Thursday, May 17, 2012

wrapping things up

On Tuesday we had the eighth-grade promotion ceremony. I enjoyed seeing many of my student leading the ceremony. I was impressed especially by my students' performance of Eskimo dancing. They did a phenomenal job. Below is a video of their performance. My little mommy-teacher heart was overflowing with pride. A lot of the students who performed are so shy, and to see them up on stage doing what they love made me so happy.

An event open to the community, promotion is a very big deal in Barrow. "Big" is probably an understatement. One of the cab drivers wanted to know what time it would start so that he would know when the busy part of the evening would be. The eighth-grade promotion is an extravagant celebration primarily because in years past it was often the last educational ceremony that many Native Alaskans had. During the days of the BIA schools, many students did not go on to graduate from high school and so the middle school graduation, which is what it used to be called, became a substitute. This tradition has carried on, even though the high school graduation rate is higher than it was back then. After the ceremony, there was an eighth-grade only dance (hip-hop and rap, not Eskimo dance), which some other teachers and I chaperoned until 11 p.m. Some of the students were shy at the dance, and some were....not so shy... hence, chaperones.

So, what does that have to do with the picture of the Brooks Range that you see above? Well, the eighth-grade promotion marks the end of the school year, and I am leavin' on a jet plane on Saturday (my sister's birthday).  I arrive in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Sunday evening, and my family and I are going straight to our favorite Italian restaurant. My nephew Luke and niece Lucy will be my airport greeters, and I cannot wait to see their oh-so-kissable faces. I'm also excited about meeting my two new foster-cousins.

And these are my exciting summer plans:
- three weeks in Chattanooga!
- a vacation with my sister, my niece Lucy, my aunt, and my grandmother in Savannah, Georgia
- visiting Samantha and Amanda in Atlanta, hopefully!
- going to a Bon Iver concert with Tim & Beth (Check out Tim's awesome blog at A Blues I Can Whistle)
- one week in Hyattsville, Maryland, with my brother and his family (I get to meet Madeleine!)
- then six weeks in Annapolis, where I will complete my first semester of St. John's
- then return to Barrow for the new school year, which I am really excited about

Speaking of St. John's, I've been moved to the Politics & Society segment, which I'm kind of nervous about since I feel entirely out of my element. Nevertheless, I am really excited about all that I'm going to be reading and learning, and I know I will be challenged in so many ways. Click here to check out the Politics & Society reading list. I've been reading Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, which is totally over my head, and my reading speed has slowed down a great deal as I try to decipher the meaning.

Even though it's been overcast for weeks now, the snow and ice have been melting steadily. Colossal icicles have been hanging precariously over the pathway in between my neighbor's shed and my house. When they were still hanging, I'd dash through so as to not be pulverized by the frozen spears. Think: Ralphie's mom in A Christmas Story -- "Those icicles have been known to kill people!" I totally believe it. But the good news is that they are gone now that the sun is up all day and pretty much all night.

The roads are horrible too since we've almost reached 24 hours of sunlight. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes for a taxi to arrive because they have to inch their way across town because of the ginormous potholes and pools of water that are everywhere. Muddy slush covers the parking lots and roads. This morning I was walking to school cautiously, but the flooded parking lot entrapped me and my school stuff. In other words, I fell flat on my butt in the slush, so I had to go home and change clothes. Good thing I live across the street.

Current Stats:

Temperature: 34 degrees
Wind Speed: SW 9mph
Wind Chill: 27 degrees
Sunrise: 2:08 a.m.
Sunset: 12:53 a.m.

Today we got our state standardized testing scores back, and let me just say... it feels so good when students really improve on their scores. I am anti-the whole standardized testing educational phenomenon, but when one of your students scored FBP (far below proficient) in seventh-grade reading and then scores P (proficient) in eighth-grade reading, it makes you feel pretty darn good. Especially when all you have to be proficient in Alaska is to get 50% of the questions right. Hey, they're learning at least something...

Speaking of learning something, I had a breakthrough with one of my most difficult students. He would constantly argue with me in class; he'd say, "I ain't gonna do that" for almost every assignment and put his head down. He would ask to go to the office so that he didn't have to work in my class. Well, this kid came up to me on the night of promotion, hugged me, and said, "Ms. Beck, you're a good Language Arts teacher, and I'm going to miss this class. I'm sorry I didn't listen." Annnnnd my heart melted. All the crap this kid gave me suddenly meant nothing in the light of his sincere apology.

Well, all in all, I am so excited about coming home for the summer, but I am also excited about starting a new school year in Barrow. I feel so good staying put, not moving around again. I've moved around so much in the past few years; I feel like I'm always packing up and moving. Georgia to Russia to Tennessee to Alaska to Georgia to Maryland and back to Alaska. Last year I had three driver's licenses alone. I got my Alaska license today, and you know what?

Alaska licenses are the prettiest.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Two weeks ago, my friend Heidi came over for dinner, and she said, "Are you sure you aren't going to be able to come to Anchorage for a weekend?" I'd been toying with the idea of a trip, but couldn't find any decent deals on Alaska Airlines. However, I decided to check one last time, and lo and behold -- a sale! I used some miles and purchased a round-trip ticket for $7.50 to Anchorage. Nice, huh? So, this past weekend, I visited Heidi, her friend Nannie, her brother, cousin, and another of their friends. 

Day 1: We drove to Talkeetna about two hours outside of Anchorage. Needless to say, the drive is unbelievably beautiful.

On the way to Talkeetna.

Beautiful mountains.

We rented a cabin from the Roadhouse, a restaurant/cabin rental place. I was so excited about the chickens running around Trapper John's, the cabin we rented.

Trapper John's Cabin. Cute, no?

I totally felt like a homesteader in this cabin. 

I could live here. Permanently.

The outhouse. There was a toilet and bathtub in the cabin though (a new addition, I am told), but the showers were at the main lodge.

Even Santa has to use the outhouse sometimes.

The chicken coop.

The back of the cabin.

The beautiful Heidi. She blends into her surroundings pretty well.

In & around Talkeetna.

Lotsa planes.

The Fairview Inn is a bar/music venue. Heidi, Nannie, the guys, and I went to Open Mic night, which was a lot of fun. Heidi and I made a promise that we will practice a song to perfection on our guitars and come back and perform here sometime.

Open Mic Night.

Talkeetna in the sunshine. I got up earlier than everyone and walked all around town. Such a beautiful day, and I didn't need my arctic coat. Heavenly.

Mt. McKinley.

 Me & Heidi. She is a Cabela's girl all the way.

Nannie from Nuiqsut. She's awesome!

We tried to go fishing, but had no luck. Too early.

After spending the day in Talkeetna, we went to Girdwood and ate dinner at Double Musky's. I went there last year when I went skiing in Girdwood, and oh my gosh, this is my favorite restaurant in Alaska. If you are ever in Alaska, you must go there. It's perfect. I also highly recommend the Slope Worker's Coffee. I got it because I work on the Slope, and it's good stuff.

So, I flew back to Barrow on Sunday night, and then on Monday, guess what happened? My niece was born! I am now the proud aunt of FOUR nieces and one nephew!

Welcome to this weird little planet, Madeleine Esther! 

Read about her crazy entrance into the world here. My brother ended up delivering the baby!