Monday, November 30, 2015


Inuujaq School held an attendance awards assembly on Friday, November 13th.  The time had come to recognize the students who attended every school day for the month of October.  As luck would have it, Paul Quassa, Nunavut's Minister of Education, happened to be visiting the community and accepted the school's invitation to attend the assembly.  The minister was in the middle of touring several schools in the north Qikiqtani region.   
Paul Quassa.
Paul Quassa participated in the land claims negotiations of the 1980s as a representative of the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN).  He was one of the official signatories of the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA), signing as the President of the TFN.  The organization later became Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI).  My current and previous Grade 10 Social Studies students know him very well because he is one of the many notable Inuit figures we learn about in the Staking The Claim module.
Grade 1 class.
Paul Quassa speaking to students.
Inuujaq School's principal introduced the Minister of Education once everyone was seated.  The Grade 1 & 2 students wore traditional Inuit clothing for the occasion.  The minister introduced himself and explained why he was visiting the school and the community.  He also talked about the importance of education, and encouraged students to attend school, graduate, and seek employment in the territory.  Near the end of the assembly, he called out the high school students with perfect attendance and gave them their certificates.  He then posed for a group photo.
Paul Quassa & the high school perfect attenders.
Paul Quassa visited each class before catching his flight to Resolute Bay.  The principal acted as his tour guide.  They both entered my class just as I was testing my drummers.  (I usually schedule my music tests on Fridays).  I put the testing on hold so that my drummers could demonstrate their skills to the minister.  I spoke to Quassa about the high school music program I started and how my students enjoyed learning about his role in the drafting & signing of the NLCA.  He took a group photo with my drummers before saying his goodbyes.  I continued testing my drummers.

Paul Quassa, Principal Salam, and the 2015 Inuujaq School Drum Line.
My Grade 10 Social Studies students continued their revision of the Canadian Residential School system.  For the month of November, the students:

·  learned about the Indian Act of 1876, a law the Canadian government used to control and assimilate Aboriginals & Inuit into European culture.
·  read survivor stories from across Canada,
·  studied several important individuals who broke their silence & demanded justice & compensation,
·  and what the federal government & churches did to compensate survivors for years of neglect & abuse, and funding programs designed to foster healing and reconciliation.

In Grade 11 Social Studies, we finished our study of the First World War and Canada's involvement in this global conflict.  My students watched the war film Passchendaele, and completed a final test.  (Passchendaele is Canada's most expensive movie, made on a budget of $20 million). 
There was only enough time in the semester to teach one more module, so I chose to teach my students ultranationalism and its use in the 20th century.  We began the module by studying the rise of the Axis Powers after the First World War and their charismatic leaders.  I then introduced my students to the term genocide, coined by Raphael Lemkin, explained what it means, and what conditions have to be in place for it to happen.  (Two great resources on this topic are the website Genocide Watch and the article, The Ten Stages of Genocide, by Gregory H Stanton).  My students were surprised, shocked, and fascinated by the topics & events they learned.
I gave my drummers a short break from practicing and let them watch the 2014 movie Whiplash.  The movie is about an ambitious jazz drummer student, who has to deal with a mean & abusive stage band instructor.  I showed the movie for two reasons: one, the film illustrates how good a musician can get with much practice & dedication, and two, how music instructors should never teach their students.  Using physical, verbal, and emotional abuse as a form of instruction never works. 
The month of November was spent learning the music I selected for the Christmas concert in December.  I found three cadences on the Internet and wrote one over a weekend.  That cadence is based on a drum rhythm played during the credits of the 2002 film Drumline.  I also incorporated several visuals and stick tricks.  We practiced as much as possible, but at the end of the month, I noticed that two of the selected cadences were proving to be quite difficult.  I modified the cadences by simplifying the difficult passages and adding some stick tricks.  My drummers' frowns were turned upside down.
Canadian Museum of History Presentation.
A representative from the Canadian Museum of History, (formerly known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization), came to Arctic Bay on November 26 to talk to the high school students about the upcoming Canadian History Hall exhibit that would feature a story of one of their ancestors.  The story would be presented in the exhibit's first section, titled, "The Land and its First Peoples: 13,000 BC - AD 1500".  Information packages about the project were sent to community members weeks in advance.    
The presentation was held in my classroom in the afternoon.  The tables were folded up and piled against a wall.  Chairs were placed in a semicircle, facing the green & white boards I regularly use during my classes.
The presenter explained that in 1959, "Father Mary-Rousseliere and Dr. Lawrence Ochinsky were led to a grave by an Arctic Bay man named Iperk."  The grave was at the southwest point of the Uluksan Peninsula and it contained the remains of a man, an infant, and a number of implements & tools.  The presenter displayed pictures of the ivory-made tools on the white board using a projector and passed around two detailed replicas for the students to look at.  There were carvings depicting scenes of arctic life on an ivory snow knife and bowdrill.  The scenes depicted were of camp life, paddling a kayak, and hunting caribou & whale.
What fascinated students the most was the amount of information that the archaeologists could extract just by studying the implements, tools, and human remains.  According to the presenter and the information package, the adult was a man between 35-46 years of age at death, and about 5'1" to 5'2" in height.  He lived in the area of what is now Arctic Bay about 400 years ago.  The bones revealed that the man "engaged in repetitive movements", such as kayaking & hunting, and suffered injuries to the head, neck, spine, and ribs.  The injuries were most likely caused by whiplash and blunt force trauma while kayaking through rapids or from "a direct strike by a whale or large wave."
The students were really interested in the topic and excited to learn that one of their ancestors would be featured in one of Canada's most prominent museums.  They asked a lot of questions during the presentation.               
RCMP Recruitment Presentation
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) held a recruitment presentation for high school students on November 27th.  The presentation was held in the high school science classroom and was done by an officer from Iqaluit.  The officer explained the purpose & role of the RCMP, what jobs are available, how to apply, and what cadet training is like at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division.  The training academy is located in Regina, Saskatchewan. 
He also showed several recruitment videos that were made for an Inuit audience.  The RCMP is trying to attract more Inuit recruits to take on a more active role in policing northern communities.  This would foster better relations with the Inuit public and bridge language barriers.  One of the main challenges of the RCMP is employing officers who are bilingual in English & Inuktitut.  Unilingual Inuit are reluctant to report criminal behaviour because they cannot communicate in English.  The recruiter said there is a five year plan to add an additional officer and a bilingual secretary to the RCMP detachment in Arctic Bay.  (Currently, the community is policed by two officers).    
I'm pretty sure several students were interested in applying after the presentation was finished.  They just have to finish high school, be 19 years old, be proficient in English, and meet physical, medical, & psychological standards.             
Two teachers participated in this year's Movember event by not shaving their facial hair for the month of November.  Movember is an annual event "involving the growing of moustaches ... to raise awareness of various cancers, such as prostate cancer."  The word Movember is a portmanteau of the words moustache & November.  The event originated in 1999, in Adelaide, Australia.  The two teachers were John & Jean-Francois (JF).  John teaches Grades 7 & 8, and JF teaches high school math & science.
I have been asked several times in the past to participate in the Movember movement but I always politely decline.  I don't like facial hair.  I prefer to donate money.     
The last day of Movember happened to be on a Monday.  I photographed John & JF after school before they went home & shaved off their moustaches.      

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