Saturday 22 October 2022

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Seventeen

So, back to writing again. New position at the school has me writing a lot more than I am used to, so keyboard time is preoccupied with that. That is all to say, being the lazy ass writer that I am, here I am again.

I ended my previous post with the dinner party we were going to have for all of the new teachers. Went really well. Our house is obviously not meant for having eight or nine guests over but we managed and those that came over seemed to survive okay. My wonderful wife cooked up something exclusively vegetarian and it was tasty and good and everyone ate their fill. Add in a little conversation and it was nice to have people over. Not sure when we will do it again but hope we will.

We had a bonfire get-together as well near my boss’s house and that was fun. Except that my poor wife felt left out since people wouldn’t/couldn’t talk with her. Hard when your first language is non-local and your second language is not the preferred method. French is dominant this year in the school, with very few attempts to provide translation or guidance. But in a social setting? It would be nice that a few would at least try rather than ignore. Cannot control it so we’ve learned to live with it.

Speaking of French, Thy’s application for her Permanent Residency has been more or less rejected, again. Or at least sort of. We were told that we have lived too long in Quebec and would have to submit a new application via the French authorities in Quebec. So, we did - and lo and behold this new twist in the road has been approved by the powers that be. The acknowledgement letter was all in French so using Google Lens we translated it line by line. I am not ashamed to say I cried like a little boy when I realized that the letter was saying, yes, ok, let’s get this new ball rolling again. Man, the stress and worry and sweaty moments has been a lot to deal with. Now we sit and wait, again, hoping someone will give us a new direction soon.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my colleagues also read the acknowledgement letter for me, to confirm what we thought was true. He’s just a really nice guy, pure and simple. We noted that he was looking a little sad a week or two ago. Then he decided he would adopt one of the neighbour’s puppies. It is really gratifying to see how happy he is now, to see the internal love flood out in real time. Pilou is a delightful little girl, one of seven puppies we used to feed on a regular basis. There are only three left now, Socks, Socks Two and Dirty Socks, plus Mommy Dog and Auntie Dog, and the occasional Daddy Dog, who crowd our doorstep on a regular basis for the daily handouts. Hunter has a major league crush on my friend and she has been granted visitation rights to him and his puppy. Amongst all the weirdness (more on that later) a little love goes a very long way.

“Thy’s Kitchen” was going fast and furious, with steamed up windows, frantic preparations and very happy customers. Then, for some reason, the business slowed a bit - it felt like after Thanksgiving people were running out of money. Then this week things exploded again and she was hard at it for nearly twelve hours. Crazy! Regardless of the ups and downs of just about any new business, we are making all sorts of new friends via Thy’s culinary masterpieces… culinary art, indeed.

We did have a first of the year potluck at my boss’s place. It was really fun, except that Thy and Hunter couldn’t attend due to colds. Lots of good people, lots of amazing food, good chats, silly laughter - kind of what you need when you are a teacher. We have a good crew this year, all working hard to work together - which, as it turns out, may become the theme of the year.

Weirdness. Well, I had a student threaten to kill me with an upraised chair - is that weird enough? Outcome was simple enough - I talked him down from it, simply because I was confident his intent was not for that but more along the lines of crying out for help. His is a sad case that keeps me awake at night, but I haven’t given up on him. He has since advised that he is quitting school (he is 18) and since that pronouncement I have bumped into him twice, each time imploring him to come back, don’t give up on yourself, etc. We’ll see how it develops.

Weirdness, too. The level of animosity in the school is way above normal levels. That’s partially due to all of the new teachers this year and the atypical approach by all the kids: push a button or two until you see where you are at. The button pushing has gotten way out of hand though, with cussing reaching filthy levels, spitting, farting in teachers’ faces, etc. Madness - stuff you know if you did it on the street someone is going to get fucked up.  Eventually someone is going to snap, unless as a group we step up and follow the process of how these things are handled in the school. What we are seeing is a consequence of non-consequence based, harm reduction teaching. Couple that with an inability of following processes set in to place to help these kids and you get some really ugly situations.

And there is more that just makes me sad but I really cannot comment on it in this very public forum. Nothing with my immediate family, just with my work family, <sigh>, the folks I spend a lot of time with. And care about. And worry about. And want to see as successful and happy and smiling and laughing human beings.

We’ll figure it out, simply because we have to - the kids are counting on it.

Take care everyone, until the next time! All blessings to you and yours, continued safe passage on all your journeys.

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Sixteen

NOTE: I started writing this on 8 June, 2022 - and I have been dodging it just about ever since. Now that is it nearly three months later - it is obviously time to catch up.

We’re almost at the completion of our first year in Salluit and thus, Canada. It has been a  very interesting year, needless to say.

Just wrapped up my 13th year of teaching. It was a very interesting year.

Interesting is a good word.

The sun has been out and shining many hours a day (sunrise is 03:21 and sunset is 22:41, but honestly the sky never really stops glowing). Sadly we’ve all had the local influenza so walking about has been somewhat curtailed. That will change, no doubt helped by a trip down South.

Had our first report of a polar bear this past week. No need to panic, no doubt just passing through - global warming will make this an all too common occurrence, unfortunately. Local folks have been out hunting - it is ptarmigan, Canada Goose and seal harvesting seasons; with the good weather we don’t see a lot of people around the town now-a-days. The ice in the bay has started to break up, you can see the sky reflected on the water now; won’t be long before the first ship of the season arrives.

We had Arctic Char for dinner tonight - a gift from one of my wife’s customer’s - pan fried with light seasoning and butter. Good on Thy, as she had to cut and gut it on her own for the very first time. It was wonderful!

As for “Thy’s Kitchen” Thy has been very successful in churning out fresh goods that people want. Chicken/pork stuffed buns, with Swiss Cheese, carrots and onions - yum! Cinnamon buns are a particular favourite - rarely she doesn’t sell out. Sourdough bread, sourdough/potato bread, the latter flipped into sandwiches have all proven to be well liked in the community. My beautiful wife is a “maker”, a “creator”. Making leather goods has not been as practical up North, so she found another niche she can work in. Baking and cooking for purchase, with all sorts of positive results. Yes, there has been the occasional dud, but very few and far between. As we are heading down South soon she has backed off for a bit - you can see the sadness in her face and, I hope, a hint that she can hardly wait to get back at it.

It was good to get down to family and friends again. We missed not seeing my brother and his family - too many other things in the way. It was really special to reconnect with my close friend Matt - I have missed him and his hugs (some of the best, trust me). Same for seeing our sister Kym - another great hugger. Unfortunately we did miss out on some others - when you have only so much time things sometimes get lost. Will have to work harder at that this Christmas.

Our eldest daughter and our granddaughter are emigrating to Scotland, so we did try to spend as much time as possible with them. It was hard to say good-bye, although I understand her reasons for the move, I still worry about the risk she is taking and how it will all work out. She’s a smart kid, so I know it will all come together, maybe not easily and smoothly, but hopefully with some light at the end of that rainbow.

Otherwise most of our time was spent running around getting the things we need and cannot get easily Up North. Both Thy and I were able to get new winter coats while the pre-season sales were on, so that was a welcome addition to our closet. It was not like layers were not working but having actual down at a reasonable price was totally worth it. We eventually found the school’s warehouse and in addition to packages we had already mailed there we added some more. Hard to believe we have already added to the 43 boxes from Vietnam but we have, easily.

After a very whirlwind twenty days South it was time to come home. And it is most definitely home; we missed Salluit. We took the time to walk around to see the parts of the village we had not seen in the previous year. This village, despite its relatively modest population is large and spread out - we got to see a lot of things we didn’t know existed. We didn’t make it to the top of the Western mountain, but that is on the agenda for the coming year.

Ah… the coming year. I was allowed to go to training this Summer, essentially a more face-to-face version than last year. It was great to put faces to names and shake a few hands and bump a few fists. Learned lots:

There are three bonafide art teachers in the entire school board.

There is no pedagogical counsellor for the Visual Arts. I made my pitch to take on this role, But…

Despite the distinct feeling that Visual Arts is not taken seriously (where have I heard that before?), based on what student examples I saw, we have a lot of work to do.

Then came the email on Friday afternoon. We had the sudden and unexpected departure of three teachers the day before. That meant the shuffling of existing resources and would I be interested in teaching Secondary 3-4-5 English/ESL and Social Studies. Ah… crap. My principal and I had talked about this risk last Spring. As the only returning English as a first language teacher I knew I would be demand, but honestly I didn’t think it would be this type of placement.  I figured I could still teach art and have some extra periods to help with English/ESL. Instead I was offered something I really didn’t expect.

Ah… if expectations were always accurate, eh?

So I have a minimum of 24 periods a week with the those who really want to be here and those who are seriously considering staying. Couple of kids on the cusp of greatness, a few who really should not be in school. As always tales of sadness and wonder and all of those teenage things that even I can remember from my own days in hormone madness. And really and truly my own home room. And that is the saving grace for giving up my art practice - my own room. Never knew being a homeroom teacher could be so rewarding. To bond, to see your kids grow, that’s a powerful feeling.

And sure it is hard and challenging and crazy, but it is only work, nothing more than that. I worry about how tired I will be, but doing something new will be taxing, at least for the first little while. I also worry about future planning - how will this sudden and drastic change look on a c.v.? Ah… damn those expectations. Damn those lame excuses.

Got a pile of new colleagues at the school this year. A wide and varied list - from never taught before to 20+ years experience. We’re having them all over for dinner this week - I’ll let you know how it goes.

For now - all the best to you and yours, be safe, be well.

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Seventeen

So, back to writing again. New position at the school has me writing a lot more than I am used to, so keyboard time is preoccupied with that...