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.
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.