A thousand words is worth a picture (right?)

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So, I was going to wait til I had a few more photos before writing another post, but as taking pictures in schools is generally frowned upon, and my non-school hours are generally not accompanied by daylight, I thought I’d give a verbal description of life at Gillam School. So here it is, a Top 10 of my first ten days:

10. Northern hospitality: Less than 24 hours after my arrival in Gillam, my roommate and I were dining on caribou roast at our CT’s (collaborating teacher) house, talking about family and quoting Fubar (that’s big here). And tomorrow we’ll be heading one block away to my other CT’s house for a Grey Cup party (as such, any bits of CFL trivia you want to pass along would be muchly appreciated!). Thanks Julie, Jen, and Joe for such an incredible welcome to the community!

9. Sports: As the least athletic person in my graduating class, I never envied the sports teams that had to spend every evening being shuttled to some school across the city for games. In the North, however, since the games are generally about 8 hours away by train, you gotta make ’em count. Gillam hosted Volleyball Zones last week, meaning school was cancelled for two days while students from Churchill, Lynn Lake, and many other communities all slept in our classrooms. It felt more like a youth retreat than a tournament, as I had the honour of supervising the games room, working on my killer ping pong skills.

8. DIY Catering: Of course, a sports tournament needs a canteen. But whereas a city school would have all kinds of regulations about what could be sold in said canteen, here the student council just spends their evenings cooking pizzas and hamburger meat in the Home Ec room. Better still, they’re very generous with student-teachers who are willing to stay late cleaning pans!

7. Technology: While there are a handful of smartboards in the school (which I have likened to having a motion-activated toilet flusher in your bathroom…looks cool, saves a tiny bit of effort, but is not worth the $1000 investment), teachers are not afraid to bust out the ol’ overhead, and they do so with an enthusiasm that keeps students (and me!) engaged. That’s my kind of school!

6. Small town neighbours: My roommate (who is technically not my roommate since at the last minute we were placed in adjacent apartments rather than a house) is a super solid guy, and we have a pretty great open-door, open-fridge policy. We’ve also made friends with some of the other teachers and EAs, one of whom lives in our building also and showed up the other day with a bowl full of curried rice and chicken. So good!

5. Food: And on the subject of food, I suppose Reid and I both processed our initial feelings of homesickness by cooking. Every evening. In bulk. So now our fridges are literally burgeoning with leftovers, and we probably won’t have to cook again until we leave.

4. Informal Faculty Advisor relationships: An ‘FA’ is the person that comes to your school 3 times during your practicum to evaluate your teaching and decide whether you’re actually going to graduate or not. OR, in the case of the north, it’s the person who you pick up at the airport, wander all over town with looking for the person who took her bag (two identical MEC bags on one tiny puddle-jumping aircraft? Seriously!?), then walk to school with each morning. Thanks, Barbara, for enjoying Gillam with us, and for all the wise teaching advice and encouragement!

3. More sports!: I was called out of the lunchroom yesterday to witness the first official trapping practice of the season. Yes, trapping is an official sport of the Frontier Games, and students must race to set and break six traps twice. The record was something like 37 seconds, held by the all-school trapping champ, and I managed to do it in 1:43, which I figured was pretty good for a beginner.

2. Cooperative learning: Through a fortuitous miscommunication (my Spanish-teaching course was titled “Teaching Aboriginal and World Languages”), I’ve been placed in a Cree classroom for the majority of this practicum. A grades 1-8 Cree classroom, no less. My CT in incredibly patient as I fumble with the 20-syllable words, and I’m learning lots about early years education as well. It’s certainly never boring, and it gives new meaning to the term ‘cooperative learning’, as I have very explicitly stated that the students are allowed to correct me if I make a mistake. It keeps them on their toes, which is good!

“Hello from Gillam!” in my homemade Cree tiles
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My bathroom, like the rest of my apartment, labelled in Cree
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1. Best. School. Ever.:The school has 300 students, K-12, and as of yet I have not heard a single one disrespect a teacher or a fellow student. The positivity continues in the staff room, which has to be one of the most welcoming workplaces I’ve ever experienced. The theory is that it’s a perfect combination of expats (at least that’s how us ‘southerners’ feel) and born-n-raised Gillamites, so people have a lot invested in the community. Whatever it is, it’s an awesome place to be.

The view from my bedroom window
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Overall an incredible experience so far. As I said, I still haven’t managed to see much of the town in daylight yet, but hopefully we’ll remedy that this weekend.

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13 responses »

  1. I’ve had the privilege of hearing most of these Top 10 in bits and pieces as you were experiencing them for the first time, but it’s almost more amazing to see them all together and realise just HOW incredible of an experience this practicum is. What a gift to become a part of this community! I am so happy for you, SO proud of you, and yes, more than a little jealous. 🙂

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  2. Too cool – sounds like you’re having a great time. Hey, I sent up a package – it was all I could do not to label it “tall, skinny, bearded guy” and see if it got to you!

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    • It actually might’ve! I was there the other day buying stamps and I totally forgot to ask if I’d received any mail. Then when I went back today the lady goes “There you are! You walked out last time without picking up your mail, and I was gonna chase you but I didn’t have my boots!”

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  3. So glad you are having a pleasant stay in Gillam. By your report every student teacher will want to go there. You are obviously also staying warm. All my love.

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