Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OMG!!!! The Aurora is AMAZING!!!!

So I went out out my car to grab something at about 10:00 and I looked up and saw the most amazing sight I have ever seen! The Aurora is unbelievable. The whole sky was lit with dancing green and pink lights. I just stood outside for over 30 mins in complete awe! It looked like the trees were on fire, releasing incandescent fumes into the air. I wish I had my camera, but I left my memory card at school...DANG IT!! I know everyone says that they want to come to Alaska in the summer time, but you NEED to see this and there is just too much sun for the Aurora to be fully visible. It is about -8 degrees out right now, but I had no problems standing outside for over a half hour appreciating the wonder that is the Aurora. I am actually looking forward to 23 hours of darkness if I am able to experience the Aurora even once a month. WOW!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What a GREAT Week!!!!!!!

Wow! I don't know were to start, so I guess I'll begin at the beginning =)

On Monday, I was invited to a Sukkot party. Sukkot is a Jewish holiday celebrating the time the Jews wondered the desert for 40 years. During this time, they stayed in temporary dwellings called Sukkot (Sukkot is plural for Sukkah, which literally means booth.) The celebration is a lot like Thanksgiving. Everyone brought food, we had a huge bonfire, and the fun part was we slept outside! Part of Sukkot is you need to dwell in a Sukkah. The word "dwell" can be interpreted as eat a meal or sleep...this particular group sleeps outside in these temporary dwellings and let me tell you, in Alaska, that is something! The night we slept outside the temperature dropped to about -3 degrees! There were 15 of us that started outside and I was one of four who made it the whole night (I stayed outside all night, but I probably only got about 45 mins of sleep...it was chilly!!) As most of you know, I am not Jewish; however, I respect all religions and I am very open to trying new things. I was invited to the Sukkot party by a local Fairbankian as a way for me to meet some members of the community and to have a nice home-cooked meal. It was rough, but I had a great time! Here is a link if you are interested in reading more about Sukkot...Click me.

The week kept on rocking!
On Wednesday, I tried to go spearfishing again with the same teacher who took me out last time. I said "tried" to go because it was a little cold. As you remember, it was below zero that Monday night and Tuesday was not much warmer. John picked me up at around 7:30 and we went to the river. On the way there, we saw three moose...almost hitting two of them (a cow and calf.) For such huge animals, they are hard to see! We got to the river in one piece and decided to give it a try. We put on our waders and went into the ice. We traded off holding the lantern and braking a path. On my path shift, I took a spill and ended up in the river! I actually did not get to wet thanks to the waders and I never got cold because I was wearing many layers. We realized that we were not going to see ANYTHING that night. There was just too much ice. When we got out of the river, the water on out waders turned instantly to ice, so taking them off was fun!

About teaching this week:
I had a break though in classroom management this week. I have been doing this thing where if a student is talking or playing when they should be listening, I put a check mark next to their name in pencil. When a student earns three checks, they get a lunch detention. It is pretty neat because as soon as they see a pencil, for the most part, everyone stops talking. I never say who I am giving a check too, so everyone stops in fear it might be them. I could stand in front of the class and compose a grocery list and it would be silent because students would think someone is getting a check (I let them know when they have two checks at the end of class in private.) That was working well, but here is the icing on the cake! This week I drew a self portrait on the white board. When the class as a whole makes me happy, I put a smile on the face, when they are misbehaving or not following directions, I change that smile to a frown. There are for or five different levels of emotions I draw on my face. I have made the agreement that everyday the class ends and the face on the board has a huge smile, I will erase one check from everyone's name. The students know what they need to do to make the face go happier and what negative behaviors make it go sadder (or angry when the eyebrows get drawn in.) I have had LOTS of success with this strategy!

And now about today.
I took the Randy Smith Jazz band to the 22nd annual International Friendship Day here in Fairbanks where we played our first gig...they did GREAT!!!!! I am so proud of them. The crowd was clapping and toe-tapping the whole time. This was my very first performance as a music director. Other teachers who were at the festival said that I should be very proud of my accomplishments...and I am, but all I did was say, "two...four...a one, two, three, four!" and the kids did all the rest! They rock!

I hope everyone out there in blogging world has had a great week like myself and I wish you all an amazing weekend!

Rock on!
~Mr. Lockwood

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fabulous Fishing Fun

Friday night, at Rock-A-Thon, a fellow teacher asked me if I would be interested in joining him for an evening of spearfishing for whitefish...I said "you better believe it!" So yesterday, I went over to his house for some pre-fishing dinner. We had venison and home grown potatoes....very tasty! Venison is actually not as common as you might think up here. Deer do not live in Fairbanks, or anywhere close to Fairbanks...it is just to cold. If you want deer you need to travel to the coast. I believe that is where the deer we ate came from. Anyways, we hit the road at about 5:30-ish. Like I have said before, Fairbanks is great because you travel ten miles in any direction and you are in the middle of nowhere. The river we were planning to fish is less than 20 miles from my apartment. We get to the river around 6, maybe 6:30 and it is still quite light out. Since it needs to be dark out before you can spear fish, we went out to find wood for a fire...I like fires! John, the teacher I went with, also dropped a fishing line in to kill some time until the sun set. He caught a very nice grayling the old fashion way (actually, if you think about it...spearing them is probably the old fashion way, so he caught the grayling the new-fashion way)Once the sun set, we got into the water. I do not believe spearfishing is legal in MN, so some readers may not know how it works...here's the deal:

To spear whitefish, you wait until it's dark, grab a lantern, put on a pair of waders, and walk through the river looking for fish to impale. I believe the fish are attracted to the light from the lantern, but even if they are not, it would be impossible to see them without the light...so a lantern is mandatory. We made this a two man job...I was the lantern holder for the evening. It was pretty amazing. We would walk through the river shinning the light down looking for anything that moved. The water is VERY clear up here. At the deepest point, I was up to almost my chest in the water and I could still see the bottom without a problem. The first fish we saw were in the shallow stuff (knee deep.) We were walking around seeing several fish, but they were all pretty small. John took a few stabs at them, but they were slipping in between the forks of the spear (the spear looks kind of like a small trident, but it has four or five points instead of three.) We were not the only ones on the river that night. We noticed that the other people fishing were in deeper water, staying in one place and waiting for the fish to come to them...so we gave that a try. We found a place that looked good and waited for only three to four minutes before we saw something very large swim up to us and them away very quickly. We knew we were in the right place. A few minutes later, another nice sized fish swam close to us. I shinned the light in the direction and John took aim. "Got him!" We pulled the fish out of the water...a nice 15" humpback whitefish! John took a few few more shots at other fish and got one more. Here a couple pictures John took:

(The grayling and the two whitefish...funny how the one white fish is not a whitefish, that is the grayling)

This one is taken without a flash. It is quite blurry, but you can get a better look at the lanterns from the other fishers:
After a while, our feet started getting cold so we decided to call it a night. On the way home we stopped at a place called Hilltop for some coffee and pie. The pie was AMAZING!!

The night was very fun...it was so fun that we might be going back out on Wednesday for round two. We just got dumped on with about 5 inches of snow today, so we'll see if we are still up for another night of fishing.

Have a great week everyone!
~Mr. Lockwood

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Who would have thought the life of a first year teacher would be so hectic? Sorry I didn't get to post last weekend. I wasn't feeling the best and needed my sleep. I feel great today =) Last night was my first music fund-raiser and i was at school for over 15 hours. We had a Rock-A-Thon. Rock-A-Thon is an event that was created several years ago by one of the former band teachers at Randy Smith and it is a GREAT fund-raiser. All we do is bring in rocking chairs from home and rock, for six hours. Students go around asking friends and family for pledges...kind of like a walk for charity. While the students are rocking, they are listening to i-pods, playing video games, and consuming enough sugar to kill a full grown moose. Is was a blast. Every hour they were given a 5 min break so they could use the restrooms and stretch their legs. If you think about it...this is the perfect fund-raiser because once it is started, the person putting it on really doesn't have to do anything; the kids are in chairs the whole time. I went around the room with a cart selling sweets asking in my best British accent, "anything from the trolley." Also, at one point in time Alaska State Senator Lisa Murkowski stopped by to check things out. It was very cool. She went around the room talking with students and giving them a hard time when she caught them not rocking like they should be. Over all it was a very fun evening.

Today is going to be a full day as well. I have my very first violin lesson in about an hour and tonight I believe I am going spear fishing with a co-teacher. I also have several hours of work to get done at school....but that is not as exciting as violin lessons and spearing fish! I will hopefully have time to post again this weekend to share stories from tonight's experience. The only thing I have ever speared before is appetizers with toothpicks.

I hope you all have a fantastic day! I miss everyone back in MN/WI so much. I cannot wait to see you all!

Rock on,
Mr. Lockwood