Greetings everyone – welcome to issue # 4 of the eMEMO. How quickly January is moving along and thus far winter in the St. John’s area has been tolerable – much less snow than last year. Obviously not desirable for snow enthusiasts but since my limited number of winter rec activities take place inside, I’m just one happy camper these days. More to say about one of those activities in Concluding Comments.
This week we have a wonderful submission from Ms. Jillian Foley who has been teaching in Iglooklik, Nunavut for these past 4 years. A most insightful article about teaching in the far north, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy Jillian’s Former Students’ Update.
Feedback From This Year’s Interns
I couldn’t be happier
As the first few weeks of my internship start to wind down, I couldn’t be happier! I am currently planning and teaching one full lesson a day and so far it has been wonderful. In my science lesson about solids, the students were more intrigued and excited about the concepts than I could ever imagine.
In the coming weeks I will begin planning and teaching more and more lessons, which is scary and exciting at the same time. Having said that, it is so much fun to put everything that I have learned in the past eight months into practice with real students and supplies.
One area that I definitely think I will need to work on is classroom management as this is one of my major goals of this internship. My co-operating teacher is more than helpful in all areas, and I truly admire her methods of classroom management. I have a lot to learn from her especially in that area. (Primary Intern)
When I first started this program the prospect of a 12 week internship had me scared witless. Now I’m three weeks into my big bad internship and I have to say that every day I come here makes me think I made the right choice in picking this career. I’m deep into lesson planning at the moment as I prepare to take over some more of my co-operating teacher’s course load; it’s nerve wracking, but a great challenge at the same time. I’m very excited to make this unit all my own and show myself what I can do.
I’m nervous of course, I’m still very new to this game and I don’t expect every lesson to go as planned – not by a long shot! But that’s the way things go sometimes and I think I’ll learn just as much from the bad days as I do the good ones. Time management is my biggest concern at the moment; learning to cover a certain amount of material within a set time frame is a lot more difficult than I ever imagined it to be. It’s making me realize that I still have a lot to learn about teaching, and that’s okay because that’s what this internship is all about! (Secondary Intern)
Full of nerves and a belly ache
The past three weeks of this internship have been flying. To say I jumped right into teaching was an understatement. The first morning I arrived at the school full of nerves and a belly ache, I was handed the microphone, the attendance list, the lesson plan, and started right away. I guess sometimes that is the only way to do anything, just start and don’t look back.
I felt like I was being thrown into a pack of wolves, then quickly realized that these junior high students were not here to chew me up and spit me out. They listened, they joked with me, and made me feel very comfortable.
These last few weeks I’ve become a lot more confident in myself and it almost feels like second nature at this point. I never thought it would
ever feel that way; so the future for my teaching is looking very bright. (Intermediate Intern)
I’ve learned just as much as I’ve taught
The combination of being a teacher, while simultaneously being a student, is a difficult balance to strike. During the first few weeks of my internship, I’ve learned just as much as I’ve taught.
I’ve been lucky enough to be sent to a school with a very supportive staff. My co-workers have become my closest allies, as they deal with the same issues, as I do, day to day.
Going into my internship, my biggest fear was having to relearn the material that I was teaching. This task is no longer on my spectrum of worries. I have witnessed some very poor behavior and have been the brunt of anger. Not all interactions I’ve had with students have been positive ones.
My goal is to develop personal relationships with my students and gain mutual respect. My students appreciate a display of genuine care from their teachers. The ability to get to know my students and relate to them is a skill that I’m slowly developing. Overwhelmingly, my experience so far has been a positive one. However, there is still much to learn when it comes to classroom management and being a positive role model for kids who are in need of one. (Intermediate Intern)
The nervousness wasn’t long going away
When entering the school on day one of my internship, it was safe to say that I felt a little nervous. Once I began talking to the teachers and greeting the students, the nervousness wasn’t long going away and it reassured me that a teacher is what I really want to be. Everyone at the school was so welcoming, both teachers and students.
In my first week of my internship I was given the task of teaching 2 classes after lunch, as a substitute was in for my co-operating teacher. I felt as if I was comfortable with what I observed in prior classes and wanted to try teaching it myself. Both classes were very well behaved and had fun – as did I. What didn’t work in the first class, I changed for the second. I felt that this was a GREAT learning experience for me, as it made me realize that everything doesn’t go exactly as planned and you must be prepared for these situations.
It is already week four of my internship and time is flying because I am having fun! I have developed a rapport with many students and it is a great feeling when you know the students respect you and enjoy having you in their class. I now enter the school every day feeling comfortable and excited to start the day. The nerves are now gone and I cannot wait to pursue my career in teaching! (Intermediate Intern)
My internship thus far has been going well. I am doing more teaching each day and since doing so, I have noticed a change in the way some of the students view me. My first week, the majority of the children would refer to me as “boy teacher” and if they had a question, they would bypass me and go to their teacher. Even if I intervened and answered their question, I found some students would go to their teacher and say “boy teacher said. . . ” but now throughout my third week I am noticing a change. The children are more comfortable around me and not only call me by my name but I feel as if they view me as their teacher now. This is probably because I have taken on some teaching throughout the day; so now it seems they view me in that light, instead of before in my first week where I mostly observed, I might have been seen as more of a visitor.
The children I am interning with are primary age and still need a lot of hand holding (figuratively and literally speaking) throughout many tasks of the day.
One major detail I have taken home throughout these last three weeks is that being a teacher is far more than just teaching curriculum. I have enjoyed my first three weeks and I look forward to the coming weeks where I take on more teaching responsibilities. (Primary Intern)
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 1)
Recommended Book Resource for Primary and Elementary Interns
Written by: Jean Craighead George (2014)
Illustrated by: Wendell Minor
“Jean Craighead George and Lonesome George passed away within weeks of each other in 2012. They were both one of a kind.”
From the historical map of the Galapagos Islands depicted on the end pages to the beautifully worded historical account of the Galapagos tortoises, Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor have brought us a story of the wonder of adaptation. The book opens around one million years ago with Giantess George, a giant vegetarian tortoise, living in a desert in South America. She lived through earthquakes and volcanoes, but one day she was swept out to sea in a torrential rainstorm. She had never swum in the desert, but in the ocean she did something new—she floated for the first time. She drifted west with no food, but she did something that desert tortoises were used to doing—she changed her body fat into food and water, because “desert dwellers could live for a year without eating or drinking”.
Eventually, she and some other tortoise relatives came to land about 600 miles away from home. There she laid eggs and lived much as she was used to. But, one year she ran out of plants that grew low to the ground, and she did something new—she stretched her neck upward and ate tree leaves. When she was 200 she died, but she left long-necked offspring, who had even longer necked offspring, and so forth until eventually, after thousands of years, all the tortoises on this island had long, graceful necks. “They no longer looked just like Giantess George. They were something new.
The story of how the tortoises adapted, in slightly different ways among the islands, continues throughout the book, along with the vivid paintings that help to bring their story alive. In 1535, these islands were
named the Galapagos Islands, meaning “Islands of the Tortoise”. As history moved on and people began to explore these islands, the 200,000 tortoises were reduced to thousands. Years passed to the time of Charles Darwin, who became curious about why the tortoises on each island were alike, but different from each other. Eventually, only one descendent of Giantess George remained, on Pinta Island. He was found in the 1970s and taken to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island for protection, with other Galapagos tortoises. The scientists never found a mate for him and named him Lonesome George. “At four o’clock on June 23, 2012, Lonesome George pulled his neck into his shell and put up his knees.” He died on June 24, the last of his kind. “But because of him. . . we know. . . there will always be new and unimaginable things that can happen.”
For excellent information on cyberbullying go to:
This is a Canadian site that is “clarifying the blurred lines between cyberbullying and digital citizenship”.
Reference: Principles of classroom management (4th Canadian edition., 2016) by J. Levin, J. F. Nolan, J. W. Kerr, A. E. Elliott & M. Bajovic. Toronto: Pearson.
Former Students’ Update
Jillian Foley (B. Ed., 2011)
I am now in my fourth year of teaching in the north. I am in a remote little community called Igloolik, inside the Arctic Circle and it has been nothing short of an adventure! My experience in the north has undoubtedly afforded me an invaluable wealth of knowledge and often times I feel more the student than the teacher.
Experience doesn’t quite seem to encapsulate what I have achieved here as an educator. Every day sends another curve ball your way, something new, hurtling towards you and demanding you to think, react and respond simultaneously. I guess it is fair to say that I experienced a bit of ‘culture shock’ when I first travelled north. I travelled to the north myself, not knowing anyone along my travels or at my destination. I arrived in Igloolik on a 14-seater prop plane, into a modest one-room airport, where I was warmly greeted by my principal, a fellow Newfoundlander. After he helped me with my bags, he brought me to my apartment and introduced me to my roommate, another newcomer to the north.
I was a late hire to the north. I had written my last exam for the B.Ed. program on a Friday, and was called the next morning and offered the job. I had one week to pack up and move. I arrived in Igloolik on a Sunday evening and started work the next morning. Things were moving and changing very fast and my principal must have sensed my anxiousness and concern. He simply laughed, told me to get plenty of sleep because I would need it and left for the evening reassuring me, “don’t worry, miss, we’ll take good care of you”. And they did. I had a wonderful first year of teaching; albeit I was teaching senior high math with an English degree, with a staff of welcoming, social and supportive people that I now refer to as my dear friends.
I would have to say that one of my greatest realizations is the impact and significance of a supportive staff and administration. Things in the north never slow down and the only constant is change. Staff turnover is unfortunately frequent, which makes it very difficult to develop and maintain the kind of relationships, trust and staff morale that are so crucial to the efficiency of the everyday operations of the school. There are a few constants among our staff. I am only in my fourth year and am now a part of what is referred to as the ‘seasoned staff.’ Furthermore, I have experienced a turnover in administration for three of the four years that I have been here. This continual upheaval is particularly hard on our students and although I have always believed it to be true, I have developed a greater understanding of the necessity and significance of consistency in the school. We try to motivate our students, and more
specifically, we try to harness and cultivate an intrinsic desire for knowledge and success, success being a dynamic term that our students must define for themselves.
Students and parents in the north have varying ideas about the meaning of success and education. Nunavut is well known for its rich culture and talents in art, film and land skills and there is a strong focus on maintaining this culture and its traditions. As educators in the north, we are encouraged to likewise maintain this culture and tradition both within the classroom and beyond. We frequently invite community elders into the school for oral storytelling or to discuss the oral history of the Inuit. I have to say that I have been very fortunate in my experiences in the north. I came to a wonderful community that is well known for its diversity of talent and tradition. There is an abundance of skilled artisans in Igloolik. We have some of North America’s most famous carvers in this community, along with very skilled and well-known painters and jewelry makers. But beyond all of this, I think the most intriguing aspect for me was the discovery of the film industry here in Igloolik. This community has been nicknamed ‘the Hollywood of the north’. Many movies have been filmed in this community, including the award-winning film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. And actually, the star of the film, Natar Ungalaq, worked as a cultural advisor in the high school during my first year here. I also had the pleasure of teaching both his son and his daughter, and watched his daughter graduate from high school this past fall. And the list goes on. There is a local circus, ArtCirq, here in the community, which Natar’s daughter is a part of, and they frequently visit and perform at the school. The school also participates and sometimes hosts community feasts and we run land programs in the spring for the students. We run igloo-building programs every year, with the help of community elders and host some of our classes in the igloo, where we have tea and listen to Inuit oral history from an elder. As you can well imagine, this greatly impacts and alters your style of teaching and demands creativity. In such a different environment, you are constantly searching for new ways of implementing curriculum, trying to make it relevant and inspiring to your students.
The culture and traditions of the north are certainly to be admired and valued; however, they sometimes add to the challenge of teaching. There is a strong focus on family and tradition in the north; unfortunately, this means that many students are unable to attend school on a regular basis. Many of my students are the primary caregivers for the children in their household; many have a family of their own, while others are absent for weeks at a time because they are on the land with their families, developing their hunting and land skills. There are times when I do not see particular students for a month or more at a time, especially in the spring, during the 24-hour daylight, as this is the prime hunting season. This certainly creates challenges within the classroom and to the progression of learning throughout the year. It demands very strategic planning and preparation and also challenges teachers to adapt to a very dynamic environment and way of learning.
Along with the challenge of frequent absences, Nunavut has a 100% inclusive education system, which creates a classroom with a wide range of learning gaps and exceptionalities. In many communities in Nunavut, including my own, students speak and are taught in Inuktitut from kindergarten to grade 4, and only begin learning the English language in grade 5. Furthermore, there is a system of “continuous progress” which states that no child will be held back from kindergarten to grade 9. Instead, they progress through each grade, regardless of attendance or achievement, up to grade 9. In this system, teachers are to bridge any learning gaps that may have occurred due to absence or any other circumstance.
As you can imagine, this poses many challenges and can become very frustrating. Patience becomes more of a necessity than a virtue. But I feel that if nothing else, these experiences have compelled me to become a more dynamic and patient educator. I have faced many difficult and emotional obstacles in my time in the north, on both a personal and professional level. I have had my moments of frustration and times when I felt like all of my efforts were exercises in futility. However, in light of these moments, and they are bound to occur in our profession, we find
the silver lining. I have also been afforded moments of humility and witnessed resilience and perseverance beyond my own capabilities or understanding. I would like to share one example with you all, in the hopes that it may provide you the same inspiration and motivation it has for me, as we sometimes need these little reminders or ‘pushes’ as educators.
In my first year in the north, I had a student in my grade 12 Math class who was only a year younger than myself. She was a very bright young woman, dedicated and focused in the classroom. However, her attendance was below 50%. She would sometimes be absent for 2 and 3 weeks at a time and show up on a Friday afternoon to get caught up on missed work and assignments. This was very frustrating for me, as it was my first year and I was working long hours to be well prepared for all of my classes – keeping in mind, also, that I was an English major teaching out of my element and was relearning this material for myself, first. This continued for some time and I helped her along as best I could and she was always very appreciative. Before Christmas that year, she came to me to wish me a merry Christmas and told me how thankful she was for all of my help. She was a 22-year-old mother whose husband worked away. She had three small children and a younger sister with two. Her education was always very important to her, but she had to drop out of school for some time. She was now back in school to finish her last year and graduate, while her younger sister watched the five children. When she graduated, her younger sister would then return to school and she would watch the children and allow her sister to graduate, as well. The times when she was absent for extended periods were times when there were too many ill in the household or if there were some other circumstances in which her sister required help with the children. And I’m sure sometimes she was just too tired. Now, in my fourth year, I have had the pleasure of seeing both sisters graduate. The eldest is now in Iqaluit, in a college program. At each of their graduation ceremonies, they gave a very emotional and heartwarming speech and thanked me personally for all the extra time I had put in, for being so patient and understanding and for supporting them and never giving up on them.
I have to say, it was my most rewarding, inspiring and humbling experience as an educator and their words and sentiments will remain with me throughout the entirety of my career and my life!
(Editor’s Note: Jillian is a graduate of St. Michael’s High School, Bell Island and graduated from MUN in 2011 with a B.A. (Honors) in English and a B.Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary). Yours truly had the pleasure of being Jillian’s high school principal and her university instructor for 2 courses in the B. Ed (I/S) program.
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 2)
“I was going to talk to you about my procrastination
problem, but it can wait!”
On The Lighter Side of Teaching (Part 3)
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Concluding Comments From the Editor
That concludes issue # 4. The usual thank you to those interns who sent in submissions for this issue. Interns, your taking the time to articulate your internship experiences to date is most appreciated and of course most informative.
A special word of thank you to Jillian Foley for a most interesting “read” about her teaching experiences in the “great white north”. Our Former Students’ Update feature is becoming quite popular with eMEMO readers.
We had our 3rd scrimmage game of hockey at St. Bon’s on Friday night past. 21 players and 2 goalies laced ‘em up for another “great” game! My team lost – not sure what the final score was but I think it was by a significant difference!
Re my personal “performance” – got a beautiful goal early in the game; right winger Steve Dicker passed me the puck, I skated in front of the goalie (on the other team!), the goalie went down, I did a backhander and got the puck up over his right pad! C’est le but! My team-mates and those on the other team were shocked but no more shocked than I was that it went into the net and I had scored!!!!!!!!! Living the dream indeed! Pardon my humility or lack thereof.
That adds to my lone assist last week – 2 points in 3 games! No threat here to those in the NHL who are leading scorers halfway through the season!
Well, that’s it for this week and thank you for taking the time to read another issue of The Monday eMemo .
Back again next Sunday. Have another great week, interns, and keep sending in those submissions.