Monday, January 5, 2015

(Re)starting Anew!

I am in love. I am yearning, full of excitement about some crazy possible future happenings!

But let me rewind a little bit... 

You may have been wondering "DUDE. Meg. Where have you BEEN?! I thought you were going to keep us updated every single week about the crazy awesome and excellent adventures you've been having in Alaska, and yet, the last time you posted was in August/September. What has HAPPENED to you? Did you fall off the Arctic Circle or something?" 

I apologize; please forgive me - said super-sheepishly. The honest truth is that the fall semester was the biggest, hardest, most challenging 5 months I have experienced. Moreso than the insanity that was accelerated graduate school, and the roller coaster madness of undergrad. I don't quite know how to express in words how insurmountable some of the challenges felt. I kind of felt like I was drowning. Everything felt SO big and SO scary, all the time. Teaching is an incredible, heartbreaking, awesome, and difficult career, in and of itself; teaching in Selawik? Magnify all of that x1000. 

My students are amazing. The people are inspiring. Despite informal observations and formal evaluations, feedback from coworkers and mentors, I felt like I was failing, every single day. I know that I'm very critical of myself... and it's because I always want to be the best teacher for my students that I can possibly be. I think I just got so lost in the challenges that I forgot (and lost the ability) to be myself. Especially when I found myself without the security blanket of all the people who love me who affirm me 24/7. (If you have ever heard or read the 5 Love Languages, you'll understand when I say that I am a "words of affirmation" kind of girl. ;) ) 

So. I went home on December 19th, spent time with my security blanket people, and came back to Selawik feeling refreshed, energized, and renewed. Today was the first day back, and I put on my happy, beautiful, blue shoes and felt a whole lot of: BAM! HERE I AM, students!!! I am REALLY here, now, and I am going to show you the kind of teacher I have always dreamt of being! I know that I won't be able to make every single one of my 90+/- a few students LOVE and develop a PASSION for history (or P.E. or Computer Applications), but I know that I can do everything, with every fiber of my being, to make these kids know that I love them, that I care so deeply about their growth as people first and foremost. History is important to me, don't get me wrong. I can talk about aspects of history FOREVER and ever and ever and ever, and I will. But at my core, all I want is to help my students realize that they are the best people they can be, that they are special and important, that their opinions and feelings matter, that they can be and do anything they want to. I yearn for the lightbulb moments, the beautiful, spectacular fireworks, and for some of my students, those moments could be when they spend time hunting and providing for their families. For many, it could be when they're dribbling a ball down the court and perfecting a 3 point shot. For others, it could be taking care of their younger siblings and then starting their own families. Who knows? The possibilities for my kids are endless. They can reach for the stars and the northern lights! (They may land on melting glaciers, but hey... that could be a fun snowmobile ride!)

I don't know what the rest of this school year is going to bring. I have no clue what kinds of decisions I'm going to be making for the future. Quite frankly, I'm not too worried about it, because God has a plan for me and I am walking the path He has set for me. All things will happen according to His timing, and as difficult as it is for me, I have to keep letting go of my need for control and just let what is be and what will be be. Because last semester, I was ALL about control - I *need* to control my classroom. I *need* to control my feelings, so I *need* to isolate myself from the people I love the most and who love me right back. Now I know that that is just BS and I *need* to let go and let God, just like my license plate thingy says on my beautiful red Ford 500 that is sitting in my parents' driveway. I *need* to let my light shine, let the love of God shine through me. 

Funny story... my original intention for this post was to talk a little bit about what happened last semester, discuss my renewed positive, enthusiastic, and energized feelings, and then talk about something unrelated to school and such (I've been watching documentaries and shorts about Tiny Houses again! I love them!), but this just feels so much better and relevant. Tee hee. Que' sera' sera' - what will be will be!

I will endeavor to be better about this bloggy-thing. I will, also, be better at communicating. Skype me! Email me! Send me snail mail! If you don't have & want this contact information, let me know! I miss you!

I love you!
Sporadically yours, 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Alaska: The Last Frontier

Greetings from Kotzebue, AK! 

First: it's 3:38am and it's the FIRST TIME I've seen night since I arrived on the 23rd of July. Seriously. I have fallen asleep for the past 2+ weeks before the sun disappeared, and that's so cool! I need to absorb as much natural vitamin D as possible before the sun starts disappearing and everything gets cold... 

... Although, from what I've heard, all my friends back in Central NY are getting rumors via press that there's a polar vortex coming through in September, which will jettison Syracuse, NY into a long and cold winter.

Enough of that, though! I'm sure you all want to hear about what I've been up to! Here's a timeline for you (incorporating my history style). :)

July 23rd - Traveled from Syracuse, NY to Anchorage, AK (two layovers: O'Hare and SeaTac). Syracuse flight was delayed, so the layover in O'Hare was *just* long enough for T & I to make it to our next gate and the connecting flight to Seattle. The flight from Seattle to Anchorage was delayed for about an hour or so, so we were actually able to eat dinner! Finally made it into Anchorage at around 10:30pm AK time (so that would be about 2:30am EST) and checked into our hotel at 11, promptly fell asleep. 

July 24th - I bought a phone from AT&T, thus ending Verizon's death grip on my communication style (to the tune of a $245 early termination fee. Vultures.) Visited Walmart to stock up on some food and had it shipped, went to Mr. Prime Beef and ordered a budget pack with T. Went back to the hotel solo and took a nap, then took a cab (which got hit by another car at an intersection! No injuries, though.) to the Moose's Toothe, where I met a bunch of people from C3 (Creating Culturally Competent Rural Teachers). It was spectacular!! (They have really good pizza & the company was terrific.)

July 25th - moved out of hotel 1, into hotel 2, showered, met more people, had class 1, and some super fun times with new buddies. 

July 26th - flew from Anchorage, AK to Kotzebue, AK! Debrief all day & prepared for camp! Ate 2 kinds of whale (black and white mukluk - bowhead & beluga. Bowhead was raw, beluga was cooked),  seal, caribou, moose, and various dried fish, as well as homemade donuts, a warm raspberry drink, and pilot crackers. Yum!

July 27th-31st - Camp @ Kiana Elders' Camp!!! I: separated salmon roe from a thin membrane so it could be marinated and used with sushi, and processed a fish with an ulu (a traditional Iñupiaq blade - curved piece of metal with a short handle. I'll upload a picture later.) We also went seining, which is a subsistence-style way of fishing for large amounts of fish. I waded into the river (I can't remember which river it was) up to my hips and brought in one part of the net - it was SO much fun. The next day, I stayed at camp and made a knife handle for a fillet knife (took about 6 hours) and played with the kids at camp. The day after that, we decided to go on a hike up the mountain, but I got stuck in some muck and tripped / fell over a tusisk and dislocated my left ankle. Luckily for me, one of the elders used to be a tribal doctor and she popped it back into place! (Yes, I cried. No, I didn't swear - there were kids present!) We went home the next day - but before we left, I was given my Iñupiaq name, Siqiñiq, which means "sun". :) 

July 31st-August 1st - C3 debrief and presentations! Lots of information, happened so fast, I'm still not entirely sure what happened. :) 

August 2nd-8th - New teacher inservice training. Received the mac laptop, class list, and curriculum + standards! I'm going to be teaching P.E., U.S. Government, Iñupiaq Studies, MS Language Arts, MS Social Studies, and U.S. History for the first semester (so far)! I'm very excited and looking forward to meeting my students! It's going to be an excellent and challenging year. :) 

August 8th-10th - GOING TO SELAWIK!!!!!!!!!! Seeing my apartment, seeing my classroom, meeting my fellow villagers!!!!!!!!!!!! HALLELUJAH! I have been waiting for forever! 

I have pictures, but I'll edit this post and include them later. 

Basically, I am loving Alaska and I'm hoping that Alaska loves me back. I miss my family, my friends, and I especially miss J <3, but BH was right! I have been so engrossed in meeting new people and learning more about where I'll be that I have barely had time to be homesick. Maybe that'll happen when the dust settles? Hope not! 

Enjoy the day & learn something! :) 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The final countdown

Cue the music!! It's........ (drum roll)..... THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

That's right, my friends, I have 5 days left in New York before I embark on my new adventure in Alaska. I am so excited! I almost can't believe that it's already time to go, and I suppose that is why I have been neglecting keeping this blog up to date. In preparation, however, I have been reading some really incredible books: 

1. The First Days of School, Harry K. Wong 

-This book is taking my anxiety of being a baby-teacher 4,000 miles away from almost everyone I know from a 40 to a 15, on a scale of 1-10. I am living in the 'how to set-up procedures for how your classroom should run' chapter. 

2. Fifty Miles From Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People, William Iggiagruk Hensley

-So far, I am loving this book! It's part of the required reading for the graduate course that is part of the C3 project I was accepted into, and I will have the opportunity to meet the author on July 25th! I can't wait to tell you more about that experience. 

3. Culturally Responsive Standards-Based Teaching

-I have to admit that I have not made a whole lot of headway with this text. I am very interested in learning about how I can integrate my students' traditional Inupiaq culture into the Social Studies curriculum! This will definitely be something I will frequently refer to while working. 

In other, more social, news, I have been distracting myself from moving to Alaska tasks by spending time with the people who are super important to me. My mom is going to be discharged from the hospital tomorrow after a miserable five days of being pretty sick, and my boyfriend is coming back from Italy on Saturday so we can go camping! It's all about balance, I suppose. Tune back in in two weeks, and I will tell you all about my first experiences in Alaska! 

Enjoy all of life's teachable moments!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


If you like packing and you know it, clap your hands! 
...No one? Bueller? Me neither. 

I am, however, used to it, but this time, the packing is different. I am packing up my life to go move to Alaska for a grand teaching adventure! This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity kind of fell into my lap in March, when I traveled to Seattle, WA with a friend from college for a weekend. We participated in a job fair through Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP), had several interviews, and received job offers at the end of the day before flying back to Syracuse. Oh. And before we left Seattle, I had called the HR Director back from North West Arctic Borough School District and told him that I was accepting the position. Since then (until about May), I've been floating around in this "I'm moving to Alaska" cloud... and then that bubble got popped when I realized that I would have to pack up and ship out my things. 

Packing can seem like an insurmountable challenge. I don't really have a gauge to help me figure out if I have more stuff than the average 25 year old or not, but if you ever want to significantly downsize your material possessions, try moving across the country. I have determined that I will have to leave behind the majority of my books, and I was already aware that I would not be taking my furniture with me, as the two bedroom apartment T and I are going to be sharing is furnished. Oh! Did I forget to mention that? T - my friend from college - accepted the job offer from the same school district and we will be teaching in the same village! Hooray!

So what to bring? Well, obviously, kitchen supplies. Thankfully, I am more than well prepared for the kitchen, seeing as my aunts unloaded all of their extras into my car a couple of years ago when I officially moved out into my first apartment. Toiletries will be a big deal, too, because everything is a lot less expensive in the lower 48 than it is in AK. Additionally, I *am* bringing some books - mostly on education and history, which is my subject, plus some teacher supplies and things to make the apartment and classroom a little more *me*. 

And clothes. Well, this part is kind of tricky... I have a suitcase of clothes that I haven't worn in two years - so that's going to be sorted and donated ASAP, plus I've been going through this weird losing weight / clothes not fitting thing, which is nice, but requires that I go on a shopping adventure. Furthermore, I need Alaska-specific clothing: wicking material shorts, pants, shirts, some super special boots (-40, -100 rating), bibs (snow bibs, maybe fishing bibs?), a *serious* windbreaker, hat, gloves, etc. Basically, the whole nine yards. Oh! And then there's the parka that I'll have to buy later. Plus a regular puffy-coat thing, because the one I have now may have been good for Upstate NY winter (172" of snow!), but it will not combat the cold weather temps of rural AK - I'll be living ABOVE the Arctic Circle. Yup. People live up there. 

Luckily for me, I have incredibly supportive friends and family. In fact, my wonderful friend, A, has volunteered to come out and help me pack today. So I should probably get to that... 

With that said, I know this post isn't explicitly about a teaching adventure, but it is my firm belief that you can take any thing (any activity, interaction, situation, etc.) and turn it into a teachable moment.

Make today a wonderful one!