Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cannabis & The Winter Olympics

One issue that’s been generating a lot of buzz in Canada for the last little while is the impending legalization of marijuana in 2018.  Rumour has it that marijuana will become legal on July 1, 2018, but many are speculating that that date will not be met.  Instead, people are looking towards the fall of 2018.
I’ve never smoked or consumed marijuana.  You don’t have to believe me, but I can say that with my head held high.  I’m aware of the “Everyone has done it at least once!” mentality in mainstream society, but I’m not part of that person.  I’m in the minority.  I don’t fancy the stuff that smells like dog poop when it’s burned and I have no intention of trying it when it becomes legal.  I have hung out with people who use recreational marijuana but only to eat their snacks when they’re not looking. 
Representatives from the Government of Nunavut came to Arctic Bay from Iqaluit to hold a community meeting about marijuana legalization on February 21.  I decided to attend the meeting and see what legalization would mean for the community.  Marijuana use is already happening in Arctic Bay but behind closed doors.  Some of my students are users.
The meeting took place at the community hall in the evening.  The representatives sat at the front behind a line of tables and a large white screen hung behind them.  Rows of chairs had been set up for community members.  The meeting would be held in Inuktitut & English.  Free coffee & tea was available.  I jokingly asked one of the representatives if the coffee & tea was spiked with marijuana.  He said no.
The representatives did a brief overview of the marijuana legislation brought in by the federal government and explained what will happen when marijuana becomes legal.  They explained that nothing big should happen except people will now be able to smoke & consume it freely and out in the open.  Each person will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana with them.  A 30-gram bag of oregano was passed around to show the amount.  I have to say that 30 grams is a lot.  The representatives also said that rules regarding ordering & delivery in Nunavut are still being written.  I heard rumours that the Northern Store does not want to be a dispensary.
The second half of the meeting was devoted to questions and answers.  A microphone was passed around and people were given the opportunity to ask questions to the panel and/or share their thoughts & opinions about marijuana.  I chose to chill and listen.  The concerns I heard were: increase in use, increase in crime, less money for food, less time spent in school, and more discussions are needed.  Unfortunately for the detractors, legalization is inevitable and happening this year, so everyone will have to adapt once the big day comes.         

The 2018 Winter Olympics took place in PyeongChang, South Korea, from February 9 – 25.  The first week of the international sports extravaganza occurred during PD Week in Nunavut.  While I was attending the PD Conference in Iqaluit, I did manage to catch some Olympic highlights on TV, but mostly used the Internet to keep up to date with Canada’s medal count.  Olympic fever continued with the resumption of classes the following week.

JF, the high school science & math teacher, set up a large Olympic display in the high school section.  The main board displayed the competition schedule, a medals counter, and pictures of the Canadian athletes who won medals.  Around the main board were posters of the Canadian athletes and the Olympic flag.

JF encouraged all classes to visit the Olympic display and kept everyone up to date on Canada’s progress.  It was great to see the medal counter steadily increasing with each passing day.  JF was able to stream the Olympics in his classroom using the Internet.  I took my entire class over to watch the Men’s Hockey match between Canada & Germany on February 23.  The game would decide if Canada would advance to the finals.  The atmosphere in JF’s class was energetic as everyone cheered for Canada to win.  Unfortunately, we all watched as Canada lost the game.  We were all greatly disappointed.  In the end, Canada faced off against the Czech Republic for the Bronze and won.

Speaking of bronze, Canada ended the games in third place, with 11 golds, 8 silvers, and 10 bronze.  Norway came in first place and Germany came second.  Hopefully, Canada will do better in 2022, in Beijing.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Sun Returns & The Qanirraqtit Conference

The day was February 5th and the very special moment had finally arrived.  I briefly stopped teaching my second period class and quickly drew open the red curtains.  Several students from other classes came into mine as I was pulling out my digital camera from my backpack.  We all watched through the windows and waited in silence.  My camera was at the ready.
This is exactly like All Summer In A Day without the constant rain, I thought to myself.
If the surrounding mountains were not in the way, this important event would be happening in late January.  After waiting a minute or two, the sun appeared from behind a mountain.  Not all of it; just the “top” part, if you can call it that.  That’s all everyone needed.  “The sun’s back!” someone said.  I clicked several pictures.  Dark season was done for another year.
As I’ve written on many previous accounts, the sun disappears from view in mid-November and doesn’t come back until early February.  Arctic Bay still receives some sunlight in the middle of the day but we don’t see the actual sun.  The departure of the sun is a somber moment but its return is a celebration.  The sun only stayed up for about 20 minutes before sinking behind a mountain.  From now on, the sun will stay above the mountains for an additional 20 minutes with every passing day.  By the time May arrives, the entire area will be enveloped by 24-hour daylight.

Inuujaq School held its annual Return of the Sun Assembly on February 6th.  Everyone gathered in the gym for the celebration.  Posters depicting the return of the sun were pasted along the gym walls.  Quite a few teachers & students were wearing bright colours.  The assembly began with the lights being turned off and an elder lighting a qulliq (oil lamp).  She briefly explained the history of the qulliq and how the lamp kept Inuit warm during the harsh dark season. 
The lights were turned on and the high school Inuit culture teacher continued the festivities by playing guitar and singing two songs in Inuktitut.  This was followed by the Grades 9 & 8 teachers playing African drums.  The assembly concluded with the Grade 3 teacher playing “You Are My Sunshine” on the accordion.

My workload as the school’s Professional Development (PD) Coordinator increased with the arrival of February.  Professional Development (PD) Week was scheduled for February 12 – 16, and this year, a conference was taking place in Iqaluit.  The Qanirraqtit Conference would only be attended by teachers in the Northern Qikiqtani Region because there are not enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone in the entire Qikiqtani Region.  Iqaluit recently lost 87 hotel rooms because the Hotel Arctic was bought by the Arctic College and turned into a student residence.  The Southern Qikiqtani Region will have their PD conference in 2019.  (The last time the Nunavut Teachers Association (NTA) held a territorial wide conference was in 2012).
Planning for the conference had begun as early as last year.  Teachers who were interested in presenting at the conference had to make their intentions known by the end of October (2017).  For me, I had to regularly check my email and download any documents that needed to be passed on to the staff.  I also relayed any questions the staff had about the upcoming conference.  I spent late January helping teachers with online registration.  Flight information, hotel accommodations, conference programs, bus schedules, and blizzard plans were distributed in early February.  Everyone received an envelope containing these documents.  I stored copies of all conference related documents in a large binder, thus making my life easier.
Everyone, minus one, flew down to Iqaluit on February 12 on two separate flights.  I & five other teachers were on the late flight.  We flew up to Resolute, then down to Iqaluit, arriving at 10:30pm.  Originally, I thought the conference committee was going to charter an aircraft, but they instead chose on two First Air flights.  I didn’t know why until I got to Inuksuk High School the following day.  First Air was one of the major sponsors of the conference.  Everyone from Inuujaq School, except me, stayed in a hotel.  I stayed with my older brother. 

Translator booths.
The “main base of operations” for the conference was Inuksuk High School.  Memories of my time teaching there in 2012 & 2013 flooded my mind as I walked through the main doors.  The registration area was in the cafeteria.  I found the table labelled “Arctic Bay” and was given a name tag & a welcome bag, happily supplied by First Air.  Everyone was shuffled into the gym for the opening ceremony.  The gym had been converted into a makeshift auditorium.  Chairs arranged in a large semicircle occupied the middle of the gym.  At the back were tables containing listening devices and booths for the Inuktitut, English, and French translators.  The ceremony began at 9am.
Listening devices.
NTA President: John Fanjoy.
Deputy Minister of Education:
Pujjuut Kusugak.
The two emcees welcomed everyone to Iqaluit and the conference.  They called up NTA President John Fanjoy to deliver his welcome address.  At the end of his address, Fanjoy invited the Deputy Minister of Education, Pujjuut Kusugak, to say a few words.  In Inuktitut, he spoke about the importance of education and having qualified teachers to teach & inspire Nunavut’s youth.  The next presenter was David Serkoak who spoke about his life & his work as a teacher.  He ended his presentation by playing the Inuit drum.  Craig MacGregor, the person in charge of the entire conference, took the podium to welcome everyone to the conference and to thank his staff for helping him put everything together.  The week-long conference was officially declared “opened” by Hannah Stoney & Peepeelee Pijamini, two Inuit teachers who ceremonially lighted a qulliq at the front of the gym.  Everyone was dismissed for a 15-minute break.
David Serkoak.
The Frobisher Inn was the caterer, providing all the food & beverages for the snack breaks and the banquet.  (More on that later).  We were responsible for lunch & dinner.
Hannah Stoney & Peepeelee Pijamini.
Christine Jenkins
Everyone returned to the gym for the first Keynote Address.  There would be a Keynote Address at the beginning of each day of the conference.  Christine Jenkins was the first presenter, speaking about effective literacy instruction and reading strategies.  Her informative presentation lasted 90 minutes.  Everyone was then dismissed for lunch.  I immediately headed over to Yummy Shawarma.  I had gone without shawarma for about 2 months and I needed my fix.    
Prior to attending the conference, teachers were required to sign up for 8 periods of workshops, spread across three days.  Some workshops took up two or more periods.  There were plenty of choices to make.  I could spend several blog posts listing all the choices, so I’ll just focus on the workshops I attended.
The first workshop I attended was Youth Self-Injury, organized by the Embrace Life Council.  The presented was one of my former co-workers, Kim Masson.  The workshop focused on recognizing certain patterns of behaviour that youth exhibit when they self-injure, and what to do if the behaviour becomes severe.
Craft Sale.
A craft sale was held at the high school on the evening of February 13th.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t as large as the one in 2015.  There were some interesting items but not many selections.
The following day, I attended three workshops on reading, archaeology education, and Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder.  All three workshops were very informative and provided good lists of resources for teachers to use.
Dr. Kris Wells.
Dr. Kris Wells from the University of Alberta gave a very good keynote address on Thursday, February 15th.  His topics included: homophobia, transphobia, bullying, harassment, life for LGTBQ youths in schools, and school safety.  He was also promoting the website: nohomphobes.com.  I was glad to see a presentation like this happening in Nunavut because these topics are still taboo outside Iqaluit and need to be addressed.  The homophobic & transphobic behaviours of the north & the world need to be eradicated.  We’re human after all.  Dr. Wells concluded his presentation by sharing 4 ways teachers can make their schools more inclusive.

The last three workshops I had were about incorporating land skills in social studies, psychological first aid, and an introduction to autism spectrum disorders.

The evening banquet was held at the Frobisher Inn.  The NTA booked both conference rooms and had them turned into large dining halls.  Everyone dressed up for the occasion.  I also wore a sealskin tie & vest.  The catered food was excellent.  The main courses were prime rib & Asian flavoured chicken.  There were plenty of side orders & desserts to choose from.

Qaapik Attagutsiak & Natsiq Kango.
The banquet continued with musical performances from two high school students.  Alassua Hanson & Mary Itorcheak sang songs they personally wrote and throat sang to the delight of the audience.  To officially close the conference, a ceremonial qulliq lamp was lighted by Qaapik Attagutsiak from Arctic Bay She is Arctic Bay’s eldest elder.  (I didn’t know about this arrangement).  She briefly talked about her life and how she was taught to use a qulliq.  Natsiq Kango translated in English.
Me posing with coworkers and two teachers I met in Iqaluit.
The festivities continued with speeches from Craig MacGregor & John Fanjoy, and a local band performing for two hours. 
Nellie Kusugak.
There was one more Keynote Address on the morning of Friday, February 16th.  The speaker was the Commissioner of Nunavut, Nellie Kusugak.  Kusugak has been involved in education since 1986 and was a teacher for many years.  She spoke about the importance of education, the role of teachers, and which teachers inspired her to have a career in education.
The Inuujaq School teachers flew back to Arctic Bay in the afternoon.  I made sure to have one more shawarma before leaving Iqaluit.  We brought back gifts, school supplies, and many memories.  The only thing left for me to do as PD Coordinator was help the teachers with their substantiation documents.
Arctic College constructed a new
addition to their main campus.
Overall, PD Week was a success.  We all learned a lot and networked with teachers in the North Qikiqtani Region.  I also successfully handed out all the custom made NTA fidget spinners I ordered from China.  I hope they’ll catch on and the association will ask me to order more.  I want to keep this craze going for a little longer.

NTA fidget spinner.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Month Of January

The winter semester began in the dark.  It was the middle of dark season and 9am outside looked more like 9pm.  I would be teaching four classes again, a full course load, in teacher-speak.  The classes were also the same: Grades 10 & 11 Social Studies, Grade 10 English, and Grade 10 Guitar.  Add in extra curricular activities and being the school’s Professional Development Coordinator, this semester was going to be really busy for me.  I reminded myself to take frequent breaks to prevent burnout.
I’ll give you the very quick run-through of what I taught in all four of my classes because the content I teach is mostly same from the previous years.  (There are more than enough topics to select but not enough time in the semester to cover them all in detail).  The month of January was devoted to teaching European imperialism in Grade 11 Social Studies, and grammar, literary elements, and short stories to my Grade 10 English students.  My Grade 11 students studied globalization and my guitarists learned the basics of playing & handling guitars.  I also introduced them to music theory, notation, and playing as a group.
Several high school students signed up for afterschool recording.  If you recall the Hitmakerz Workshop from last September, Kelly Fraser & Thor donated a mobile music studio kit to the school.  There is a lot of musical talent in Arctic Bay and I was determined to give aspiring artists the opportunity to get their voices heard.  The afterschool recording took place in my classroom on Fridays.  Students who signed up could have an hour or two-hour sessions.  While the student(s) worked on their musical creations, I moved my work to the library.

The cadet marksmanship & biathlon teams have been busy improving their shooting & skiing skills over the weekends.  The biathlon competition is first, taking place in Whitehorse, in February.  The biathlon team goes cross-country skiing for about an hour out on the ice and then shoot the Daisy air rifles for another hour inside Inuujaq School’s gym.  I run the shooting range.  The cadets practice shooting prone & standing.                     

The weather in Arctic Bay in January is relatively cold, but not as extreme as it is in February.  Minus thirty-five degrees is a good day if the sun is out and there’s no wind.  If you’re properly dressed then the temperature is not that bad at all.  Making sure you’re getting your daily dose of Vitamin D during dark season is more important.  A lack of Vitamin D can lead to irritability and restless nights.  Driving a skidoo is fun as long as you’re fully buttoned up.  Otherwise, be prepared for frostbite and windburn.  I always completely cover my face when I drive my skidoo.  You don’t mess with the cold Arctic.

Near the end of the month, the students got two days off because the teachers were having a professional development workshop.  The Government of Nunavut was introducing new professional development & self-reflection evaluation standards and they wanted all teachers in the territory to be familiar with the new materials.  John & I were introduced to the new packages in Iqaluit last September and now it was the staff’s turn.

The workshop was taught by the school principal.  There was a PowerPoint presentation, plenty of handouts, and several group activities.  Of course, there were snacks & coffee breaks to give our minds a break.  It will take too long to fully explain the changes so I’ll just give you the Coles Notes version.  There’s a little more paperwork, most of the terminology from the old versions have remained, there will be more meetings with school administration, and the government really likes the colour green.  (The coloured version of the new handouts are all green).
At the end of the workshop, we were given feedback sheets to fill out.  The Department of Education wanted to know what we liked and what parts needed to be worked on.  We all hoped the department would read our comments & suggestions, as well as the comments & suggestions from all Nunavut teachers.      

Saturday, January 6, 2018

To The South & Back

Source: https://allupdatehere.com/new-year-2018-wishes/

Happy New Year Everyone! 2018 is here!

Two southern teachers decided to stay in Arctic Bay over the Christmas Holidays.  The rest of us travelled down south but at different times.  We just had over two weeks at our disposal.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

Two coworkers and I were scheduled to leave Arctic Bay on the morning of December 16.  We were excited to be going down south to visit our family & friends.  Suddenly, the weather changed and large low clouds moved over the airport.  The First Air plane flying from Resolute Bay tried twice to land but failed.  The airport doesn’t have an instrument landing system (ILS) so if the pilots can’t see the runway, they don’t land.  A collective groan erupted inside the terminal after the plane flew above the terminal a second time.  We also heard the pilot talking to the ground crew, saying that he would continue on to Pond Inlet and then Iqaluit.  We were rebooked to Iqaluit for December 18 and Ottawa on December 19.  If we couldn’t fly out by then, it would no longer make sense to fly at all.  The return plane tickets cost $4K with the teacher’s discount!
If any of my readers are Nunavut MLAs, federal MPs, or have connections to the proper levels of government, Arctic Bay Airport needs an ILS and it needs to be built ASAP.  While on this topic, I also find it strange that the old Nanisivik Airport didn’t have an ILS.  Not having this essential equipment forced many flights to be cancelled due to fog.
My decorated Christmas cookie.
Calbert's decorated Christmas cookie.
JF, the high school science & math teacher, organized a small get together at his place on the evening of December 17.  He originally didn’t plan on having one but when he heard about the cancelled flight the previous day, he decided to lift the spirits of me and the other teachers who couldn’t fly out.  The highlight was the Christmas cookie decorating contest.  We had to pick a cookie and decorate it using the supplies that JF provided.  I didn’t win but I think I did a good job.  The winner received a candy cane.
John's decorated Christmas cookie.
Kaitlynd's decorated Christmas cookie.
We did fly out on December 18 but in the evening and on the freighter plane.  The plane is smaller and only has 10 passenger seats.  On top of that, the plane flies up to Resolute Bay and then down to Iqaluit.  This would be my first time landing in the northern community of 300 people.  Grise Fiord is the only permanent community beyond Resolute.  After that, it’s research & military stations.

Resolute Bay Airport
The airport in Resolute Bay is larger and more developed.  It boasts a 5,000ft runway, two hangars, and even has an ILS!  The airport sees a lot of military and civilian activity.  Everyone was instructed to deplane and enter the terminal while the plane was emptied of cargo & refueled.  A large C-130 military Hercules plane was parked just off to the side.  I was unable to get a photograph before it took off.

The terminal is at least twice the size as the one in Arctic Bay.  The centrepiece is a large stuffed polar bear enclosed in a glass display.  There is also a gift shop and large posters advertising Quttinirpaaq National Park.  Ken Borek Air Ltd. has an office and check in counter at the airport.  Ken Borek is the only airline that flies to Grise Fiord.
The plane took off into the night and reached Iqaluit in 2 & a half hours.  It was already past midnight.  The only people in the new terminal building were the employees & security guards.  I stayed at my brother’s place for the night and boarded my flight to Ottawa the following afternoon.  I was finally home for Christmas.
Having lost three days due to bad weather and cancelled flights put me in “hit-the-ground-running” mode.  Granted, I still had a week & half left in my break but we all know that vacation days go by at a very fast rate.  I spent my remaining days with family, friends, and at various stores, shopping for supplies.  I came down with not much but flew back fully packed.
I was glad there were no problems on the return trip.  All the stuff I brought back made it onto the same plane I was travelling on.  It took me about 3 hours to unpack everything and put everything in order.
My classroom was the just way as I left it in December 2017.  I moved things around and prepared for the upcoming semester.  My schedule was the same as last year’s: Grades 10 & 11 Social Studies, Grade 10 English, and Grade 10 Guitar.  This semester would be very busy because I no longer had a prep period.  The winter semester began on January 4.
There was something I forgot to mention back in December.  A former student of mine, Leetia Kalluk, won first place in the Qilaut Song Writing Contest.  Submissions were due in October (2017) and her song, “Qaigialaurit” was selected as the winner.  Her second song, “Maana” placed 9th.  She was awarded $5000 for her submission.  She & the other nine contestants in the top 10 got the opportunity to have their songs professional recorded.  The CD will be released in February (2018).  Leetia was the top student in my 2015 guitar class, enjoys writing songs, and playing guitar.  She previously won the QIA Inuktitut Literacy Month Song & Poem contest in February 2017.  She’s well on her way to becoming a successful singer.