Friday, April 2, 2010

The Joy of K-12 Schools


There are challenges associated with meeting the educational needs of diverse students regardless of the setting. Having experience as a student, as well as a teacher, in both rural K-12 schools and larger metropolitan schools, I know there are pros and cons on either side of the equation.

But on days like these...


...I really enjoy being in a rural K-12 school. Kids of all ages participate right alongside each other. No one is too cool to have a good time (not even teachers).


As a part of our celebration of the Inupiat Value of Humor, our Inupiat teacher planned a few fun cultural games. The photos above and the video below highlight a traditional (and challenging) activity intended to strengthen ice walking skills.

Though this is an inland village and seal hunting is not common here, this is still a coastal culture and one never knows when such a skill might come in handy.

From what I hear, the cans we used on this day were much larger than the soup cans used by previous generations, but I guess you've got to start somewhere and these guys did pretty well!

We also played a game called Akuu, Akuu. This activity is sort of a combination of Red Rover and Simon Says with a little Inupiat flare thrown in. Instead of holding hands, teams take turns calling across to one another, asking for particular players to come over, performing or acting out a certain character.

For example, the student team called out, "Akuu, Akuu. Send Lindsay over like a walrus." Then sixth grade teacher, Lindsay, had to cross the gym to the student side, acting like a walrus.

Oh, yeah.

I forgot to explain that participants aren't allowed to smile or laugh as they cross the gym acting like who-knows-what and the opposing team does whatever they can to make them laugh--of course.

If successful, Lindsay wins the towel for her team (and she was). If she's not, like if she cracks up (which she didn't), then she remains with the opposing team.

Students are much stricter about the smile thing than the teachers are. Teachers seem to be conditioned to reward good effort and often bend the rules in favor of the other team.

Students have no such compulsion.

In a final push for victory over the teachers, the student team called out for Neal, our third grade teacher, to come over "doing The Worm." If you aren't familiar with this particular dance move (and I use that term loosely), here is a demonstration performed by one of my students.

And here is Neal, God bless him, who cannot do The Worm, but he does something that I think is much better. At least, it's a lot funnier. I don't know if this will be as hilarious when you don't know the people involved, but I've watched it over and over and it still cracks me up.


Sandcastle Momma said...

That looks like fun!
But I have two questions. Since I know absolutely nothing about walking on ice what does the can game teach them?
And the second is that I've noticed the students call teachers by their first names. Is that a cultural thing or is it just a very small village thing?

Kimberlee said...

Sandcastle Momma...
Great questions!
About the game--it has to do with balance, I think. I've seen two seal hunts with my own eyes. One was in the Arctic Ocean, dodging broken ice with a boat and the other was a single hunter walking around on a large sheet of ice (like a mile long). There was ice walking involved in both cases, but not the strategic hopping from one chunk to another that I imagine this skill pertains to. It may be that the skill was used more back before modern weapons and vehicles became common. I'll ask around and share when I have more definitive information.

About teacher names--I was surprised when I first moved here and the principal introduced me as "Kimberlee," but it didn't take long to realize that it was NOT a sign of disrespect. Even the oldest and most revered elders are called by their first names. I do think you're has to do with familiarity and the close-knit nature of the culture. It's more about affection than respect. I've learned that earning respect has more to do with who you are than what you're called. I'm sure you've experienced that as well.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I LOVE this post for many many reasons. I love learning about the culture, and your pictures, videos, and posts teach me, entertain me, and are just pleasurable to look at. Also, since the majority of my on experiences as a student and teacher have ONLY been in K-12 rural schools, I Love seeing what other schools look like. I also want to know if you guys get to wear jeans EVERY day, or just on special days like this one? I'm always interested in that. I want to come teach here for a year - need an elementary teacher, or a reading teacher for a year or two?!
Well, I can teach HS English, too, but really don't want to. Oh, wait - I'm not Alaska certified. Bet that's kinda necessary, huh?! Dang.
GREAT post!

Anonymous said...

Looks like a fun day...the ice walking the other came I thought was going to be like Red Rover, Red Rover, send Kimberlee right over!!!


Anonymous said...

I'm with you--the video of Neal doing the worm was very funny. Great way to end my day.
Chris (former Barrowite)

Kimberlee said...

Thank you so much! It makes me really happy to hear that you enjoy the photos, story, etc. I hadn't realized that your school was K-12! If you're serious about the job, email me! Getting certified isn't that big a hurdle! :)

There are benefits to being the one behind the camera! If they'd have asked me to do something like "The Worm" I'd have croaked! LOL!

I'm so glad to hear that someone else got a kick out of Neal's performance. I think I'll keep a copy around for times when I need a good laugh.

And it's good to hear from you! Elaine will be helping with our testing this week and I get to "keep" her at my house at least one night. I can't wait!