Monday, November 28, 2016

THE SCHOOL

      Now it took quite a while until I was involved in what I came for. But finally I did get to the school, classroom and most importantly the students.

     Inuvik was a new town. They started building it in the early 50's and it was opened in 1957. So the school was a very new building. It was a large building and at the time we had about 1000 students. Now this wasn't a large brick structure but built completely with wood. The building was on pilings put into the permafrost. There would be lots of shifting with the building so it had to be flexible. The building was two story , had a large gym, shop , home ec. and typing for high school options. There was not a music or drama program. It was a divided into an A wing and B wing. The B wing was used for the separate or Catholic students. The A wing was for the public school. there was a a small high school of about 4o students. This was a first for housing the two school systems in the same building. It worked well and we thought of each other as being on the same staff.

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    Of the 1000 students a third were Eskimo, another third Indian and then other. 600 of the kids came from outside the town and lived in the hostels or dormitories. 400 kids were town residents.

     I have mentioned the hostels before. The hostels were run by the churches as a development from the time when the churches were the only ones running a school. The Catholic hostel had 250 kids and the Anglican hostel had 350 kids.

    So most of the students were in the gr 1 -8 category with a higher number in the primary grades.

    Aboriginals in this area had a pretty good handle on the English language. They'd been exposed to traders, churches and there was some education. The Dew line was built in the early 50's and many of the men worked on construction so there was more exposure to English. I never heard any native language spoken when I was a there. Native languages were spoken but it was when they were together.

    As a result most of the kids entering school had some English.

    Now in 1963 the philosophy was still make the aboriginals into white guys. So in schools and hostels the aboriginal language was discouraged. We taught very much as we would in a southern school. As I look back on it we were more than naive. These kids did not have the background to process the material we presented. Dick and Jane didn't go over very well with kids who were nomadic and had different clothes and  food. Similar things happened in the whole school program.

    We had little kids in the hostel who were 1000 miles from home. Imagine letting go of your six year old for 10 months of the year. It was criminal. The kids went back to their parents and found it hard to live in tents and eat country food.(fish, caribou, seal). We now know what harm has been done to the aboriginal people. We should have known at that time that it was not a good plan.

     We had a staff of about 50 teachers. They came from every province in Canada. There were also British , Australian and Americans. I was exposed to many different systems of teacher education. The learning curve was steep. I feel fortunate to have taught in a school with such a variation of teachers. I learned much from them.

    For me there was all kinds of overload. I lived in a completely different environment. I was exposed to a different culture. There were always new things to learn.

   The situation was challenging but I learned so much and I always say that it changed my life forever.

34 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience with us Red. You've had quite an education, yourself. I bet you could write a book!

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    1. Yes, it would be easy to write a book.

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  2. It has been very interesting to follow this saga. We certainly were not very wise back in "the good old days" when we thought everyone should be just like us white folks. Sometimes I wonder if we still haven't really learned.

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    1. My standard reply is , "We haven't got it right yet." We thought we were doing the right thing then but it was horribly wrong.

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  3. You are providing a really fascinating insight into life at the time. I sometimes wonder whether the world has learned very much even now when it comes to minorities of every type in society.

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    1. We haven't learned very much. It's a moving target and we haven't figured that out yet.

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  4. Yes, the knowledge about teaching has changed over the years. Well you didn't know better and tried your best. I hope the native children can look back with not much anger and have learned something anyway.

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    1. Many of them look back with a positive attitude and I wonder how they can do it. Mostly they say that we were trying to do the right thing.

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  5. Quite an experience just with the blend of so many cultures.

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    1. It really made one look at others and understand their culture.

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  6. I have no doubt it did change your life Red. Love this series of stories. B

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    1. Few people get to go out and mix with others. I remember the first time I was in the minority.

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  7. It was a different world then, and you were part of it, helping to shape it for the better, I suspect. I think the Canadian government has apologized for separating children from their parents back then. Is that true? Thank you for this trip back in time. :-)

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    1. Yes the govt. did apologize but conditions are still very poor because of poor funding. For example aboriginal per pupil spending is 75% of other Canadians per pupil financing.

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  8. It would be a life changing experience for you.

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    1. I was brought up in a small closed community so this was an eye opener.

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  9. Fascinating story. Very similar philosophically back then to how it was done in the States. Hopefully, though with less genocide...:(

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    1. Many students died under the old system. The argument could be made that it was genocide.

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  10. What a wonderful experience for a young teacher. I'm sure it changed your life for the better and broaden your horizons by leaps and bounds. I've really enjoyed reading these posts.

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    1. I had to look at the world through different eyes.

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  11. Interesting that there was a separatye place in the school for Catholic kids.

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    1. In many Canadian provinces the Catholics have a separate system which is funded just the same as the public system. The catholics had established schools before the provinces were formed so negotiated the right for separate schools.

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  12. Our recent election has surprised me just how little Americans have learned about how to treat those different than themselves. I'm disappointed in our progress. This report on education in the 50s and 60s is very interesting.

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    1. Trump and his supporters are very shocking in the racism they support.

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  13. This series of posts was very interesting!

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    1. Thanks. and thanks for visiting Hiawatha House.

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  14. I've been away and missed visiting, so have just spend half an hour or so reading your story. I think that may be the best way with my memory, at least I didn't forget what happened in the previous installment. Thanks for such a good read. We tend to forget how different things were 'back then'.

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    1. We also have to look back and see what things influenced us...or at least I do!

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  15. We grew up respecting all people....in our family , there was no colour or race..... we just had neighbours and townspeople....interesting story.

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  16. You used the term "Eskimo" Red. What exactly is an "eskimo" and do the aboriginal people who are labelled that way use the term themselves? I kind of thought it was a general umbrella term for Arctic peoples, a term that failed to recognise a variety of different cultural strands.

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  17. I could have never sent my kids far away like that. I cannot imagine how lonely those littlest ones were. I enjoy reading your life story:)

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  18. You were an important part of history. All us white folks have much to be apologetic for in our rush to make everyone like us!

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  19. What an incredible journey you were on. I bet you learned just as much as the students did. And you must have some unforgettable memories.

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  20. That "mistake" of trying to turn the aboriginal people into "White people" has been done in so many countries including the U.S. It's sad. The Hawaiian people have nearly lost their language as well though movements are in play to prevent the language and culture from being lost. You were like a Peace Corps worker going there to teach and being taught as well. I so admire what you did, Red.

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