The students Tim and I took with us are all new to student council, so I think it was a really good experience for them to see how student government works. One of the highlights for them was meeting Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine shooting. He travels around the country speaking at events for Rachel's Challenge. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Rachel wrote a paper before she died. Within it she urged her reader to start a chain reaction. She said that if you do an act of kindness to another person that it would start a chain reaction of the same. Rachel's father and brother now travel around speaking of kindness and urging people to follow Rachel's advice: www.rachelschallenge.org.
The conference lasted three days (Thursday morning-Saturday afternoon) and it was nonstop. Every second of the day was scheduled from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm and we even ate breakfast and lunch in meetings! Needless to say we are all very sleep deprived. (Tim and I took a three hour nap as soon as we got home.) I thought our kids handled the endless meetings fairly well. We did almost miss our flight this morning because we all slept in. (I always feel really stupid when I sleep in as a chaperone . . . so much for being the responsible one.)
I was really grateful for the opportunity to get out of the village for a few days and have a break from teaching. It's amazing how much that can help my mental health. On Tuesday evening, we stayed with the kids at the district bunkhouse. This is basically a large trailer house the district owns for the purpose of overnight trips. The students thought it was pretty awesome. Tessa had to try out each and every bed before deciding which one to sleep in (there are 9 of them). Tessa and Shushu taught me the Yup'ik way to eat a bowl of frozen blueberries and laughed at me every time a winced because my teeth were cold. Tessa's trip was made within the first two hours because of the frozen blueberries.
Wednesday morning we flew to Anchorage. We were able to spend the whole afternoon and evening in Anchorage. We rented a big Expedition XLT, which the students thought was great. I let the students vote on what activities to do and where to eat prior to leaving. They voted to go to the mall and go to the other mall. So, we went shopping. Tim and I gave them 1.5 hours in the 5th Avenue mall and once making sure they all had a proper buddy and cell phone we took the opportunity to meet with our birth mother in the food court while they were off spending hundreds of dollars. It was good to see her again and talk over some things. (Only two more months to go!)
Afterward, we headed to the Dimond Center mall where we ran into Sandi, last year's student body president, and Amy, an old coworker of ours. We also met up with Michael Lee, the middle school science teacher and Charlie's father. He was in Anchorage for a training, so he spent the evening with us. Shushu decided to get her nails done while we were in the mall, so I joined her by getting a pedicure. It would have been relaxing except for the fact that I was panicking that it was taking longer than I expected and I was late for our meet-back time. Luckily Tim stalled for me and took the rest of the group over to Wal-Mart while Shushu and I finished up. At Wal-Mart he ran into Robin, another old coworker of ours. It was a lot of fun to run into all these people.
We finally headed to Wasilla about 8:00 pm on Wednesday night. We had fun singing and dancing in the car for the hour ride. I was totally happy. I forgot how much I love traveling with and "mentoring" kids/teenagers. It made me miss the days of jump rope trips when I would get to spend my day with 10-20 kids/teenagers in such a positive way. I love being able to chaperone things like this with Tim. We did have a few opportunities where we needed to sit down with the kids and discuss the appropriateness of their decisions (thank goodness for Tim during those situations), but overall they were well behaved and the trip was a lot of fun. I think it's been awhile since I've laughed as much as I did this week.
I have one last thing to share for this evening. As teachers, we often look for opportunities for our students that will give them some experiences they can't have in the bush. There are so many things that we consider normal or an every day occurrences that are unfamiliar to them. For example, the cook at the school told me a story about the first time she went to the city. She had never seen a mannequin before and was amazed at how still those people were. After learning what they were she mistook a live person for a mannequin and was completely scared when this "mannequin" began walking toward her. Some students have never walked on a side walk before. All of the students I was traveling with have been to Anchorage on several occasions, so they seemed pretty familiar with everything. However, when we arrived at Wasilla High School, there were several janitors around the building. I haven't been able to stop chuckling at Tessa's response when she saw these janitors, "Mrs. Phillips, girls can be janitors?" We have a few janitors of our own in Togiak, but they are all male.
Well, I better go get some more sleep before the new week begins! Click here to see more pictures of AASG.