Teaching Language Arts in a Rural Alaskan town

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Teaching Language Arts in a Rural Alaskan town

Postby tdipaola » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:45 am

Hi - I am looking for some input from any other English teachers out there about teaching English in a 100% native Alaskan school. I have two weeks of inservice starting Aug. 10th. I know they will address some of these issues, but I like to be prepared. I have been told a previous teacher tried to teach like you would in the lower 48 and it didn't work out well. So basically I am looking for what types of modifications I need to be thinking about as I prepare. Here goes:
1) Do we teach the English Canon at all or do you cater more towards native Alaskan writers?
2) I really want to do journaling everyday as a warm-up activity - should I plan on buying the journals for the kids myself in Fairbanks and have them shipped in - financial question as well as a cultural - about journaling?
3) I have been told not to ask too many questions - is that toward the administration, the locals, my students - culturally I am trying to wrap my mind around that one?
4) The state standards very distinctly state that we are preparing students for college - if I am in a rural village, and I take that approach, would it not come off as I am trying to get your children to move away from their community? How do you address that idea that this community is a permanent attached group - not like the lower 48 where we hope that our kids "go off to college"? How is this different in rural schools in Alaska?
5) I am really interested in learning at least some phrases in the native language for my village (Athabascan? - Huslia) Is that presumptuous of me? Does that come off as interested or intrusive?
Really I would like another English teacher(s) working in bush villages to correspond with, if anyone is interested?
Thanks, Tracy
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Re: Teaching Language Arts in a Rural Alaskan town

Postby Bushteachers » Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:20 pm

I taught ELA for the last two years in a small Athapaskan village. I am/was not an ELA teacher by trade. So take my answers for what they are worth.

1. Teach what you need to. I did use as much Native Alaskan work as I could but resources are a challenge to get. Find out what your students levels are. If your kids are at a 5th grade level don't kill yourself trying to teach them high school English classics.

2. Journaling may work and may not. I had a few kids that enjoyed it, but few. You are thinking like a lower 48 ELA teacher. Can village kids handle? I think they can, but may take some time. Like more than a year. Check with the school. I didn't really have to buy any supplies. Everything I needed was there.

3. Be prepared for slow response time. My students did not enjoy discussions. I found myself frustrated with response times. It is a different culture. What has the turnover been like there?

4. Great struggle here. Most of your kids won't be interested in college. The boarding schools pull away many kids. Many times, though not always, those that are interested in school leave. This situation goes back to not acting like a lower 48 teacher, however our standards are almost the common core. Go figure. Look into thematic or placed based units and lessons. Have the kids best interest at heart. Don't neglect trade school options. Look for connections between standards and lifestyle.

5. Is athebascan even spoken? No one spoke it in our village. Words? Sure. Phrases? Occasionally. Fluently? No one. Wait until you get there and have kids teach it to you if they know it. You may be surprised at te modernness of your students.
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