Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Morning meeting in Oscarville

Every morning from 8:30-8:45 Oscarville have the entire school community gather around our lunch table. The staff takes turns each week talking about one of the Yupik Cultural Life Skills (components of Yuuyaraq). At the end of the talk the students recite a pledge with appropriate hand gestures. This morning, on the last day of school, I took some video. Leading us today is those members who will be in High School next year. Well... the ones who showed up before 8:45 this morning.

Feel free to follow along in your daily Yupik Eskimo Language lesson...

Wangkuta elisngaukut.
(We are smart)

Taigukut elicarturluta, ikayuutaaryarturluta-llu.
(We come here to learn and to help others)

Maani assikuciqukut pingnatugciiqukut-llu.
(We will be kind and strong here)

Caliciqukut assircaarluta, murilkelluta, niicugniluta, elilluta-llu.
(We will work hard, pay attention, listen, and learn)

Watnaukut ciuliaput umyuaqluki wangkutnek-llu.
(Above all else, we think about others and ourselves here)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduation 2009

Well the end of the year is upon us. I can tell because there are puppies everywhere...

(and... this very that last one that is still looking for a good home...)

love, it seems, is in the air...
and once again, I had a graduation speech to deliver...

So here is this year's tribute...

I'm here to congratulate four very deserving students on their graduation from middle school and their ascent into high school.

I, personally, have been extremely pleased to observe their progress over the past two years. Their growth, in every way, has been remarkable. They have, in that time, become mature, well-spoken adults helping provide for their families and making responsible choices.

They have become taller, too.

Allow me introduce Anissum Henry, Nick Joekay, Lyle Meier, and Patrick Waska.

These four boys work together well as a team. Last year along with Issa and Nicole they performed remarkably well making it to the state level with both Battle of the Books and Robotics.

I’ll be honest. I thought it was a fluke. That group of six being one of those classes teachers dream of having.

I was wrong. These young men have been leaders in the Jr. High helping the four new students in our group also become great teammates. The Jr. High this year has surpassed my expectations again with their ability to work well through communicating safely with one another. They were award winners in the Science Fair and the Multimedia competition. Two contests they have never been a part of before this year.

In addition to all of the amazing work they have done together they have also, independently, produced high-quality school work, under some serious pressure.

Perhaps even more impressive, in this time of nation-wide recession, each of them has had at least one job within the past year.

Young men, today is a turning point in your life. As you make it through this celebration, take a small part of your brain and think about the direction your life is going to go. It's been said that a high school education is one of the greatest gifts that one can receive. And I guess… you’ll have to ask Andrew more about that.

Well, starting now, you have the opportunity to earn that gift. Are you going to take advantage of that opportunity?

You each have a unique set of strengths. Find out what they are, and build on them using this school as your toolbox. With a little self-analysis, planning and focus; and with a lot of work, there are no limits to what you can do with your lives.

At this time, I would like to acknowledge each of you separately. Please stand as I announce your name.


Remember all the magic acts you saw and you learned in Las Vegas? You love magic, and we love seeing you perform it. Well nothing can be more magical than the way you've matured over this last year. All of a sudden, you're a voracious reader. You're great working with kids, and you were a good help to me in the classroom this year. You haven't yet chosen your future career, but don't worry. There's plenty of time. You've gotten a good start, though. You've researched everything from firefighting to marine engineering. That covers a lot of ground. You're a hard worker. Whatever you do, it will probably involve outside work, working with your hands. Keep up the research. There are plenty of options for you.


Nick is punctual. He's never late for anything. Well... this week aside. This isn't just a good character trait. It reflects his energy level. Nick will never sit if he can stand. He'll never walk if he can run. If class starts in five minutes...and he's ten minutes away, don't worry. He can make it in three minutes. Of course, punctually is a good character trait too. So is his excellent record of always getting his homework done as assigned. Those aren't his only good traits. If you don't believe me, ask my niece, Marissa. She'll tell you that he's a good guy. You can get a good look at Nick's inner strength by watching him take on athletic challenges. He always pushes himself harder than anyone else I know. In Health and PE we have been doing an video called "Walk Away the Pounds." So a couple of times a week we have been walking two miles in 30 minutes. WE have been walking. Nick has been... running! This drive will help him accomplish goals for the rest of his life. Teamwork and a burning drive to succeed... Nick has considered a career in law enforcement or as a Navy Seal. Lofty goals... But get to know him and he'll convince you...He has what it takes.


Lyle always accomplishes more than he's asked to do. He's now entering high school, but he's been performing high school quality work for some time now. He's humorous, intelligent, witty, super friendly, popular, self aware, creative, etc. And frankly, at this age he shouldn't be. He should be... scared. But not Lyle. He's an independent thinker and… a… tinkerer. He has TINKERED with broken toys and made them into functional equipment. He has mastered skills typically demonstrated only by career electricians. He even taught himself to play the guitar recently...and he does it well. He hasn't yet decided what he wants to be; but given facts that he's super bright and mechanically inclined, once he decides on his path, the sky's the limit. Let's be nice to him. Someday, we all may be working for him.


Patrick is a good student and so much more. He has demonstrated his leadership skills and ability to take on responsibility both at school and at home. We should all feel grateful that he is a member of our community. He's a positive example for us all. No matter what's going on, he always flashes this HUGE smile. Come on, Patrick, show everyone what you've got! Patrick is charming, passionate about everything he does, loyal and empathetic. He sees what needs to be done, and he does it. Patrick already has his future picked out. In case you haven't heard, Patrick intends to live in Anchorage, working as a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines. He's sure of this. And it's that commitment that will make his dream come true. I have no doubt, he'll make us proud.

There you have it...four remarkable young men, ready to move on.

Anissum, Nick, Patrick, and Lyle… it is obvious to me that they didn't get here and do all this on their own. The success and quality of these gentlemen are a tribute to the love and support they've received from their families and from the Oscarville community. Let's not forget your contributions. For those of you who have been a part of their lives, and that means all of you, we applaud you. (through applause) Your help. Your support.

I've felt very close to the four of you. We've worked well together. But don't feel guilty about abandoning me as you move on with your lives. It's the nature of being a teacher. I help you grow up, and then you leave me. It's the circle of life, only without the killing and eating parts.

Besides, you won't get far. I'll still be keeping an eye on you.

Next year, with Erin leaving, you will be getting a new high school teacher. Don't think can get away with reporting to a "Newbie." I read your paper and one of you wrote with hopes of that already. No slacking though... like I just said, "I'll still be keeping an eye on you." After all... I will be in here with the Jr. High and you'll only be just right down the hall from me.
Good luck gentlemen. And... thank you.

In addition to the eighth grade promotion into High School there was a kindergarten graduate and a High School graduate.

Andrew, our High School graduate, seems very pleased with his graduation presents...
as were the kuspeq wearing ladies.

The purple kuspeq, I am wearing here, was a gift from Eliza, Andrew's mother. A quick look around and we found a vast majority of the kuspeqs in this picture were actually all made by Eliza's creative hands.

There are three days of school left. But frankly, I am DONE with academic work. It's been a productive year. My students really pushed right up to the end. A picture is said to paint a thousands words. Well... here's my visual representation of the end of the school year.

Early this week I posted my expectations for each of my students by the end of the school year. Purple is what needs to be done. Orange means it was completed. A blue circle means that the student finished EVERYTHING. A pink square is the work incomplete.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The morning of May 12, 2009

I wrote an email today. It's subject was "Too Lazy to Make This Blog Worthy." I sent it to my parents. And a couple of friends. The reply from one friend in particular prompted me to post it after all.

My original email:

I am too lazy to write this all with wit and drama and to turn it into a blog post but I just had an eventful last ten minutes or so. A couple of pieces of ice hit outside my classroom window so I went out and snapped a picture.
I then carried on as usual exploring Facebook as "prep" for the day. At 8:30 I left my room to go to the main school for morning meeting.

On the way there I heard a couple of dogs squealing and a couple of dogs howling. I looked in the direction of the dogs and thought I would see them being fed or something. They were not. No person was around them. Then I started to count. Two howling. One barking. Couldn't see the squealer. I got closer and realized a puppy had fallen into the river. It seems it was checking out the ice I was looking at just moments before. The ice had moved past; but, a puppy was paddling madly at the edge.

I did NOT grab my camera to get the shot, I picked up the puppy first. And then held it to my chest. It was shaking. Its little heart beating very rapidly. Clearly it was cold. I tried to track down the owner (the Joekays) but in addition to NOT being at the school it seems they weren't even awake. I knocked for a while and then took the puppy home and wrapped it in a blanket.
Once content in the classroom with a blanket and heater I went home to change my clothes. The dog didn't intentionally do its business on me or anything but I would have felt quite silly finishing up the day with the remains of the rescue on me.
And now that this story is told here's the final picture of rescue and rescuer.
So yes yes, it's a cute little story but worthy enough of taking my blog out of early retirement before the new summer adventures? Nah.

But then my roomie Erin and I got to talking. The conversation went something like this:

Erin: hey, are you ever going to post on your blog again?

Christina: Yeah, probably this summer. From my new road trip and all.

Erin: You should post now.

Christina: That's funny because I was just thinking about my blog after that whole puppy-incident this morning.

Erin: Yeah... you should do that.

Christina: eh... I have so much other work to do...

So that's step one of why I am posting... because... really... screw work.

But the other reason for this post is to introduce you to my new special friend. Somehow I managed to find an intelligent, attractive, snarky guy who has shown some interest in my life recently. Go figure.

This morning he had the following to say in an email:

"Glad all is well with the pup. I can see this being a family-friendly
adventure movie. Probably from the Mouse House. I'm writing the
trailer now. Ideally, Don LaFontaine would have done this
trailer--but he died last year."

He then went on to create a trailer of my experience. And because... well as I said... screw work... have decided to reenact the story for you here. The following words are his:

(open with pictures of happy Yupik frolicing with their dogs as happy
music plays--Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony,

NARRATOR: In a world where ice and snow rule, anything can happen.
Even to dogs.

(discordant note sounds as we cut to pictures of dogs running across the snow)

NARRATOR: And when the spring thaw comes. All bets are off.

PATRICK: The river's headed higher! It's gonna flood!

(cut to pictures of pup falling into the water, sounds of yelping, etc.)

NARRATOR: Only one woman can save him!

(heroic music, perhaps the score from "Superman" plays)

CHRISTINA: I'll save him!

ERIN: No, Christina! It's too dangerous! Think of leaving Michael alone!

(Christina looks skyward, and is shot from below like a scene from The

CHRISTINA: Heros can't worry about the future.

TOWNSPEOPLE engage in rhubarb. One is heard saying "She's right."

(cut to Christina running along the shore in slo-mo, like Pamela
Anderson in the titles of "Baywatch." In fact, let's have the theme
from "Baywatch" playing. Or the theme from "Chariots of Fire.")

(cut to dog yelping, looking helpless)

(cut to pictures of worried townspeople)

(cut to Christina swimming through a field of icebergs to rescue the dog)

(more shots of worried townspeople)

(over these shots the Narrator speaks)

NARRATOR: Teacher. Smartaleck. Savior. The fate of an innocent dog
rests in her hands.

CHRISTINA: I'm coming pup!

(shot of Patrick hugging Erin)

(more shots of worried townspeople)

(Christina comes ashore with the pup)

CHRISTINA: He's safe!

(crowd cheers, Patrick hugs Christina. Dramatic music plays, the
theme to Dragonheart)

CHRISTINA (narrowing eyes): Until next time!

NARRATOR: This film has not yet been rated.

CHRISTINA: I love being a hero. (looks at the spot on her shirt)
It's the dirty laundry I can't stand.


So here's hoping that the next several blogs posts are able to be as spiced up and entertaining as this one. One can only hope my friend, Michael, will continue to bless me with his unique ability to make my mundane life seem picture worthy.

And... that, as they say, is the final moneyshot of this blog entry.