Saturday, February 18, 2017

PI Week (2017)

Professional Improvement (PI) Week ran from February 13 to 17.  Students across Nunavut got a week off school.  The teachers used the time to acquire new skills and knowledge that would benefit their teaching practice.  This can be done by taking online courses, participating in workshops, being tutored, or reading professional materials.  You’re allowed to complete your PI outside of the community & territory where you teach; you just have to fill out the necessary paperwork and build a strong case as to why you should be allowed to travel to another community and/or outside the territory. 
This was my second year as Inuujaq School’s PI Coordinator.  Most of the staff was staying in town for the week.  Only a few would be travelling to other communities.  Starting as far back as November 2016, I worked with the staff in getting their applications completed and submitted on time.  We were excited that our individual PI amounts were increased.  Each Nunavut teacher receives a PI allotment of money they’re allowed to spend.  The amounts vary depending on the location of the communities.  The PI Handbook explains in detail what teachers can & cannot purchase.  Substantiation reports & receipts need to be submitted after the conclusion of PI Week.  Any extra money that isn’t spent needs to be returned to the PI Fund. 
I spent the first day completing an online course and doing professional reading.  The online course was WHMIS – Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.  The system is used for: cautionary labelling of WHMIS controlled products, creating & maintaining material safety data sheets, and worker education.  All Government of Nunavut employees are required to be WHMIS trained.  The online course was straight forward and can be completed in a day.  I was glad I passed the final exam.  For professional reading, I read a book about helping students who struggle to learn.  (Learning is more than just regurgitating information). 
I spent the rest of the week getting recertified in First Aid & Level C CPR, and learning Wilderness First Aid.  JF, the high school math/science teacher, organized the two workshops with Boreal First Aid.  The company is based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, & St. John’s, Newfoundland, and offers first aid and outdoor education courses.  JF negotiated reasonable prices with Boreal and got enough people to sign up for the two courses.  A portion of our PI money would go to paying for the instructor’s expenses & fees.  Our instructor was René Ritter and he flew up from Iqaluit, bringing with him several large boxes of gear.  The workshops took place in JF’s classroom.
Tuesday & Wednesday were for Standard First Aid & Level C CPR.  Boreal is a Canadian Red Cross Training Partner, so we all knew that René was well-trained, certified, and experienced.  What was even more interesting was that he brought makeup, props, and fake blood for the simulated scenarios.  He explained that the best way to prepare and react is to add realism to the scenarios.  However, René did agree that some things may become too much for some, like the sight of blood, so we all agreed on a safe word that anyone can say when something becomes too much.
Ryan, media teacher, being
fitted with a neck brace.
Over the course of two days we covered many topics, such as: CPR, abdominal thrusts, how to operate an AED, cleaning & dressing wounds, making splints, the recovery position, improvised stretchers, and how to be a leader.  We practiced CPR and how to use an AED on dolls.  For everything else, we practiced on each other.    
The scenarios took place outside and focused on emergency situations that would happen in the community.  For example, adverse effects of not taking prescribed medication(s), slipping & falling on hard surface causing a broken bone, and working on a skidoo and inhaling noxious fumes.  René did contact the local RCMP about the outdoor scenarios because there was a possibility that someone walking by might misinterpret the scenario as a real life emergency.  The teachers all got a chance to be a leader, follower, and actor. 
Grade 3 teacher, Sarah A, shows
her left arm in a sling.
A debriefing was held after every scenario and everyone got a chance to talk about what they learned and what they could have done differently.  The scenarios showed us that the biggest challenges are: being a confident leader, keeping everyone busy, and following the proper procedures.  We also found out that some of us are really good actors.
A final written exam was held on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, the exams were only in English & French.  Inuktitut versions are still being worked on.  We would get the final results, and, if we passed, our certificates in the mail.
Rene shows everyone how to
to a patient's head steady.
The Wilderness First Aid class had fewer participants.  We breezed through the first few chapters because it’s a review of Standard First Aid.  The later chapters go into more detail on how to treat wounds, head & spin injuries, bone & joint injuries, poisons, environmental emergencies, extended care, and evacuation.  The scenarios we practiced indoors & outdoors dealt with situations that can arise when out on the land and you’re far from Arctic Bay.  René also taught us how to treat someone involved in a vehicle accident and how to carefully remove helmets.

I'm all wrapped up!
There are two moments that stand out for me.  The first one was when I volunteered to be a patient suffering from hypothermia.  René laid out several blankets and instructed me to lie down.  Then he and the other teachers proceeded to wrap me up in the blankets and tie them all together with rope so that I would “stay warm”.  Judging from the photograph JF took, I was wrapped like a burrito, or a bouquet of flowers, or a newborn baby.  If they had left me there on the classroom floor, I would have most likely fallen asleep.
The second moment was when René asked me to be a patient in one of the wilderness scenarios.  I played an atv enthusiast who overturned his vehicle but was wearing a helmet.  I just had to keep my eyes closed and breathe slowly.  The teachers did a good job treating me until “help arrived”.  I “regained consciousness” when René blew a whistle.  Apparently, my acting skills were quite good because some people who walked by thought I was really injured.
The wilderness scenarios used a lot more makeup and fake blood.  I was glad that no one fainted or had a serious freak out.  We became more confident and comfortable in handling emergency situations.  We all felt better prepared for the next time we would go out on the land.  The final written exam was held Friday afternoon.  Once again, they were only available in English & French.  I hope the Canadian Red Cross are looking into translating their course materials in Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.
We all thanked René for coming to Arctic Bay.
Cadets practice making slings.
Just before René flew down to Iqaluit, he taught first aid to several second year cadets.  The three-hour crash-course lesson took place in my classroom on Friday evening.  The cadets practiced CPR on dolls, how to properly administer abdominal thrusts, wrapped bandages, and made slings.
Cadets practice making slings.
The teaching staff took the time to celebrate the birthday of a co-worker on Wednesday.  John, the Grade 8 teacher, was turning 19 . . . according to the birthday cake JF made for him.  When the candles were lit, everyone sang Happy Birthday.  John cut the cake into equal pieces and everyone enjoyed a slice.
I went to the Co-op store on the last day of PI Week and purchased snacks for the teaching staff.  I also brought two large blocks of mild Gouda cheese and a tray of smoked Norwegian salmon from home.  JF brought home-made bagels and we made smoked salmon sandwiches with them.  Everything was laid out in the staff room just in time for the last afternoon break.  The staff thanked me for the snacks and said the food was very tasty.  Judging from the conversations in the staff room, everyone had a successful PI Week.  We would all spend the next several weeks completing our activity & substantiation reports.                              

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