expect things from them but my expectations are more tempered - rather than to succeed at school, I may expect them to make me smile today or be a good person. Some of them I expect to drop out or not attend. Hopefully their no holds barred (or is it no bars held) enthusism will rub off on me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I recently caved and got satellite TV to fill in the lonely hours up here in Northern Alberta. And what was I the most excited about? The movie channels? Keeping up to date on my favorite shows? No I am most excited about having access to CBC radio. OK it will never replace CKUA in my heart. After all CKUA is the best radio station in the world and is Alberta born and bred (check it out at However, the CBC does come in a close second.

So every morning I wake up and brew my coffee to the sounds of CBC Radio 1 Vancouver. I feel connected to the world. I catch the news. I hear Canadian musicians. And today I whooped and hollered when Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe came on the air, especially since he had the Wailing Jennies and Randy Bachman providing the music for his show. After the laughter that the Vinyl Cafe induces, I took part in the Canadian wide discussion of whether or not our troops should withdraw from Afghanistan via Country Checkup with good old Rex Murphy. I stated my opinions vehmenently to my empty house and felt damn good afterwards. Why didn't I think of getting Satellite TV earlier?

Life is good right now. I am glad that I decided to come back up North although I will miss my family incredibely. So to become more connected, I decided to switch my blogging to this spot. My real emotional stuff might still go in my previous diary but we shall see. My goal in this exercise is to get my bro to put me in his most visited column.