Thursday, February 7, 2019

Early February (2019)

The local cadet corps held tryouts for the marksmanship team in late January.  We couldn’t decide on attendance & attitude alone.  The tryouts were a shooting competition.  Cadets interested in making the team had to shoot the most accurate grouping targets.  To make the competition fair, I assigned each cadet a number and they were to write that number on their paper targets.  The numbers would guarantee anonymity while being corrected by Frank.  The problem of bias would also be eliminated.  Frank & I looked over the results and selected the five the best shooters to represent 3045 Army Cadets.
The first challenge of the newly formed 3045 Marksmanship Team was the Stage II Postal Shoot.  This competition would determine which teams would advance to the territorial championships in April.  As the name suggests, the competition is done by shooting targets at the corps and then mailing the targets down to Winnipeg to be marked.  Airfare is too expensive in the north to fly everyone to one location.
We held the Postal Shoot on February 3.  The cadets were given their own shooting lane and would shoot grouping targets.  The cadets “zeroed in” their air rifles before shooting the competition targets that were mailed to us from Winnipeg. 

For the readers out there thinking that having a postal shoot gives way to frequent cheating: in my personal experience, it’s really difficult to cheat.  The pellets make holes in the papers a certain way, much different then, let’s say, using a pen.  Plus, we all play by the rules up here.  Frank & I made sure the grouping targets were immediately placed in sealed envelopes right after they were used.  The corps runs a very busy shooting program every weekend, so our cadets don’t need, nor think about cheating.

At the end of February 3, the cadets & I felt pretty good about our chances on advancing to the territorial championships.  The results of the Postal Shoot would be made public in 3 weeks.

Since the introduction of the school’s new security camera system in March 2018, a large tv screen in the main office has been getting a lot of attention from students & teachers.  The screen displays the camera feeds on 10-second rotations.  Everyone stops to look at who’s on closed-circuit television!  The new cameras are in high-definition, much better than the old camera system.  I mentioned the new camera system in my Grade 12 Social Studies class when we were learning & discussing authoritarianism.  The texts mentioned George Orwell’s 1984 and the infamous quote, “Big Brother is watching”.  I explained to my students that our new security system is a form of Big Brother, watching our every move in & around the school. 

The sun came back to Arctic Bay on February 5.  I paused from teaching and took a photo of the sun peaking out from behind the mountains.  Dark Season was officially over.  The sun would stay up for 30 minutes and then sink behind the mountains.  The sun would stay up for an extra 20 minutes with each passing day.

My four classes are going alright.  I’m pretty much teaching the same topics in Grades 10 & 11 Social Studies and Grade 10 English.  The only differences are in Grade 12 Social Studies.  I’m teaching the students about various political systems (democratic, authoritarian, etc).  I also introduced the students to the Social Studies Project, the large assignment at the end of the semester that replaces the final exam.  So far, I’ve only gone over the basics & expectations.  I’ll have them working on the project in March.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A New Year & Career Fair

Happy New Year everyone!  I can’t believe it’s 2019!  The decade is almost over!  Time certainly flies when you’re not looking.  Sorry about the long wait but a lot of things were happening that prevented me from publishing a new post until now.
My Christmas vacation was brief but I did get to see family & friends.  I also shopped at various stores, buying supplies for the next six months.  I always look like I’m travelling heavy on the way down because I bring large suitcases.  However, I pack light when flying south for Christmas, but heavy when flying north.  I save money on cargo & postage fees.
My frequent travels in and out of Nunavut has led me to notice that Iqaluit is becoming more structurally colourful.  The buildings are painted in a variety of bright colours, most likely so that you can see them during a blizzard.  From the sky, the large town looks like it’s being built with large Lego blocks, or someone sprinkled Skittles on white snow. 
I followed through with my promise to my Grade 10 English students and uploaded our short film, “Mr. Putugu’s Classroom” to the school’s Facebook page.  It didn’t take long for the video to gain an audience.  The reception was positive and the film was shared several times by the viewers.  I was glad that all our hard work had paid off.  When I came back to Arctic Bay after the break, several of my students told me about the local popularity of the video.  I also wondered if the video would become known to CBC News North in the near future?  If so, maybe they will want to do a news story about our efforts?  Only time will tell.
A new year means a new semester, classes, and roster of students to teach.  I will be teaching four classes this semester: Grades 10 – 12 Social Studies, and Grade 10 English.  Unfortunately, I won’t be teaching beginner guitar.  Maybe my English students this semester will also want to make a short film?  I’ll ask them when we are close to starting the media literacy unit. 

It’s been several years since I taught Grade 12 Social Studies but I’m not too concerned.  I am familiar with the required history topics and can always use the internet for research.  The only area of concern is the final project.  The final project replaces the final exam and demands a lot of effort from the students.  I’ll be introducing the project early in the semester so that the students can start thinking about what topic they want to investigate.   

A career fair was held at Inuujaq School on January 21.  Several organizations took over the gym for the day to talk to students and members of the public about job opportunities in Nunavut.  It’s been quite a long time since a career fair was held in Arctic Bay.  When I asked my students about it, the only one they could remember was in 2007!  I bet the ridiculously expensive airfare prevents companies from travelling to the remote communities.  The organizations at this year’s fair were: Baffinland, Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, Government of Nunavut, Service Canada, Skills Canada, Polar Knowledge Canada, Qikiqtani Inuit Association, and the Inuit Mentorship Program.  That’s not as many as there were in 2007 but it’s better than one.

Free stuff giveaway.
Tables, chairs, and banners lined the gym walls.  Information documents, pamphlets, and giveaway items sat organized on the tables.  There were also two tables with snacks and bottled water.  In the middle of the gym laid a very large circumpolar map of the north.  The map belongs to Polar Knowledge Canada.  The organization also had smaller circumpolar maps of the north & south poles to hand out to people.  To maintain student interest, the organizers of the career fair created a scavenger hunt.  Students would receive a pamphlet containing questions.  Finding the correct answers required visiting all the tables and talking to the presenters.  Students who collected all the correct answers would get a prize of some sort.

The high school students went down to the gym in the afternoon.  The presenters were there waiting for them.  The students received their question pamphlets & pencils at the door.  They fanned out, searching for answers.  I casually walked around the gym, taking pictures of the displays.  I was mostly drawn to the large map on the floor.  I always had an interest in maps & geography.  Quite a few students were also drawn to the large map.  At least eight of them spent a good 20 minutes looking it over, especially the areas around Arctic Bay.  I think they were discussing their past, present, and future hunting/camping trips. 

I did stop and listen to some of the presenters.  There was a lot of information to take in.  I did ask the Polar Knowledge people if there’s been an update on the opening of the new research facility in Cambridge Bay?  The official opening ceremony has been delayed numerous times.  They said even they don’t know when the ceremony will happen because of the upcoming federal election in October.  They are hoping it will happen soon.  For the amount of money the government has spent on constructing that research facility, the opening ceremony better happen soon.  Otherwise, the state-of-the-art building will become a white elephant.

I briefly returned to the gym after school to take a few more pictures and video clips.  From what I observed, the fair was quite popular.  I’m glad such an event occurred because living in an isolated community subtly tells its residents that they’re not many career choices available.  That is not true. 

I was also glad the organizers prepared a scavenger hunt for students.  Without that incentive, the students would have been in and out in minutes.  The only things I brought back to my classroom were the two circumpolar maps.  They will be displayed in my classroom.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Festivities (2018)

*Warning: This post may contain images that some viewers may find graphic.

Arctic Bay must have been on everyone’s radar in late 2018 because another community feast was held on December 15.  That was the third community feast in the last two months!  This feast was hosted by the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.  Representatives from the mining company were in town to showcase their proposed additions/improvements to the Mary River mine.  The open pit iron mine opened in 2014 and is located between Arctic Bay & Pond Inlet in the Mary River area.  The operation employs many Inuit from several communities including Arctic Bay.  The company has many plans to expand its operations, too many for me to explain in this post.  I’ll just go over what was shown during the presentation.

The presentation/feast began at 6pm in the community hall.  Tables and chairs were set up along the walls with a large open space in the centre.  In the centre of the hall were blue tarps & flattened cardboard boxes.  On these lay frozen pieces of arctic char and a large seal.  There were also three tables with silver trays of ham, chicken, rice, and bannock.  At the front of the hall sat a table with a red Baffinland table cloth draped over it.  On it was a laptop and projector.  A white screen hung behind this table on stage.  The mayor, Frank May, was also in attendance.
A Baffinland representative welcomed & thanked everyone for attending the presentation/feast.  He briefly updated everyone on the current conditions at Mary River.  Long story short – money is being made and the employees are being well looked after.  He then continued with the future plans for the mine. 

Port picture.
The first picture to be shown was the new rock crushing plant.  This new addition will speed up the processing of iron ore.  The second picture he showed was a computer rendering of a new port facility Baffinland wants to build in Milne Inlet.  The port would see the construction of two docking areas for large cargo ships.  These additions will increase the amount of iron ore the company can ship out of the area during the brief summer shipping season.  Of course, an increase in traffic will have consequences on wildlife and the surrounding environment.  I don’t think the possible consequences were deeply talked about during the presentation.

There was one thing that wasn’t mentioned in the presentation: the proposed railway between the mine and Milne.  Baffinland had proposed to build a 149km railway to Steensby Inlet in the early 2000s but appears to have abandoned this idea.  Now they’re looking at possibly building a railway to Milne Inlet.  I think the plans are still being reviewed by the territorial government.  We’ll see in the future if the railway gets approved.

Seal meat.
The feast concluded the presentation.  An elder used a savik (knife) to cut open the seal in the middle of the hall.  People lined up at the three tables with paper plates to take ham, chicken, rice, and bannock.  I stayed back and took several photographs before taking two pieces of bannock.  I left the C-Hall after eating the bannock.

Christmas Concert Audience.
Inuujaq School held its annual Christmas concert on the evening of December 19.  Middle & high school students spent the day decorating the community hall for the big event.  From what I witnessed at the dress rehearsal the previous day, parents and community members were in for a great show.  Everyone involved in the concert came dressed to impress.  The community hall was packed.  The building was built in 2007 and the community has already outgrown it.  Regardless, the show must go on.  Two high school students were the emcees, one speaking in Inuktitut while the other translated into English.

Grade 2
Grade 3
The Grade 4 student impersonating me.
Preschool began the concert by singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.  Kindergarten continued by reciting a poem called, “Seal, Do You Have Skin?”  The Grade 1 class sang a bilingual version of the Christmas classic, “Silent Night.”  They also included hand motions, taught to them by their teacher.  The Grade 2 students took everyone back to the year of 1993 by performing the Macarena.  It’s not a Christmas tune, at least to my knowledge, but their dance did entertain the crowd.  The Grade 3 class did a short play that included an Inuit drum performance.  The Grade 4 students turned to comedy for their performance.  They dressed up as the staff of Inuujaq School and impersonated our mannerisms.  The student who impersonated me did a good job.

MLA David Akeeagok & Dental Hygienist.
MLA David Akeeagok thanking Grade 1
teacher Piuyuq for her many years of
There was a pause in the concert program.  Nunavut MLA David Akeeagok was in attendance and wanted to use the event as an opportunity to publicly recognize several GN workers for their many years of public service.  He recognized three individuals: a nurse, a dental hygienist, and a teacher.  The nurse received a certificate congratulating her for her 25 years of service in Nunavut.  I’m not sure if all those years were accumulated in Arctic Bay.  The dental hygienist received a certificate and a small wooden qamutik trophy for working 30 years in the north.  The Grade 1 teacher, Piuyuq, also received a small wooden qamutik trophy for her 40 years of teaching in Arctic Bay.  (She already received her framed certificates last month).  There were rumours going around that CBC News North were coming to the community in the new year to interview Piuyuq for tv. 

Grade 7.
The concert continued with the Grade 5 students performing a skit titled, “Games At The C-Hall.”  The Grade 6 class performed a Christmas rap while the Grade 7s did a skit called, “Tell Me A Story Grandma.”  The skit concluded with an Inuit song and drum dance.  The Grade 8s also did a skit called, “Just Sitting Around”. 

The Grade 9s did a musical number but with a comedic twist.  They used the improv/drama game Helping Hands.  The students, except for two, were hiding behind chairs with a parachute draped over them.  Two students had volunteered to stick their heads out while two others stuck their legs out.  This made it appear as if the two students were really, really short.  When the music played, everyone moved to make it look like the two students were dancing.  Everyone enjoyed the performance.

One of the high school classes did a radio show skit in Inuktitut. 

The time had finally come for my drum class to perform on stage.  We had set up our drums in the main hallway about two acts before and did our stretches during the high school radio show.  The kids crowded around the front of the stage – as they’ve always done – when they saw my students & I walking to the stage carrying our drums.  We quickly set everything up behind the closed curtains while the emcees kept the audience busy.  When I was certain everyone was ready, I gave the signal for the curtains to be drawn.  Our show began.

We played three drums cadences as a group.  They were all well received by the audience.  One of my quad players and I did a duet of the second cadence, but we played it three times faster.  It was her favourite cadence and she had practiced it so much that she could play it faster than anyone else on the drumline.  What was more impressive is that she played the faster version on the quad toms.  Quad means four.  I could tell that the audience were blown away by her speed & coordination because right after we hit the last note, they cheered and clapped loudly.  What followed were a few drum solos from the students and myself.  When the curtains closed, we all breathed huge sighs of relief.  I shook the hands of all my drummers and congratulated them on a job well done.

The staff of Inuujaq School finished the concert by dancing and playing air instruments to the tune “Winter Wonderland”.  I brought a piano onstage but it wasn’t plugged in.  I just pretended to play it.  When the recording stopped, we wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.       

The Christmas festivities continued the next day.  The day was December 20; the last day of school before the Christmas break.  Classrooms were cleaned out in the early morning.  Memories of last night’s concert were still fresh in everyone’s minds.  People, young & old, were coming up to me, saying they really enjoyed the high school drumline.  The entire student body gathered in the gym after morning recess for carolling.  This time, the lyrics were projected onto the wall instead of handing out papers.  We sang a variety of carols until it was time for lunch.

Santa came to visit & give out gifts to the students in the afternoon.  I followed Santa and took pictures of him with the students.  Once Santa was done, everyone was dismissed.  I wished everyone a safe & happy break and then rushed home to pack my suitcase.

I flew down south for Christmas.  The weather was good on December 21.  There were no serious problems and I reached my final destination at the end of the day.  While waiting for my flight to Ottawa at the Iqaluit Airport, I took pictures of the newly installed fish sculpture in the departure lounge.  Why a fish sculpture?  Because Iqlauit means “place of many fish.”    

See you all in the new year!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Cadets, Skiing, Potluck, & The Final Cut

3045 Army Corps held its last Parents Night Parade of 2018 on December 5.  We normally only have one of these parades in the fall, but there were enough awards and announcements to warrant another one.  Plus, a number of cadets had achieved the necessary criteria to be promoted.  In preparation for the parade, the cadets worked tirelessly on their uniforms, the corps staff put together a program, and parent volunteers prepared several snacks for the reception.
We all showed up an hour early to set up the gym for the festivities.  Chairs, tables, flags, coffee machines, and garbage cans were placed in strategic locations.  Once everything was in place, the cadets were sized in ranks.  The parade began at 6:30pm.
The parade was a standard affair, following the same established routines as before.  I was the commanding officer and the guest reviewing officer.  The audience stood for the General Salute and O Canada.  I inspected the cadets on parade while Frank kept the audience busy with some upcoming announcements.  The cadets did a March Past after the inspection.  The audience sat down and we continued with the awards.
Cdt Issuqangituq receives Level 1 Marksmanship.
LCpl Tilley receives Level 4 Marksmanship.
I started with the marksmanship badges.  There are four levels a cadet can achieve.  Four cadets achieved Level 1, two cadets achieved Level 2, and one cadet achieved Level 3.  I then continued with the physical training (PT) badges.  There are four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Excellence.  Three cadets achieved Bronze level fitness, one cadet received Silver, one cadet achieved Gold, and four cadets reached the level of Excellence. 
I then called out the three cadets who won first place in their categories at the Fall Biathlon in October.  They were publicly congratulated for their achievement and received military clothing as prizes. 
The best part of the parade was saved for last: promotions.  I could see the cadets were anxious and eager to hear who was advancing in the ranks.  I briefly explained to the audience the prerequisites of receiving a promotion.  They get more challenging for the senior ranks because you take on more leadership responsibilities.  I began with the lowest ranks.  Two cadets advanced to the rank of Lance Corporal.  Four cadets moved up to the rank of Corporal.  And on cadet was promoted to the rank of Master Corporal.
Three Master-Corporals were promoted to the rank of Sergeant.  They now had the privilege of wearing the red sash across their green uniforms.  They were very delighted to receive the sashes.
The three new cadet sergeants.
The new cadet Warrant Officer.
For the last promotion, I briefly explained to the audience that the corps was now “top-heavy”.  There were too many sergeants, four to be exact.  The corps needed to be balanced at the top, so one sergeant would be moving up to the rank of Warrant Officer.  Everyone had a pretty clear idea of who it was.  I called out her name and she marched up to the front to receive her badge, slip-ons, and pace stick.

The parade concluded with the Advance, General Salute, and the playing of God Save the Queen.  The cadets were dismissed to the back of the gym for a group photograph.  When I was satisfied that we had the right photograph, I dismissed the junior cadets to the reception.  I took separate pictures of the four senior cadets holding up their rank badges.  They all looked very happy.  I took about three photos and then dismissed them to reception as well.  Everyone was out of the gym by 8:30pm.


On December 13, a cross-country ski instructor from Iqaluit held a workshop for the cadets.  This workshop was organized by the recreational director at the Hamlet Office and I.  The instructor would teach skiing techniques the cadets would use when competing in the yearly biathlon competitions.  Biathlon is one of many activities that the cadet program offers.  The corps was very fortunate to exploit this opportunity because Arctic Bay doesn’t have a dedicated cross-country ski instructor.  Funding was secured by the Hamlet Office.
The workshop took place at Inuujaq School’s gym.  The instructor had brought a lot of skiing equipment with him.  I later found out that the Hamlet Office had bought it and would rent it out to interested community members during the winter months.  (The instructor would teach community members the following day).  I observed the workshop from a distance.
The instructor went over the basics of cross-country skiing equipment and how to handle them.  He also explained & demonstrated how to properly propel yourself forward using the skiis and poles.  He had the cadets line up at one end of the gym and then practice these techniques to the other side of the gym.  They just had to imagine they were using skiis & poles because they were in the gym.
The instructor would take them outside with the actual skiis & poles on the weekend.  He also gave me a list of the type of wax we should use on our skiis.  

The staff Christmas potluck dinner was held at the school on the evening of December 14.  The high school science classroom was turned into a dining area complete with Christmas decorations.  Everyone brought something to the occasion.  A small Christmas tree was set up in a corner of the classroom with large star on top.  Secret Santa gifts surrounded the tree.  All the food & beverages were spread across the counters along the wall.  An elder blessed the food when everyone was present.  The feast began.

I waited a little bit before standing in line.  There was still plenty of food when it was my turn.  I was glad I brought my own dishes and cutlery.  I filled my plate with delicious food.  My stomach was full by the end of the dinner.  The staff who participated in Secret Santa exchanged gifts at the end.  Everyone cleaned up but left the decorations.  The high school science teacher felt the decorations would help the high school students write their final exams by creating a more welcoming atmosphere.

And finally, after many days of work, I was ready to present the final cut of “Mr. Putugu’s Classroom” to my English students of the previous semester.  The video was the same except there was now music & sound effects in certain places.  We watched the short film together.  I was nervous, wondering if the students would accept the soundtrack I created.  When the credits started to roll, my former students gave me their seals of approval.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I told them I would upload the final cut to the school’s Facebook page over the Christmas break.