Unfortunately to what is probably the majority of the readers of this blog, this post is going to be spent telling you a little bit about your typical bush teacher. I know, I know… hardly an exciting topic, but if you talk to any teacher from the lower-48 or “Alaska”, you probably don’t have the image quite right.
I mean… I have a classroom and all; in fact, there is a whiteboard, overhead projector, document camera, projector, 5 workstations and a cart of laptops scattered around my room. This is in addition to the desks, chairs and the normal teaching accoutrements. You would almost think it was a normal school until you noticed the satellite dish on the roof (run copper hundreds of miles across the tundra?) and the backup generator out back so we can hold classes when the town’s diesel power plant is down.
You won’t find me (most days) greeting the kids at the door in a shirt and tie though. I mean, yeah, somedays I do; usually around the beginning of the month (when they pay me) or if i start to run out of clean clothes. Instead, I’ll probably be wearing a polo shirt and khakis… blue jeans if it’s Friday, if it fits the shirt better or if I’m not going to have time after work to change before hunting.
The methods differ quite a bit from the schools I grew up in. There’s a closer bond between teacher and student – one that might be considered improper elsewhere, but is only natural when you’re stuck in an isolated and remote village with few trips in or out. While I’m not to the point where I allow students to come visit me in my house, many of the other teachers do. With only 230 people in the town, you’re limiting your social circle by automatically excluding 50 of them. And to be honest, I’m told that several of them are very good hunting guides.
Our methods aren’t mainstream teaching, that’s for sure. I’ve a bookshelf full of math texts, which I barely use. I had to scrounge for a history text to reference. I struggle to make connections with students of a different culture – many of whom have never been farther away from the village than their snowmachine could carry them. Let’s just say that I frequently have to be inventive with my metaphors. But, I teach in a school without grades and my classes are supposedly grouped together by ability levels based on no end of standards that are plugged into a tracking system that tells me what my students should know and be able to do. Whether that’s true or not varies by the day and how distracted my students are by the hunting opportunities available just outside the school walls.
Anyways, there’s a taste of bush teaching. The hours are crazier than teachers usually put in, the preps are wide and varied (I teach 6 different classes across three broad content areas), the kids are unique, the hunting is fantastic and the experiences last a lifetime.