Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Festivities (2016)

Hard work and dedication is what got me through the remaining days of the semester.  I administered and corrected all the Social Studies exams without difficulty.  Answer keys were my "secret weapons."  I spent the weekend of December 10 & 11 writing all my report card comments.  I breathed a sigh of relief when all was done.  But I didn't have time to relax because the annual Christmas Concert was just around the snow bank.  The date had been set for December 15.  The community was made aware of the upcoming event through local radio announcements and posters that were placed in the Northern & Co-op stores.
This year's Christmas Concert had a longer program, with a total of 15 acts.  Each class was asked to prepare a short performance for parents and community members.  Classes began planning, practicing, and perfecting their routines weeks in advance.  They also worked on Christmas decorations that would be taped all over the community hall.  My drummers & I were hard at work, reviewing the selected pieces and perfecting our drum solos.  The concert committee recruited two high school students to act as Inuktitut & English emcees. 
An afternoon dress rehearsal was held at the community hall the day before the concert.  My drummers helped me move all our instruments and equipment to the community hall.  I also thanked Frank for letting me borrow his pickup truck.  Every class practiced their routines on stage to the delight of the student body and the high school emcees got comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd.  My drummers were nervous playing on stage for the first time but they survived the first challenge.  The biggest challenge would be performing at the actual concert. 
I was glad the dress rehearsal was the day before the concert.  A good night's rest would lead to better performances.
The high school students helped me decorate the community hall on the morning of December 15.  We went through several rolls of masking tape putting up all the decorations.  The hall was ready.  Ryan printed and folded the bilingual concert programs.
The concert began at 6:30pm.  The students and teachers were formally dressed for the occasion.  I gave the two emcees one last pep talk backstage before sending them out to introduce themselves & the program to the excited audience.  The curtain rose and the first act began.                 
Since it will take too long to explain each act in detail, I'm going to give you the Coles Notes version.
Grade 5
Grade 6
Preschool started the festivities with a Christmas Dance.  They danced to prerecorded music.  Kindergarten sang two Christmas songs, a cappella.  The Grade 1 class sang Silent Night in Inuktitut and English.  Grade 2 did a Christmas prayer and sang Jingle Bells in Inuktitut & English.  Grade 3 reenacted the Nativity scene and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.  The Grade 4 class performed Robert Munsch's Mortimer in Inuktitut.  The student who played Mortimer was a really good actor.  Grade 5s presented a skit titled, "Santa at Taqqut Co-op" where he gives out gifts to the people of Arctic Bay.  Grade 6 followed with a skit of their own called, "Arctic Bay Committee".  The Grade 7 class performed a comedic skit where Santa is confused and doesn't know what presents to give to the people of Arctic Bay.
Grade 8
The concert took on a brief political tone when the Grade 8s came on stage to perform their skit titled, "Nunavut's Got 'Santa' Talent".  Arctic Bay holds a talent contest and the contestants are Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump.  The skit ended with Donald Trump being left behind because they were not enough seats on the First Air plane.  He had to travel back to USA on a dogsled.
Middle school French Club.
JF's middle school French Club sang "Vive le vent," the French version of "Jingle Bells".  The Grade 9 class sang a rendition of Hedley's "Anything" but with Christmas themed lyrics.
Grade 9
The moment had finally arrived.  It was time for the high school drumline to perform for the audience.  When the children saw my drummers going backstage with their instruments, they immediately sat as close as they could in front of the stage.  We quickly set everything up and did one final check to make sure we had all our music.  I signaled for the curtains to be drawn.  I raised my sticks and clicked them 4 times.  Our performance began. 
High school drumline
My female students and I played three pieces: Beat Cafe, Sub-Sonic, and Bacon & Eggs.  All three pieces were composed by Cassidy Byars.  I continued our act with my solo.  I was glad I didn't mess up the stick tricks.  Several of my students followed suit by playing their own solos.  My quad player added a visual effect to her solo by pouring baby powder on the toms.  The powder shot up into the air every time she hit the four toms.  Our performance was well received by everyone.  We breathed a collective sigh of relief after the curtains were drawn together. 
The high school Inuit culture class continued the concert by singing & performing an Inuit western dance.  The students & teacher wore specially made purple vests.  The teacher led the students by singing and playing a large Inuit drum.

The Inuujaq School staff were the last act of the concert.  They played a game of Christmas Charades.  A teacher picked a piece of paper from a bag and had to act the Christmas song without using any words.  The audience liked watching the staff act out several well-known Christmas songs.     

My drummers helped me load all the drums & equipment into Frank's truck after the concert.  Several went with me to the school and place everything back in my classroom.  Another Christmas Concert was done.    
Friday, December 16 was the last day of school for the fall semester.  The student body assembled in the gym before lunch to sing Christmas carols in English & Inuktitut.  Elders and parents attended the event.
Santa in Kindergarten

Santa & a Grade 1 student.
Santa visited Inuujaq School after lunch to hand out gifts to the K-8 students.  He also had his picture taken with them.  (Students in the higher grades received gift certificates from the Co-op store).  High school students picked up their report cards at the main office.  When the dismissal bell rang, I wished my students a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Staff in the staff room.
The staff of Inuujaq School assembled in the staff room for one final meeting.  The meeting was more of a social gathering, with a variety of snacks & desserts laid out on two coffee tables.  The principal congratulated everyone for their hard work throughout the semester and wished everyone the best during the holiday season.
I cleaned my classroom before heading home to pack for my trip down south.  My flight was leaving the following morning and I needed to be ready.  It was hard to believe that another semester had come and gone.  Time certainly flies fast.          

See you all in the new year!

*All photos provided by Ryan. Thank you.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Early December (2016)

The arrival of December marked the beginning of the last two weeks of school.  The hallways were covered with Christmas decorations.  In the elementary wing, a large decorated tree stood in a corner.  The wall behind the tree was converted into a display: green stockings, each labeled with a staff member's name, were pasted around a brown fireplace.  A brief message from the staff in Inuktitut & English occupied the top half of the wall.  Two small Santa dolls stood on a nearby window ledge.
The last Attendance Awards Assembly of 2016 was held on December 6th.  Everyone gathered in the gym to applaud the winners for the month of November.  However, the first part of the assembly focused on last year's high school graduates.  For the last several years, high school graduates receive free laptops from the Baffinland mining company.  Unfortunately, the laptops were unavailable at the time of the graduation ceremony in June.  They finally arrived and would be presented to the grads in front of the entire student body.  Better late than never.
Each high school graduate was called up individually to receive their Lenovo laptop and external DVD drive.  The laptops don't have internal disc drives.  (I'm not sure why, but for some time now, computer companies have been selling laptops without internal disc drives.  Personally, the removal of these drives is a terrible decision.  Customers should not be forced to buy external disc drives.  Hopefully, the companies will reverse this bad trend in the very near future).
All the high school teachers were called up to the front of the gym to pose for photos with the grads.
Kindergarten Perfect Attenders.
Me with the HS perfect attenders.
The assembly continued with the awarding of certificates to the students who achieved perfect attendance for the previous month.  I think Grade 5 had the most perfect attenders.  The lucky winners posed with their respective teachers.  I had the honour of calling out, awarding, and posing for a photograph with the four high school students.  I was glad I wore my sealskin tie that day.       
With only two weeks left in the fall semester, the high school teachers, and hopefully students, knew that final exams were right around the corner.  We got to work on preparing our exams and reviewing all the relevant material with our students.  Exam schedules were posted in all high school classrooms, hallway, and washroom doors.  I only had two final exams to prepare because my drummers had a final performance test.  We were also preparing for the upcoming Christmas concert. (More on that in a future post).
The final exam for my Grade 10 Social Studies class would mainly focus on the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, but also briefly touch upon the three other agreements in northern Quebec, Northwest Territories, and Labrador.  The final exam for Grade 11 Social Studies would focus on Women's Suffrage and the First World War.
The last week of school will be quite challenging because: all exams & class work need to be marked, final marks & comments have to be inputted into the school's computer database, and I am in charge of directing the Christmas concert this year.

There first full week of December ended on a humourous tone for me and JF.  He was cleaning out the storage room in the high school science classroom and found a very old binder.  The binder was an educational resource from the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, dated February 15, 1981.  The binder included a large, 5.25-inch floppy disk, containing information about aestheometry.  At least, that's what we could gather from reading the stickers.  None of us had a computer with a 5.25-inch floppy drive to verify the information.  In fact, I don't think anyone uses 5.25-inch floppy disks nowadays.  They are beyond obsolete. 
JF & the floppy disk.
I asked JF what he was going to do with the floppy disk and binder.  He said he would dispose it because there was no need to keep it.  We wondered if the resource was ever used at the school.

The year-end Christmas Pot Luck Dinner for Inuujaq School staff was held on the evening of December 9th.  Staff were encouraged to write what they would bring on a large paper in the main office, thus avoiding two of the same dishes.  Staff were allowed to bring two guests.  JF's classroom was converted into a dining hall, with long tables, chairs, and Christmas decorations.  The Christmas tree in the elementary wing was brought in to serve as the centrepiece.  Kraft paper was used as table cloth, enabling everyone to write & draw on them with crayons.  (Just like in family restaurants!) 

My contributions to the pot luck were different this year.  I brought two large blocks of mild & smoked Gouda cheeses, Polish Kielbasa, and crackers.  (I was the "Shrimp Man" for 2015 & 2014).  The rest of the menu consisted of: turkey, arctic char, bannock, salads, stuffing, mashed potatoes, desserts, juice, tea, coffee, and other foods that I can't name.  JF made a large chocolate log cake. 
Cooked arctic char.
The pot luck began at 6:30pm.  An elder blessed the food before we all lined up to fill our plates.  I was glad to see people sampling the Gouda cheeses I brought.  Such cheeses aren't readily available in Arctic Bay.  I brought them from down south.  I was able to taste most of the foods that were brought.  Unfortunately, the arctic char was gone by the time I got through the line.


The principal congratulated everyone for a successful fall semester.  He wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Secret Santa gifts were exchanged between staff members.  We all went home with satisfied appetites.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Soccer Camp/Workshop

The Nunavut Soccer Association (NSA) organized a three-day soccer camp in Arctic Bay at the end of November.  The school's liaisons were Sarah & Ryan.  The camp was mostly geared towards the students but there would be certain times when community members could get involved.  The aims of the soccer camp were to promote: interest in soccer, physical fitness, teamwork, and skills development.
The NSA sent Bruce, a student from the University of New Brunswick (UNB).  (He has a previous working relationship with the NSA).  He plays goalie on the UNB's soccer team and has a brother who teaches in Nunavut.  He has travelled to other northern communities and held similar workshops, but this would be his first time in Arctic Bay.
The gym was decorated with soccer-themed decorations made by students.  One of them was a streamer with the words, "Welcome Bruce".

The soccer camp began on Thursday, November 24.  Bruce stayed at Inuujaq School for the entire day, helping teachers with their gym classes, and teaching them soccer drills.  A high school soccer practice was held after school until 5pm.  Bruce introduced the students to a warm up routine that included laps, ladders, and stretches.  The students also learned dribbling and took practice shots at the nets.  The afternoon concluded with a soccer game and group photo.

High School group photo.
But the day was not over.  A Coaching Session was held from 6 - 7pm for anyone in the community.  Several high school students stayed and assisted Bruce.  The final event of the day was Community Soccer, which ran from 7 - 9pm. 

The schedule for Friday, November 25th was mostly the same.  Bruce worked with all Phys. Ed classes during the school day, and another afterschool soccer session was held.  Except this time, the afterschool session was for Grades 4 - 6.  The young students learned the same warm up routines, how to dribble & pass, and finished with a soccer game & group photo. 
Grades 4 - 6 group photo.
Saturday, November 26th was the territory's first "Soccer Day in Nunavut".  The event was promoted by the NSA.  Participating communities were encouraged to upload pictures & videos on the NSA's Facebook page.  They also sent t-shirts and prizes to the communities who held mini-soccer tournaments.  The NSA hopes "Soccer Day in Nunavut" will become an annual event.

A full day of activities were planned at Inuujaq School, starting at 9am and concluding in the evening.  Grades 7 - 9 spent the most time in the gym: three hours in the morning & three hours after lunch.  The Hamlet Office assisted in organizing a skills competition and mini-soccer tournament after 6pm.  The skills competition saw players compete in soccer-themed obstacle courses and a juggling contest.  Participants formed teams and competed in the mini-soccer tournament.  A group photo was taken at the end of the night.  Bruce departed on the morning of November 27th.

I wish I had the time to observe and/or participate in the festivities, but unfortunately, I had other commitments.  From what I gathered, everyone had fun and learned a lot from Bruce.  Bruce enjoyed his time in Arctic Bay and looked forward to returning in the future.  Sarah & Ryan were pleased that the NSA organized the event because such opportunities rarely come to remote northern communities.
Expensive air travel and location are the main reasons why sports camps/workshops/tournaments/events are usually limited to larger communities such as Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay, and Arviat.  They also have enough people to sustain many sports programs.  The more remote communities in Nunavut struggle because they either don't have the necessary facilities or trained personnel.  You could fly participants down to the larger communities, but you end up spending a lot of money.  It's better to bring the programs to the communities because you can do more.  The northern airlines really need to lower their prices. 

Photos & information were provided by Sarah. Thank you.         

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Remembrance Day & Anti-Bullying

Remembrance Day is one of two important local parades for 3045 Army Cadet Corps.  (The other is the Annual Ceremonial Review in April).  Planning for the ceremony usually starts in mid-October.  There are parade positions to assign, drill movements to review, programs to make, and people to contact.  We always try to recruit people interested in participating in the ceremony.  They can read passages from the Bible, lay wreathes, or say what Remembrance Day means to them.  The cadets also work hard to make their uniforms look spotless and parade boots shiny.
We weren't expecting that many people to attend the ceremony this year because November 11 occurred on a Friday.  Remembrance Day is a public holiday for everyone.  Even the school is closed.  We assumed many people would be going out on the land because of the long weekend.  Any audience is better than none.
In the days leading up to Remembrance Day, several teachers tailored their lessons to focus on the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers in times of conflict - past & present.  I showed several Heritage Minute commercials about Canadians in the First & Second World Wars, and explained to my students, why we, and people all over the world, annually observe this day.  (Remembering those who died so that we may live in peace).         
The Halloween decorations were taken down at Inuujaq School and replaced with poppies, crosses, and other Remembrance Day themed posters made by students.  People also began wearing poppies, some of them made from red dyed sealskin.
The dress rehearsal was held at the community hall on November 9.  The program is "set in stone", but who-does-what-and-says-what changes every year.  The drill commands & movements were reviewed & practiced, and the three chosen cadets rehearsed John McCrae's iconic poem, In Flanders Fields.  I made sure we practiced the most challenging part of the ceremony: standing still for the playing of Last Post, Piper's Lament, and Reveille.  The duration is only 5 minutes, but for youth, the length can feel like an eternity.

The ceremony began at 10:45am.  The cadets had arrived an hour earlier to set up chairs and put up several posters.  Paulette's WWI mural from last year was taped to the back wall of the hall.  Everyone stood for the arrival of the Colour Party & cadets.  The cadets were led in by the a local RCMP officer.

The opening Inuktitut prayer was done by Leah May.  I continued with the welcome address, mostly following the same speech I prepared last year.  (I wasn't being lazy.  My speech was just that good).  Everyone stood for the playing of O Canada.  Our sound technician & Inuktitut translator was Sam Willie.  He provided prerecorded instrumental tracks for when the program called for everyone to sing the hymns, Abide With Me & O God Our Help In Ages Past.
The first Bible reading, Micah 4: verse 3-4, was done by Isaac Shooyook & Lt. May.  (Lt. May is the commanding officer of 3045, and Shooyook is the MLA representing the Quttiktuq constituency).  The Last Post, Minute of Silence, Piper's Lament, and Reveille were done without incident.  I applaud the cadets for being able to stand still without having to fall out.

The Act of Remembrance was done in English, Inuktitut, and French.  The second Bible reading, Psalm 121, was done by Ryan & Eunice, two Inuujaq School teachers.  Clare Kines shared his thoughts on Remembrance Day, and I explained the meaning behind the poppy.  I also gave a brief history of the life of Lt. Col. John McCrae and how he wrote his best known poem.  I then called up three cadets, B. Ejangiaq, S. Ejangiaq, & S. Pauloosie, to recite In Flanders Fields.  Two other cadets laid a wreath in front of the speaker's podium.

The ceremony ended with the playing of God Save the Queen, a closing prayer, closing remarks, and a march off.  Sam Willie did the closing prayer and Lt. May handled the closing remarks.  There was coffee & tea for members of the public.  The cadet corps took a group photo before being dismissed for the rest of the day.

*Remembrance Day photos provided by John, Grade 8 teacher.  Thank you.
Inuujaq School held a Safe School & Anti-Bullying Week from November 7 - 15.  The RCMP, Elders, and mental health nurse visited the school and talked to the students about the negative effects of bullying, and why no one should be a bully.  I showed my high school students the 2011 American documentary Bully.  The film follows the trials & tribulations of four teenagers, bullied for a variety of reasons, and how they overcome these roadblocks in life.

The school's Student Support Teacher, Kaitlynd, spearheaded two anti-bullying campaigns: Caught You Caring and Pink Shirts.  The first one "is a simple, but very affective idea that recognize[s] young people who are helping make their schools [&] communities safer and more caring."  Adult staff are instructed to "catch students caring" and write their names on a prize voucher.  The vouchers are put into a draw box and  names are randomly drawn for prizes.  The second campaign sees everyone colouring white shirts, (on paper), pink, and writing a pledge to stop bullying.  The staff took it a step further by including photos of their faces.  Kaitlynd pasted the coloured caricatures of the staff near the front entrance.  The students' pink shirts were posted all over the school.

Grade 1
The Safe School & Anti-Bullying Week culminated in an assembly on November 15.  Classes had prepared posters, songs, and videos to share with the student body, parents, elders, and community members.  Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 3, and High School cultural classes sang songs.  Grade 4 did a presentation & video about being a friend, not a bully.  But I think the biggest draws were the videos made by Grades 4, 8, 9, & high school.  Unfortunately, I don't think Blogger will let me upload the videos because the files are quite large.  And I don't have permission from the students & staff in the videos to upload their faces to the Internet.  Hopefully, one day, their hard work will be shared on the Internet.  For now, I'll give you a quick summary of each video.
High School
Grade 4 - The theme of the video is "Be a Friend, Not a Bully."
Grade 8 - The video looks at where bullying happens in & around school and what we should do to stop it.
Grade 9 - The video is set to the song "Mad World" by Gary Jules and states that it's hard growing up in an isolated community like Arctic Bay, especially if you feel alone.  These challenges can be overcome if everyone is "welcoming [&] inclusive".

High School - The video is called, "Closing the Door on Cyber Bullying."  Cyber Bullying is explained and examples are shown.  What follows is a comedic chase of the cyber bully and kicking him out of Inuujaq School.  I have a cameo in the video.  The cyber bully runs into my classroom while I'm practicing drums and scares me.  I stand my ground and tell him to get out.  My cameo was well received by everyone. 

*Photos provided by Ryan, media teacher.  Thank you.