Day 17 to 23: Time flies

I need to remind myself to not let these posts sum up too many days. The point of this writing exercise is to force myself to write about my day, regardless of how hectic things get. It turns out things get pretty crazy for teachers, so here goes to catching up.

I’ve begin to understand what they mean by teachers needing to have a thick skin. My students are amazing, but everyone has a bad day(and teachers just happen to sometimes end up in the crossfire).

I had my first (and hopefully last) sick day of my internship yesterday. There has been this nasty flu going around that is hitting students and teachers alike. Attendance has been horrendous. I was lucky enough to get a taste of it Wednesday and then suffer through it. I realized how bored I was at home without screaming children beating each other with water bottles. I’m sure I’ll appreciate those days as time goes on, but I just wished I was in school.

This coming Monday, January 26 (also Matt’s birthday, yay!) I will be picking up Macy. I was pleased to get the call yesterday that I will be the proud foster mommy of a beautiful Husky/German shepherd mix that was dropped at the pound not too long ago. She is a timid girl with a big personality. I’m over the moon excited to have her around the house to keep me company.

My cooperating teacher, who is a real treat to watch in action in a classroom, is on a fitness regime to improve her health. She is a constant inspiration and I continue my own fitness regime a great deal thanks to her. Today for their physical activity, we had the kids do pilates with us. It was my first time and an absolute work out! I think I’ve found what I want to pursue next in the realm of fun and fitness. What an absolute blast!

I’ve talked about the sky here and just how beautiful it is. With all it’s colors and alternating appearances, you can get lost in it. While leaving school the other morning to shop for supplies, I caught a glimpse of the sun rising and thought I would snap a photo on my phone. It does it no justice, but I made sure to include it.

Here’s to writing at least a post a week, here’s to whatever comes next.


Day 14, 15, and 16!: There’s a little bit of basketball fan in all of us.

This past week has been a little crazy. I realize I may have to condense a couple entries into one if I hope to cover everyday of my three month internship.

Thursday we got internet installed in our unit. Needless to say, two weeks without WiFi at home should be illegal (I know, silly. But we’re spoiled). I feel like the true noteworthy part is in fact how we also got cable television as well. Talk about the television never being turned off! Background music is the best.

Friday I spent the morning teaching and the afternoon at the Northern Bear basketball tournament. High Level Public hosts the tournament every year and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I got some pretty cool memorabilia and had a great time. A lot of the rules went way over my head, but it was interesting to see a ball game in action.

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day with the temperature around -10 (which is pretty warm up this way). Therefore I spent the day exploring High Level. I spent a while at the Humane Society (finally decided which dog to foster! Hopefully I can get him soon!) Then I got to see the café everyone talks about around these parts, Traditions. It turns out the owner is a lovely lady from back home(Foxtrap, in particular)!

After a delicious hot chocolate, I tackled the rest of the clothing stores and thrift store on the main street (Which I believe is 100th Street. Everything is numbered up here, so strange!) Along the way I saw some beautiful murals painted along side the pathways between buildings. If this town takes pride in one thing, it is definitely its art and heritage.

My final stop on my way home was this fantastic shop known for its hidden gems. A store full of knick knacks and endless amounts of neck scarves, foreign teas, and jewelry, I fell in love with The Treasure Chest. After about an hour of browsing, I purchased some earrings, a necklace, and an adorable addition to Matt’s Valentine’s day gift(Matt’s my boyfriend who is patiently awaiting my return back home. Miss you!)

All in all it was an amazing day. I got to see parts of High Level I never knew existed and tasted one of the best hot chocolates I have ever had.

Here’s to finding that hidden gem, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 11, 12, and 13!: Stop trying to direct the wind, and learn to adjust your sails!

Today I experienced wind in High Level for the first time. I know, I know, it shouldn’t be such a big deal…but it REALLY is.

Back home, it is always windy. The only time you’re missing the wind is the occasional summer day when it’s hot and muggy and all you want is a cool breeze from the Atlantic ocean. I’ve grown accustomed to messy hair, closed windows at night and the lack of outdoor picnics because of Newfoundland’s windy disposition. Northern Alberta has proven to be frigid and numbing, but most certainly not windy.

It made me think of the proverb, “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” I now realize how important it is, in life and especially now in teaching, to be able to adjust to whatever comes next.

These past few days have been hectic, and taking over the duties of a homeroom teacher is pretty demanding. I’m lucky enough to have a cooperating teacher who loves to share her wisdom and experiences with me, and never be afraid to tell me when something could be done better. Today I had to adjust my sails while I taught a grade seven math class. Now, some of you may be thinking, “Grade 7 math?! So what!.” Yet those of you who know me, know that math has never been my strong suit. Looking back on grade seven, I’m not even sure if I could have done the math then(not alone all these years later).

I am proud to say I managed to get by with a little help from my students. I recalled some examples used to teach integers back in high school, and dove in head first. Luckily I managed to get through an entire lesson with no casualties. As far as accomplishments on my internship goes, that one was big for me.

I have been keeping up with my work out routines, and even with taking my vitamins in the morning. I’ve been in contact with the humane society and will hopefully have an animal companion soon enough. Time is flying, before I know it I’ll be heading to Teacher’s Convention (an AMAZING opportunity teachers here in Northern Alberta get to take advantage of) in February, and then be rushing around the classroom in March in order to finish up my lesson plans before I finish up on April 2.

I had the pleasure of taking part in my first cooking class ever. We made beef stew and bannock. When the students had heard I had never tried bannock, they just about lost their minds. Turns out it’s a delicious sweet loaf that is often served with stew or soup. I’m excited to take over cooking for the rest of the semester here. Recipes are welcome!

Here’s to delicious food, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 8, 9 and 10!: The seven wonders of Northern Alberta

I wish I could keep my list of wonderful things I have discovered in Northern Alberta to lucky number seven, but that would be doing the North a great injustice. The truth is, time flies when you’re busy being amazed by your surroundings. I know these three months will disappear and before I know it I’ll be on a plane heading back to Newfoundland. As much as the idea of heading home excites me (no sarcasm intended, you can take the girl out of the bay but you can never take the bay out of the girl!), I want to see and learn as much as I can about the North. It has always seemed so distant and other-worldly to me, now that I’m living it I’d be stupid to not try and keep track of it. Blogs and photos help, so I’ll capture all the wonders of High Level and wherever life takes me up here.

Friday I finished my first week at the school. I felt silly and sheepish as I said goodbye to my students and wished them a good weekend. I can tell when April rolls around I’m going to wish I could take them all back home with me and teach them there.

Friday night I got to hang out with some really great teachers from the school and just relax. We played some Magic, watched some video games, and had lots of laughs. I’m grateful to have met such nice people already, ones I am excited to call friends.

Saturday morning I paid a visit to the Northern Lights Humane Society here in High Level. I got to meet all its residents (including two very friendly cats who made me miss my own back home a little less) and discuss some things with the volunteers there. I’ve decided that even though everything up here has been amazing so far, and I am excited to see what the future holds, I get lonely. The days are still rather short and it’s an adjustment going from a house full of people and animals to an empty one. I’ve decided to foster a dog as soon as they straighten away some things at the shelter. There are a few dogs I met that would make a lovely companion for the next three months, so I’m looking forward to getting the call to head back in to sign the paperwork and meet the dogs again.

I have decided to keep up on my fitness regime from back home in order to keep busy and get in shape. After a nice work out at the gym in the high school, I got to head out with two of my good friends who are interning in La Crete, a town about an hour from here. We all attend the same university and all happen to have technology education as a teachable, so we had known each other well before heading up here. It was great to get out with friends and grab a bite to eat (I had the “mushroom chicken mushroom ” at the Flamingo).

They were gracious enough to let me spend the night with them in La Crete and see what it’s all about. We arrived after the sun had gone down, and everything was closed today, so as far as sight seeing goes within town, it will have to wait. That being said, their Subway has got to be the fanciest I have seen (since when does Subway have a café?). It is a clean town that seems rather quaint. We happened to catch the grocery store before it closed Saturday night and we wandered around in an attempt to hear any low German. Unfortunately the majority of people seem to be rather soft spoken or private about their business, so I didn’t hear a whole lot of anything. Next time though!

On our drive out to La Crete on Saturday we kept an eye to the sky. We have all sworn to see the Northern lights, or Aurora, while we are here. We caught a small glimpse of dim green lights that lingered in the dark sky, but are hoping to see more.

The sky here is like something from a story book. It always has an assortment of colors (and that’s saying something, as a colorblind person), and as the sun sets they seem to light up and rip through the sky. Today while driving home the sky was a vibrant pink and red, like someone had lit it on fire. This is one of the many wonders of the North. The sun shines no matter how cold it gets and the sky is mezmerizingly beautiful.

Here’s to the wonders of everyday, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 7: Keeping with the bear necessities.

I said I would get around to making a bear pun, well the good news is I didn’t even have to make it up myself.

Today I got to visit Bear Necessities, which is a “non-profit student-run laser engraving business” next to the high school. I was floored when I saw all of the products in the store that had been made mostly by students (frames, plaques, license plates, custom Magic The Gathering Boxes, and the list goes on!). Students use the engraver on various materials such as aluminum, wood and glass (that list goes on as well), and they can engrave words, graphics, and even photos. They work on marketing, sales, production and even have a logistics team(how freaking cool is that for high school kids?) Everyone should check them out on Facebook or Twitter. (Yup, they deserve the shout out).

After an interesting morning of English with my grade 7s, I spent the entire afternoon familiarizing myself with the technology shop (known as CST here). They have all of the latest technology on their computers and an amazing engraver and CNC machine. It took a while for me to take it all in, but I’m beyond pumped to learn more about all of the machines during the next three months. Maybe even get to engrave something!

I decided to attend a Magic the gathering club meeting after school. It has been months since I have played, but was pleased to hear it has such a following up here. There are some really amazing players from all different grades. I have trouble keeping track of all of the rules and regulations of the games so I admire those who manage to keep it all straight and play a good game.

After school I ran some errands with my roommate, Andrew. From grocery shopping to hitting up the laundromat(not having a washing machine at home sucks), the evening flew by. I realized while shopping I should invest in some vitamins and cod liver oil. I have noticed I am getting used to the cold temperatures and dryness of northern Alberta, but heck… do I ever want to sleep. I was advised to look into supplements since the little sunlight we do get during the day (I go to work in the dark and leave in the dark) is while I am in a classroom. Hopefully some good old vitamin D will help keep me awake.

Here’s to calling it a night, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 6: Seven days to see the world, all in the same classroom.

Today I met my class.

I found out I would be teaching the same group of students the majority of my time here. My cooperating teacher, who is an absolute pleasure to observe and work with (and a Newfie!), has the same grade 7 class for all subjects. So when I’m not in the tech lab, I’m with these guys.

I was a little nervous at first. What if they didn’t like me? I would be with them until April and wanted to make it work. Well it turns out they’re amazing kids who gave me a chance from point blank(it can be difficult sometimes earning their trust or peaking their interest.) They all have an abundant and obvious desire to learn and grow, they engage with myself and the rest of the class, and above all else, they really seem to want to be there.

I spent the entire day working with them through their first English project after the Christmas break. My cooperating teacher wanted to do some PBL(project based learning, something Alberta has really been pushing for lately in schools) that would be cross curricular and that would teach them something they can use in the real world.

Today they began their “Journeys” project. They are given an imaginary budget of $6000 to travel anywhere in the world (outside of Canada and the USA) for a total of seven days. They need to book flights, rent hotel rooms, and plan out what they will do and how much it will cost them. So far it has been a great experience seeing what countries they picked and why. I am ecstatic to be with such an amazing group of students for the next few months. I cannot wait to get back in there tomorrow.

After class I had the pleasure of stopping by the robotics club meeting(as a tech teacher I should know about these things!) I met some pretty cool kids and saw some pretty neat robots being made. I think I’ll invest in some Vex models to familiarize myself with the world of robotics a little more.

Just before leaving I bumped into a lovely lady that works as a custodian for the school. It turns out she speaks German! To my delight we bantered back and forth for a little while about the differences between high and low German (she speaks low, and frankly I was surprised by just how different it is from high German.) She invited me to La Crete some time to practice my German and perhaps even learn a little low German while I’m at it.

I went to my first yoga class while in High Level. I feel my eyes getting heavier as I continue to write this. I didn’t expect it to be so tiring, but I am officially dropping. The instructor is a lovely lady who just so happens to also be a teacher at the school with me. It was a treat to see yoga taught how it should be(atmosphere considered and the time given for beginners to learn and adjust.) She made sure we all were relaxed and ready to move through the motions. We discussed the idea of having a mantra for the new year, a saying that we remind ourselves of. I have lots of ideas, but haven’t thought of the right one just yet.

I feel like I have so much to write about I end up missing so many things. The exciting part is that I am here for the next three months. Lots of writing opportunities and chances to snap some amazing photos. (Sorry Ashlee, nothing new at the moment!)

Here’s to the rejuvenating effects of yoga, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 5: Didn’t your mother ever tell you to not get into cars with strangers?

Today was our second PD day. It was spent reviewing the various types of email open to the staff, and how to personalize your accounts to meet specific needs. For lunch we all hit up the Flamingo(another hotel/restaurant combo that contributes to High Levels title as “Vegas of the North”.) I had a giant breakfast platter known as the grand slam. French toast AND sausage? Yes please.

After lunch we spent the evening planning out the rest of the semester. I find it interesting (and at first very confusing) that High Level Public uses a semester system. Back home we have removed home room and classes last all year. Personally I find the semester approach more beneficial, especially for students. By switching up what they do throughout the year, it is more likely they will stay engaged. Within the semester system there are four quads (perhaps the confusing part for me?) We are approaching the end of the current quad and it will be interesting to see this kind of layout put in place. Students need change, a class an entire year long is just too long in my opinion.

I paid a visit to the local medical clinic after school. It is located around the back of the hospital and is surrounded by trees. While leaving, I snapped a quick photo of the trees behind the clinic and the evening sky(eerie yet beautiful). Have I mentioned that this place is a photographers dream?(If only I could catch some wildlife out and about!)

As I was walking home I had a car pull up along side me. I figured some poor soul had taken pity on me for walking in the cold as the sun went down. It turns out I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady who had driven in from Chateh(see my previous journal on my visit to Chateh!) with her granddaughter to visit the clinic. We had the opportunity to chat about living up north, and how she is simply accustomed to the cold and dreams of one day traveling out East (how cool is that!). After explaining that I would love to learn more about the Dene Tha people, she told me I was welcome to stop by whenever I visited Chateh again. I must have looked like an absolute fool when exiting the car. I love the chance to meet new people and an offer to learn more about a different culture had me tickled pink. Needless to say, who said getting into car with a stranger is always a bad thing?

Here’s to making new friends, here’s to whatever comes next.

Day 4(A day late): That new school smell

Yesterday was my first day at High Level Public School (for the safety and confidentiality of all those involved, no real names will be used for teachers or any other personnel at school). I was flabbergasted by just how outstanding the facility is. The walls are adorned with art, both student and teacher made. The library is welcoming and designed to peak the interest of any student, regardless of their interests. The staffs dedication to inform their students on the importance of literacy and critical thinking is shown throughout the corridors with the placement of bulletin boards that display important facts for teens. The myths about “spit” (a type of chewing tobacco that has become more popular amongst teens here), the telltale signs of depression, and copious amounts of resources and places that teens can visit if they ever need help.

When you think about the things a school should possess, both in the physical sense and moral sense, I believe HLPS has it. There is a state of the art technology room (they even have a shop that is mostly student run and operated), where they sell things they make from metal working and the CNC machine. I have not had the pleasure of seeing it first hand yet, but when I do I am sure it will deserve a post all to itself.

They also have a fantastic theater room for drama class and a fitness room open to everyone(great to keep in shape when you don’t want to run in -30 weather).

The staff are energetic and enthusiastic. Everyone is here because they want to be, which is crucial to the atmosphere and wellbeing of the school and students. Classrooms are full of bright lights and various ways for students to work alone and collaborate with their classmates or teachers.

Honestly, I am rather floored. I cannot wait for the teaching to begin (yesterday and today are PD days, Wednesday the fun starts!) It turns out I will be tested on not only my ability to teach English and Technology Education(my focus areas) but also Science and math.

Wish me luck, numbers have never been my thing. Here’s to teaching any subject, here’s to whatever comes next!

Day 3: The feeling you get when half your face freezes

Today I got to sleep in while staying in Chateh. With the humidifier and gas furnace running steady all night, I slept like the dead.

I awoke shortly after 10 am and got dressed to head outside. I was greeted by a local dog that I had met the day prior. I had heard that there were a number of local dogs that were allowed to roam the reserve freely, needless to say I was hoping to run into a few (animal lover, no judgment). It seems I had made a friend and the local dog became slightly overbearing and protective when he realized others were nearby. I took a short video of him and the area to give you guys a feel for what it was like. It was an absolute treat visiting Chateh, and I hope to get the chance to visit again before I head home in April.

After heading back home the rest of my day has been rather slow. I decided to try and familiarize myself with the town of High Level in order to get to and from with more ease. I suited up, layers and all, and headed out into -37. The thing that amuses me about up North, is that the roads are always icy. In fact, they’re completely covered in ice almost all winter long. The cold is rather unforgiving here and does not allow for any road salt or sand to take effect. Therefore everyone has to get used to walking and driving on sheets on ice. It may take me a while.

Another thing I was rather surprised by is just how quickly you get cold without realizing. I had left the unit and walked 15 minutes towards the center of town when I realized I could not feel my legs. I figured that I was in a bit of a conundrum, so I turned around and took refuge in a local store(The Bargain Store, otherwise known as TBS). I grabbed some odds and ends and began chatting with the cashier. I started chuckling at something she had said when it hit me…half of my face was frozen.

I was attempting to smile, yet the whole bloody left side would not budge. Immediately I flushed and tried to cover my face with the scarf draped around my neck. Exactly what to expect of an islander who is attempting to explore the frigid lands of Northern Canada, meanwhile not realizing just how cold -37 is. Back home I would get cold and keep on trekking. Up here I get cold and can’t even crack a full smile.

Here’s to being more climate aware, here’s to whatever comes next!

Day 2: Chateh, AB (A noble quest towards bison discovery, and why road kill sucks)

It seems we were lucky enough to arrive in High Level just in time to kick off its 50th birthday celebrations! This morning we headed to a pancake (and sausages, truly the best breakfast meat) breakfast at one of the schools in High Level. It was the first of many ceremonies this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of High Level and the people who call it home. It was a great time to meet new people, learn more about the town, and even get our very first photo-op in High Level as part of a video they were filming. We were the first to talk about our experiences in High Level, which we thought was rather humorous as we had arrived the day prior. Therefore we talked about our expectations, and what we had thought so far.

After fueling up, collecting some food from the grocery to take along, and going on the obligatory and ever-so-Canadian Tim Horton’s run, we were off. Out over the high way to Fort Vermilion where we would pick up the dogs (two sweet pups, one is Andrews and the other a friends). It was an hours drive spent gazing out the window and still gawking at how flat everything is.

My first time in Alberta was last May. Coming from a province that consists of endless hills and curves in the road, I was blown away with how straight and flat everything was. I had believed that up north would be different, filled with mountains and snowy peaks. I realized as we drove along that that was the complete and total opposite of northern Alberta. I got to see the Peace River, lots of giant, metal bridges, yet sadly…no bison. For those of you who are not familiar with my quest to see a real, living, breathing, wild bison, here it is. As a nature and animal lover, I have always been perplexed by animals that are not native to Newfoundland. Back home, we have moose and the scattered whale or two, but I had become quite well-acquainted with the furry (and not so furry) inhabitants of Newfoundland in my 20-something years on the island. Therefore when I was driving across the country last May with my good friends Heather and Sara (not to mention Kita, best dog ever), I made it my mission to see as many wild animals as I could along the way.

We don’t have porcupines, raccoons or even deer back home. So it took no time at all to see all the animals I had hoped for while driving across the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately many of them were not living, and most certainly not breathing. It turns out the TCH from Edmonton to the ferry in Nova Scotia is the home to many creatures, 99.9% which have been run over and left for families and innocent, young students like myself to witness (in all of its horror). Road kill sucks, end of story. While driving past a fenced in area of the prairies, I laid eyes upon a fluffy, brown dot in the distance. Heather remarked that it could be a herd of bison. Long story short, this began my obsession with perhaps seeing this massive, fluffy beast in person and up close for myself. Even though there were various signs (Bison Next 30km, Caution: Bison on road) I have yet to see a bison, but I have until April so let us hope for the best!

Once we had the dogs we headed to Chateh where we are spending the night. Andrew’s fiancee teaches in Chetah so I was lucky enough to get to spend the night here and see the sights. I got to see the school, which has an amazing meeting area and beautiful artwork throughout. The town of Chetah, about an hour outside of High Level, is pretty breath taking, especially as the sun is setting. There is wildlife everywhere and the buildings are neatly placed and tended to with care. There are pieces of the culture and language of the Dene Tha First Nations people everywhere, and it has been extraordinary to get to see some up close.  (For more information, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog about Chateh while researching, check it out!

Overall today was hectic, so I think tomorrow will be a day to sleep in and perhaps even relax. Monday and Tuesday we have professional development days, and Wednesday we begin at our respective schools. Here’s to an extraordinary beginning, here’s to whatever comes next!