Saturday, December 8, 2007

No Fear of Flying

I began my teaching career in the bush of Alaska. The North Slope Borough School District is the northernmost district in the US, above the arctic circle, above any semblance of the city life I had known. However, living there for two years, you think I would have come prepared for a visit to the water-networked village.

It had been too long.

I had to borrow a pair of fishing boots from the partner of one of the teachers in the big city - Bethel. Someone only showed up with her patent leather flats and pumps. . . what WAS she thinking? Good thing my friend's partner is a man's man who subsistence fishes: there are no sidewalks - only boards above the marshy tundra.

I took the shortest ever flight - 14 minutes from door closing to door opening, wobbling a fearful 1/4 mile above the tundra. Had a chance to see a truck that had tried to cross on the ice nine years ago, but didn't make it. It sits there, in the marsh, rusting. Too bad the camera was in the cargo holder - also known as the tail of the plane and the back seat.

The all time best response when I inquired about a restaurant or store for dinner was, "You have to go to the village on the other side". That meant swimming across freezing waters. NOT going to happen. Fortunately, two zealous teachers invited me over for hamburgers and Kraft Mac & Cheese. They were right out of college - could you tell?

Water taxis aren't only in Venice! I did get a wonderful hour-long taxi ride to the next site. Yes, all that luggage is mine, including the sleeping bag that I wrote off as a lodging expense, considering I had to use it for sleep in the Principal's office and on mats of the gym floor.

The beauty of this trip? By using an internet-based tool, we are able to connect teachers in remote villages to collaborate with and communicate about their instruction and kids' learning. While they might only see central office staff through distance learning courses, they have at their fingertips the district prescribed and researched best practicies in education, working to ensure that each child in each village is exposed to the same curricular opportunities. Some are more keen to use the internet (computer) than others, but at least the tool is at their disposal!

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