Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Time, No Blog

It seems like it's been forever, old friend.  I've been super busy.  For some reason, I'm back working full time.  I took on coaching in Arctic Village and Venetie.  Then, when mentoring in Fairbanks came open, I applied and low and behold, I was hired.  It was less than half time, mind you.  But the combination makes it really intense.

So what do I do.  Well, one week a month I go north to Venetie and Arctic Village.  I work with the principals and the teachers there to implement school improvement.  Right now, they are in the throes of trying to get remediation to Tier 2 and 3 students in reading.  Also, they are looking at data and student work and using it to make their instruction more focused.  I think it's like hiking- when you are on the mountain, you can't really see where you've been or where you're going....it just seems like hiking along the trail is the only thing you have the strength to do.  As a coach, I am off the mountain with a megaphone, go a little to the left, now lift that right foot, now use your pole because I can see the entire mountain.  The shouts from off mountain are efforts to make the hiking more efficient.

So, I am in Venetie and Arctic Mountain for 5 days.  Then, I do support work from home, reports to the state and data briefings as well as trainings (Cognitive Coaching(  and meetings occasionally.

As a mentor, I have 5 first year teachers assigned to me here in Fairbanks.  The ASMP (Alaska Statewide Mentor Project) uses the Santa Cruz New Teacher Center tools and model.  I talk to every teacher weekly, either in person, on skype, phone or email.  I also spend time in classrooms, giving feedback, modeling lessons, and collaborating with the teachers.  Plus the trainings, Friday Forums, partner discussions, research paperwork and audio obligations, and support work.

Right now, I've had a few days off for Thanksgiving.  Paul and I paid to have a masonry stove built in the middle of our living room/dining room.  (Pictures to follow sometime soon).  The idea is that one hot fire/day keeps the rocks warm and the heat radiates into the room.  Plumbing takes hot water from the stove into the water heater and baseboard.  We haven't fired it up yet, but we should see a sizable reduction in our 5 gals/day oil consumption.  Of course, since the room was torn up, we also have been painting.  Eventually, we'll be getting hardwood floors...maybe next Feb.  We're members of the "Board of the Month" club- at the end of the month, we buy a board.

Last year, we walked every mile of Fairbanks.  This year, we plan to walk 300 miles during the winter.  Because there are only about 4 hours of daylight now, we have to choose carefully or walk in the daylight.  We walk about 5 miles/day.  Yesterday, we walked around the airport.  It was about -17 and we walked about 5.5 miles.  The cold felt good on our old knees.

We've been doing pretty well in the eating frugally and healthy lately.  We heard a horrifying report that Americans throw away 40% of their food....too old, not pretty enough, too much, etc.  It made me figure out the left-overs situation, at least for this week.  Last night we had quiche from the fridge leftovers- green onions, asparagus, spinach, bacon and a few shrimp (for Paul).  Mozzarella was what we had, so that's what I used.  It was pretty good.

Paul has lately been watching Pacific Crest Trail youtubes. He's getting the itch.  We might start at Horsehoe Meadows and hike for a few weeks next June.  That might be fun.

I'm hoping to get blogging again.  I have a few tales from the villages to share.  Do the words "water is frozen up" bring chills?  Details to follow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back at it

I found out I'll be working in schools again next year.  In fact, I'll be going to Venetie and Arctic Village, split one week a month.  My work will be partnering with the principals to collaborate on school improvement.  It's challenging work and it depends on an honest dialog to examine current practice to see what to keep and what to change.

In both sites, most or all of the teachers will be new to the site.  In fact, except for one of the 8 teachers, I have been working in the district longer than any of them, but not full time of course.  It should be an interesting year.  Stay tuned and I'll share some of the challenges and work that will be done.  If you're looking for a tell-all...it won't happen here.  Teaching is a difficult job with lots of stone throwers.  I'm not one of them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not all thunder is from lightening

Once again, the sky is thundering.  Every afternoon for the last 2 weeks, there has been a quick and productive storm which is keeping everything green.  Today I brought it on by hanging clothes on the line.

I've been trying to walk 5 miles/day to get ready for the distance hiking that is inevitable this Friday.  I am pitifully overweight and I've been lazy, so even a 5 mile walk (not even hike) is a challenge.  I do walk faster in the city.

There are shades of meaning in separating walking, hiking and backpacking.  I think the differences are location and gear.  A walking can happen anywhere and anytime.  A hike means leaving the pavement at least part of the walk and may or may not require a trekking pole and water bottle, but usually does.  Backpacking is a hike that is multiple days so requires a pack with overnighting gear.  If you go on a hike to an equipped cabin or chalet- it's a hike (or trek or track, depending on the country).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Planting more than flowers

My husband flew off tonight to California to visit his 93 year old mother.  I'll be joining him in a few days and then we'll hitch a ride with in-laws Carol and Dave up to Walker Pass to resume our Pacific Crest Trail journey north.  I'll be on the trail with him for about 7 weeks, hoping to get as far North as Burney Falls.

The summer so far has been fantastic.  The weather is warm but not excessively hot with temps mainly in the 60s and 70s.  We've been spending lots of time out at Agony Acres or Flatland, working on house building and deconstructing an abandoned mobile home, respectively.  The mosquitoes have been enjoying the occasional bloodbath and my biceps are appreciating the workout.

I cleared out some willows with the chainsaw to make room for the "orchard", planting 6 apple trees and a dozen raspberry plants to complement the 18 Saskatoon serviceberries and rhubarb.  Paul and Ben assembled and lifted 3 sets of rafters up on the beams and cut more birch to peel and use for the remaining rafters.  My shoulders are still aching from the log peeling done to a beautiful birch log that is the center support in the cabin.

On Flatland, the tedious taking apart is continuing.  I've been unscrewing the aluminum panels and windows to strip the old trailer down to its bones and sinew.  There is no fat or muscle on a trailer- just 2x2s and a thin band of fiberglas insulation held in by the thinnest plywood paneling known to man.  It's obviously going to be continued in the Fall, but at least by stripping about 1/2 of the panels, it looks manageable.  I can sit in the shade swatting mosquitoes and look North towards White Mountains and the valleys leading that way and pretend that I'm not still in a junkyard.

In our yard, we managed to plant 4 types of tomatoes, cabbage, chard, kale, a pepper plant, herbs, lettuce and cantaloupe.  We also made a potato tower- google it.  I'll let you know how successful it is. Some of the plants I bought from the Farmer's Market last weekend.  I'm glad its starting up.  I never get out of there fast- lots of people to visit and stuff to buy.  Oh, and did I mention some flowers?  But not many this year- I'm turning my yard into a victory garden, assuming Ben remembers to water it.

We sold the old bakery we owned in Haines.  It was bittersweet because the bakery was one of the first buildings on Ft. Seward, built in 1906.  But time ravaged it and the new owners have their work cut out for them.  Paul estimated repairs at $100,000 minimum because it needed a whole new interior and wood tongue and groove siding repair on the outside.  The new owners, Sean and Heather are visionaries though and plan to turn it into a distillery.  The location is great and our tradeoff (besides cash) is knowing that young people are there with plans to add to the Haines economy.

Ben went down to close the deal for us.  He hadn't been back to Haines since he was 10 (and he's now 28) and fell in love with it, just as I did when I first went there.  I think he might go back someday.  We still own the quonset hut where we lived for 4 years and have owned for 30.  His trip was memorable- spotting 4 bears and numerous other wildlife.  He arrived home on Wednesday and by Thursday the road was closed north of Haines Junction due to flooding and road damage.  Just in time.

Our dinner discussion was living like a 3rd World Country- commonplace in Alaska.  Most of the world now lives with running water, more than one room and access to mass transportation.  Not here. Especially for those who are students or who have entry jobs in the service industry.  If it weren't for the beauty of the land, wide open spaces and the friendly people, why Alaska would be just another ghetto, at least by some criterion.

I was rehired as a Intervention District coach by the state next year.  More to come.  In the meantime, check out the link on the side for my trail journal about the distance hike.  Maybe 700 miles this summer.  Maybe more.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teaching in Alaska?

This is the time of year when teachers jump from job to job.  I always meet people who say to me, "I've always wanted to come to Alaska.  Could I get a job?"

Alaska is open for business.  But be forewarned.  There is NO easy job in education.  If you are considering coming to Alaska to teach in a village, you'll either love it or leave it.  Here's my advice to you.
*  Consider your motives.  If you want to immerse yourself in another culture, this is the place.  If you want to save, research, convert, or judge....maybe not. If you are coming for the money, that alone will not make up for the difficult job you will do.
*  Do your research.  Alaska is huge with varied geography and climates and Native people and occupations.  Do you want ocean or tundra, rain or ice, Tlingit or Yup'ik, loggers or whalers?  Check out the EED website to see what you would need to be certified.
*  Can you teach more than one subject?  In villages, you might be needed to coach or teach a job out of your area of expertise.  It would require that you work on getting highly qualified, thanks to the federal regulators who have never seen, much less taught in, one teacher schools.
*  Plan ahead.  You'll need to ship all your stuff by mail, including food.  On your way through Fairbanks or Anchorage, you can shop and have it sent out freight or mail.
*  Simplify.  In villages, most people don't have lots of material goods.  Just bring the things you need for your soul- music, hobbies, spices, journal, etc.

There are lots of benefits, including a chance to get out into an Arctic climate, Northern Lights, Native cultural and subsistence activities, working with kids who need good teachers, good salaries and maybe housing provided, meeting interesting and active coworkers, and friendly people.

If you still want to come, check out:  http://alaskateacher.org/.  Watch for job fairs near you.  Most HR Depts come to job fairs with contracts in hand, especially for special education teachers and other hard to find experts.

Springtime in Alaska

Here are my top ten signs of Spring in Fairbanks:
My brother gets allergy problems.
The "snowbirds" return so that they will get their Permanent Fund dividends by staying the requisite 6 months.
The dirt appears in the snowdrifts as they slowly melt down.
Snow tires get removed and piled next to houses.
The smell of barbecued meat wafts through the neighborhood.
On Clean Up day, the yellow bags stuffed with trash sit alongside the highway waiting for pickup with their friends, the old mattresses, tires, car parts, buckets, etc. that blew off of trucks.
The dumpster divers are out in full force at the dumpster sites, "recycling".
The cranes have arrived in Creamer's Field.  The geese and ducks have already left.
18 hours of daylight and going up.
Every weekend is a 5/10k run/walk for charity....every Saturday all summer long.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring is Coming?

This posting is really a sham as I am in Hawaii right now visiting my grandson.  My husband and daughter are in Asia, enjoying the Toilet Restaurant and site of Java Man while I'm on baby detail.  Denali and I go to Lanakai Juice, the beach, My Gym, swimming, Keiki Crescendo and play.  The birds are coming back to Fairbanks and so must I.