They say it’s fifty below

But I don’t really have a clue. I suit up in all my layers to trek to school (I’ve walked farther in grocery store parking lots) then peel off the bibs and the parka and the neckwarmers and the gloves and hat and get down to the business of teaching school. It hasn’t felt cold yet, but I haven’t really stopped to wallow in it or to dip my bare toes in the snow or anything dumb like that. I have been warned not to touch metal with my bare hands and to always cover my mouth and nose when I’m outside so I don’t get frostbite in my lungs.

I stopped on the walk home last night to watch the northern lights. They were green and shifty, like some sort of seaweed in turbidity, swaying in and out of view. It wasn’t a great show, but it was my first, so I reveled in it until I started to feel the chill in my hands.

My kids are delightful. They’re funny and charming and smart. I have the privilege of teaching writing, so I have them journaling a few minutes a day. Yesterday, in response to the “if I were a superhero I would be…” prompt, one girl wrote about how she would have ice powers and she would battle lava girl. She would shoot lava girl in the toes with a big ball of ice power, and Lava Girl would turn into a rock. Today, one boy wrote about something he’s proud of and told me that studying Gwich’in makes him proud and helps him understand the way people used to live.

One of my favorite things about living here is my walk home (again, think of walking across a parking lot) for lunch at noontime. The dawn and dusk spill out over the whole day, and they stain everything pink with the sideways-falling dye of light.

When you can see chimney smoke at all (most of the time it is dark outside) it is pink like cotton candy.

When you can see chimney smoke at all (most of the time it is dark outside) it is pink like cotton candy.

This is what I see when I step out of the school for my lunch break. Is it the cold that makes my eyes water, or am I simply appropriately stunned by the magnificence of the arctic?

This is what I see when I step out of the school for my lunch break. Is it the cold that makes my eyes water, or am I simply appropriately stunned by the magnificence of the arctic? I’ll try to take some better pictures, soon.

Housekeeping item: I’m poaching the school’s internet, so I don’t have facebook. If you want to get in touch with me, send me an email or write me a comment or gchat with me sometime.

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5 thoughts on “They say it’s fifty below

  1. Great timing to start out during a cold spell 🙂
    Is Gwich’in widely spoken in Venetie? I worked with Tlingit youth when I first moved up north but there weren’t many Tlingit speakers left in the village, and unfortunately no good language instruction available to people either. Might be different now.

    • I’m not sure how widely spoken it is, but they have a language class every day in school, and some of the adults speak Gwich’in. I think it’s fairly common, which is very exciting. I was really touched by the student’s words.

    • I think their math is worse, but it’s hard to tell because I have younger students. Behaviorally, my current students are angels, but I have the “motivated” group. My students can tell time, which is new. Some of my Venetie kids are very weak readers, but I don’t know how my delta kids were in English because I only saw them for one subject.

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