I am now shadowing at the Asimauttaq School on the Inuit side of the community. Normally, in the south, a shadow works with one particular child. But here, since so many students require a shadow, I work as the teacher’s shadow, going from desk to desk to answer questions, watching the class if the teacher has to step out, and helping wherever I can.
I started last week. I went to the school and offered my CV to the principal. He glanced it over and made a few comments.
“When can you start?” he asked, even though I told him I had no actual teaching experience, except helping out with Sunday School at the local church and volunteering as a reading and library mom in my childrens’ elementary schools. He just shrugged.
“I can start tomorrow,” I said.
A quick walk through the school revealed not much difference from any other West Island school I’ve been in.
I showed up the next morning at 8:45 and was paired up with a grade 3 / 4 split teacher, whose students range in age of 7 to 12, mostly boys.
The kids introduced themselves and told me their names one by one. Some shy, some clownish.
They didn’t speak to me much on the first day, but observed and grinned shyly.
The teacher needed to go to the office for a few moments and left me in charge. Before leaving, she instructed her students to continue their work and be very quiet.
The minute she was out the door, the gentle interrogation began.
“How old are you?”
“Who was that man you were having lunch with at the restaurant?”
“Do you have children?”
One boy was very concerned after finding out my age. “That’s the age of my grandmother,” he said. “Do you have grandchildren?”
“No, not yet,” I told him.
He squished up his face and looked at me with great concern. “Are you worried?”
In a community where it is not unusual for a 14-year-old boy or girl to have a child, this would be worrisome.
The younger boys especially love to come close at recess, when the teacher allows them to play indoors instead of going out. They love to play with her phone as a special privilege, or she might read a book to them (they delight in Robert Munch).
Two of the younger boys were playing “I spy” with me from a large open book. They had to read the word and try to find the object. I almost had them on my lap.
There is a “non-touching rule”, but the kids seem to crave closeness and attention, so it’s hard not to hug them. They seem younger than kids in the south.
Aside from a regular curriculum of English and math, the students learn Inuit culture and attend a nurture class. A nurse has set up a dental program and students have toothbrushes for when they come in the morning and after lunch. Gym and art classes are once a day, and we take them by bus to the heated indoor pool for weekly lessons.
I am amazed at the dedication of the teachers, who provide snacks, lunches, prizes, winter coats, boots, bathing suits, and towels, and those who have fostered students, since most of the children don’t live with their parents.
It is sad to see so many students drop out at such a young age.