Try new things: Transportation on the island was mainly by foot. My colleagues and I would walk through beach gravel to and from school each day, which was very refreshing and allowed me to enjoy the land, clear my mind, and engage in wonderful conversations—until the snow hit!
As a first-year teacher working in a remote location, I learned that the support of my colleagues, who in many cases were also novice teachers, was essential for a positive experience both personally and professionally. I also quickly learned that we could relate to one another, rely on each other’s expertise, and reflect on our overall experiences. Establish a group of professionals in the district or building, providing a platform for collegial support and varying levels of experience and expertise. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and elicit feedback to grow as a professional!
Embrace challenges: The weather on the island was often overcast and rainy, but that didn’t stand in the way of jumping at the opportunity for adventure. When the snow fell, it was often very windy, causing “white-outs.” Visibility in a white-out is very low, and disorientation is common. Most mornings, my colleagues and I would walk to school in full parka and goggles and sometimes had our arms linked. A local man and I would travel during the weekends by Honda around the island to his “camp,” or cabin. Trail stakes would be set in the ground to guide and track our way in and out due to little to no visibility.
Adapting to the surroundings is a custom the Yupik culture has practiced for many, many years. As educators, it is instrumental to keep the overall mission, or the destination, at the forefront of everything. Barriers such as class size, lack of funding and resources, and a change in overall pedagogy always present themselves, causing us to lose focus—like in a white-out. But as we continue developing our voice—as not only first-year but also experienced teachers—and fine tune instructional routines and strategies, or “trail stakes,” we instill within our students the tools to learn how to be successful learners!