By Tuesday morning the plows weren’t repaired yet, so our school day got turned into an in-service day. That means another Saturday school. I think my principal is starting to get really nervous that our only working bus will break down or that we will have bad weather days during testing week. We’re running out of possible Saturdays to make up missed days as well. Luckily, by midday on Tuesday we received word that one of the snowplows was back up and running, so we would be able to continue school on Wednesday.
The rest of the week was really warm. We had temperatures in the high 30s (finally!) during the day. We’ve had rain and the snow has melted quite a bit. It’s pretty nice to be able to go outside without getting completely bundled up.
Tim and I have both been feeling a little “under the weather” this week. Two of our other high school teachers were out sick at the end of the week, so we couldn’t really afford to be sick enough to stay home also. We just had to tough it out.
Student Council Retreat
This weekend we held the Southwest Region School District Student Council Retreat in Togiak. Our theme was “Brighten Up”. We had members of student councils from each of the schools in our district fly in and we also had a guest come in from Sitka: Tessa Baldwin. The retreat started on Thursday evening and went until Saturday afternoon. We had a suicide prevention theme. Tessa is a senior at Mt. Edgecumbe. She has known 4 people that have committed suicide, including a family member and a boyfriend. She decided to start a campaign in Alaska called Hope4Alaska, which promotes suicide awareness and prevention. She travels around the state every weekend presenting at schools.
Thursday night, all of the students arrived. We had dinner and played a get to know you game and then had some food relay games. Afterward we took a trip to AC, the grocery store. Togiak has the largest grocery store of all the villages in our district, so we knew that the visitors would want a chance to go there. By 9:00 pm, I put a movie on in the school and told everyone to have a good night and I headed home.
Friday Mike Tozzo, the other student council advisor, and myself had substitutes so we could be with the student council all day. The students alternated from doing workshops and trainings with Tessa to working on video about suicide prevention. At the end of the school day, Tessa did an assembly for all the middle and high school students in our school. It was a busy day, but a nice change to the regular school day. It was kind of nice to take the back seat and let someone else stand up in front of the students for a change. I just ran around behind scenes all day.
Friday afternoon we took everyone sledding. The locals don’t call it sledding; they call it sliding. I kept hearing kids saying things like, “You want to go sliding?” or “I haven’t been sliding forever.” It was a totally warm day and mostly people were sledding without coats, gloves, or hats. After sledding (or should I say sliding) we had dinner and then started tie dying t-shirts. I have never tie dyed before, but it was pretty fun. The only unfortunate part to the evening was when we opened the first package of white t-shirts to hand out and they were teeny. I mean teeny-tiny. It was then I realized I had purchased boys t-shirts, focusing on the fact they weren’t FEMALE-CUT t-shirts, but totally overlooking the fact that they also weren’t ADULT t-shirts. We just mentioned to everyone that they could make a shirt for a family member and “brighten up” their day. The students were all good sports about it and had a good time. I shared with them that they should “never suppress a generous thought”.
Saturday morning was dedicated to finishing the videos. It was kind of a big undertaking to ask the students to brainstorm, film, edit, and post a video so quickly. In all, they had only about 4 hours to work on it. I was really happy that both videos got posted before the day was over. Students started leaving around noon, but our final video was posted by 3:00 pm. Check them out.
I was really happy with how the weekend turned out. It was refreshing to interact with students who were eager to work and wanted to be there. I had forgotten what that felt like. It also made me really miss coaching the Proform Airborne Jump Rope Team. What a good bunch of kids, working hard and making a positive difference in the world. I wish that I still felt like I got to be a part of something like that every day.
Many of you may be aware that this weekend was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The prophets and leaders of our church addressed us about spiritual things and gave us guidance in today’s world. Much of what was said included things that are stressed in the scriptures and that we already know we should be doing but sometimes don’t. These things are so important that they are repeated over and over in the scriptures and in our Sunday school lessons, things like praying consistently and sincerely, studying the scriptures, utilizing the atonement of our Savior by repenting of our sins, and loving others. I wanted to share some of the things that stood out to me from the sessions today.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about contention. He asked us to remove the contention in our lives and heal relationships that may have been filled with contention. He pointed out that we often judge other’s motives, prejudices, and actions and then justify our own. He reminded us that none of us are perfect and we should not judge others for their imperfections. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone . . . ” (John 8:7) He gave a simple two-word phrase to help us deal with ourselves when we are ridiculing or judging others. Stop it. I love its simplicity. This is something that has been on my mind the last few months. I have caught myself ridiculing and judging others and later in the day I just want to kick myself for it. I will be using this two-word phrase to help myself.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband spoke about the worth of souls. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10) He urged us to serve and help others. Oftentimes we ask others if they need help and when they reply no or that they are fine, we go about our day. But then Elder Rasband asked, “If you saw someone drowning would you stop to ask them if they need help or would you just jump in?” Many times we make the mistake of stopping and asking if someone needs help instead of just jumping in. I know that there have been times in my life that I would have greatly benefited from help, but still would verbally turn it down if someone offered. I’m not sure why I do this, but I think it’s something that is common among humans. At times like these, we are grateful for the people who just help, instead of simply offering to help.
Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a powerful talk on the importance of family. He talked about how critical the family is. He mentioned that if we nurture our families that our church and society will flourish. The best service we do is the service we do in our own home, within our own families. Elder Ballard used a quote from President David O. McKay that I have always loved: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” May we all realize the importance of our families, fostering healthy family relationships, loving our spouses, and teaching, really teaching, our children.
There were many other good talks given. Please feel free to listen to, watch, or read these talks for yourself at www.lds.org. These men are called of God to teach us things that God wants us to know. They are prophets, like Moses, Abraham, and Noah, but specifically for our day and our situations. I know that if we learn their teachings and follow them that we will feel closer to God and grow closer to our divine potential.