Saturday, January 26, 2013

Final Preparations

I spoke too soon.  I thought my previous post would be my last but much has happened in the last week to warrant another entry.
I had originally planned to fly to Arctic Bay on Saturday, January 26, but that had to be pushed to Monday, January 28.  I now had more time to pack but very little time to unpack upon arrival because the semester begins on Monday.  I would have to be ready to go the very next day.  I just hope all my teaching resources will arrive the same day I do. 
Usually, relocating to another community is a challenge.  When I moved to Iqaluit from Ottawa, all I brought with me were two suitcases.  My move to Arctic Bay will not be that simple because I have accumulated quite an amount of 'stuff' in the last year.  Clothing, kitchenware, houseware, books, teaching resources, appliances, furniture - it's all there.  And it needs to come with me to my new home.  Moving all that stuff to a remote community costs quite a fortune.  Thankfully, I have the assistance of the territorial government.
Teachers are very well treated in the North.  When relocating, the Government of Nunavut pays for your plane ticket(s), moving your belongings (clothes, furniture, and household goods), arranges an overnight stay at a hotel (if it's required), and reimburses you for any meal expenses.  Make sure you keep all of your receipts.  If you need accommodation in the community, you can apply for staff housing.  As well, you receive a Northern Allowance on top of your salary due to the high cost of living.
Also on the 'to-do list' is cancelling local services such as phone, internet, electricity, heat, and mail.  All those services will be cut on the day I fly out.  I'm glad I chose to forgo a tv; one less appliance to worry about.
I was glad that I administered all my exams last week because Iqaluit experienced some really rough weather in the middle of this week.  From early Tuesday to early Thursday, Iqaluit was enveloped in a blizzard with heavy winds gusting upwards of 60km/h!  When there's no wind, the cold is bearable.  But when the winds carry it, the cold can be distressing.  Flights were cancelled and a day and a half of school was lost.  Those who ventured outside had to walk around as if they were dressed like astronauts.  I wondered whether Arctic Bay experienced anything similar?
Friday, the 25th was the last day of my contract and it felt somewhat surreal.  I had made it to the end.  I didn't have any classes because of exams but students periodically came into the music room to jam on the guitars and piano.  Before leaving, they wished me good luck in Arctic Bay and for me to say hi to a few friends for them.  When the school bell rang at 3pm, teachers were called down to the staff room for a quick meeting. 
Terry, the principal, congratulated everyone for a successful first term and to announce my departure.  As a token of appreciation for all my hard work, he presented me with a book of photographs, titled Iqaluit, by amateur photographer Nick Newberry.  Keeping my thank you speech short, I thanked everyone for their support, assistance, advice, and hoped to see them again in the future.  Afterwards, we celebrated the end of Term 1 with chocolate and carrot cakes.
Over the last two weeks, I removed all my teaching resources from the music room.  By the time the 25th came, the only thing left was my piano binder.  Before locking up the music room for the last time, I paused and looked around, reminiscing all the new memories I had acquired over the last year.  I was going to miss this place.  I returned my set of keys to Terry and we had a quick chat in his office about my time at Inuksuk High School.  On my way out, I said goodbye to all the teachers who were staying after school to prepare for the next term.  Once outside, I took one last look at the high school before heading down the hill towards my apartment.  I held my head up all the way.
My Arctic Bay blog is coming up next.  When it's set up and ready, I'll post a link at the end of this entry.  Until then, enjoy reading my previous 44 entries on living and teaching in Iqaluit.

Ulluqatsiaritsi! (Have a good day!)  

Update: Sorry to keep you all waiting but I have now settled in Arctic Bay and have started to blog my latest adventure.  Check out The Pocket.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Movin' On Up

A year ago today, I was interviewed and offered a music teaching position at Inuksuk High School, in Iqaluit, Nunavut.  Delighted by my success at the interview, I accepted the offer and travelled to the northern territorial capital, excited to teach in a new land and culture.  As you can see from my previous posts, my time here has been rewarding and informative.  I have learned much from the teachers, students, and community leaders.  These newly acquired skills, attitudes, and views will greatly benefit me for my next adventure.
On January 11, I was interviewed for an English/Social Studies position at Inuujaq School in the small community of Arctic Bay, located some 1,227 km northwest of Iqaluit.  I waited anxiously over the weekend, wondering if I made the right impression.  The principal called me on January 14 to offer me the 6 month term position.  After overcoming my surprise and delight, I quickly thought about it and accepted the offer.  I now had a mere two weeks to get everything in order before moving to the other side of Baffin Island
If I hadn't received any offers, my backup plan was to stay in Iqaluit until June, supply teaching and teaching piano on the side.  But since my teaching career is still in its early years, I need more 'front-line' experience.  My parents in Ottawa were thrilled to hear that my stay in Nunavut would be prolonged until June.
The first teacher I told was Verna, the English Language Arts teacher who guided me in teaching the Alberta English curriculum when I first arrived.  She congratulated me for accepting the position and suggested that I photocopy some of her English and Social Studies resources.  'Better to go there with something prepared,' she advised.  She also offered me a spare Canada Goose winter parka since Arctic Bay would be much colder.  Once the photocopying was done, she & her husband Jim invited me to dinner at the Frobisher Inn
The Gallery of Fine Dining really lives up to that name with its formal atmosphere, expensive menu, and wide selection of wines.  It is also frequently visited by local Inuit artists looking to sell their works.  I was tempted to order a steak but decided to try something new: Elk Osso Bucco.  This main course of elk shanks comes with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and a green salad to start.  The meal was delicious, prompting me to promise myself to eat here again in the future.  I thanked Verna & Jim for the dinner invitation, commenting that it was the best way to celebrate the start of something new.  The next day, I gave Verna a card, thanking her for all her help and support.
With my mind made up on moving further north, it was time to alert everyone in Iqaluit of my impending departure.  First on the list was Terry, the principal, followed by the teaching faculty and my students.  Everyone congratulated me and wished me all the best in the 'True North'.  They say that to experience the true way of life in the Northern Territories is to live in the smaller communities. 
Outside of school, I contacted the Commanding Officer of 795 Air Squadron, who wished me all the best in Arctic Bay and to get in touch with the army cadet corps there.  Next, were all my friends on Facebook who were mostly surprised by my decision to journey further into the Great White North.  They all agreed on one piece of advice: pack warmly.  And last, but not least, my loyal blog followers.  Surprise!
Even though Exam Week starts this Tuesday, I had all my exams completed last week.  On top of that, I made sure to have all my marks in and report cards finished as well.  I need this coming week to pack all my belongings and have them shipped to my new home.  As for the last day of last classes on Monday . . . my students will be watching movies.       

On Tuesday, January 15, the cadets of 795 Iqaluit Air Squadron had their Commanding Officer's (CO) Parade, where promotions, awards, and presentations are made.  But this parade was just a little more special because it would be presided by Brigadier-General M. Gavin, Commander of 2 Canadian Air Division.  Parents, Legion representatives, and visiting officers sat at the front of the parade square.  I too sat at the front but closer to the podium so that I could get clear shots with my new digital camera.
The parade followed a traditional format, starting with the arrival of the Reviewing Party - General Gavin, CO of 795 Captain Chubbs, and the President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 168, Chris Groves.  After the General Salute, the audience was allowed to sit as the Reviewing Party inspected each cadet on parade.  When the inspections were complete, General Gavin took to the podium to receive the March Past.  Before the presentation of awards, there were speeches by General Gavin, Captain Chubbs, and Chris Groves.  As a way to thank the general for visiting the squadron, Captain Chubbs gave him a blue squadron hoodie.  Several cadets and officers received awards for years of service, community service, and for being the most hard working in the squadron.
The CO's Parade concluded with the Advance in Review Order, the Departure of the Reviewing Party, and Marching Off the Colour Party.  When the cadets were dismissed, they had the opportunity to have their pictures taken with General Gavin. 

Even though I'm moving to Arctic Bay on January 28, I have a feeling that I haven't seen the last of Iqaluit.  I'll be starting a new blog to document my upcoming northern adventure.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

After The Break

Legislative Assembly

The Christmas and New Year's Break were quite exciting since I spent my holidays with family and old friends.  The last time I saw everyone was during the summer.  There was a moment when I thought I would miss my flight to Ottawa on December 22 because the taxi I had called did not arrive to drive me to the airport.  I was glad that the second taxi came and got me there in time because boarding had just commenced.
After arriving in Ottawa, I greeted my parents at the airport, picked up my luggage, and was driven home.  All of Ottawa was covered in snow.  Upon stepping into my parent's house, I quickly unpacked everything and collapsed on my old bed.  It was good to be home.  I took things easy, keeping my mind clear of work, and just focused on recuperating.  Being in Ottawa also gave me time to reconnect with old friends.  They all wanted to know about my time in Iqaluit, how I liked teaching there, and future plans.  I told them I was enjoying every minute of it and that I was looking for ways to stay longer.  More on that later.
I wasn't confined to Ottawa during the Christmas Break.  My friends from New Zealand, Heather & Ben, were doing a road trip through the eastern United States and they decided to hop across the border and stay in Montreal for a few days.  Since the French Canadian city is not far from Ottawa, I agreed to meet them there on the 28 & 29th.  The last time I saw them was in June 2010.  Around this time, Montreal and the surrounding areas were blanketed by a lot of snow so I chose to travel by train.  Passenger trains in Canada are serviced by VIA Rail.
Upon arriving in Montreal, I had no choice but to agree with the weather networks; the city was buried in snow.  It was everywhere; even occupying the street lanes closest to the sidewalks!   Maneuvering around the mountains of snow took time but I safely made it to my hotel.  I met my friends at their hotel on the other side of downtown.  I made the mistake of walking down Saint Catherine street, the shopping/entertainment street.  Since it was a Friday night, the sidewalks and main road were congested with shoppers, party goers, and cars.
To celebrate our reunion, we had dinner at the restaurant L'Academie.  We chose it because it was a bring-your-own-wine establishment.  For starters, Heather & Ben ordered escargot and I had calamari.  Biting back my reservations, I tried escargot for the first time and it wasn't as bad as I thought.  For the main course, we had pasta.  Only I had enough room for dessert, so I went with a slice of chocolate mousse cake. 
While we ate, we talked about what we had missed in the last two years.  Heather & Ben were surprised by how far north Iqaluit was on the North American continent.  They had thought about visiting me in Iqaluit but after finding the location on Google Earth, they realized that it would be too expensive.  On the topic of Iqaluit, they were curious about life in true Great White North.  Ben was born and raised in New Zealand but Heather was raised in New Jersey.  Both areas deal with cold weather and snow but it does not compare to the barren tundra and cold Arctic winds of Nunavut.  I explained to them that once you get over all of that and the isolation, the living experience is quite fun.  You just have to be well prepared.    
Of course, they wanted me to come and visit them in Christchurch, New Zealand, and to see how much the city has changed since the deadly earthquake.  I assured them that I would make every effort to find the time to make my 'epic' return to Middle Earth.  When we finished eating dinner, we spent some time at the nearby Sir Winston Churchill Pub. 
The following day, I checked out of my hotel and walked over to meet Heather & Ben at their hotel.  We had breakfast at the nearby Eggspectation restaurant, dining on pancakes, eggs Benedict, BLT, and tropical fruit drinks.  After breakfast, we visited the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal and explored downtown Montreal.  We also visited the Palais des Congres, the city's congress centre.  This was my second time at the centre, the first time being in 2006 when the Liberal Party of Canada was hosting its federal leadership convention. 
Before heading back to the train station to catch my ride back to Ottawa, I wished Heather & Ben all the best in their education and a safe continuation of their road trip.  Their next destination would be Niagara Falls.
I spent New Year's Eve with several of my old high school friends, a tradition for the last several years.  As always, our choice of pub was the Royal Oak.  We ordered nachos and chicken wings to go with our drinks.  Wanting a full meal, I ordered a steak and was shocked by how delicious it was.  I made sure to let the chef know that he did an excellent job.  My friends and I were glad that the performing rock band this year got the countdown right.  Last year's band was two minutes late.  When the clocks struck midnight, everyone was given complementary champagne.             
For the remaining days of the break, I hung out with friends from university and packed my bags for the flight back to Iqaluit.  I also helped my mother with the Christmas meal preparations.  My parents celebrate Christmas following the Julian Calendar (January 6 - 7).  For 2013, we chose to have the Christmas dinner a day earlier because I needed to be back in Iqaluit for the 6th.  As an added bonus, my older brother flew in from Australia to be with the family.  The last time I saw him was when he graduated from the Australian National University in Canberra two years ago.           
I woke up early on the morning of the 6th and had a quick breakfast before making sure all my bags were packed.  I bid farewell to my brother and was dropped off at the airport by my parents.   The lineup for the plane was surprisingly long; however, seeing so many faces that I recognized, didn't surprise me at all.  I passed the three hour journey talking to several teachers about their Christmas break and what would await them on the first day of school. 
When the plane touched down in Iqaluit, the flight crew informed us that the temperature outside was -31ºC.  I have to be honest, when I disembarked from the plane onto the open tarmac, it didn't feel that cold.  When I made it back to my apartment, I quickly unpacked and made my way to the high school to get my music room ready for Monday.  It wasn't until then that the bitter cold made its presence known.  In the following days, I would rely on my heavy outerwear (parka, snowpants, etc) to keep me warm. 
The first week of school focused on completing the course materials and preparing for final exams.  In English, we finished reading the Shakespearean play Macbeth and watched the movie.  My musicians received their final exam outlines and I gave them time to practice.  My junior band musicians will also have a theory test so we looked at the writing of major scales and their key signatures. 
With the first semester finishing in less than three weeks, there isn't any time to spare.  In fact, I need to have all my exams done and marks in a week early because my contract is ending on January 25th and I may be moving to a different community.  It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since I ventured up north to teach music & English to young Inuit & Qallunaaq minds.  With all the high school positions taken for next semester, I have begun looking for new employment opportunities in the North.  That's right - I don't want to return to the south just yet.  I enjoy teaching up here and I would also like to explore more of the northern territories.  So far, I've applied for teaching positions in Arctic Bay, Gjoa Haven, and Whitehorse, Yukon.  We'll see how it goes in the coming days.          

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Before the Break

We can all collectively breathe a huge sigh of relief that December 21 has come & gone and the world did not end for the umpteenth time.  The Mayan Apocalypse, which so many believed in, did not materialize.  I'm willing to bet that new Doomsday Dates are already being created.  With every passing year, I wonder when this trend will finally end?
After the Christmas Concert, there really wasn't much to do for the last remaining week in my music classes.  True, we continued looking at non-Christmas music but it was somewhat of a challenge when parents began pulling their kids out of class for Christmas trips.  This drop in attendance usually happens across all classes.  You just have to be prepared and go with the flow.
In English class, we began to study the classic play Macbeth by Shakespeare.  I remember studying it when I was in Grade 11 and preferring it over the other three Shakespearean plays I studied.  In Grade 9 it was Twelfth Night; for Grade 10, Julius Caesar; and in Grade 12, Hamlet.  Before my students even opened the book, I made them do some background research on Shakespeare, the Elizabethan Era, and how witches were perceived during that period of English history.  With that out of the way, we cracked open the new books and began reading the play. 
What I liked about these new books were that they contained pages that dissected the texts so that it would be easier for students to understand what was being said.  Reading & understanding the language of Shakespeare is the biggest challenge for students because it's written with words & expressions no longer in common use.  On top of that, Shakespeare really enjoyed incorporating wordplay into his dramas, meaning there's much more to read.  We decided that after reading each scene, we would go back and analyze it as a class.  At first, it was a little difficult but the more we read, the better my students understood what was happening.  By the time school broke for the holidays, we had read the first three acts.  Only two more to go in January.            

The staff Christmas party took place on the night of Saturday, December 15.  Romeyn, the vice-principal, and his wife graciously decided to host the event.  This year, the teaching faculty voted for Thai & pizza.  What I found surprising was that the combination actually worked.  It was really nice to see teachers outside of school hours and to talk with them about the way the semester turned out.
Every year, the high school staff organize & prepare a Christmas turkey lunch for their students.  This year, the lunch took place on Tuesday, December 17 but preparations began a week earlier.  Feeding four hundred students is quite a challenge and can only succeed if there is coordination and teamwork.  Staff were given specific duties with what foods to prepare (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, Jello dessert) and how to setup the cafeteria and main foyer with tables, chairs, and cutlery.  Since I taught all day, I could only help after school.
When the big day arrived, classes were called down twenty minutes before the lunch bell.  My students were out the door before I could say anything.  I guess, the food was that good.  And it was.  Following proper etiquette, I received my serving after my students.  The turkey was a little dry but good.  The stuffing on the other hand was delicious, especially with the gravy.  It would have been nice to have some wine but I had to settle for juice boxes.  I had second serving of turkey & stuffing before sinking my teeth into the Jello dessert.  I'm glad I didn't eat breakfast.  Of course, I assisted in the cleanup of the cafeteria and main foyer.
The turkey servings didn't stop there because 795 Iqaluit Air Squadron had scheduled it's Christmas Dinner on the same day.  The centre of the parade square had been set up with tables & chairs in a U formation the night before.  The Legion next door provided the food.  I wore a black suit to the occasion as did the officers.  The cadets also came formally dressed for the event.  The food was good and I surprised myself by having two servings.  When everyone finished eating, the cadets participated in a raffle for various prizes.  The Commanding Officer, Captain Chubbs, concluded the dinner portion of the night by thanking everyone for attending and wishing everyone a safe Christmas and a Happy New Year.  The parade square was then cleared of tables & chairs, as well as swept.  Then everyone gathered for the taking of a squadron photograph.  What followed was a dance for the cadets. 
By the end of the week, most teachers were showing movies in their classrooms because attendance was quite low.  The last day of school was Friday, December 21, and it was a half day, meaning there were only morning classes.  And let's just say the high school looked nearly empty.  With the Christmas Holidays here, I'll be spending mine with the family in Ottawa, just a 3-hour flight down south.  I'll also be catching up with old friends from high school & university.  It'll be nice to relax because it feels like I have been working non-stop since September.  Have a safe Christmas and I'll see you all in 2013. 

  Happy New Year!      

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Concert

And so the day finally arrived.  Tuesday, December 11th; the night of the Christmas concert.  A month's worth of planning & preparation would be put to the test in front of parents, teachers, students, and guests.  I'm pretty sure I was more jittery than normal during the regular school day.  The impending performance was all I could think about.  My mind was filled with many different scenarios: good & bad.  In the end, I just hoped Murphy wouldn't be there to implement his most famous Law: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

I stayed after school to oversee the final preparations.  Rows of chairs had already been set up in the main foyer, facing the newly renovated stage.  On stage, there were two microphones, a piano, and a brightly lit Christmas tree surrounded by presents.  I helped my junior percussionists carry down the marimba, drum set, and many music stands to the stage.  My musicians would use the cafeteria chairs as seating.  As the remaining hours ticked away, I kept myself occupied by playing the piano on stage, preparing what to say to the audience, and making sure the concert programs were at the front entrance. 
My students began arriving forty-five minutes before 7pm, eager to put on a great show.  Their eagerness was opposite to my worry & pacing.  (It's a habit I need to kick).  As instructed, they arrived in casual dress.  I was surprised but impressed to see some in more formal attire.  I also greeted members of the Iqaluit Community Choir who had graciously accepted my request for them to perform.  In the final minutes before 7pm, I instructed everyone to take a deep breath before we headed down to the main foyer.  It was now or never.
Getting up on stage and speaking in front of an audience is still a challenge for me, though not as stressful as before.  I didn't like public speaking in elementary & middle school, but it got easier in high school thanks to army cadets.  Despite my efforts, the foyer wasn't packed, but at least there was an audience.  After welcoming everyone, the concert began with my Grade 10 guitarists playing three classic Christmas tunes: 'Good King Wenceslas', 'Joy To The World', and 'Jingle Bells'.   Johnny Mark, a senior student, took to the stage after them to read a Christmas poem he recently wrote.
Next to perform was the Iqaluit Community Choir, led by Eva Paul & Peter Workman.  Eva conducted while Peter accompanied on the piano.  For their set, they sang three hymns: 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring', 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas', and 'Silent Night'.
After the choir received the audience's applause, my junior & senior musicians took several minutes to set up the stage for their performance.  When we were all set, we began our set with the classic Christmas fairytale, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  Since I would be preoccupied with conducting, I had Emilia Nevin, a senior student, act as the narrator.  We then moved on to 'Merry Christmas Mr. Handel', a medley that combines Handel's "Joy to the World" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from his oratorio Messiah.  Our third selection was 'Bell Carol Rock,' a rock arrangement of Mykola Leontovych's famous Christmas carol, "Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Bell Carol)."  He based his song on a Ukrainian folk song called "Shchedryk."
My band students were given a chance to rest in the middle of their performance by listening to one of my piano students, Kara Ashley, play 'Souvenir D'enfance' by Paul de Senneville.  The easy listening piece was made famous by French pianist Richard Clayderman.
Continuing the easy listening mood, my band students continued their performance with the tune 'A Christmas Canon,' a fusion of Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" and the English carol "The First Noel."  We then performed an upbeat compilation piece titled, 'A Cartoon Christmas', featuring: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Christmas Time Is Here", and "Frosty the Snowman."  We ended the concert with the ever popular 'Jingle Bell Rock' by Joel Beal & Jim Boothe.
For my closing remarks, I thanked everyone for attending and wished them a safe Christmas & a Happy New Year.  But not before leading them in giving a final round of applause to all the performers.  They deserved it for a job well done.
Despite the few mistakes that were made, the Christmas concert was a success in my mind.    Several parents said the same thing and congratulated me for putting on a good show with my students.  Yes, it could have been better, but taking into account that my juniors had just started playing in August and only had a month to learn six pieces (which they did) is quite an achievement.  (They would have had more time if I chose not to include them in the Halloween concert, but that would have been cruel).  As for me, I just need to improve on getting the word out.  I thought making several morning announcements would get the message across but I guess many did not hear them.  Next time, I'll phone CBC Radio.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Photo taken by Cpt. Mitchelmore.

A lot has happened in the last two weeks.  So much that it has kept me from spending time on keeping my blog up to date. I'll have to be quick because there's still much to do.
Wow, I can't believe that it's already the month of December!  Christmas is in the air with stores blaring holiday tunes and selling gifts to curious customers.  Many buildings around town, including the Legislative Assembly, are decorated with bright lights and Christmas ornaments.  They're frequently on because the days are very short.  There's sunlight only between 8am to 3pm.  But I hear that the shortest day of the year will be around December 21 or 22nd.        
Speaking of December 21, apparently that will be the day when the world will come to an end.  This belief stems from the fact that the 5125-year-long-cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar ends on that day.  To make a long story short, the world will not end.  I'm still baffled by humankind's fascination with the end of the world.  Every generation, someone shows up and declares that the world will end on a chosen day.  And as always, that day comes and goes with nothing bad happening.  
On November 27, the cadets of 795 Iqaluit Air Squadron were having a boot polishing party.  The junior cadets learned how to polish their parade boots from the senior cadets.  What's required are: Kiwi cloths & polish, and a spare toothbrush.  Polishing boots is a task that requires time and patience; it can't be done quickly.  As I watched the cadets work, memories of polishing my parade boots when I was an army cadet surfaced.  When it was time for a break, the cadets ate pizza.
Photo taken by Cpt. Mitchelmore.
I was glad that I attended because the new drums I requested  had finally arrived.  The air squadron was now the proud owners of one Yamaha marching bass drum, two Yamaha marching snare drums, and three harnesses.  I was also happy to see that St. John Music in Ottawa threw in 4 high tension tuning keys and 3 regular tuning keys for free.  At the request of the Training Officer, I took one of the snare drums and did a quick demonstration in front of the entire squadron.    
My Grade 11 English class recently finished the Media Literacy Unit, looking at persuasive techniques, propaganda, advertising, news reporting, photographs, and product placement.  They also looked at the roles of social networks and video websites on the Internet because they play a huge part in their lives.  For the next several weeks, they're going to study the classic Shakespearean play Macbeth.  Thinking back to my high school, I think I also studied Macbeth when I was in Grade 11.
With the topic of Shakespeare on my mind, Renata's Grade 12 English class performed several key scenes from Shakespeare's Hamlet in the library on November 30.  Those key scenes were [spoiler alert]: Hamlet kills Polonius; the death of Ophelia; and the final fight between Hamlet and Laertes.  Since attendance was open to any classes, I let my English students watch the performance.  In fact, many classes came to watch.  I was glad that I brought my camera to film the event because Renata is also the Drama Teacher, meaning the students' acting would be very good.  And it was.  The best part of the performance was at the end when the students put a modern spin on Hamlet by interviewing the main characters in the style of The Jerry Springer Show.  No chairs were thrown but there were some tense & funny moments.
On Tuesday, December 4, two representatives from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) visited Inuksuk High School to show several short films that were produced on Inuit culture.  The NFB is a Canadian government agency that was established in 1939 with the aim of producing and distributing documentaries, alternative dramas, animations, and later digital animations.  Since its creation, the organization has produced over 13,000 films which have won 5,000 awards.  In 2006, the NFB & Inuit Broadcasting Corporation launched the Nunavut Animation Lab, offering animation training to Nunavut artists.
For this presentation, the four videos were shown.  The first video was called How to Build an Igloo and it was produced in 1949.  (The English narrator used the term Eskimo instead of Inuit).  The next video (produced in the 1950s) talked about Inuit life in northern Canada during the brief summer months.  The third video, made in 1981, was called Northern Games and it showcased the competitiveness of northern athletes.  And the last video was an animation called Lumaajuuq and it was made in 2010.
On December 6 during last period, the entire school engaged in a Christmas door decorating contest.  The students in my group decided to turn one of my doors to the music room into a green elf with a red Santa hat.  When time was up everyone headed down to the cafeteria for hot chocolate & cookies.  While everyone ate & drank, the doors were judged by the vice principal and two visiting RCMP officers.  My group didn't win but it was nice to see students being creative.  When school was dismissed, I walked around and photographed the brightly decorated doors.
As for my 3 music classes, the last two weeks has all been about preparing for the upcoming Christmas concert on Tuesday, December 11.  Many classes and lunchtimes were spent reviewing and practicing the selected repertoire.  All that time & effort will be on display in three days.  The scheduling arrangements have been completed; all that's left is putting a program booklet together and to write my speeches.  This experience has taught me that planning an event of any size takes a lot of time & effort.  And when you're doing it alone, the duties & responsibilities are even greater.  Despite being a little nervous, I'm certain that everything will be alright on Tuesday night.    

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Poppies, Shuttlecocks, Music, Parents, & Crafts

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Canada and other Commonwealth countries on November 11.  The day relates to the end of the First World War in 1918, when hostilities in Europe ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month".  The day is set aside for people to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.  Around 7,000 Aboriginals (Inuit, Métis, First Nations) participated in the First & Second World Wars and the Korean War.
Iqaluit's Remembrance Day Service took place at the 795 Cadet Hall on a cold, but bright, Sunday morning.  The Parade Square had been converted into a large seating area, with enough blue chairs to seat about 250 people.  A wooden display at the front was set up for the many wreaths that would be hanged.  Slowly, the hall became filled with people, including visiting dignitaries, politicians, RCMP officers, Rangers, Veterans, and Legion members.  Of course, the air cadets of 795 Iqaluit Squadron were there to act as wreath layers, hold flags, and to stand guard next to the wreath display.  I took a position at the back to take photographs.
The ceremony began with the playing of O Canada followed by the Last Post, One Minute Silence, Lament, and Reveille.  The Last Post & Reveille bugle calls were played by Flight-Sergeant Neigo-Akavak on the trumpet.  The Lament was played by a piper whose name I do not know.  Next was a reading of the famous poem 'In Flanders Field' by Flight-Sergeant Bychok.  The poem was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1915.  The wreath laying was the longest part of the ceremony; some 54 wreaths were presented.
The Iqaluit Community Choir, conducted by Eva Paul & Peter Workman, sang two songs: "In Memorium", composed by Bill Douglas with lyrics by Tennyson; and "For That Tomorrow" - music & lyrics by Nigel J.C. Turnbull.  The ceremony concluded with the playing of "God Save the Queen" followed by the March Off of the Colours.  The audience quickly filed out of the cadet hall because the Legion was hosting a free lunch next door.  The cadets got to eat first while everyone else had to wait in line.  As always, the food was delicious, especially the prime roast. 
Inuksuk High School played host to a territorial wide badminton tournament on the weekend of the November 17 - 19.  Teams from all the communities came to participate.  School on the Friday was pretty crowded, with students and teachers having to navigate around piles of luggage.  I'm not sure what the final results were but I'm sure that some Inuksuk High students won some medals.  The trip back home for some visiting teams took longer on Monday because their towns were suffering from blizzards.  Several teams had to even fly to Yellowknife first before hopping on a connecting flight.           

On Monday, November 19, the students of Inuksuk High were treated to a one-hour concert by Canadian folk & blues singer-songwriter Suzie Vinnick.  She is originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but is now based in Toronto, Ontario.  She has won 5 Maple Blues Awards for Best Female Vocalist, and has been nominated for two Junos.  What some of you may not know is that she also sang the famous 'Always fresh. Always Tim Hortons' jingle for the last five years.
Taking centre stage, Suzie Vinnick played several of her well known songs on acoustic guitar and told her story of becoming a professional musician.  While I listened and watched, I made a mental note of reminding my Grade 10 guitarists that her blues playing was exactly what they were learning in class.  She also took time to answer questions from students.  They were pretty generic but one student asked her if she could make up a song on the spot.  So she did . . . about him and it turned out okay.  After the performance, she signed a few autographs and posed for some pictures.  As a gift for Inuksuk's music program, she gave me a copy of her latest album Me 'N' Mabel.       
The big news of the week for students was the issuing of midterm report cards.  I did my best to not use any teacher jargon when I wrote my comments.  I also tried to stay away from using provided comments and write something that applies just to that student.  The main complaint from parents is that report cards are hard to read & understand because they're filled with teacher jargon - confusing words/phrases that don't really say anything.  In a way, teachers are forced to do this because they can't be blunt and tell a parent that their child can't learn or they're perfect in every way.  Most of my students were happy with their marks while others were concerned. 
Parent teacher interviews took place on Thursday, November 22 for the entire day.  Because of this, the students had the day off.  I was hoping to meet the parents/guardians of all my students but I had to settle with much less.  I was glad to have some visitors, otherwise, I would have fallen asleep in my office.  The parents that did come wanted to know how their child was doing in class and what could they do to improve their marks.           
Friday was an In-Service Day for all high school teachers meaning there weren't any classes.  Including Saturday & Sunday, the students of Inuksuk High had a four-day weekend.  An In-Service Day is the same as a Professional Development (PD) Day down in Ontario.  The schedule was filled with staff & department meetings.  Roles of the Guidance Counselor, the introduction of a new Grade 10 social studies module on the Residential School System, and putting forth suggestions towards improving/adding to the newly renovated library were specifically discussed.

The high school was alive and jumping this morning (Saturday) because of a large craft fair.  The cafeteria, main foyer, and gym had all been set up with tables and chairs the night before for the many sellers who would be selling their merchandise.  When I arrived at 11am, the parking lot was full of cars and all three areas inside were swarming with people looking for a good deal.  Admission for adults was $2; children got in free.  The goods being sold were from the following categories: food, clothing, jewelry, arts & crafts, portraits, literature, toys, and music.  It felt like the entire town was taking part in the event because I met many familiar faces.  What was even more surprising was the amount of money I spent.  All I can say is that bringing $100 was not enough.  But I'm glad that I did my part in supporting local sellers. 
And finally, there's only two weeks to go until the Christmas Concert.  There's still much to do: finding other acts, advertising, and putting together a program.  All the pieces have been selected and introduced to my students; all they need to do now is practice them like there's no tomorrow.  The lunchtime practices with both bands will be starting this week.