Teaching the teacher, April 8, 2002

She took off her heavy army parka letting it drop with a thud to the floor while she undid her wind pants, brushed the excess snow off and untied her heavy duty polar boots. As she glanced in the mirror she could see that her face was still red from the cold inspite of the scarf and hood.

Conversation in class today revealed even more troubling aspects of teaching, learning and research in Nunavut. She looked forward to cuddling under a blanket on the comfy sofa sipping on hot herbal lemon tea and watching Murder She Wrote television. She’d never had satellite or cable television in southern Canada and found this daily ritual to be soothing.

The CBC interview seemed as though it had taken place years not months ago. She would like to have the microphone again and retell the story as she saw it today but she knows it would not happen. People from southern Canada as well as many norterners prefer to believe in Arctic Adventurers and a benign colonialism. After spending only four months in Canada’s Arctic the fly-in professor of sociology was learning too much too fast.

Class discussions were brought frank and open. Students revealed the extent to which institutions of learning in Nunavut are not Inuit-centred.This has been difficult to for her to accept. She had learned about Inuit cooperatives and believed that they were run by Inuit.

Education has always been the door of hope for dealing with social inequities. She had been warned that Nunavut Arctic College was not an Inuit institution of learning. She learned very quickly that the Inuksuk High School was not Inuit-focused but Northern-focused. If an Inuk passed Grade 12 it was almost certain that either the mother or father was not Inuk! In 2002 there were no classes in Inuktitut. Temporarily the school janitor was hired to teach Inuktitut classes but this did not last. He spent class time playing soccer with students. It was seen as an easy credit for Inuktitut speakers rather than an opportunity for Inuit students to improve their vocabulary, grammar and writing skills in Inuktitut. It was explained to her that a qualified Inuktitut teacher could not be found!

One of the contemporary “myths” of Iqaluit society is that anyone who can be employed here is already working! This means that employment reinforcement will come from the south or from people transferring here from other nothern hamlets.

With an overdose of convenient truths change will be very slow. Her original enthusiasm was waning. The two recent suicides were often on her mind.