Author: rmik

Education or Fishing?

After teaching a K-12 classroom for one year and teaching an online math class I have decided that I am not cut out to be a teacher. I started taking classes and teaching to help pay for my commercial fishing operation in Bristol Bay. I thought that teaching would be a good complement to fishing and help expedite my plans to build a new boat and buy a fishing permit. Also, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a back-up job in case I had a bad year fishing.

The reality was that I did not like the education classes, I don’t like the educational system and  I am not passionate about teaching. What I do love to do is design and build things and I love the ocean and all kinds of commercial fishing.  I have decided that fishing is a good complement to fishing. I have been entirely frustrated with trying to be a teacher.   The only way I could have been a teacher is if I would have been allowed to do “place-based’ education and teach the kids how to understand their environment and how to work with it.

I also want to build things (this is my gifting). I am currently building my house right now and plan on building a shop and a new fishing boat next fall. My teaching license expires this spring and I don’t plan to renew it or take any more education classes.

place based education

One of the most intriguing concepts that I have stumbled upon in my attempt at a career in education is “place based education” aka subsistence based education. The idea of taking the examining the environment where you live, then extrapolating subect matter i.e.(math, science, social studies, etc) makes more sense to me than anything else I have encountered in my “educational” studies.

Place based education (PBE) is the complete opposite of virtual education   (VE). In PBE, a student explores their environment, poses questions, and makes connections. It is a natural learning style, because it relflects the nature that the student lives in. In VE, a student sits at a computer and learns about other peoples environments. This may or may not make sense to the student based on their own experience.

I used place based education last year in my teaching assignment. I taught the children in   a remote logging and fishing community how to cruise timber, set up a cost projection (in a spreadsheet) for a logging business. We did a unit on marine biology and oyster farming (including a tour of local oyster farms). The summed up the year with a survey of native plants, and a plant propagation unit (which the students started seeds and sold seedlings to the community). I had my students present their findings in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations (and yes, I even had some present podcasts for you Apple fans).

In my opinion, place based education is a superior way to learn, it fosters creativity, and a love for learning. I also think that place based education is the appropriate method to teach in remote Alaskan villages where the environment and culture long to be preserved.

And of course, the obligitory link to support my position: (this is worth looking at for you prospective teachers).

classroom management strategies links


The Website:

This website has various articles that discuss hot to implement discipline and order in the classroom.

The Blog:

This blog as different contributors that discuss classroom management strategies (kind of like this one).

The Video:

This video discusses engaging (reverse psychology) intervention strategies for classroom management (and it’s only 5 minutes). It uses handouts that get students to discuss their behavior. The video is cool (you should watch it and leave a comment on my post)

The Future of Alaska Native Education


Wow, I just finished reading the article and the endless comments. This subject seems to be really emotionally loaded ( know it is for me). I wanted to start out by responding to a few excerpts.

“Typically, the non-Native teachers have the highest paid jobs and the best housing in the community. In far too many situations, the   Native people clean the rooms, empty the trash, and do minor paperwork in the offices. They are disempowered in their own land. This lesson is not lost on the young people.”

In my experience, teachers fair worse than the locals in the housings department. Thanks to HUD, most Alaska Native villagers have new “HUD”   houses. Is it being “dis-empowered” or is it lack of initiative. It seems to me that a tenant of American culture is initiative. The truth is, you reap what you sow. Be lazy, your don’t get far in life. If someone doesn’t like their station in life, do something about it (in fact there is probably grant money for it). If being lazy is what we are talking about, then I an not interested in the “Native way”.


“They want their people to control their own lives, run their own schools, and take the responsibility for their own well being. They envision a time when their children and grandchildren will have the right to interact with the dominant culture in their own way, to be allowed to synthesize the two worlds into something new, and to have the independence to become their own experts.”

Now we’re talkin’ let them take control of their own lives (sound’s like teenagers). Just don’t ask me to pay for it. No grants, no HUD, no welfare, go for it 🙂


“All these are small, but significant steps in a new direction. A new day is dawning in Alaska. And we in the non-Native community need to reject the archaic theories of cultural superiority, step into the 21st century, and recognize the importance of preserving Alaska’s rich Native heritage. Let us embrace the conviction that Alaska Native cultures have the right to exist, the right to perpetuate themselves, and the right to control their own educational destiny.”

Is this guy smoking weed, or is he just trying to write a compelling closing statement. I have posted a “comment” below.


The last paragraph made me grit my teeth:

“All these are small, but significant steps in a new direction. A new day is dawning in Alaska. And we in the non-Native community need to reject the archaic theories of cultural superiority, step into the 21st century, and recognize the importance of preserving Alaska’s rich Native heritage. Let us embrace the conviction that Alaska Native cultures have the right to exist, the right to perpetuate themselves, and the right to control their own educational destiny.”



#1 – No. Wrong. We in the non-Native community do not need to reject the “archaic theories of cultural superiority,” because most non-Natives I know do not possess the sense that we are somehow culturally superior! Therefore, we cannot not reject something that doesn’t exist! I refuse to feel your guilt for something that doesn’t exist. Quit making things up. – I agree

#2 – “Step into the 21st century…” I agree! In fact, I think it’s more important to teach a kid how to use a computer instead of how to weave a hat or make a canoe! Computer skills are 21st century skills designed to prepare a kid for the 21st century. Weaving a hat prepares him for the 19th century. Both are important, but, I’d rather see more of the former instead of the latter.   – hilarious!, weaving a hat 🙂

#3 – “Preservation of Alaska’s rich Native heritage…” And what about Alaska’s rich NON-Native heritage?!? The gold rushes? Statehood? WWII? Should only Native heritage be taught in schools? If so, isn’t that an inverse of the “archaic theory of cultural superiority” you bashed earlier? Doesn’t that create and presume then, that Native culture is superior to others? How about we teach BOTH instead of one or the other? In fact, instead of calling them “Alaska’s Native heritage” or “Alaska’s non-Native heritage,” we simply blend them together and call them “Alaska’s heritage?” – I agree

#4 – “Let us embrace the conviction that Alaska Native cultures have the right to exist, the right to perpetuate themselves, and the right to control their own educational destiny.” (SCREAMING!!!) ARRGH! NATIVES DO HAVE THE RIGHTS TO EXIST AND TO PERPETUATE THEIR CULTURE!!!! NO ONE SAYS THEY DON’T!!! NO ONE IS TRYING TO STOP THEM!!! Stop implying that anyone is prohibiting Natives from speaking Tlingit, or that they can’t perform a dance or a potlatch. Those days are over. Yes, it happened in the past, it was wrong, but it doesn’t happen anymore. Time to move on. Quit bringing this up! – This is too true

And Natives DO have the right to control their own educational destiny! If Natives don’t like what is being taught in state-funded schools, they can home-school, or, they can take some Native corporation money and build a private school which teaches Yu’pik and beadwork instead of math, science and computer skills!

There is room to teach both Native and non-Native cultures in schools. But academics are more important. We need not choose one culture over the other. – Another comment stated that teaching ones personal culture shoud be done at home, not at school (I agree). I think the real issue here is HOW math, reading, writing, and science are taught. I think there is always room for improvement there!

Reflections on my Virtual Classroom Observations

Since I am currently a “virtual” math teacher, I thought I would share my observations with you all.For my purposes I will define virtual school as “computer” school where students log in to an existing computerized curriculum (which is supervised and graded by licensed teachers). An example of this is K12 who I currently work for (and whom one of my children is enrolled, and I am teaching). Anyway, this is in contrast to “homeschooling” where the parents are the teachers and responsible for grading their childrens’ assignments.

Virtual School(VS) Plus’ (lest you think I am entirely critical):

  • VS allows students to “do” school anywhere where there is an internet connection. This is practical when school age children are needing to travel extensively. Examples are musicians, singers, actors, athletes, Olympians, migrant workers, commercial fishing families, logging families.
  • There are other reasons why families may choose VS, for example, if there are teachers or students that are a bad influence or are incompatible with students temperament, values, or faith.
  • Another place virtual school can be practical is if a student lives in a remote location where there is no school, or parents arn’t willing or qualified to teach, or classes are not available (like the Alaskan bush).
  • Atteding VS can help students prepare for online college classes.
  • VS allows students to progress at their own pace and at the time of day they are most alert (how many groggy kids have no clue what happens first period).
  • VS curriculum are top notch and require the students to complete the course.

Now for the con’s:

  • VS allows students to “cheat” the tests and quizzes by looking up answers on the internet. (This is a two edged sword, on the good side, we look up information on the internet every day. on the bad side, children learn to be copy/paste experts and don’t apply their minds.)
  • Sitting at a computer for five hours a day is not my idea of learning and certainly isn’t good for children either.
  • Children (in my opinion) sit at electronic equipment too much anyway (TV, computers, smart phones, gaming consoles).
  • It requires an internet connection and the right versions of software (which adds frustrating difficulties).

All said, I think VS has a place and will certainly improve over time. Some things cannot be learned over the internet, not everyone “gets math” especially and some students (and adults) still need a “hands-on” approach.


Thats my two cents!


” Mental Set”

For me mental set is focusing on the problem before me, figuring out what is causing it, then formulating a solution (this is the approach engineers take). I am an good engineer and not a very good teacher. I hope to use my talents in the future to design useful products that improve the quality of   people’s lives. I am not sure why I wanted to become a teacher, I guess I thought I could pass on my enthusiasm for problem solving. Turns out being a teacher is more about classroom management than teaching (go figure). I am not interested in spending the next twenty years “managing” other peoples kids (I have enough trouble managing my own). I have reached the decision that a career in classroom management (I mean education) is not for me! I don’t have the right mental set for it 🙂

Here is a link for what engineers do


Teacher-student relationships?

In terms of classroom management, it is   important to develop effective relationships with students. For me, I prefer the, sit down, shut-up, get to work approach. I know this isn’t politically correct, but it is who I am and I don’t really want to waste my or my students time with pretense. Once classroom order is established, then maybe we can talk (after Thanksgiving). I made a huge mistake   last year by not doing this. I lost control of my class and never got it back. I don’t plan to repeat this!

I plan   to develop good relationships with students by, first establishing who is in charge (me). Students, children (and dogs) are all happier when they know who’s the boss.
An interesting weblink that explains strategies for teacher-student relationships is: