Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SoDak Photos

are some nice photographs of the reservation, taken by the new TFA English teacher at school. I'm hoping to write a journalistic piece on the construction of a wind farm on Rosebud, and I'm going to drag Noah along to provide some professional quality photographs with the story to make it a little bit more saleable.
On the rez again

This is an abbreviated version of an email I sent out to people who have asked to be updated about how school is going (let me know if you'd like to be added). Hopefully I will have some further thoughts of my drive back west soon.

Today was the first day of my second year as a teacher--on Monday I will once again have students. My school has a new superintendent, a new elementary school principal, and a new secondary principal (our second: we had hired a different principal at the end of last year, but he quit after two days on the job this summer). The school is still in the process of being repainted. All of the furniture in my room was moved into the hallway so that the room could be painted; my white boards were taken down and have not been replaced. My desk, when it was being moved, cracked and fell apart. Computers were removed from classrooms, and because we have not only a new administration but a new tech guy, no one knows where they went. I searched the school, and finally found what had been my computer--but its CD-ROM drive had been removed for unknown reasons. Unfazed, I plugged it in and it told me it had a disk error and refused to boot up. At a staff meeting this afternoon, we reviewed who was in what classroom and realized that one of the five classrooms that actually have doors was not being used; this was quickly claimed by our Lakota Studies teacher (. We have no music teacher; we have no shop teacher. There are only two classroom teachers in the high school who have taught consistently at school for longer than I have.

Our school, in short, is in absolute chaos. In the words of the principal, there is simply no way that we will be ready to start school on Monday. He tried to push the start date back until after Labor Day, but all of the contracts had been signed as beginning today, so we are stuck with a half-finished school. Instead, we will be having short days all of next week, hoping that with that extra time in the afternoon we can turn this place into a real school. It should be interesting.

Despite all this, I'm unfazed. Last year at this time I was sleeping on a blanket on the floor in an unfurnished bedroom; I was signing reams of paper, sorting out insurance, trying to open a new bank account, waiting for the internet to be installed, and had a cell phone that got no reception within a 100 mile radius of my house; the only person that I knew in town was my roommate, and I had never once taught in a high school classroom. The other night, when I drove over the Missouri River, crossing from the Midwestern farms of "East River" South Dakota to the rugged, wild plains of West River, I felt, after two months absent, slightly elated to be "coming home." This morning, breakfast was a social hour as the staff--teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and cooks--greeted one another and told the stories of our sumers; this afternoon, the teachers swapped furniture as we scrambled to reassemble gutted rooms. This evening, I shrugged off my work and drove forty miles to have potluck with friends I hadn't seen all summer. I've survived it all--I've even had fun doing it. I'm pretty sure I can survive again.