Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hello all,

I need to apologize for not keeping my blog updated as much as I would have like to. It has been very busy but I am enjoying myself. Snow is here in Barrow and it is averaging around 5-10 degrees. I have been active with wrestling, choir, and of course teaching. It is getting dark up here so it is crucial that I do not become a couch potato. I am not worried about that. It has been so long since I posted that too much has happened that words cannot explain. So take a look at the pictures and the captions. Enjoy

Fall Whaling

Wrestling Trip in Dillingham

Field Trip in the US Coast Guard Airplane 4:30 pm on Saturday, November 6, 2009

Fall whaling---the mouth of the bowhead USCG field trip

8th Grade
Bowhead Whale Fetus Dissection;
About five feet long

Students working on the Alaska Model...

I hope all is going well...I will be updating the blog more often.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A merry evening to you all,

I hope the September weather is treating you
just fine and dandy just like candy. Here in Barrow, the ground has frozen over (thank God, as it is not muddy and everything is much cleaner inside), the wind has picked up, and the price of milk is still the same.
I wanted to write this post explaining exactly what I do everyday in the city on top of the World. The day is full of activity and I am enjoying myself to a great extent. So, may I ever be so inclined to invite to read about a day in a
life of Mr. Bissen.

I wake up everyday,
Monday through Friday, at around 6:15 am and quickly take a shower, eat some hard-boiled eggs, an onion bagel with tomato basil cream cheese, and drink a large glass of peach iced tea. Then, I begin the short, windy, dark journey to Hopson Middle School.

I arrive at the school around 6:55 and get my room situated before the students barge in and wake me up. Just kidding...a nice cup of coffee does that!

I have a Geography class at 8:00-9:30 and 11:00-12:30, and a Language Arts class at 1:00-2:30. In Geography, the students just got done learning about the regions of Alaska. We are about to start constructing a huge model of Alaska. The kids seem pretty fired up about it all. In Language Arts, we are reading The Outsiders. It is quite splendid! Above are some pics of the school, below...some pics of the classroom, and the students working hard (or hardly working). There are also some photos of one of the students' grandfather who came in to talk about his home country of Guatemala.

After school, I hang out in my room for awhile, do some work, and get ready for the next day. There are many activities going on during this part of the year including intramural basketball, wrestling, choir, and cooking class. When these games and activities are not going on, I go to the high school weight room with the fellow teachers, Scott and Josh, and try to get in shape.

After working out, I come back to the apartment.

At this time, it is about 6:15 pm. I eat some food and go back to HMS for wrestling practice. It is quite fun to wrestle around with these students.

In the evening time, when nothing is going on, it is great to get out and walk around. So many students are out and about, and when they see you, they run up to you with smiling faces and stories to tell.

The students are great. I enjoy watching them learn and grow through their learning.
The time here in Barrow is great. Again, I hope you all are doing well, wherever you are. Please keep responding to the blog. I enjoy reading the comments.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hello all,

It has been almost a month since my last update. To tell you the truth, not so much has happened since my last post, but Barrow has been wonderful and the school year has gotten off to a fantastic start. Today, Saturday, September 12, is a gloomy day. I am sitting here in my living room watching Fresno St. and Wisconsin and the snowflakes falling outside. Yes, you read that correctly. It is snowing/raining here on top of the world. As I look outside, the snow does not seem to be sticking to the ground, but nonetheless, there are definitely flakes falling.

I have not seen the beach in awhile. Maybe I will take a walk down to it today. My days have been busy with school. When I get home after the day, I eat, do some work and go to bed. The weather has been gloomy for awhile, so I have not been going outside lately. Some fellow teachers and I have been going to the high school weight room the past few days, so I am able to stay active.

In regards to school, I am enjoying it immensely. The kids are great and they seem to like Geography. There are no discipline issues, only attendance issues. However, apparently there are cases of Swine flu going around so many kids have been gone. Of course, students will be out for subsistence leave. Many kids are out camping, hunting, fishing, etc. Here in Barrow, in this native community, it is an excused absence for subsistence leave. Interesting.

Sports are still rolling. The middle school football is over and the basketball is underway. Cross country is also still kicking. It is great to see all the students so involved. I am glad football is over. I am able to concentrate a little more on school. Soon, I will get a choir started. The students seem very excited about it. Hopefully, there will be a good turnout.

Yesterday, I called John Tidwell. He is a photographer who goes out and takes pictures of polar bears and other Arctic life. I heard that he charges people to tag along with him, so I went ahead and asked if that could be okay. He said that would be great, but it would not happen for another three or four weeks. The polar bears are way out away from land because they know that the scientists are collecting data. They bring helicopters out and sedate the polar bears to collect scientific information. So, the polar bears have not been out by the point lately. The snowy owls are out, though. I have yet to see them but they are out on the tundra. A few friends said they saw about three or four of them last weekend as they were out hunting. Apparently, the birds are huge. They feast on lemmings. But, people with small dogs tend to keep them inside because the owls will eat them.

Fall whaling will start soon. Maybe the bears will come around then. I understand that I need to be safe, but I really want to see some of this wildlife that the Arctic has to offer.

I hope you find this blog comforting. I am having a great time up here. It was great to be back home for the beautiful wedding of my brother and sister-in-law, Ray and Amy Bissen. God Bless you two. Congratulations. It was great to see all of you, my wonderful friends and family.

I will upload some pictures tomorrow. I left my camera in my classroom.

I love you all. Take care.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hello to all,

It has been awhile since I last posted a summary of my time here
in Barrow, but it is not because I am lazy or because of ignorance. I have been quite busy with new hire in-service and coaching football. I finally have a little time on this Saturday afternoon to catch up, and believe me, I have a lot to tell you all.

First, I am getting my classroom in order. Each day, my excitement and anxiety grows as I am preparing for my first day as a classroom teacher. I found out the other day that I will teach three 90 minute classes each day (except on Wednesdays, where the classes will be 60 minutes). The following is an example of what the schedule will look like.
Monday: 8:00-9:30 Geography 7D
9:30-11:00 Geography 7B
11:00-12:30 Prep
12:30-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:30 Language Arts 7D
Tuesday: 8:00-9:30 Geography 7C
9:30-11:00 Geography 7A
11:00-12:30 Prep
12:30-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:30 Language Arts 7D
It will stay in this format. I will see 7D everyday and 7 A,B,
and C every other day. I like the schedule and as I said before, I am very excited.

Aside from school, football has been very busy. Today we had a middle school Jamboree. Many of the villages came to Barrow and the kids played well and had fun. The HMS Wolves did a great job.

The Barrow Whalers also played at 1:00. Sadly, they lost to the Nikiski Bulldogs, 27 to 2.

I am proud to announce that I am a certified referee. This was my second game. The first game, I was the back judge and this game, I was the line judge. I had a great time and look forward to the next game. I am swimming in a open sea of new experiences.
The other day at practice, head coach of the Whalers, Mark Voss, took me aside and said that a polar bear was spotted swimming down
the coast, not too far from the field. It never made it way to us but many people said they saw it walk down into the water and swim along the land. I thought to myself, I am always in the wrong place at the wrong time. A native would have said that being at the field, away from the bear, I was in the right place at the right time. Oh well. Steve said that I will see bears once fall whaling comes around.
This is a picture of a man who got himself in a pickle with a polar bear over at Kaktovik. The bear chased him around both vehicles. I do not know how the guy got himself into this position. He survived and the scary thing is...the polar bear is not even that big. The guy can see over the truck. On his hind legs, the bear is probably 8 feet tall. That is not that big for a polar bear. However, that bear would have ripped that guy apart. They are amazing creatures.

On another note, it snowed today. Mid-August, and I am walking around bundled up with snow smashing my face. I will tell you what, though, I love it and I love Barrow. Enjoy the pictures. Quyanaqpak for the comments. I will post later. Until then...


Friday, August 7, 2009


It is Friday and I have a large break from In-Service, so I figured now would be a good time to update the blog and just share my experiences in full detail. Barrow is absolutely amazing. The people, both Native and Non-Native, are so welcoming and kind. There is very little controversy and confrontation within this culture and it is a
beautiful thing. The food is great as well. Along with the Native food (muktak, tuutu, ugruk), there is plenty of Asian food. The cooks are all from South Pacific countries, so I am getting my fair share of delicious food.

After settling into my apartment, I have been busy with football and new-hire inservice. However, I still find plenty of time to walk two blocks down to the Chukchi Sea, one of the many bodies of water that make up the Arctic Ocean.

During these walks, I
interact with many locals, skip stones, take pictures, view the boats, search for the nanuq and the agviq, and observe the many dead jellyfish that have washed up onto the beach.
These walks are very calming and relaxing.

Speaking of football, the first middle school game is this evening at 5:00. Please cheer for the Mopson Middle School Wolves. The varsity game is tomorrow at 1:00. Please cheer for the Barrow Whalers as they take on Kodiak. It will be thunder on the true frozen tundra.

On Tuesday night, I took a dip in the Arctic Ocean. I have
swam in Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Colorado River. The Arctic Ocean was by far the coldest. It was about 34 degrees.
In order to be a member of the Polar Bear Plunge, one must entirely emerge him or herself under water. Most people do that and come right out of the water. The process takes about 15-20 seconds. Then, you get a t-shirt and patch. I took a dip and came right back out. As I was drying off, I decided to do it again. Being that I was still wet, as soon as I hi
t the water the second time, I literally felt a frost spread over my body. It was freezing cold, but what and experience.

The Sun has finally set here in Barrow. Each day, the slope is losing about 15 minutes of daylight. Soon, the darkness will be here. I am excited to teach these kids.
Next week I will get into my classroom and fix it up.

I can't wait to come home for the wedding and teach you all some Inupiaq words. Ray and Amy, you need to let me know what size you are for clothing, such as t-shirts and sweatshirts. Also, Amy, please let me know about yourself when you were a child because I need some information for the song I am writing about you two.

Anyway, quyanaqpak for all the wonderful posts and support. Please keep them coming because I love to read them.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


Barrow has been great these past few days. I have been very busy with New Hire In-Service. The days are long but very helpful and I am meeting and interacting with wonderful people.

On Monday, I was issued keys to my school and my classroom. I was going to go in and set up my classroom that same day, but when 7:00 pm came around, I took took a rain check. My assistant principal, Mr. Roger Wells told me that I would have plenty of time to do that next week.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of workshops involving Powergrade, Aimsweb, and applications on the Mac, such as Keynotes, Pages, Garageband, etc. All are important applications for a teacher and a student. I am looking forward to using these applications in the classroom. The kids have much experience with these programs, so they will be teaching me.

Aside from New Hire, I have been learning more and more about the community and the culture. I am learning new words in Inupiaq each day. The people of the native community are amazing. The kids are so friendly and happy. This past weekend, I was walking on the beach (only two blocks in front of my apartment) and as I was taking pictures of the ice bergs, four little Inupiaq children ran up to me and wanted me to take pictures of them. I let each one of them take a picture of me. You would have thought that I was their best friend. The experience made me realize once again how happy I am to be a teacher, especially a teacher in Barrow.

Thank you for the wonderful comments. Please tell your friends and family about this blog.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hello All,

Here are the first of many pictures. On Friday morning, as I mentioned earlier, I ventured out at 1:00 am and took some pictures of the midnight sun. The bottom two pics are from that morning. The top two pics are from that same day at 11:00 am. It is amazing how fast the ice moves in. It can move out at the same speed. On Sunday, the ocean looked like it did on Friday at 1:00 am. Amazing!!!