Well, my streak of 21 days with a view was broken last night, so it’s time to start a new one! I love that fact that my writing can make an impact, no matter how small. It’s intimidating and empowering all at once!
Anyway, on topic, another “first day” is in the books. This is my 15 years of full time first days, my sixteenth year over all, and in reflecting on where I’ve been, what I’ve done, it always leaves me wondering what will happen next!
My first “first day” was in a small Alaskan village in the bush called Unalakleet, part of the Bering Strait School District. Both my wife and I were fresh out of college, no house, no kids, no dog (but a dang Siamese cat my parents adopted), so we thought “what the heck??” We interviewed in the Twin Cities at a job fair, interviewed over the phone, and away we went, selling our car, our furniture, and mailing everything to the district office.
A little background, Unalakleet is about a two hour prop plane ride north and west of Anchorage. It’s claim to fame is that it resides on the Unalakleet River (great for salmon fishing in the fall) and that it’s the last major check point in the Iditorod. It’s on Norton Sound, part of the bigger Bering Sea, so the temperatures were regulated somewhat, but -25 to -45 were never out of the question.
I taught sixth grade except for math, along with high school American history and world history while my wife taught seventh grade, an English class, and did the year book. Talk about a year to remember! We were the “new kids” of course and for the most part, the student accepted us with open arms. There were those who knew that our time there was short, so they didn’t allow us in, which was hard for two young and ideaolist teachers, so we worked hard for all those kids. Poverty was common place as was drinking, so our home was a “safe” place for some of the kids, who’d come over and cook with my wife or watch basketball with me. It was hard to watch those kids leave, knowing what they were going home to.
This was one of my favorite places because the kids were so incredible. I don’t think I’ve come across more appreciative students than I did there in Unalakleet. Parents, many were happy their children were getting a good education, so they rarely had issues with us and how we did things.
There were two things that stuck out to me as I reflect on that time. The first, how quickly it went. We went from fall to winter in a heartbeat, and winter to spring just as fast. Winter of course was awful with a combination of snow, cold, and dark, but that year just seemed like a blink of an eye between all the teaching and coaching we did. The other thing, we lost our innocence there. Like I said, two young teacher trek out into the great wide open, and people were not kind. Racism was there, and we were swore at a couple of times by the Elders of the community for being white. It gives you a much different perspective as to what racism is truly about when it’s you on the receiving end of it. Our trust in the powers that be was lost as well, as the positions we filled were of two village members on a sabbatical. This was never passed along to us, and because of this and other things that our administrator did, we resigned our positions and moved back south again.
However, that no matter the out come, that first day, along with this one, the expectant eyes, the restless feet, the body language that says “wow, I’m scared”, all of it makes me realize just how much I do love what I’m doing. I can’t imagine NOT being a teacher, regardless of what is happening to education right now.
I hope that your first days, where ever they are, are filled with that sense of joy and wonderment at a year of learning, sharing, laughing, and crying, all of which will happen to help students continue down the pathway of success! 🙂
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