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"There's No Such Thing as a Bad Day in Alaska, Only Bad Gear"

August 28th, 2011

It's Sunday afternoon, the eve of the commencement of my first year teaching and I'm freaking out! I thought it might be therapeutic to take a break from the overwhelming task of preparing my first classroom to blog for a few minutes! Though you can't exactly consider blogging productive in light of the first day of school tomorrow, it is a serious effort to clear my mind and get me back on track :o)

While our east coast family and friends were surviving hurricane Irene, (happy to hear everyone is safe :o)) I was surviving my first week of SIG (School Improvement Grant) training! After feeling like I was relatively prepared for the first day of school a week ago today, this week of training completely changed my mind and threw me into panic mode. The grant is an effort to help schools who are not meeting AYP (adequate yearly progress) and who need help getting their students' standardized test scores and graduation rates up. While they throw some nice perks at the teachers (iPad 2's, free round trip flights to Nome, returning bonuses, etc...) they also supply you with student data, school wide goals, high teacher expectations and a whole lot of acronyms that I'm not sure I understand yet! I'm really excited to be working for a school that's going through this change and I feel super motivated to make an impact on these kids and help them to succeed on their tests. I also feel added pressure and am really worried about living up to the high expectations! It's going to be a challenging year, but a good friend of mine and fellow AKT2 member, gave me a new motto to live by: "Fake it 'til you make it." :o) Maybe if I can successfully pretend that I know what I'm doing, I'll actually figure it out at some point!! In all seriousness, I'd hoped to be at least a quarter ahead of my kids this year, but reality set in pretty quickly and now I'm focusing on executing this week successfully--I'll worry about next week on Saturday!

While there was a LOT of essential information handed to me this week, (that I'm still processing) Brendan and I also gained some other useful facts from some pretty great resources. We actually met the couple who lived in the house that we currently live in, back in the 80's. Talk about a great resource! We learned that while they were living there, a polar bear was killed on the front porch that our kitchen window looks out on. YIKES. My new favorite game to play is displaying scenarios for B to solve. "So what if you go to grab your coffee in the morning and there's a polar bear looking in the window?" Don't worry Dad, we've got a solid emergency plan in progress! We came to the conclusion that storms here will have all of the same exciting/frightening aspects like making sure we have enough water, candles and batteries, but the difference is that back home we got to curl up at home while schools and roads were closing, with a glass of wine and a good book. There won't be any closings or delays here, just bundling up earlier to ensure that we can fight our way through the storms and still make it to school on time! We are definitely enjoying the sunshine while we have it. :o)

The couple also gave us some great names of brands and stores to look at as we continue our quest to invest in some serious winter gear. They told us which stores will give us the best deals and which ones will ship for free. I also took a quote from him, "There's no such thing as a bad day in Alaska, only bad gear." We know it's going to get cold, that's a given. I don't have a problem spending money on a jacket if it's going to keep me warm all winter! A headlamp is essential, our walks to school in the morning are already getting pretty dark! Rainpants are first on the list...we experienced our first rainy, windy, dark walk (which was one adventure) and then got to experience wearing the cold, wet pants all day. Two lessons were learned that day: 1) Keep dry clothes at school and 2) invest in some rain gear! That first paycheck is coming up...and it's definitely already spoken for!

We were able to get out of town last week and hike to some cliffs about 2 miles outside of the village. We went with some teachers who have been here for a few years and they took us to the spot where all of the puffins fly around and hang out! It was pretty incredible, standing on the edge of a huge cliff with the Bering Sea crashing on the rocks and thousands of puffins flying all around us. We are trying to take advantage of as many opportunities as we can to get out of the village to explore...before we know it the sun will be gone and the snow and polar bears will be here!

Brendan has had a really successful cross country week and had almost 20 kids at practice yesterday! He found out that he'll be attending the Unalakleet meet on September 10th with 8 athletes of his choice. They have to have 10 practices to travel, and a few of them are almost there! He might be able to coach volleyball as well, which we all know he'd be pretty awesome at! :o) He's gotten a great start on the website, which the principal approved and he's also been opening the school store. His regular hours will start this week and the store will be open Monday-Friday from the time school gets out (3:40) until 4:00, and then Monday-Saturday during open gym (7-10 pm.) We might be back to working opposite schedules, but at least we are staying busy and enjoying some meals together! With the amount that we both have to do, I think this year is going to fly by!

We watched a beautiful sunset last night after enjoying some fresh local halibut for dinner, and there's a lot to look forward to this week. School starts tomorrow, we get our first box of organic produce, we can finally pick up the rest of our groceries, and...drum roll....I finally get paid! WOO! This will be a 6 day work week, as we have Saturday school this week, but we get Labor Day off so it will be a regular weekend still. I have high hopes and expectations for the school year, but reality is certainly keeping those hopes in check. As of today, even though I feel extremely overwhelmed, I feel motivated and challenged, and ready to tackle the year. All we can do is take day by day and put forth our best effort. Since I was 5, my favorite day of the year has always been the first day of goes nothing!!

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