Saturday, January 26, 2008

Subbing at Razdolna

This past Monday there was no school for many of the schools in Alaska because of Civil Rights Day, but the Russian schools DID have school (go figure!). As the district had inservices planned for the teachers, they needed subs, so I subbed for the Title I and middle school/high school teacher. It was definitely different than a non-Russian school in some ways, but in other ways it was like any other school.

The students trickle in for about a half an hour after school starts, so it didn't have a feeling like school actually "started" at any particular time. They have given incentives to get them there on time, and they work to a point. Attendance does seem like an amorphous thing, with students "hiding" when they don't want to do work. They are better at hiding than kids at other schools I've known, in part, I suspect, from hiding to get out of work at home.

I had to work with 3 Russian-only kindergarteners. I wasn't sure just how much of what I said they understood, but if they did what I asked I figured they understood; if not, I repeated what I said in different words or showed them. They were in awe of me, and their eyes were so huge and they seemed a little scared to go with "principal's wife". In fact, one student, a fourth grader, told me that my husband has 3 names: Mr. Waclawski, Mr. W and principal.

I took the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders out cross-country skiing and that was quite an experience too. They'd only been taken out once before this year, and the girls were a little nervous. One kid ran all the way home and got snowpants when he heard we were going skiing. The girls didn't want to go without snowpants (they wear dresses with no tights on under), but luckily it was warm out. I'll admit I've never gone skiing with a dress on before, and it must have made quite the picture with me flying down the hills with dress streaming behind and falling in the snow (which I did quite a bit!). The kids watched me carefully, and every time I looked around, they were watching me. Wherever I went, the kids went, and of course I tried the hardest hills. They had a blast falling down and getting up.

In one of our readings death was mentioned and while the kids didn't say anything, there was a sudden restless shifting, so I know that the recent deaths of men in the community are still on their minds.

The school is so small, with only 3 classrooms, that very little time is spent switching rooms. Five steps and you're there. That took some getting used to. And the students, for the most part (especially in the middle/high school) jumped right in and did whatever I told them to do right away, which was startling. There was a delightful lack of tension and laid back would be the best way to describe this school. It is a wonderful place to be, and I can see why my husband is enjoying it so much.


  1. cool blog! interesting reading. hope you are enjoying your alaskan adventure. this is jeff kalember, i was your brother-in-law Aaron Waclawski's track/XC coach in Kalkaska, now in Gaylord.

  2. Hi Jeff, I recognize your name. Aaron has talked about you a lot. Glad you like it. When are you coming up to visit AK?!

  3. This story makes me want to come teach in Alaska even more. Is your school hiring any science teachers with a Master's degree?
    I am presently applying in Lower Kuskokwim School District
    Patrick Stonehouse

  4. Check for the human resources posting. There are 4 Russian schools in this district, plus some schools in the bush (across Kachemak Bay) that teach Native Alaskans. Lots of culture anywhere you turn. The more different areas of being highly qualified, the more valuable you are in a small school that needs multi-taskers!