Saturday, December 16, 2017

Parents Night In December

3045 Corps held its second Parents Night Parade on December 6.  The corps usually waits until February but there was enough content to warrant a parade before the end of 2017.  This would also be my first Parents Night Parade as the Guest Reviewing Officer (GRO).
Target scores & PT Test Scores.
The cadets & adult staff arrived at the school’s gym at 5:30pm to set up.  The gym was converted into a makeshift parade square, complete with fold out chairs, flags, awards table, and reception tables.  The cadets additionally posted the summary attendance, best marksmanship scores, and best physical training (PT) test scores on the walls of the gym for guests to look at.  Once everything was ready, the cadets changed into their green dress uniforms.

The parade started at 6:30pm.  A sizeable audience was in attendance.  The cadets came to attention in the centre of the gym as I marched in.  Upon taking my place at the front of the parade, the General Salute and O Canada were played.  The cadet parade commander reported to me and escorted me to inspect the cadets.  The audience sat down.  While I inspected the cadets, Lt. (ret). May welcomed everyone to the parade and briefly explained what was happening in the corps.

Cadet Iqaqrialu receives her
marksmanship badge.
The cadets demonstrated their marching capabilities by doing a March Past.  I took the salute.  I proceeded with the awarding of marksmanship badges.  There are four marksmanship levels in the cadet program, one being the lowest & four being the highest.  I called out each cadet and presented them with their respective badges.  I repeated the process when it came time to hand out the PT badges.  There are also four levels in the cadet PT program, but they’re organized as Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Excellence.  The corps holds PT tests on the first Saturday of every month.  I also participate.  To the delight of the cadets, I granted them permission to post my results from the last test.  Let’s just say that I’m almost physically fit.
Cadet Ejangiaq receives his PT Excellence badge.
Having a Parents Night Parade in December gave me the opportunity to announce the marksmanship & biathlon teams.  The cadets had been asking me since October but I kept telling them to be patient.  Now the time had come.  I could see from their faces that the cadets were anxious to know who made the teams.  I explained to the audience that cadets are selected for teams based on the 3 As: Attendance, Attitude, and Ability.
Marksmanship Team
Biathlon Team.
I started with the Marksmanship Team.  I called out the six lucky recipients and asked them to form up at the front so they could be acknowledged and photographed.  I shook each cadet’s hand and personally congratulated them.  I repeated the process for the Biathlon Team except I called out a seventh cadet.  The chosen cadets for both teams were obviously pleased.  To the cadets who weren’t chosen, I told them to not be disappointed.  Their time will come.
Good attenders.
Cadets who maintained a high level of attendance – 80% or higher – were called out to be recognized.  I was happy to see the majority of cadets on parade at the front of the parade. 
Cdt. Tilley receives her promotion to LCpl.
The Willie Twins salute before being
promoted to the rank of Cpl.
The last part of the parade was the promotions.  There were only a few at the end of the year.  Two cadets advanced to the rank of Lance Corporal, another two cadets advanced to the rank of Corporal, one cadet was promoted to Master-Corporal, and one senior cadet was promoted to the rank of Sargent.  Each cadet received a rank badge and pair of slip on ranks.  The five cadets were proud that they were “advancing in the ranks.”

Cadet Qaqqasiq-Taqtu salutes before being promoted to the rank of Sgt.
The parade finished with the Advance In Review Order, General Salute, and the playing of God Save The Queen. 
Everyone was treated to refreshments after the parade.  A few volunteers prepared Christmas themed cupcakes and sweets.  The cadets also received new corps t-shirts & hoodies before heading home for the night. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December (2017) Has Arrived!

Inuujaq School began the month of December by thanking the bus driver and custodians for their hard work.  Everyone assembled in the gym for a special breakfast.  The bus driver and custodians sat at the front of the gym behind a line of tables.  The tables were filled with juice boxes, coffee, yogurt, and bannock.  The principal introduced the people sitting at the tables and then led the student body in saying “Thank You!” in Inuktitut.  An applause followed.  I could tell from the faces of the bus driver & custodians that they appreciated being acknowledged for what they do.  The students were fed bannock, yogurt, and juice.  The breakfast was done in thirty minutes.

At the end of the school day, (December 1), the staff assembled in the staff room to celebrate four birthdays.  I photographed the four staff members sitting on a couch behind a birthday cake made by JF.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and the four cut the cake into equal slices.  Someone also brought raw arctic char and narwhal to share.  Large pieces of cardboard were spread out on the floor and the Inuit teachers began cutting pieces with ulus.  I sat down next to them and ate several pieces of char.  I also had a slice of cake.  Delicious.

The high school wing was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  The high school students began decorating the wing with various Christmas decorations.  There were stars, streamers, and many posters.  I made a candy cane and Christmas tree posters using finger paints.  By December 8, Christmas decorations were all over the school.

Aside from all the Christmas decorations that have gone up, the Grade 1 class put together an art display titled, “People who work in our school.”  Each student was given one staff member and tasked with drawing them.  (Inuujaq School staff were not asked to pose).  Regardless, I think the final drawings turned out alright.   

The local Food Bank was also getting into the Christmas Spirit by preparing Christmas hampers.  These hampers were filled with various food items and would be gifted to needy families in the community.  A portion of the food was donated from the local Northern Store.

The staff Christmas Dinner on the evening of December 8.  Staff were allowed to bring one guest.  The dinner was a pot luck so everyone had to bring something.  I brought Triscuit crackers and smoked Gouda cheese.  The dinner took place in the high school math & science classroom.  Tables & chairs were rearranged, and Christmas decorations & a tree were put up.  The food was placed at the back of the room.  When everyone was present, an elder blessed the food and the dinner began.  We all dined like royalty.

The dinner ended with the usual Secret Santa gifts exchange.  Participants had three chances to guess who their Secret Santa’s were for the past week.  If they guessed correctly, great.  If not, the Secret Santa would stand up for everyone to see.  They would then present the final gift to the person.  The cycle continued until there were no more presents under the tree.
Everyone helped clean up the math & science room.  The decorations were left alone because JF wanted his students to write their final exams in a more Christmas-like atmosphere.

Speaking of final exams, they were held during the last week of school (Dec. 11 – 13).  I only administered two exams: Grade 10 English & Grade 10 Social Studies.  My drummers had a final performance test.  I made sure my students reviewed all the necessary materials well before the exams were given.  I also made sure my exams had answer keys.  Marking exams is so much easier when you have answer keys. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Late November (2017)

Dark season is in full swing.  The sun no longer rises above the mountains, and it gets dark & cold at night.  When I go outside, I wear my heavy Canada Goose clothing and always carry a flashlight with me.  I started taking Vitamin D pills several days ago and they seem to be working.  I’m still in good spirits and not feeling agitated.  It will take a few more days for my mind to get used to seeing darkness in the morning.  My skidoo works in the colder weather but it needs several more minutes to warmup.  The ice in the bay is thick enough to support skidoos & vehicles.
3045 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps promotes the 3 “A’s”: Attendance, Attitude, Ability.  It’s what the adult staff uses when choosing cadets to be on certain teams, attend summer camps, and representing the corps & cadet movement while out of town.  Even though adult staff repeat these three words very often, the cadets tend to forget them.  I decided to help the cadets remember these words by having them printed on custom made fidget spinners.  The test batch arrived in the mail several days ago and I was excited. 
I didn’t tell the cadets about the fidget spinners until Wednesday, November 22.  At the end of the night, I called out cadet Willie, Lloyd and presented him with one in recognition for maintaining 100% attendance.  I could see from the other cadets’ faces that they were jealous.  I told them more 3045 fidget spinners were on the way . . . from a factory in China.
My Grade 10 English students were deep into the last unit of the course: oral pieces.  They’re one-act plays.  I’m glad the students find the plays I’ve chosen to be quite amusing.  My students don’t have to get up and act out the parts but I do encourage them to read at least one character.  What I like about the plays I use is that the playwright wrote characters that cater to the three kinds of students: those who like to read a lot, those who like to read a fair amount, and those who read only a little bit.  There’s a part for everyone!   
My Grade 10 Social Studies students are completing their study of the Canadian Residential School System.  They’ve read survivor stories, learned about brave & influential voices, and listened to a residential school survivor tell his story about attending schools in Inuvik & Churchill.
My drummers & I are getting ready for the upcoming Christmas concert in December.  We learned a few new cadences and some worked on their solos.  My students felt as if they were on tour, having to prepare for a third public concert.  In previous years, the drum class performs only twice. 
The highlight of the month was me showing them the water effect.  The deal was that everyone had to clean up the mess on the floor and their drums at the end of the lesson.  You pour water on your drums and then play loudly.  The water bounces upwards, creating a spectacular visual effect.  We wore black aprons to protect our clothes from getting wet.  Several drummers put forth the idea of using the effect at the upcoming Christmas concert, but in the end, we decided against it, because there would be too many microphone wires on stage.  Nevertheless, the students really enjoyed playing with water.   
When teachers from the south travel up north to teach in the communities, they do not realize that many Inuit are unfamiliar with English idioms.  I do my best not to use too many in the classroom unless I’m prepared to explain what they mean.  The high school students are getting better at recognizing and understanding idioms.  Sometimes a little too well.  Late in the month, my English students were working on their one act play assignments, some alone and some in pairs.  Two of my students were complaining that they couldn’t think of anything (writer’s block) so I told them to their heads together and brainstorm some ideas.  Well, they certainly did put their heads together!  (See attached photo).  I took a photograph of them before helping another student with their assignment.       

November 24 was the secretary’s last day.  She had found another job in town.  The staff of Inuujaq School decided to do something nice on her last day.  Two large Thank You cards, one in English, the other in Inuktitut, were written up and signed by students and teachers.  After school, the staff gathered around a phone in the staff room while the secretary sat in the main office.  The staff paged the main office and one-by-one, each staff member gave a personal Thank You message to the secretary.  The secretary was then called down to the staff room for a social gathering.
The secretary listening to the thank you messages.
The staff wait for the secretary to arrive.
Secretary shows off an her ulu
The secretary entered the staff room and everyone applauded.  She sat down on a couch and was presented a few gifts.  She unwrapped each gift and showed them.  The one I liked was the large ulu (knife).  The secretary thanked everyone for the cards, gifts, and said she will miss working at Inuujaq School.  We all enjoyed a variety of snacks after the gift unwrapping.  I don’t think anyone ate dinner that night.     

The afternoon of Monday, November 27 was filled with music.  Dubbed Music Monday, the teachers & students of Inuujaq School went down to the gym to enjoy Inuit music performances.  I believe schools across Nunavut held similar events the previous week, part of a territorial wide initiative to keep Inuit culture alive.
Grade 3 Class.
Once everyone was gathered, the assembly began with the Grade 3 class singing an Inuit song.  This was followed by the Grade 7 teacher singing a different song and being accompanied by a high school Inuit drum dancer.  The assembly took a brief detour to the Caribbean with the duet drum performance of the Grades 9 & 8 teachers.  Calbert is from Jamaica and decided to show everyone that drumming is very important & popular in his home country.  He & John played several rhythms on two African hand drums.  John provided the accompaniment and Calbert improvised.  The audience was really impressed.  The last act was Debbie, the high school Inuit culture teacher.  Holding a Yamaha acoustic guitar, she played & sang a joyful song in Inuktitut and got everyone to clap along.
Calbert & John.
I was asked if my drummers could perform for Music Monday, but we declined the invitation.  We were still tired from performing at the Canada 150 Cultural Show and needed time to prepare for the Christmas Concert.  Overall, Music Monday was a fun afternoon.

Even though Arctic Bay is surrounded by mountains, the community still receives adverse weather every now & then.  The morning of November 29 was very windy, so much that school was cancelled.  Rather than head home in the dark, Calbert, John, JF, & I decided to stay and get ahead in our work.  JF, the high school math & science teacher, later recruited us to try out a new product that was sent to him. 

The product was from  Basically, it’s a curling set you can play off the ice.  Inside the large bag are 8 curling “stones” on wheels and two large scoring mats.  We laid the mats at opposite ends of the high school hallway and took turns pushing the red & purple stones as close as possible to the centre of the mat.  I have to admit, it was a lot of fun throwing/pushing stones down the high school hallway.  Calbert, John, & JF agreed and assumed the students will also enjoy playing floor curling.  The rules of curling are still a little confusing to me, but with much practice, I’ll get it . . . eventually.   

I try floor curling for the first time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Canada 150 Celebrations

Source: Wikipedia.
Canada officially celebrated its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.  The federal government began the festivities on January 1, (2017), and encouraged everyone to not stop “partying” until December 31 . . . 2017.  Half a billion dollars was set aside for sesquicentennial events and projects across the country.  A logo was designed, commemorative currency & stamps were produced, and posters & banners were plastered everywhere.  A line of Canada 150 merchandise was started and could be purchased online or from authorized dealers.  The National Film Board of Canada did a four-part online series, 1 Nation. Four Lenses, and CTV produced Canada in a Day, a documentary film that presents life in Canada over the span of 24 hours.  I should point out that I know the Inuk lady who was chosen by Canada Post to appear on the Canada 150 Nunavut stamp.  She is from Arctic Bay and works at the local Co-op!   

The attraction that drew the most interest in Nunavut was the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour, a nine-week summer air show tour that would visit every northern community in the three territories.  Unfortunately, the tour was grounded after 63 performances, due to lack of funding.  The remaining 35 communities, Arctic Bay included, never got to see the amazing performances.  I would have missed the Arctic Bay show anyway because I was down south for the summer.  Hopefully, the tour will be resurrected in the near future and the remaining 35 northern communities will get to see planes doing awesome tricks in the sky.

I wasn’t in Ottawa on July 1 for Canada Day, a decision I regretted for a short time.  I, and the rest of the world, found out that the festivities in the nation’s capital didn’t go quite as planned.  The celebrations were plagued by disorganization, long security lineups, overcrowding, delayed buses, and rain.  I guess no one thought to put portable toilets next to the security line.  If only the new hockey stadium had been built in LeBreton Flats.  The organizers could have rented that place and filled it with thousands of visitors watching a live-feed of the performances on Parliament Hill.  Maybe that will happen in the year 2067 when Canada celebrates its 200th birthday?  Only time will tell.

Arctic Char.
Early in the year, Inuujaq School was made aware that there was money available from the Canada 150 Fund to organize cultural activities in the community.  A committee was formed and began looking at what could be done to celebrate the sesquicentennial.  (I was on the committee.)  After much discussion, the committee decided to organize a community feast and cultural show.  The original plan was to hold both events in May but for some reason, the money was not received in time, forcing us to delay the events until the fall.  (The committee was actually glad of this because May is a pretty stressful month with a lot of things already happening).  Several more meetings were held in the fall to finalize the programs and duties.  The community feast was set for November 15 and the cultural show on November 16.  (The money from the Canada 150 fund was received by then).

Caribou meat.
Vegetables & cups.
Preparations for the community feast began in the afternoon.  Bins and containers full of prepared foods were spread across the Home Ec Room.  The Breakfast Coordinator was preparing loaves of bread and bannock.  The bins contained arctic char, seal & caribou meats, and the containers were filled with cut up vegetables.  The food, juice boxes, plastic cups, and anything else needed were transported to the community hall after school.

Inuujaq School staff are ready to serve.
The community feast began at 6pm.  A tarp was laid down in the centre of the hall and country food was placed on it.  (Country food as in arctic char and seal meat).  A line of tables was set in front of the stage.  The bins of cooked country food were placed here.  The fruits, vegetables, bread, bannock, and caribou stew were placed on tables set up around the tarp.  Inuujaq School staff stood at all the tables wearing blue latex gloves, ready to serve guests.  The principal welcomed everyone to the community feast, sponsored by Canada 150.  The food was blessed by an elder and then everyone lined up for food. 

I helped the staff by serving large pieces of cooked seal meat and then handing out frozen country food.  I ate a little bit after everyone was served.  Many people took the frozen country food home in plastic bags to save for later.  I think we fed more than half the town.  It’s good to see people going home with full stomachs, because Nunavut families are struggling with food insecurity.

The cultural show was the very next night.  My drummers and I were on the program.  We didn’t have much time to prepare because we had just performed at Halloween.  We only made a few adjustments to our list of performance pieces.  The emcees for the show were Paulette Campbell & Geela Arnauyumayuq.  Paulette is the high school art teacher and Geela is the mayor.

Olayuk Kigutikarjuk.
Geela & Paulette
The show began with a prayer & lighting of the qulliq by Olayuk Kigutikarjuk, a well-respected elder.  She spoke in Inuktitut while Geela translated in English.  Next was the mural presentation.  Paulette had been working on the mural for many weeks and it was displayed at the high school graduation ceremony in June (2017) but it wasn’t finished.  She was grateful to have been given extra time to add all the details.  The completed mural was unveiled and received an extended applause.  Many people walked up to the stage to take photographs.

Grade 3 singing "O Canada". Mural in the background.
The Grade 3 students sang O Canada in English & Inuktitut.  Eunice, the Grade 7 teacher, sang two traditional Inuit songs while two high school students provided musical accompaniment on Inuit drums.  Everyone then watched a video of an elder telling an old Inuit legend to school children.  This was followed by two students who throat sang for the audience.  Another video was shown, this time narrated by Adrian Arnauyumayuq, who talked about surviving a polar bear attack at the floe edge in 2014. 

Inuit Fashion show contestants.
Adult contestants.
The Grade 9 Inuktitut class performed two western dances.  Next came the traditional Inuit fashion show.  Contestants appeared on stage in their traditional clothes and the judges decided who was the best dressed.  There were 3 categories: children, teenagers, and adults.  I could have entered the competition because I have sealskin kamiks, mitts, parka, vest, and tie.  There’s always a next time.

Inuujaq School High School
The last video to be shown was This Is Arctic Bay, a compilation video of many different clips that showcase the community and its people.  The video was prepared by Clare Kines.  The high school drumline was the last performance on the program.  Naturally, all the kids crowded around the front of the stage, excited to see what my drummers could do.  We “rocked the house” in my opinion.  We played three cadences as a group and several of us played solos.

The emcees thanked everyone for coming to the show and the curtains closed for the last time.   

The Canada 150 celebrations in Arctic Bay were a success, but overall, the festivities across the nation have received mixed reviews.  It was pretty obvious from the beginning that planners wanted to top Expo 67, but I don’t think they succeeded.  Criticisms came from all directions, many legitimate, many others not so legitimate.  I understand & sympathize with Canada’s Aboriginal population who mostly saw Canada 150 as a celebration of colonialism, and pointing out that the $500 million-dollar budget could have been spent eliminating the Third World living conditions that many Aboriginals in Canada continue to experience (Nunavut included).  It makes me wonder if those same criticisms were present during Expo 67, but the federal & provincial governments did a much better job at suppressing them?

I can only hope that the problems that continue to plague this country will be properly addressed & corrected before the year 2067, Canada’s 200th birthday.