Kirsten's Classroom

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New Teacher's-The Alaska Teaching Experience

Starting out as a new teacher can be really scary but it can also be a time of adventure. The coolest part about being a teacher is that we can pretty much find a job anywhere, "anywhere" that there are children. I've been a teacher for 7 years now and my first teaching job was on a remote Alaskan island in the middle of the Bering Sea (St. Lawerence). This island was closer to Russia than Alaska, and in fact you could see the Siberian coastline on sunny days. I taught 6th grade there for 2 years and had 16 amazing Siberian Yupik Eskimo kids, who spoke broken English (as well as Sib. Yupik), whale/walrus hunted with their families, listened to Rap on their walkman, and native danced in Niki clothes. And yes, I did it all while being a single female teacher, right out of college.

Now, I never planned on putting my butt on some remote island in the middle of the Bering Sea, but I did plan on going to Alaska for an adventure. I went to a teacher job fair in Portland, OR (where I was going to college) and ran up to the "only" Alaska table in this huge auditorum (which by the way had the shortest line) and said "I want to go to Alaska where do I sign up?" They smiled at me, I went through an interview and 8 hours later I had a contract offered in hand. It took me another 12 hours to decide if the island thing was really for me, but I def. had the support of my family and friends saying "why not, your young, you can do anything for a year", the more research I did on the island the more excited I got, and of course there was prayer. It turned out to be an amazing experience, even though it included some of the hardest times I've ever gone through-still I wouldn't change a thing. Some people ask me "weren't you scared", honestly, a bit nervous, but def. way more excited. What I was surprised to find out is that you are never really alone when you teach in Alaska "anywhere" but mainly in the bush.

After you sign your contract, the principal will give you contact numbers of the other teachers who will be working with you. These teachers are usually veterans, know the ropes, and are happy to help you. During teacher inservice in the fall, you meet the other teachers who will be with you (a lot of them you have talked with already at this point) and a lot of bonding happens. I relate it to going to summer camp and being put into a cabin with a group of people that you know you will be with all summer, and you know that these are the people you will have to rely on for everything (mental sanity, food sharing, advise, shoulders to lean on, fun activities, anytype of help..). Besically, you meet what will become your second "family" for the upcoming year or years to come (depending on how long you stay). The bonds you make here def. last a lifetime. This is how it was for me, I never felt alone for a second.

I have taught now for 7 years in Alaska (5 of those years in rural bush villages) and have lots of advise and experiences to share. Currently I teach in a town on the edge of Denali National Park. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to teach in Alaska and I would suggest it to anyone who had a positive attitude and a little sense of adventure. The benefits here in Alaska are awesome, the profession development opportunities in the rural areas are great, money is are amazing..but it's not for everyone. If you are interested in teaching in Alaska, visit Alaska Teacher Placement on the web.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Violance In Schools

Even Alaska does not escape violence in the schools. Sometimes, living in what seems to be such a remote and detached land, you get the sense the that we are sheltered from the problems of the rest of the world. I guess this feeling has become more intense since I've been living in a cabin with now running water and no tv for the past year just outside Denali National Park. However, this week, in our little (well to do) peaceful school we had a drug bust that stemmed an investigation that uncovered a group of violant minded teens (previously known by staff as good kids). These group (gang) of students, have for the past 3 days, been destroying property and threatening other students who are suspected to have anything to do with the drug bust and suspension of their leader. Teacher's are on high alert to find the members of this gang, and are on a mission to keep the other students safe.

This isn't my first time dealing with a situation like this here in Alaska. My first year teaching in Savoonga, Ak (village on St. Lawerence Island-middle of the Bering Sea) we had a whole school lock in due to the fact that a drunk villager with a gun, was reported to be on his way to the school. At the same school (but a few years before I came to teach there), a High School teacher friend of mine had a student pull a hand gun on another student right infront of him. Thankfully, my friend was able to talk the student to hand the gun over.

Today in the Fairbanks News Miner there is a report of a gang of 8th graders who were reciently busted by athorities for planning to bring weapons to school to hurt or kill other students on their "hit list".

Last night I was at a friend's house and I turned on their TV and saw on all 5 channels nothing but people killing each other, dead bodies, and really gross discriptions of was it really suprising that it's spilling over into our schools.

Sometimes, I think that Hollywood and the TV industry should be responsible for paying teacher's salaries.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tiz the season of mugtuk fruitcake and dried fish hanging on the tree.."Smile". Not really an Alaskan tradition but wouldn't exactly be far off. I'm currently in Michigan in which our Christmas day tradition with our father has become eating out at the only restaraunt open on this special day in the Bay City area- a Chinese smorgisborg of king crab, buttered Oysters and crab meat ragoons. The rest of the day 3 adults, some new techy presents, a small well furnished room, and about 8 hours spent enbracing cyberland.Tomorrow, my brother and I will be hitting the road to the other side of well being, a six hour drive North to our mother's in Marquette, MI. It is here where we will celebrate Christmas as it lives in the minds of viewers of many a Christmas special (sort of)..cabin on a lake in the forest, snowshoeing, turkey dinner. It's great spending time with family, I just wish they lived in Alaska or Hawaii 'smile". Please stay tuned for exciting stories of adventure from the North land.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Hey, my name is Kirsten Alburg, a teacher in rural Alaska, and I would like to share what has seemed like a lifetime of experiences and adventures with who ever is interested. During Christmas eve 2005, my extremely brillant little brother introduced me to the world of Blogging. The title of this Blog will be Kirsten's classroom and I will be sharing a lot of AK bush classroom/village experiences, related worldly advise and personal opinions, but would also like to share the sea of adventures leading up to the classroom as well. Please check back soon for the first "in depth" writing and Merry Christmas to you all. Kirsten