I accepted a job in Huslia yesterday.
I’ll start December 13th. Grade 6, eleven kids. I couldn’t be more stoked to get back into a classroom. I’ve missed children a lot these last two and a half years, and 6th grade is a great fit for me.
I also feel weird about it. I want to start finding my way to someplace settled and permanent, and starting over in a new community where I don’t know if I’m likely to land for keeps feels like a step in the wrong direction. It also feels like a betrayal of the kids. Teacher turnover is such a huge problem in rural Alaska, and I hate to go someplace knowing that I’m likely to eventually leave. I guess that’s the nice thing about 6th grade, though: I’ll be with these eleven kids through the end of the year, and they’ll move on over the summer. If I do too, it’s not as big of a betrayal as it would for students I’d work with again next fall. Still.
And who knows? Maybe it’ll be just the ticket. Maybe I’ll never want to leave.
Here’s what I want, long term: I want to live in an Alaskan community that has more use for snowmachines and four-wheelers and boats and planes than for cars. I want to be surrounded by people I can love and who can love me. I want to live in my own home, not in teacher housing or a rental cabin. I want to have babies and to believe that they are safe in the homes of their friends and my neighbors. I want trees, caribou, mountains and rivers. I want to work hard for the things that sustain me, and in working to offer my gratitude.
Tangent: Speaking of gratitude, I have decided I’m going to be a gort — a meadow vole — (the one in my yard is named “Gort” so therefore all meadow voles are gorts) for halloween. I can make a costume with my brown overalls and my grandma’s mink stole and some bits of fur from my sewing box for ears. I’ll draw on whiskers and add a short tail and voila. DIY Halloween. Down with capitalism and plastic from China.
Here’s what I need, short term: a job that pays better than a graduate assistantship, health insurance that doesn’t suck. A dentist appointment.
So there’s some tension between what I want and what I need.
And maybe these aren’t the right questions to ask anyway–what do I want, what do I need. Maybe I should be asking who needs me. The sixth grade job has been posted since summer, so that’s an easy answer. And who wants me? Well, I interviewed as a backup in case they couldn’t find a substitute by the holidays (I figured I’d feel less bad about subbing, so I put myself on the list), and by the end of the interview YKSD was ready to offer me a contract. So.
So I’ll fly out in December and stay until the beginning of break, getting to know kids and families and the staff at the school. And then I’ll come back to Fairbanks, put my treehouse-home to bed for the time being, pack my things, and fly back to Huslia with Alan and Silna just in time to go dance at the hall for New Years. Alan will stay a week or so, and then he’ll come back to Fairbanks.
I’ll bring the Bravo. At first I thought maybe I’d leave it here, but when I mentioned that idea to Geoff he laughed out loud. “You’re just going to want to borrow someone else’s sno-go then.” And he’s probably right. And maybe in the summer, if I decide to stay, I’ll make a trip of it and take Lyra down the Yukon. She’s never been downriver of Tanana, and it’s a fine thing to have a boat in the fall.