The Guidance Project and the Reluctant Seniors
Teaching Cases in Cross-Cultural
The Guidance Project and the Reluctant Seniors
Arthur W. Allen,
Edited by Judith Kleinfeld
Center for Cross-Cultural Studies
College of Rural Alaska
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Cross-Cultural Counseling: The Guidance
Project and the Reluctant Seniors
© 1990 Judith Kleinfeld
Mr. Allen is an Alaskan rural teacher and
has prepared this case on the basis of his experience in different
rural communities. The village and students described are composites.
In one or two cases, where a prominent figure might be recognized,
his or her permission for inclusion in this case has been
Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
- Allen, Arthur W. III
- Cross-cultural counseling: The guidance
project and the reluctant seniors.
(Teaching cases; no.7)
1. Student counselors-Alaska-Case studies.
2. Vocational guidance Case studies. 3. Personnel service in
education-Alaska-Case studies. I. University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Center for Cross-Cultural Studies. II. Title. III. Series: Teaching
cases in cross-cultural education; no. 7.
LB 1620.5.A45 1990
List of Characters
The Guidance Project
Fred Young and His
The Yup'ik Community of Tutuluq
Fred Young as Site Guidance
The Itinerant Counselor from Mountain and
Valley School District ......16
The District In-Service Meeting on
The Third Guidance Session
January Arrives and the Guidance Project
Epilogue: The Graduating Seniors
Note 1: Rural Students and the
Transition to Adulthood..............49
- Note 2: College Entrance Rates in
- by Ethnicity and
- Note 3: Participation of Inupiat Men
- in the Wage
Note 4: Counseling Programs in Small
Rural High Schools .....66
Note 5: Broaden Students' Experience
with Travel Programs ..69
- Note 6: University Programs that
Assist Rural High School
- Students Make the Transition to
Cross-Cultural Counseling: The Guidance
Project and the Reluctant Seniors describes a rural Alaska high
school teacher's earnest and intense efforts to motivate his nine
Yup'ik seniors to plan for their futures after high school. The
teacher, Fred Young, wants his students to go on to college or
vocational school. He takes on the difficult position of "site
guidance counselor," adding the additional responsibilities of this
role -- whatever these might be to the already heavy teaching load of
a small high school teacher.
What is the proper role of a school
guidance counselor in a small Yup'ik community? Fred Young worries
whether he is pushing his students too much, whether his aspirations
for them, indeed his very emphasis on planning for the future,
conflict with Yup'ik values and ways of life. Some of the village
elders, he has heard, tell his students in the Yup'ik language that "school is for nothing." What
is the village high school supposed to be preparing students for-the Yup'ik community
or the world outside
the village? How can the school prepare students for college and
careers and at the same time help to maintain the Yup'ik
The case describes Fred's efforts to
develop a guidance program, how he pins his hopes on a special
two-week guidance project, the results of this project, and what
finally happens to his Yup'ik seniors in the year after high
Cross-Cultural Counseling is not
simply a narrative, one teacher's story. Nor is it an ethnographic
case study, a rich and careful description of a cultural
This story is a "teaching case." It is a
description of troubling and problematic events written to help
prospective teachers think through the complex and ambiguous
situations which arise in rural teaching. Teaching cases have long
been a cornerstone of professional preparation in schools of business
and law. Only recently has the field of education begun to explore
their value in the preparation of teachers (Doyle, 1886; Shulman,
1987; McCarthy, 1987). In the teaching case, interpretations are left
open and loose ends are not tied up. The teaching case demands
speculation from inadequate knowledge. The purpose of the case is not
to establish "truth" but rather to prepare students for "wise action" (Christensen,
1987). Professional practice demands wise action even where the truth neither
is nor can be known.
Purposes of Teaching
A teaching case presents a professional
problem or dilemma and asks students to interpret the situation and
decide upon a strategy for handling it. The case asks the student to
figure out "what is really going on here?" "what went wrong?" and
"what should be done?"
Such cases provide vicarious experience,
the opportunity to reflect upon common and complex dilemmas before
actually encountering them. Teachers, like many other professionals,
work in situations of great complexity, ambiguity, and disorder,
where it is not clear what goals are desirable or where desirable
goals conflict (Schon, 1983). In Cross-Cultural Counseling, as
an example, the goal of increasing Yup'ik students' enrollment in
college may conflict with the goal of maintaining a vital Yup'ik
village community. Does the academically able young woman who chooses
to stay home and baby-sit her sister's four children after high
school represent a success or a failure of the school counseling
program? What is the village high school supposed to be preparing
Yup'ik students for?
Such dilemmas are at the heart of
cross-cultural teaching. Deciding how to approach them requires far
more than scientific generalizations or the pedagogical knowledge
gained from methods courses. These dilemmas involve ethical issues,
policy questions, interpersonal sensitivities, and political acumen,
not only knowledge about alternative guidance techniques. Teaching
cases are intended to show prospective teachers that such ethical and
policy questions are inextricably interwoven in what may seem to be
the ordinary and mundane activities of school life. Teaching cases
give students practice in figuring out just what the problems
are-what lawyers refer to as "issue spotting"-and how to frame these
problems in fruitful ways.
Rural communities, even within the same
cultural region, are different from each other and communities are
changing in unpredictable ways. Different generations and different
families within the same community do not have the same beliefs,
expectations, values, and styles of communication. Teachers can
expect no rules or recipes. They must learn how to learn from the
A major purpose of teaching cases is to
develop students' sensitivity to the situation-to the ambiguities and
multiple realities of concrete experience. We want students to feel
more comfortable with uncertainty. We want them to think about other
people's interpretations of a situation. We want to enlarge their
repertoire of potential strategies for accomplishing educational
purposes. We want them to be better able to anticipate the
ramifications and risks of the actions they may choose.
Teaching cases not only help to develop
cognitive capacities-judgment and insight. The cases also offer
emotional preparation for dealing with an unjust and uncertain world.
Young teachers typically expect a just and orderly world, a world in
which good teaching is always rewarded and good teachers do not bear
the legacy of a past they did not create. Why should a generous and
hard-working teacher like Fred Young, for example, face such
hostility from a Yup'ik student like Myrna over what seems to be a
question of whether or not he promised her a free soft drink for
attending a guidance meeting? The cases help prospective teachers
become aware that their expectations for a just world are not
entirely reasonable and that people like themselves can become caught
in circumstances not of their own making.
Representativeness of Cases and the
Author's Point of View
Cross-Cultural Counseling is based
on the author's experience as a teacher and site counselor in village
high schools. Names and identifying details have been changed to
protect confidentiality. The case is a composite which draws upon his
experiences in several villages.
In preparing such cases, we have wrestled
with the vexing issue of point of view. The author tells the story
from the perspective of a teacher, and this story would be very
different if told from a different perspective, the view of a student
or community member. While the author tries to describe community
perspectives, he is well aware that his viewpoint is limited. We all
live within our own skins.
Students should discuss directly the
limitations of the author's perspective and how the situation might
look to others in the story. They should keep in mind that they too
will have a limited view of event., the view of the teacher-and that
they too will have to make decisions based upon a limited perspective
and inadequate knowledge.
Studying and Teaching a
Teaching cases such as this one are
intended to develop students' abilities to 1) spot issues and frame
problems in an ambiguous and complex teaching situation, 2) interpret
the situation from different perspectives, 3) identify different
possibilities for action, and 4) consider the risks and ramifications
of different courses of action.
In stimulating such reflection, we have
found useful the following kinds of questions. Most have been culled
from the instructor's guide to Teaching and the Case Method
(Christensen, Hansen, & Moore, 1987) and from discussions
about case method teaching (Christensen, 1987).
The questions are:
1. What are the central problems in this
case? What is going wrong here? Is anything going wrong at all? From
2. What, if anything, should the teacher do
differently next year? Why do you think so?
3. How does this situation appear to other
participants such as the students? other teachers at the school?
administrators in the central office? parents in the
4. How did this situation develop? What, if
anything, might alter the basic conditions which created the present
5. What, if anything, have you learned from
In teaching a case, we typically ask
students to prepare for class discussion by writing a two-page paper
identifying what they see as the main issues in the case, describing
the actions the teacher took, and appraising the teacher's actions.
We begin the class by asking each student to identify the most
important issues of the case and we list the issues on the
chalkboard. We choose as a starting point for discussion an issue
which many students have identified as key to understanding the case
and an issue in which students are emotionally involved. The most
memorable and powerful learning occurs where a case involves both the
intellect and the emotions.
After the case discussion, we ask students
to write another short paper on what they now see as the fundamental
issues of the case, what actions they would have advised the teacher
to take, and what they have learned or come to appreciate as a result
of discussion and further reflection on the situation.
Issues Raised in Cross-Cultural
The Reluctant Seniors and the Guidance Project
As students read this case, it is helpful
to keep two sets of problems in mind:
1) What adult lifestyles do students see as
possibilities for themselves? What cultural shifts and conflicts have
made the pathways to adulthood so undefined for Yup'ik students or
are these pathways defined in ways that the teacher Fred Young does
not see or appreciate?
2) What should Fred Young attempt to
accomplish as site guidance counselor the following year? Which
aspects of his previous approach worked well and why? What should he
be trying to accomplish and what should count as a measure of
site guidance counselor and a teacher at Tutuluq High School, a small
rural high school in a Yup'ik community
wife and the special education teacher
Tutuluq High School
high school teacher
guidance counselor at Mountain and Valley School District
Mary, Eva, Adeline,
girls at Tutuluq High School
Jerry, Isaac, Nick, Nathan,
boys at Tutuluq High School
Ducking out of a raw January wind, Fred
Young stopped at the darkened front entry of Tutuluq High School. The
small brown frame building, set on pilings in the Arctic permafrost,
stood at the edge of the tightly clustered Yup'ik homes. Fred took
off one glove, reached into his down parka for his keys, unlocked the
door, and hurried inside. As usual, at fifteen minutes to eight, he
was the first teacher to arrive.
Fred walked down the short hallway past the
still empty school office and unlocked his classroom door.
Preoccupied with the senior guidance project beginning Monday
morning, he hardly noticed the stacks of ungraded essays littering
his desk. He had pinned his hopes on this guidance project, a way of
actively involving his seniors in deciding what they would do the
year after they graduated.
He paused, turned on the lights, and
admired the work he had done to decorate his bulletin boards. "WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?" was
the message in large letters cut out of red construction paper. Beneath, in white
letters, was the
message "ONLY YOU CAN DECIDE." And beneath, in yellow letters,
read "DON'T DOIT JUST FOR YOURSELF- DOIT FOR YOUR FUTURE- DO IT
NOW." The effect, he admitted to himself, was a bit corny, what
with using the school colors and all, but it wasn't bad. Fred
unloaded his knapsack and began to prepare for the day. He tried not
to dwell on his anxieties about the project.
The senior guidance project was his last
big effort to fulfill a goal he had set for himself at the beginning
of the school year-motivating his seniors to do something the year
following their graduation: attend a trade school, go to college, or
even join the military. As the designated Site Guidance Counselor for
Tutuluq High School, he had tried during the fall months to get the
seniors interested in preparing for their future. But he had met with
limited success. Now it was January-financial aid forms and college
applications would soon be due. He hoped he had come up with
something-a special two-week guidance project that would inspire his
reluctant students. It was such a great idea! During these two weeks,
students would look through catalogs to find the right schools for
themselves. They would fill out forms and applications in his
language arts class. People from the village would come and speak to
the seniors. Some would be Yup'ik elders who spoke little English and
others would be younger people in charge of the Alaska Native village
and regional corporations that made major business decisions. By the
end of the two weeks, he hoped, every senior would have come up with
a plan for the year after high school.
Fred was uneasy about the reception his
project would receive from the administration. The counseling project
was scheduled to use time during the seniors' regularly scheduled
English class. How would his principal, Paul Best, react to such an
unorthodox use of Fred's English teaching time? Wouldn't it be wiser
just to stick to the course objectives outlined in the Language
Arts Curriculum Guide set forth by the Mountain and Valley School
District (MVSD)? Was it out of line to take time from English class
when many students needed so much practice in using the English
language? In all the in-service meetings he had attended, Fred heard
one message over and over again: To improve the skills of the
students of MVSD in all areas of the curriculum, it is essential
first to improve their English language skills. Now he was about to
start a project which would certainly use Yup'ik, the language of the
community and the language of choice among his students, as much as
English. Fred decided to let the principal in on his plans right away
this morning. He knew he should have done so weeks ago.
Fred also worried about the village
participants whom he had asked to come to school to describe their
work: would they actually come? He had asked some villagers who were
working for pay to give brief descriptions of their jobs. He had also
asked some of the village elders who did not have a specific, paying
job to talk to the students. Some of them might not be able to come
because of specific conflicts. But he also knew that, in the Yup'ik
culture, prearranging a time and place to visit was a foreign
concept. People usually visited on a whim or, when meetings were
called, they arrived near a certain time rather than exactly at a
time. The silent message sent by those who did not show up might
reinforce for his seniors the idea that preparing now for the future
was not necessary. Would one of the elders actually come out and say
what he had heard some of the students echo: "School is nothing"?
School didn't prepare you for anything important and worthwhile. He
wouldn't even know if the sentiment was expressed because he didn't
What about the students who had already
made decisions for their futures and were well on the way to
completing their preparations? Would most of this two-week project be
a waste of time for them? Was he emphasizing this project mostly to
get those students who had resisted making a decision to give in and
finally decide on something? Fred was troubled by his motives: was
the real purpose of the project just to gratify his own
On the other hand, the school's philosophy
was to help students achieve a career. Fred felt he had not done
enough as site guidance counselor to help the seniors. The more
effort he put into his career guidance duties, the more he realized
how little he really knew about the postgraduation needs of his
Yup'ik seniors. Involving members of the village in the project, he
hoped, would stimulate his reluctant seniors to take their futures
into their own hands.
Fred Young and His
Fred Young had never thought of himself as
someone qualified to counsel high-school students, let alone to
counsel Yup'ik students. He was not new to living in an Eskimo
village, but he was a relative newcomer to teaching.
Fred had graduated from a university in the
Pacific Northwest with a double major in English and political
science. He took a summer job in construction and later set up a
business with a friend in the construction industry. One summer he
took a business vacation to Alaska in order to construct a house in a
Yup'ik village. He liked the immense vistas of unspoiled land and
water and he liked the people he met. Fred decided to stay on in the
village through the winter.
Because he was viewed as an expert in
construction, Fred answered many requests to help the villagers learn
the tricks of the trade. He taught all his skills many times over
while helping one person do this and another do that. People repaid
him by taking him out and introducing him to the ways of subsisting
in the environment surrounding the village. Fred settled in and
entered the cycle of life which dominated the village, a cycle set
into motion by the seasonal changes. He also served as a substitute
teacher at the village school.
One fall a new special education teacher,
Katie, arrived in the village, and a mutual attraction developed
between them. Fred decided to return to college to obtain a teaching
certificate and Katie went with him to complete her master's degree.
They looked forward to their return to Alaska and hoped they would be
able to get jobs in the same village. When MVSD offered them
contracts to teach in Tutuluq, they accepted the positions without
The Yup'ik Community of
Tutuluq, a village of about 500 people, is
located on the bank of a river not too far from the Bering Sea. Its
present location is the second place to be called by the name
Tutuluq. The former village site, five miles further upriver, was
originally a winter camp. The past lifestyle of the Yup'ik people was
nomadic, moving from winter camp to summer camp as food sources
fluctuated. The original winter site with its abandoned sod houses
and small cemetery has become a living page of history for the new
In the 1950s the Bureau of Indian Affairs
decided to build an elementary school in Tutuluq. Because of danger
from flooding, the villagers relocated to the present site. The
village had no local high school until the late 1970s. Before that
time, those students who wanted a high school education went away to
boarding school, but many dropped out and returned home. In 1976, the
Tobeluk vs. Lind settlement changed everything: all high school
students won the right to receive an education in their home village.
In Tutuluq the high school and grade school are now combined into one
building. The high school has one large classroom, a half-size gym, a
small shop area, a small kitchen, two bathrooms, a washroom, and an
High schools have become the very heart of
most villages but their function is oddly unclear. What exactly are
the schools preparing students for? The Yup'ik culture remains strong
in Tutuluq. Yup'ik is still the language of choice. Grass is
collected to construct baskets, and people use furbearing mammals to
make parkas and ruffs. Trapping provides a source of cash income.
Seals, fish, berries, and plants are essential to the diet.
Traditional dances, potlatches, and subsistence activities remain an
important part of life.
But Western influences are also strong. The
Catholic church unites the village. Schools, grocery stores, and
government offices dominate the landscape. A modern lighted runway
allows planes to land, even on the darkest of winter days. The
Alascom satellite dish links Tutuluq by television and telephone to
the outside world.
Many students want to remain in Tutuluq,
but the village does not have a self-sustaining cash economy. Few
jobs are available in the community. The Army National Guard
maintains a post in the village and employs twenty-one men and twelve
women on a part-time basis. The Mountain and Valley School District
employs about fifteen villagers as teacher aides, maintenance
personnel, and cooks. Only two Yup'ik people are among the teaching
and administrative staff. The city government employs four clerks and
the village corporation, which operates a grocery store and a
hardware store, has a manager and two or three cashiers on its
payroll. There are only a few other wage-earning jobs-five air
service agents, two operating engineers for the power plant, two
store clerks, and a telephone repairman.
Men in the community earn cash in the
winter by trapping fox, otter, and other furbearing animals whose
skins they sell to furbuyers in the regional center, Salmonville. In
summer, some of the men fish commercially for herring and
Everyone also participates in the
subsistence economy by hunting waterfowl, seals, and caribou;
fishing; drying game; rendering seal fat into oil; gathering and
preserving edible vegetation; collecting grasses and preparing them
for weaving baskets; and saving driftwood for winter use as a
Fred Young as Site Guidance
At the first staff meeting during his
second year in Tutuluq, Fred found himself the new guidance
counselor. The teacher who had previously been the guidance counselor
had left unexpectedly.
"So what exactly does the site counselor
have to do?" Katie asked him that evening.
"Well, I'm not sure, but I guess the first
thing I'm going to concentrate on is getting the seniors involved in
making some sort of career decisions. I hope I can bring a little
excitement into the concept of choosing a career."
"You'll bring a lot of excitement, honey.
Are you going to have time to do it?"
"I should. I really don't think it should
be that time consuming to give the seniors an insight into options
open to them. It will just take a little planning."
"Just remember to take some time for
yourself this year. Last year you were overwhelmed. You promised you
would get out to the tundra more."
"I know, I know. I will. But someone has to
do this. The seniors need so much direction. I'm going to get them
all thinking right now about what they want to do next fall. And
then, they're all going to commit to something and do it!"
Fred made up a year-long schedule for
getting together with the seniors. Because he didn't have time to
deal with counseling duties formally on a daily basis, he scheduled
an after-school meeting on the second Tuesday of each month as
official guidance time.
By the first guidance meeting, Fred had
already spent about ten hours in guidance activities and yet had
hardly given any advice to the seniors. He had mentioned to his
seniors that they should begin thinking about what they wanted to do
after they graduated, but he had given them no suggestions on next
steps. Mary Sipary, one of the seniors, had come to him with a
scholarship application for the National Guard, which he had helped
her begin to fill out, but she was the only one who had come to him
Fred had been spending all his spare time
redoing the modest counseling center which the past guidance
counselor had used the previous year. He discarded old college
catalogs and replaced them with new ones which had accumulated over
the summer. Each school day brought more mail addressed to "Counselor, Tutuluq High School" which
had to be dealt with. Fred stuck the mail in a holding box in the counseling
center until he had
time to put it away properly.
The center had a drawer for each of the
post-high-school choices most popular with past seniors. As he became
familiar with the center, Fred began to understand that he had jumped
into a position which he had very little idea how to go about
filling. The amount of information in the center was vast. He also
began to realize that someone had already put a great deal of effort
into organizing the center. Maybe last year's guidance counselor had
done more than he thought. He remembered his distinct feeling last
year that this person had not worked too hard at guidance counseling.
Had he been mistaken?
Fred saw the drawer labeled Financial
Aid as the heart of the center. Not one senior could rely
completely on the financial resources of his or her family to attend
college or trade school. The Financial Aid drawer was chaotic.
There were scholarship forms mixed with loan forms mixed with
Financial Aid Forms and announcements of contests for
scholarships. Pamphlets like 101 Places to Find Financial Aid
were buried with pamphlets like Where to Find Hidden Money for
College . When would he have time to read them? If he didn't read
them, how would he understand all the potential resources available
for his seniors? The amount of time he was going to have to put into
counseling was going to be a whole lot more than the sixteen hours he
had originally estimated for the principal Paul Best and submitted on
the required extra-pay-for-extra-duty form. The money didn't bother
Fred. He had become familiar with expectations for teachers in the
villages. But it did bother him that he might not have enough time to
do as good a job as he had hoped. Would he be able to get each of the
seniors ready for their lives after high school? Where should he
The second guidance session, he decided,
would focus on financial aid. By then he would have a better idea of
how the seniors should begin to apply for it. At the moment, his
concepts of financial aid were about as organized as the contents of
the counseling center.
Fred announced to his senior English class
the time and date of the first counseling session a week before it
was to be held. "It's going to be an important get-together for
seniors only," he said. He put up posters with the slogan, Seniors, Bring Your Dreams to Life , as a memory booster. He
promised free soft drinks to all who attended. A couple of students
complained that they had cross-country practice, but the promise of a
soft drink at least got them to the beginning of the
As the seniors arrived, Fred handed each
one a soda and asked that they browse through the bookshelves and
drawers in the counseling center. Most of the seniors were willing to
look at the catalogs and information. Fred was gratified by their
"Wow, look at this."
"Gee, I wonder what it's like at this
"Where's the UAF catalog?"
"I want to go to ROTC."
"Construction, man, construction. I want to
make lots of money."
"No way! Pilots make the money."
"I can't find anything in here about the
When Jerry Olinka, a senior boy, arrived
and asked, "What are you guys doing?" Fred decided to get the
"Okay, seniors!" Fred said, raising his
voice to be heard. "Let's call the session to order."
It made him feel good to see the seniors
smiling and for the most part enthusiastic to hear what he had to
say. He wanted to keep it that way throughout the year. His hope was
to develop camaraderie among the seniors so that they might inspire
each other into developing plans.
"Here's the deal," Fred said, opening the
meeting. "Next year at this time not one of you is going to be here.
You'll be graduated!"
"No more teachers' dirty looks!"
"I know it sounds crazy, but you have to
start planning now. Right now you need to plan this year for what
you'll be doing next year. If you want to go to college, now is the
time to decide where to go. If you want to go to a vocational school,
now is the time. It's not easy making decisions about which dreams
you want to come true, so I want all of us to work together. By May,
when you all have your caps and gowns on, you will know where you are
Fred handed out the schedules and explained
that it was the seniors' responsibility to meet on every second
Tuesday for the rest of the year to share information and work
"Use this counseling center any time to
help you decide what you want to do and where you want to go. Read
about the colleges. Read about the National Guard, the Navy, the
Marines, the Army. Read about vocational schools! But get ready now
to make your dreams come true. Who's got questions?"
"Can we go now?"
''No, you can't go now. We still have half
an hour left. Now what I want everyone to do is take one of these
drawers and sort through the information. Throw everything that has a
date on it before last year into a big pile here for the
By the end of the afternoon, some of the
drawers had been thinned out, but the bulk of them were untouched.
The seniors' efforts had helped, but their enthusiasm had begun to
wane with the last of the soft drinks. When they had gone to
cross-country practice or home to do chores, Fred had stayed and
continued cleaning out drawers and organizing materials somewhat
obsessively, knowing that he was neglecting his responsibilities of
preparing for his next day's lessons.
Fred had come to realize that sometimes it
was necessary to let classes slide. What he had better do as soon as
possible was make certain that each of the seniors would have enough
credits to graduate. He wanted to be very, very sure. In another
village one of the seniors thought he was going to graduate only to
find out two weeks before graduation that he did not have enough
credits. On the day before graduation he committed suicide. The
family blamed the school.
Nine seniors had attended the meeting, five
boys and four girls. Of the five boys, Fred was certain that Jerry
Olinka had no hope of graduating this year and thought that two
others might not have the credits to graduate either. Fred didn't
feel he should exclude them or point out in front of their peers the
fact that they did not have the credits to graduate the coming
spring. He considered them "nonsenior" seniors.
Jerry was nineteen, the oldest student in
the high school. This was Jerry's second year of nonsenior status.
Fred had been impressed last year by Jerry's love of writing. His
syntax was poor, but it was evident that he put a lot of thought into
his work. Jerry fell quickly behind in other work, but his journal
was always complete and full of insights into the Yup'ik perspective.
Invariably, Jerry's journal contained the phrase "... in the old days
Fred had been surprised to see Jerry back
again on the first day of school. Last year Jerry had transferred to
a neighboring village, just before the end of the fall semester.
Jerry had missed a lot of school before he left. Because he failed to
register in his new high school until the spring semester, he
received no credit for any of his fall classes. Fred did not know why
he had left, although he had heard rumors that another student had
beaten up and threatened Jerry. Whatever his reason for leaving, Fred
had welcomed Jerry back and asked him how he had done.
"Fine, but they didn't like me down
Getting nothing more out of Jerry, Fred
decided to call and ask that Jerry's transcript be sent. While
talking to the principal, Fred learned that Jerry had earned no
credits for any class. When Fred asked for elaboration, the principal
gave the phone to one of the teachers, explaining that he knew
nothing about Jerry's performance because he had just transferred to
this school from another village. The teacher who came on the line
was brief and to the point. "Jerry was a very poor student. He was
consistently late to class. He did no homework. Finally, he just
stopped coming to class at all. He would have gotten an F in my class
if he had kept coming."
Fred thanked the teacher, asked that a
transcript be forwarded, and hung up. Jerry had gone to school for
the better part of a year and come away with absolutely nothing,
except perhaps some bitterness about school and what it stood
Fred thought about what he should do for
Jerry. So far he wasn't getting anywhere. During the first week of
school, Fred had approached Jerry when he was alone, and asked him
about his spring semester.
Jerry was concentrating on a computer game
and kept his eyes on the screen. "Those teachers down there, I don't
think they liked me."
"Why do you say that?" Fred asked, taking a
seat by Jerry.
"I guess they all flunked me."
"Did you go to school?"
"Yeah, I went to school."
"Yeah, I guess so. I can't
"Well, here's the deal, Jerry. I called
down there to get your transcript sent up and they told me you didn't
get credit in any of your classes."
Jerry looked over to Fred. "Not any
"No. None. Did you think you passed
"Yes. No. Well, I don't know," Jerry said,
concentrating on the computer. It was obvious that Jerry was
uncomfortable with the direct confrontation.
"Well, until the transcript gets here, I'm
going to assume that you didn't pass any, like the principal there
"Do you know what you're going to have to
"Take 'em over?"
"Right. Do you know what your biggest
problem is about school?"
"No one gets me to school? I don't
"No. Do you think all the students depend
on their parents to get them up in the mornings?"
"It's got to be you, Jerry. Do you know how
you are going to make sure you pass all your classes this
Jerry looked up again, eager to hear. "How?"
"By getting to every class, every day, on
Jerry's smile faded and he turned back to
the computer. "I'll try."
"I want to help you get your credits this
year, Jerry, so if anything or anyone is bothering you, please feel
free to tell me. You are going to have a successful year."
Fred stood up and put his hand on Jerry's
shoulder. "Right, Jerry?"
Fred decided that Jerry hadn't received his
advice very well. Had he been too direct with Jerry? Had everyone
else lectured him so often he no longer listened? What had Jerry been
trying to say about his parents? Could it be so simple that the kid
just needed some love?
Fred packed up and left for home. He was
far from feeling the first guidance session had been a success when
Katie asked him how the session had gone.
"Did many of the seniors come?"
"Oh, yeah. Nine seniors, 100 percent
attendance. The advertising worked, especially with the free pop
thrown in. I had to tell some of the juniors to come back next
"Sounds like a success."
"From that standpoint, it was. But when the
pop ran out so did their enthusiasm. Oh, I don't mean to be so
cynical. A few were genuinely interested in doing something next
year. Isaac is really gung-ho on aviation school or the National
Guard. The Guard was the most popular."
"Well, honey, you can't blame them. After
all, it is one of the most prevalent role models in the village. The
fact is, the National Guard carries a lot of prestige in all the
villages out here. You know that."
"I know, but I really want them to open
their eyes to some of the other opportunities available. I just can't
bear the thought of someone like Mary going into the
"She wants to be in the Guard? That would
be a waste. She's got to go to college."
"Well, I'm going to try to convince her,
"What about Nathan? What does he think he
"Is he thinking of a vocational
"College? Well, he's not really college
"No, he's thinking of nothing. He said he
couldn't wait until next year so he could get up in the morning and
have nothing to do!"
Katie laughed. "What a nut! Well, it's
inevitable that some of them are going to stay right here in Tutuluq
after they graduate."
"I know. I know it is. But I'm going to
give them every opportunity to see what there is to do if they do
decide to leave. It's not like those who leave never come back. Even
the ones who go to college eventually come back here."
"Not all of them."
"Well, I'd say most of them, at least the
ones who don't marry into another village. Look at Aaron Pete. He's a
perfect example. He went to college for two years, then came back
here and got a job as an aide with the high school and did some
correspondence study. Then he went through the rural teacher's
program at UAF. And now he's teaching at the high school."
"Well, Nathan isn't exactly the same as
"I wasn't trying to say he was. All I was
trying to say was that it seems to me most of the villagers who leave
to go back to school for training or boot camp usually find their way
back here. So that's why I am going to encourage all the seniors to
line up something to do for next fall. I don't want to see them just
"Oh, Fred, I think Nathan was just kidding
when he told you that he was going to do nothing next year. When
Nathan talks about looking forward to doing nothing, I think he means
nothing that isn't subsistence lifestyle, and that's a lot of
"It's a beautiful way of life which we are
changing," Fred replied, his ambivalence showing through.
"Sure it is. But for goodness' sake, we're
out here giving them new skills to function in the modern world. And
you're getting them ready to go to college or trade school or
whatever it is that they're going to do," Katie insisted.
"What is it we're trying to prepare the
students for by the time they're ready to graduate, anyhow?" Fred
asked her the question he had worried about many times.
"To function as active participants in
their world," she said. "It's no different here than it is in
Anchorage or Seattle or Anywhere, USA."
"No, it's not the same at all. Which world
are we preparing them for? The traditional or the modern?"
"Which do you
The Itinerant Counselor from
Mountain and Valley School District
Bertha Henderson, the itinerant guidance
counselor, was scheduled for a visit early in the fall. Bertha was
based in the central office. She organized the district's guidance
activities and occasionally visited each school. Her reputation as a
less-than-engrossing presenter reached Fred early. One morning, one
of the students came up and asked Fred, "Do we have to sit and listen
to old boring Bertha tomorrow?" Fred asked the student to fill him
That afternoon Fred took the opportunity to
meet Bertha when she arrived in the village. She had come to "give
them a little career guidance and have them take the Armed Services
Vocational Aptitude Battery . . . you know, that's for the ones who
are interested in the military. And of course I'll be giving the ACT
test; that is for the ones who are interested in getting into
Bertha may have had the interests of the
students at heart. But, sitting in the back of the class and
listening to her presentation, Fred understood all too well why she
was known as "boring Bertha." Her films were irrelevant to the
lifestyle of the students. Her monotone manner all but lulled the
class to sleep. Bertha plugged along, oblivious to the fact that not
one student was following one word she said. Fred was dismayed. The
students, it seemed, associated the whole notion of careers with
absolute and complete boredom.
Fred had tried to put some life into the
counseling program earlier in the year. He had called Bertha and
asked her for advice on what he could do. She had reassured him. "You're already
doing all you can by getting me out there on my first stop! I'll be glad to sit
down with you and answer any questions you
have. Oh, wait a minute, Fred, there is something. Are you going to
be sending any of your seniors on the bus trip?"
"Bus trip? What's that?"
"I take it you haven't received the
information. You should have it by now. It's a trip we've organized
for the seniors who are interested in going to college or vocational
school. We'll start in Anchorage where we've rented a bus. We'll look
at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Alaska Business College
and then go over to the university in Fairbanks and, we hope, get the
kids down to Seward to the vocational center. It should be a whale of
a trip, and I think there's still space if you're
"I'm interested! Is it on the district or
does it come out of our site budget?"
"Oh, I wish the district could. No, it
comes out of the site budgets and it's $600 per student. It should be
a real good trip though."
"Okay. Sounds great. I'll talk to the
principal and see if we have any money. Thanks, Bertha."
Fred approached Paul Best about the trip,
but came away empty-handed. There was no money in the budget for the
activity. It would have meant canceling a basketball trip. Besides,
according to the principal, the Tutuluq Advisory School Board had
established a policy on student travel: Money spent on group
activities is preferred to money spent on individual student
activities. Fred argued a bit for sending some of the more motivated
seniors, but to no avail.
Fred worried about his guidance
responsibilities. What was the district policy toward seniors? Were
they forgotten once graduated? Had any studies shown what sorts of
things held the greatest promise of success for Yup'ik students after
high school? Why was it that so many of the young men seemed less apt
to go to college and, once there, less apt to succeed? What could be
done to get them more involved in pursuing an education or a career
after high school? How strong an influence should he try to be in
deciding the future of the students?
Fred thought about his seniors from last
year. Of them, two young men and a young woman had gone into the
National Guard and were looking forward to going into boot camp at
the start of the new year. In Fred's opinion, the young woman,
Charlene, and one of the young men should have gone to
One afternoon on his way to the store, Fred
had seen Charlene coming toward him on the boardwalk. She was
babysitting her sister's children, two in a wagon behind her, one
pushing the wagon, and the last holding her free hand. He stopped to
find out what she had done over the summer and what she would be
doing in the coming months. She looked down at the boardwalk as they
approached each other.
"Hi, Charl, how was your summer?" Fred
Charlene looked up smiling. "Is that
"Sure, it's me. Don't you even recognize
your most favorite teacher?"
Charlene laughed. "You look funny,
different. I thought you were some stranger," she said, shaking her
head. "Did you shave your beard?"
"No," Fred replied, "I don't know what
happened. It just fell off one night."
"Naaaa, youuuu," Charlene laughed, looking
up. "You shaved."
"I did, you're right," Fred confessed. "I
finally took your advice. It looks good, though, doesn't
"No," Charlene laughed, "it looks funny!
Your magojik looks ugly!" Charlene gestured to her own chin to
indicate what she meant by magojik .
Fred laughed back, "Thanks a
"So when are you leaving for college?" he
"I'm not going to college."
"What do you mean you're not going to
college?" Fred asked, amazed.
"I don't know. I guess I decided not to
"Fairbanks is too far. My family didn't
want me to be so far away."
"Well, what about Salmonville Community
College?" Fred asked. "It's close. It would be perfect."
"I don't want to go. Oh gosh, my English
skills aren't good enough. My sister told me I wouldn't do very well
'cause my English is baaad!"
"No way, Charlene! Your English is great."
Fred couldn't believe what he was hearing. Charlene had the strongest
English skills of last year's seniors. "You would do just fine in
college. It's not that much different from high school. You should
"I can't even read a book. I didn't read a
book all summer."
"So what? That doesn't mean you can't read.
You should try SCC. It's not too late to apply. You're a good
"Naaaa, I'm gonna go National Guard. Basic
training is in January."
Fred knew her mind was made up. He was
amazed that Charlene had opted against college. It bothered him that
she felt her English skills weren't good enough. Hadn't he given her
any confidence in her own abilities? Had she really not read a book
all summer? Probably not. She probably hadn't spoken English more
than a few times all sl1mmer either. After all, there was little need
to. He should have given her some books to read over the summer. It
sounded as though her older sister had influenced her
Fred caught himself. He shouldn't be
disappointed that Charlene was only babysitting for her sister. He
knew strong family bonds had played a large part in the survival of
the Yup'ik culture for thousands of years in extremely hostile
conditions. What business did he have in trying to influence her? Why
should he feel bad that Charlene had chosen the military over
college? At least she was doing something! It was her decision. Still
he knew that if he had been the guidance counselor last year, he
would have seen to it that she was on her way to college.
Two other seniors-Bernice, the
valedictorian, and Sam, the salutatorian of last year's class-had
chosen to go to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Bernice had
been the most motivated student that Fred had ever known. She did
meticulous work, making sure she received A grades in all of her
classes. She had been the student council president. To Fred, she
epitomized the modern Yup'ik student-skilled in traditional crafts
and respectful of traditional customs while at the same time adept in
all of her classes.
Fred had been surprised the previous year
when Bernice had come to him and asked if she should apply to
Harvard. She explained that she was asking all the teachers to give
her their opinions for "secret" reasons. Fred had urged her to apply.
He thought it reasonable to assume that, with her grades and her
minority background, she might be accepted, and he told her this.
Later, when Bernice was talking with him, he found out that she
indeed had been accepted into Harvard. Fred found out that another
teacher had urged Bernice to go instead to the University of Alaska
Fairbanks because of its extensive support systems for Native
students. In Fred's mind, this was a mistake.
Fred had, however, been very excited that
Sam would attend UAF. Sam had talked about it all year. Although Fred
and the other staff suspected that Sam abused drugs, this drug use
had not interfered with his performance in school. He had maintained
his excellent class standing.
During the second guidance session in
October, Fred mentioned Sam's name as someone who would be in
Fairbanks to help those who went to college to find their way around.
One of the seniors informed Fred that Sam had never gone to Fairbanks
at all. Sam had been in Salmonville during registration and had
missed the deadline. Now he was still in Tutuluq "partying
The District In-Service Meeting on
As the site counselor, Fred was required to
go to a ninety-minute session specifically on the subject of
counseling at the district in-service which was held in late October.
Bertha Henderson handed the site guidance counselors the MVSD
handbook, which spelled out the district's counseling goals: "To
provide comprehensive career and vocational counseling services
including individual analysis, information dissemination, personal
counseling and interpretation, placement services, and follow-up
Two representatives from the nonprofit
department of the Asiqtuq Regional Native Corporation spoke about
financial aid. Both the president of Salmonville Community College
and a recent graduate of SCC talked about the community college
From the first Asiqtuq Corporation speaker,
Fred learned that each student who was accepted into a college could
receive a $1,000 scholarship per semester from Asiqtuq Corporation.
First, students had to file the Financial Aid Form (FAF). The FAF is
four pages long and requires that the student and the student's
parents disclose all income that they received and reported to the
IRS on their most recent income tax filing. The speaker was blunt
about the fact that many students who thought that they were going to
receive monies for college did not receive them because the form was
filled out incorrectly or submitted after the deadline. It was
imperative that counselors insure that the forms were turned in on
time and filled out correctly. Further, it often was a difficult job
to get the parents to disclose their income for a number of reasons.
Sometimes they were simply unwilling to let people know how much
money they made and sometimes they did not file income tax forms.
Only if students could prove they were not claimed as dependents of
their parents, could they receive money without an income tax
This speaker also clarified for Fred the
differences between loans, scholarships, and grants. Loans are
available to the students through the Alaska Student Loan Program.
The danger is that many students do not realize that they are
required to pay these back after they have been out of school for
more than twelve months. The speaker advised that students not be
encouraged to take these loans out. A typical pattern for rural
students is to go to college for a semester or two and then stop,
never to go back, or to do so only a few years later. Then they are
saddled with paying the loan back when, more likely than not, they
have returned to their village and cannot get a job.
Scholarship money is available to the
students based on merit. The money never has to be paid back. Grant
money may be available for students who meet certain economic or
social criteria. Repayment of grants sometimes entails
The second Asiqtuq Corporation speaker
talked about students who wanted to go to technical school. Money is
available through Job Training Program Assistance (JTPA). JTPA
provides scholarship money to cover both the costs of the program and
the costs of transportation, but there is a catch. The individual
enrolled in the program has to have written proof of employment with
an existing business upon graduation. In other words, the student has
to have a job before he or she is eligible for a
The Salmonville Community College president
impressed on the site counselors that they should not overlook SCC as
a potential choice for those students who were interested in going to
college. The college granted associate degrees and most of the
students then went on to get bachelor's degrees in Fairbanks. Because
Salmonville was the hub for the Mountain and Valley area, he pointed
out, the college was specifically attuned to the needs of the
region's students. Finally, the president talked about SCC's mission
to enroll young men. The college wanted to boost the numbers of young
men, who were outnumbered two to one by young women.
The last speaker was a student who praised
what SCC had done for her. The college, she said, had given her the
confidence that she could succeed. She was especially thankful for
the many hours after class which her teachers had spent working with
her on her English skills. Fred was impressed with her. He knew from
working with his students preparing for the MVSD speech tournament
how difficult it must have been for her to get up in front of a
At lunch, Fred along with Barb Glass, a
language arts teacher who was another site counselor, cornered Bertha
and sat down with her.
"So how do you suggest I get some of my
reluctant seniors interested in doing something after they graduate?" Fred asked.
"The truth is," Bertha replied, "they have
to get themselves interested. If they aren't interested, they aren't
going to make any effort to do the best they could."
"Well, isn't part of our job to get them
"Oh, yes. Definitely. But you can't push it
down their throats. If you do, it'll come back to haunt you. Say you
talk your seniors into going to college, and the students get there
and find out that college isn't what they thought it would be. What
do you think they are going to do?"
"They're going to be mad," Barb said. "I've
had it happen. I had a student who wasn't sure whether she wanted to
go to college and I convinced her to pursue it. I went so far as to
write the letters for her to get the admissions package and filled
out her FAF and she went off to Fairbanks. She was back in a month.
She still won't speak to me about it."
"You're kidding," Fred said,
"No. I wish I was. She was one of my
favorite students and the experience soured everything."
"Now you can't blame yourself, Barb,"
Bertha said. "We're only trying to help these kids. But if you push
them into something they find out they don't want to be into, they'll
be bitter. They'll blame you and they won't ever go back. And they'll
take a long time to get over it."
"Well, some of my seniors are unsure about
what they want to do. I've tried to get them to write some letters to
get some information, but they want to wait until they are more
sure," Fred said.
"But at the same time you have to push them
just enough," Barb pointed out. "I have a student now who is
attending the University of Frankfurt! He is doing marvelously. It is
beyond my wildest imagination that James would be doing
"What? You have a student going to school
in Germany? Do you offer German at your site?"
"No. Of course not. He didn't know a word
of German until he got over there. It just blows me away to think of
this Yup'ik- and English-speaking student over there holding his own
in a German university."
"How did you do that?"
"It was something that he was interested
in. He was the one who started it and I just kept giving him positive
feedback and helped him pursue it. He's an excellent student, and he
got a lot of support from his parents. I don't think James would have
gone if he hadn't gotten that support, but then his parents have a
"That is so great! He's paving the way." Fred felt jealous.
"Well, I don't know about that, but maybe.
"I'm going to agree with you, Barb," Bertha
said. "You do have to push a little bit. You have to keep on them to
get those FAF forms in on time and to get their admission papers in
on time. You have to be sure they meet the deadlines. Because, here
again, if they don't get accepted because the papers were late,
they're going to want to blame someone!"
Fred nodded his head.
"It's not easy, Fred," Bertha said,
laughing. "Is it, Barb?"
"No. And you know some parents aren't going
to want to send their children off either. Some of them are afraid
they'll never see their children again if they go out of the village.
You can't blame them, but . . ."
"I can see that I might have that problem,"
Fred interrupted. He was thinking of Isaac, one of his seniors. "Some
of the parents depend on their children to keep the house running.
Especially with things like hauling water and pumping fuel. And
probably hunting, too."
"Exactly," Barb said, "and the sad thing is
that the ones who would really do well outside the village are also
the ones who shoulder the responsibilities. They'll stay home and
help out and just sort of, you know, waste away."
"It's the ones who aren't really ready for
college who end up going. So many drop out when they can't hack it
and then end up on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage," Bertha
"So do you have any theory as to how to
motivate the guys?" Fred asked. "It seems like I just can't get them
"That's the golden question. It seems as
though they take a little longer to mature. Lots of times they just
like to hang around the village and go hunting and chase the girls.
Then after a few years they get bored and then start to think about
the alternatives. Then some of them do go to college or a vocational
school or come into Salmonville and find a job. Any insights,
"No. Not really. It seems to me students
will get involved in correspondence education if they understand what
the course is and if they find out about it and if there is a SCC
liaison in the village. A lot of it depends on the liaison also. The
one in my village is incredible. No one was coming to the classes so
she went and worked with the students in their homes."
"Wow! Talk about dedicated!
Upon his return to Tutuluq, Fred decided to
lighten up a bit, but this mood didn't last long. Not all the seniors
attended the second counseling session. Fred implored them to come to
the next meeting. After all, they had some important decisions to
make about their future.
The Third Guidance
The third guidance meeting was a fiasco.
Basketball season was underway and practices had been scheduled for
the boys right after school and for the girls at 7 P.M. Fred,
therefore, scheduled a guidance session for the boys in the evening
and for the girls right after school. Attendance for the girls was
poor. Only two of the four girls showed up-Mary and Eva. They worked
on finishing letters to the schools in which they were interested.
Fred teased them about being so slow in completing them. "You've been
working on them for two months now!"
Fred showed them how to use the computer to
write the letters more easily. All that was necessary was to compose
the letter once, and then change the name at the top of the letter to
fit the school. He wished he had thought of it earlier. He made a
mental note to let the students use English time to compose the
letters. Fred had begun to worry about deadlines. Before the girls
left, he gave them each a scholarship application to take home and
Just as Fred was getting ready to leave,
Adeline and Myrna came in and asked if it was too late for the
meeting. Adeline claimed she had been baby-sitting. Fred wanted to
stay and work with them. They had shown so little interest so far
that he had begun to wonder if they were going to do anything or not.
Both were good students, although Myrna always seemed to be angry
with a chip on her shoulder. Both girls were from more traditional
families. Did they have role models? How little he really knew about
his students. The thing which dismayed him was that he knew both of
the girls had the potential to succeed in college. He recalled the
young Yup'ik woman from the in-service. She could have easily been
either of these girls. Why wasn't he able to get through to them?
Fred wondered how he could influence their families to nudge them
towards college. Would it be too pushy to make home
Fred was tired. He told the girls they had
missed the meeting but they were welcome to come that evening when he
was going to meet with the boys.
When the girls reminded him that they had
basketball practice, he gently but firmly told them that they had
known about the meeting and, if it was important to them, they would
miss basketball to come that evening. Otherwise they could come to
talk to him after school any afternoon.
Of the five senior boys, only Isaac Steve
and Jerry Olinka came. Fred handed them a pop as they arrived. Isaac
claimed to have finished a letter to UAF, but had misplaced it. Fred
believed him. One of his students' biggest problems was organization.
No one had shown them how to be organized. Fred put Isaac to work on
the computer getting his master letter composed.
Jerry had come to see if he could play
computer games. He hadn't come to class that day, and Fred told him
there was no way he could play a computer game. Instead, he let him
use the computer to make a journal entry.
Fred was disheartened that Nick and Emil
and Nathan hadn't come. Was he spending all his time spinning his
wheels? What was it going to take to get these others
Adeline and Myrna opted for basketball
practice, and he wasn't surprised. But when they came into the
classroom for a drink of water, Myrna dealt him one of those blows
that he had come to know as a high-school teacher but which he would
never get used to.
Fred said "Hi" to the girls as they walked
in, but they turned away, unwilling to reciprocate the greeting. As
they stopped behind Isaac and Jerry, Myrna said, in perfect English,
"Don't believe anything that Fredaaq tells you. He lied to us
big time today about getting a soda if we came to the meeting.
College is for nothing anyhow."
Jerry replied, "Yeah, I know. That's what
the old people say. School is for nothing."
Fred shouldn't have let it get to him, but
The principal, Paul Best, agreed to put
Fred and the counseling program at the bottom of the agenda for the
staff meeting, which fell on the following Tuesday. By the time Fred
had the floor, it was late in a long day. Most of the classified
personnel, who lived in the community, were gone because they were
not required to stay after the close of the school day.
Fred had written up a list of
1. What are we preparing our students for
upon completion of high school?
2. Should we encourage our graduates to
remain in the village or to pursue choices outside the
3. How can we best encourage the seniors to
involve themselves in their futures?
4. What is the best way to keep Yup'ik
traditions alive in our students?
He had hoped for a vigorous discussion.
Looking around at the tired faces and stained coffee cups, he was
dubious. But he plunged on.
"As you know, I'm the site guidance
counselor this year," Fred began. "I've been working on some
projects, but the students' interest has not been what I'd hoped. It
occurred to me that there are some more basic questions in this
guidance area that need to get sorted out . . . I know it's late but
maybe I could raise these questions with you.
"Here's my first question: 'What are we
preparing our students for upon completion of high
People shifted in their seats. Finally one
of the high school teachers said aggressively. "I think we should be
preparing our students in vocational skills that they can use in the
village if they decide not to leave the village."
Fred wondered if this comment was a
reproach. Everyone knew how much he hoped kids would go on to
The primary grades teacher added, "We
should prepare the students to be successful in any endeavor which
No one said anything more. Fred decided to
move on to his next question. "Should we encourage our graduates to
remain in the village or to pursue choices outside the
"Not all the students should be encouraged
to attend college," said Aaron Pete, one of the Native
Fred looked up, a worried expression
forming on his face.
"We should guide the students according to
their own inclinations and according to their family's desires and
wishes," said Paul Best, sensing tension.
"The military is okay but college or a
vocational school would be better if they are interested," Aaron Pete
Fred's anxiety eased. Maybe he had
misinterpreted Aaron Pete's first remark. Maybe all Aaron was saying
was that students shouldn't be pressured into college.
"Some of them shouldn't leave the village," commented Agnes Johnson, the other
Native teacher at the school who
The meeting grew silent again.
Fred decided to go to his next question.
Maybe he could get some specific ideas that would help him put
together a guidance project. "How can we best encourage the seniors
to involve themselves in their futures?"
"Find out what they are interested in," Agnes Johnson said.
"Have some role models come in and speak to
them," suggested one of the high school teachers.
"The family is responsible for getting
their senior involved," Agnes added.
"I'd say it should be one-fourth the
senior, one-fourth the family, one-fourth the school, and one-fourth
the community," said Aaron Pete.
No one said anything more. Fred sensed an
uneasiness, although he couldn't figure out exactly what it was. The
discussion wasn't going anywhere. Was there a conflict that people
didn't want to bring out into the open? Or was everyone just tired
and worn-out? Or maybe they had all been over this ground too many
times before. Fred wondered if he was acting too much the bright-eyed
and bushy-tailed new teacher.
"What is the best way to keep Yup'ik
traditions alive in our students?" asked Fred, moving to his final
"Parents need to enforce traditional values
at home by involving the students in traditional activities," said
Agnes Johnson. She had made this point at faculty meetings many times
"In the school the best we can do is to
convey at attitude which allows for a sense of pride in our
heritage," said Aaron Pete. "Keeping traditions alive should be left
to the individual."
Were Agnes Johnson and Aaron Pete in
agreement, Fred wondered, or were they disagreeing? He tuned back
into the discussion.
"We should invite the elders in to speak on
a more regular basis and have them speak about values," said of the
high school teachers, glancing at Agnes and Aaron.
The teachers fell silent once again. Paul
Best thanked everyone for staying so late and people started to get
Fred felt better-especially after hearing
Aaron Pete's view that getting students involved in their future was
a responsibility equally shared by the students, the school, the
family, and the community. But he didn't have any better angle on
just what he should do about his guidance project.
By Christmas break, Mary, Eva, Isaac, and
Emil had all written letters to colleges. Emil had been a surprise,
but Fred had told the seniors that he would give extra credit in
English for any letters of inquiry they turned in. Fred was beginning
to worry about Emil because his attendance was dropping off. In the
fall, Fred had made a home visit (with Aaron Pete as translator) to
speak with the boy's grandfather. His mother had been out of the
village for most of the fall. Emil had missed several days of school
due to the hunting trips that he liked so much; he was starting to
get dangerously close to receiving no credit in some of his classes.
Adeline, Myrna, Nick, and Nathan had yet to show much interest in
January Arrives and the Guidance
When Fred arrived at school that raw
January day, his new approach to senior guidance was in place. What
remained a serious worry was how it would turn out. He reminded
himself again to tell the principal about it right away. During the
Christmas break, Fred's plan took shape. He would move guidance into
his regular classroom time for a two-week intensive session. He
thought about the comments made at the staff meeting about role
models and having elders come in. He would definitely involve the
Back in the village after the break, Fred
began to work on the senior guidance project he had envisioned. He
gathered together all the books on occupations from the library and
put them in his classroom. He asked villagers if they would be
willing to come in for the seniors' sakes. The first thing on the
agenda for the two-week session was to fill out the Financial Aid
Form . Fred rationalized that this would be a motivator. After
scanning the form, Fred realized none of the seniors would be able to
fill one out by themselves. The vocabulary was too complex and the
students might not have the necessary information. The seniors would
also fill out the Asiqtuq Corporation forms. He had allotted Monday
and Tuesday and part of Wednesday for these purposes.
On Wednesday he planned to give the
students the complete set of volumes for the Alaska Career
Information System (AKCIS), which was published by the Alaska
Department of Education. He had placed the set in the counseling
center early in the year. His advice to the seniors to use them had
gone largely unheeded. AKCIS consisted of five volumes: School
Information, Occupational Information, Programs of Study and
Training , Military Career Information , and Learning
Activities and Implementation. All the volumes were
cross-referenced so that when the students found a job they were
interested in they could find out where to get the schooling.
Included with AKCIS was a computer disk with which the students could
find jobs most suited to their interests. Fred thought that the
students would enjoy the computer program. The next step was writing
the master inquiry letter. They could finish by Friday. However, on
Friday, the first of the speakers, Rudy Beluga, the president of the
Tutuluq Associated School Board, was due to come speak to the
Thinking about Aaron's and Agnes's comments
about the importance of the community, Fred scheduled speakers from
the village during the entire second week. Knowing how ingrained the
sexual stereotypes were in the village, Fred alternated male and
female speakers, so that neither the girls nor the boys would be
bored. He had anticipated some difficulty in locating some of the
career role models which he thought were representative of each of
the sexes, but he actually found a wealth of choice in the village.
For the boys, he had asked these men to come in and talk about their
jobs: Rudy Beluga, who was manager of the store; one of the young men
involved with the National Guard; a pilot from one of the Salmonville
air services (if he was able to); the foreman of the construction
crew building a new clinic; Aaron Pete, whom the students knew since
he was a teacher from the community; and two of the elders from the
council. For the girls, he had asked one of the assistant cooks; the
health aide from the clinic; one of the store clerks; Agnes Johnson,
who taught kindergarten in Tutuluq; one of the young women in the
National Guard; and two women elders.
On Thursday, Fred had asked anyone in the
village whom he knew had attended at least a semester of college to
come in for a group forum. Friday, as a closure of sorts, the seniors
were going to write essays on "My Plans After High
Fred looked at the bulletin board. "DON'T JUST DO IT FOR YOURSELF-DO IT FOR YOUR FUTURE-DO IT
NOW." He picked up the copies of his lesson plans and went in to
give them to the principal and to explain what he hoped to
"So you see," Fred concluded, not quite
sure how Paul Best was taking his explanation of the project, "I'm
hoping to get them involved in deciding on what it is they want to do
after they graduate. I've tried using time after class, but so far
I've met with limited success."
"I think it's great, Fred," Paul reassured
him. "It looks to me as though you've gone to a lot of preparation
for this. The only qualms I would have would be that your lesson
plans might not reflect some language arts skills, and from looking
at them I can see that they do. You have my full support!"
Fred breathed a little easier. "Well, I
think next week a lot of Yup'ik will be spoken and only a little
"Again, all I ask is that your lesson plans
reflect English language skills," the principal said. "For instance,
I would say that there will be a lot of listening comprehension.
You've set up something quite valuable for the seniors. Would you
mind if I dropped in one of these days to see how it
"Of course not. Please, feel free," Fred
After leaving Paul's office with his
complete support, Fred wished he had told Paul earlier.
The seniors liked the bulletin board Fred
had made. Most were enthusiastic about filling out the Financial
Aid Forms, and after a few rounds of "Do what? It. You know, do
IT! Yeah, let's do it right here!" they got to work.
As they filled out the FAF, step by step,
Fred kept reiterating the importance of having their parents fill out
their income tax forms. "Have them come talk to me or call me if they
have questions with this section. But you have to get them to fill it
out or you won't be able to get the money you are going to need. And
remember, without the FAF, you won't be able to get the scholarship
from Asiqtuq Corporation."
Half of the seniors thought that their
parents had never filed taxes before. Fred told them he would be glad
to help any of them with their taxes. The Asiqtuq Corporation forms
were easier to understand, and the seniors could work on them
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the
students went through the AKCIS system and used the computer disk to
find out more about their career interests. By Friday, Isaac had
written three letters of inquiry to aviation schools. Nathan still
hedged on writing a letter, and had only filled out the FAF under
duress. By the time Rudy Beluga, manager of the store, arrived
Friday, neither Nathan nor Myrna had written a letter.
Fred had come to regard Rudy as a respected
friend. He appreciated Rudy's sense of humor and marveled at his
impeccable English. It seemed to Fred that this man was a perfect
blend of modern Western culture and traditional Yup'ik culture. He
had gone bird hunting with him on a couple of occasions at Rudy's
invitation. Fred had spoken with Rudy about the path which seniors
should follow and asked that he come speak to them and give them some
advice. Rudy eagerly accepted Fred's invitation.
Rudy's speech (he agreed to speak in
English) to the students focused on the uncertainty of their futures
and the uncertainty of the future of Yup'ik people. He urged them to
take the opportunity to pursue a course of action after high school
so that they might better serve the village in the future. He also
pointed out that just as in the old days, each of them had the
responsibility to contribute as best they could to insure the
survival of the Yup'ik people. Rudy concluded his talk with moving
words, "You are wasting your precious lives if you don't take the
fullest advantage of this gift of a high school in your very own
village. We don't know the future. How could we? When I was your age
how could I have known that this [gesturing beyond the
classroom] was what it would be like? Take the skills you learn
here and do something to make Tutuluq even better."
The students listened intently to Rudy.
Fred felt the seniors were interested in the future of the Yup'ik
people. It gave relevance and purpose to their own futures. The
second week of the project with its representative Yup'ik voice, Fred
felt, would be the impetus he had hoped would motivate his reluctant
The first three days of the second week
went better than Fred had hoped. All the participants-except the
pilot-arrived on schedule. While Fred understood very little of
elders' speech, he felt certain they had made no mention of school
being worth nothing. From the translations he got from Mary after the
four elders left on Wednesday, it seemed that they had mostly talked
about the past.
For the college forum on Thursday, Paul
Best came and Aaron Pete brought his junior algebra class! Then the
panelists arrived-seven women and three men. Each told about their
college experience and then the students asked questions. College
students still home for the Christmas break got the most
questions-mostly about what college life was like and what it was
like to live outside the village. The very spirited fifty minutes was
not nearly enough time. Paul told him it had been "just excellent,"
and some of the students said, "Let's do it again
On Friday students moaned and groaned about
having to work so hard, but each of the seniors did complete an essay
on their specific plans after high school. For Fred, the sight of his
seniors working at the computers was the ultimate
Most of his worries about the project had
been needless. All the seniors had gotten something out of it. The
principal had been supportive. The role models had arrived and
brought purpose and relevancy to the seniors. The elders hadn't
undermined the notion of school. Fred was sorry it was over. It was
up to the seniors now.
The Next Week
Fred scheduled an after-school guidance
meeting for the next Tuesday. Attendance was poor. Deadlines were
drawing near and the seniors knew it. Fred was puzzled and
disappointed, but he was starting to accept the fact that not every
senior was going to get involved. The meeting did bring one surprise
though. Three young men from the community came in and asked for FAF
forms and how to go about getting into the University of Alaska in
Fairbanks. Fred took great delight in helping them word letters of
In the weeks that followed, more of the
villagers asked Fred for loan forms and advice. Fred called Juneau to
have more FAFs and state loan applications sent. Fred was baffled.
Why the sudden interest in college? Had it been there all along in a
latent stage? What words had traveled through the village grapevine
which brought about these sudden requests for advice? Was it a result
of the project? Fred was surprised and excited.
As the semester moved on, Mary decided for
certain that she wanted to get into the nursing program offered at
SCC. Fred was relieved she had not chosen the military and helped her
work on her entrance essay. Eva was still going to UAF. She was the
first to receive a letter of acceptance. Fred could barely control
his exuberance. He wished he had had a contest among the seniors to
see who would get the first acceptance letter. A little competition
was always beneficial to achieving results, but it didn't matter now.
Adeline had finally decided that she, too, would go to UAF. Isaac was
still pursuing aviation and had received replies from two flight
schools in Anchorage. Nathan had changed his mind from doing nothing
to getting a job in the village. Nick still had not completed all his
paperwork. Myrna hadn't made any decisions. Emil had fallen so behind
in his attendance that Fred and the rest of the staff decided that
another home visit was necessary. Paul Best took on the
responsibility of seeing if he could impress on Emil's grandfather
the importance of keeping Emil from going out hunting in lieu of
With the deadline for sending in the FAF
nearing, Fred continually questioned his seniors as to whether their
parents had finished their income tax forms. Adeline's father arrived
with his tax form and Adeline's FAF form. Fred spent the evening
helping him to get the forms filled out. Another victory!
Isaac came to Fred one afternoon with his
acceptance letter from UAF.
"Congratulations!" Fred said. He felt
Isaac wasn't smiling. "I don't think so," he said.
"What do you mean? You're going to become a
world famous pilot!"
Isaac laughed. "I don't know about this
form," he replied, holding out his FAF.
"Is your father having trouble filling it
"He said he's not going to fill it
Fred read the disappointment in Isaac's
eyes. "Would you like me to come and talk to him?"
"I don't know."
"When would be a good time?" Fred asked,
"I don't know."
"Maybe tomorrow after school?"
"I don't think my dad wants me to leave,"
Isaac said. "He wants me to be around to help out."
"What about your brother. Can't he help
while you're gone?"
"He's lazy," Isaac said, shaking his
Fred decided he was going to speak to
Isaac, Sr. whether Isaac wanted him to or not. He knew how much Isaac
wanted to become a pilot. "Well, listen. I'm going to come by
tomorrow and talk with your father and tell him why you need to go to
college. Would that be all right with you?"
"I guess so," Isaac said.
"Will you translate or would you like me to
bring someone else?"
"I think maybe someone else. I'm not too
good at that."
"Hey, Isaac," Fred said as Isaac turned to
leave, "don't give up yet."
Isaac's father was one of the most
respected elders in Tutuluq. Fred was a little nervous about going to
talk to him. Fred spoke to Aaron Pete about Isaac's dilemma and asked
him to come with him to translate the next afternoon. His hope was
that Aaron's presence might be influential.
Isaac, Sr. was taking a nap when Fred and
Aaron arrived. Isaac woke his father up and brought out some
Fred thought it best to get right to the
point. He looked at Isaac, Sr. and said, "Isaac wants to be a
The elder Isaac looked at Aaron as he
translated Fred's words. He then replied, looking at Aaron, "I have a
"Yes," Fred replied. "You do. He's one of
my best students. Next year he needs to go away to school so that he
can become a pilot. Do you understand what this is for?" Fred pulled
out the FAF form and laid it on the table.
Isaac, Sr. looked at the form and then to
Aaron. "You are doing a very good job at the high school. The
students learn good things there. There are things to learn from the
tundra too. I know this paper. There seem to be many things to learn
for the young people of today. The students need to learn about
living on the tundra, not just the new education. So much is
Fred looked at Aaron as he translated, then
said, "This is true, there are many important things, especially
today. To me it is important that Isaac use the opportunity he has
earned to go to college. If he waits too long, he may lose the
"My son will go away one day." Isaac, Sr.
picked up the FAF. "I need some time to think about the things you
have said. They are good things and they need some
Fred left feeling very confused. He could
understand Isaac, Sr.'s point of view. Or he thought he could. But at
the same time his disappointment for Isaac wasn't something he would
be able to shake off easily. Fred made a point to speak to Rudy
Beluga to see if he could influence Isaac's father.
A flurry of activity occurred in the final
days before the postmark deadline for the Financial Aid Forms
arrived. Fred spent the afternoons helping out villagers who had last
minute questions. When the dealine arrived, only Mary, Eva, and
Adeline had completed and mailed their forms.
Graduation arrived, and Fred watched as the
seniors walked up to receive their diplomas. Emil had dropped out of
school completely. Jerry, after squeaking by the fall semester in all
of his classes, had dropped out also. Mary, in her valedictorian
speech, thanked Fred for helping her get into college.
Before school closed, Fred brought the
AKCIS system into his junior English class. He spent four days
familiarizing them with the cross-referencing and introducing the
computer program. With next year's seniors, he vowed, he would start
earlier, and he would do better.
Epilogue: The Graduating
Mary, the valedictorian, attended
Salmonville Community College. She is still enrolled and doing
Adeline and Eva went to the University of
Alaska Fairbanks. Eva has begun her sophomore year. Adeline completed
the first semester and then decided to take some time off and live at
Myrna stayed in Tutuluq and lives there
with her family.
Isaac lives in Tutuluq and take
correspondence courses in aviation. He is currently the main provider
for his parents. Like his father, he takes an active role in
Nick had planned to attend a technical
school. However, he found employment in Salmonville during the summer
following graduation and moved there.
Nathan got a job with the city in Tutuluq.
He is currently working in a maintenance position and is an active
Fred Young left Tutuluq after the next
school year and moved outside Alaska. He is planning to
Fred Young, as site counselor at
Tutuluq, has set for himself a clear goal: "motivating his
seniors to do something the year following their graduation:
attend a trade school, go to college, or even join the
A year later, two of his nine
seniors, both young men, had dropped out of school entirely.
Of the other three young men, one is taking correspondence
courses at home, one is working in a nearby community, and
one has employment at home. Of his four senior women, three
have gone on to college, and one is living at
How would you evaluate Fred
Young's success? How does Fred Young himself feel about it?
Are you troubled by the goal Fred Young set for himself?
What troubles you about it?
This case raises difficult issues
of professional judgment and where to "draw the line." Do
you see Fred Young as a teacher who is admirably assuming
his responsibilities (rather than blaming poor outcomes on
the students and community) or as a teacher who is overly
ego involved in what he wants to accomplish? Fred himself
worries about this problem: "was the real purpose of the
project just to gratify his own ego?" How would you answer
Does Fred handle well the dilemma
of "encouraging" versus "pressuring" Yup'ik students? Fred
discusses this problem with the other guidance counselors,
Barbara and Bertha. "You have to push them just enough,"
Barbara concludes. "If you push kids too much into something
they find out they don't want to be into, they'll be bitter
and blame you. If you don't push kids enough and they don't
get their financial forms and admissions papers in on time,
they and their parents will also blame you."
Do you think that Fred Young draws
the line in the right place with his nine seniors? Is he
appropriately encouraging and motivating them or is he
pressuring them and trying to impose his values on their
lives? Read over his specific conversations with a) Jerry,
when he came back to school after not completing any of his
courses when he transferred to the school in another
village, b) Bertha, when he found out she was baby-sitting
her sister's children rather than going to college, c)
Isaac, Sr., when he found out that Isaac, Sr. would not
permit his son to leave the village for college. Which of
these meetings do you think Fred Young handled well? What
would you have said in these situations or would you have
said anything at all?
In Yup'ik communities, delicate
matters are traditionally handled by indirection, rather
than direct confrontation. Communicating indirectly about
conflicts and problems promotes group harmony and
solidarity. One traditional method of indirect communication
is the use of intermediaries who convey messages. Another
method is the subtle and careful way Isaac, Sr. handled the
conversation with Fred Young. Do you think Fred Young would
have been well advised to use a more culturally congruent
style of communication in his discussions with Jerry,
Bertha, or Isaac, Sr.? Or would his attempt to match Yup'ik
communication styles be out of character and make him seem
false and unauthentic?
Why is the guidance counselor role
80 difficult in Yup'ik communities?
Consider the adult roles that
Tutuluq students want and see open to them. Does college
attendance and high school success help them achieve what
they want as adults? The transition to adulthood is a
difficult period for many rural students (see note 1). What
is causing the difficulties?
Consider the messages Tutuluq
students receive about desirable futures and essential
values from different socializing agents: elders in the
community, the younger generation of managers and leaders
like Rudy Beluga, and teachers like Fred Young. Do these
me6sages harmonize or conflict? In what position does this
leave students like the Tutuluq seniors?
College attendance rates for
Alaska Native students are low, especially for young men.
Native men tend to be more interested in village lifestyles
than Native women are (see notes 2 and 3). In Tutuluq, three
of the four young women but none of the young men to go on
to college. Why are young women in communities like Tutuluq
choosing different futures from young men and what are the
implications for the vitality of Yup'ik communities? Does
this difference affect the way guidance counselors should
look at their roles?
Do you see the role of guidance
counselor as different in a village like Tutuluq from what
it would be in an urban area like Anchorage? If you believe
the guidance role should be different in Tutuluq, how should
it be different and why?
Fred Young tried two major
approaches as guidance counselor in Tutuluq. In the fall, he
encouraged students to refer to the catalogs and other print
material in the counseling center, and he held after-school
guidance counseling sessions. In January, he developed a
special project during school hours where community people
and college students came to talk to the seniors.
The second approach worked much
better. Students were excited, and the principal was
impressed. Community people sought Fred Young out, asking
for admissions forms and advice. Exactly what was it about
the second approach that made such a difference? What have
you learned from Fred's experience that might affect the way
you planned a guidance program for next year? Did Fred seem
to learn from his experience?
Fred Young left Tutuluq after one
more school year. If you replaced him as teacher and site
guidance counselor, what goals would you set? What type of
guidance counseling program would you develop?
In considering your own approach,
think not only about Fred's failures and successes but also
about other approaches used in Alaska's small rural high
schools to offer guidance counseling, broaden students'
experience, and increase their interest in and attachment to
college (see notes 1, 4, 5, and 6).
Fred presents a list of questions
to the school staff at the end of a meeting after a long and
a What are we preparing
our students for upon completion of high school?
b. Should we encourage our
graduates to remain in the village or to pursue choices
outside the village?
c. How can we best encourage
the seniors to involve themselves in their
d. What is the best way to keep
Yup'ik traditions alive in our students?
Are these the right questions for
school faculty to be raising in Tutuluq or are these
questions (or some of them) more properly the province of
individual parents or the community? Try to put yourself in
the place of a parent in Tutuluq. How would you react if you
knew that the school faculty were discussing these questions
in a staff meeting?
Fred Young is going it alone in
Tutuluq. Do you see any way for Fred Young and the school to
create a partnership with the parents of his seniors and the
community of Tutuluq in addressing such issues? Could the
community, together with the schooL develop an approach to
guidance? What process would you suggest that might help
this happen? What risks does your approach
Rural Students and the Transition
(Excerpt from Alaska's Small Village High Schools
College Entrance Rates in Alaska
by Ethnicity and Gender
(Excerpt from Minorities in Higher Education: Alaska
Participation of Inupiat Men and
Women in the Wage Economy
(Excerpt from Inupiat Participation in the Wage
Effects of Culturally Adapted Jobs )
Counseling Programs in Small Rural
(Excerpt from The Teacher as Inventor)
Broaden Students' Experience with
(Excerpt from The Teacher as Inventor )
University Programs that Assist
Rural High School Students
Make the Transition to College
(Excerpt from Alaska's Small Rural High Schools
Rural Students and the Transition to Adulthood
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith,
McDiarmid, G. Williamson, & Hagstrom, David. (1985). Alaska's
small rural high schools: Are they working? (pp. 139-144).
Anchorage: University of Alaska, Institute of Social & Economic
Research and Center for Cross-Cultural Studies.)
The village high schools create an
exceptionally safe and nurturing environment for rural young people.
Is this environment too safe and too nurturing to prepare students
for making their own way as adults?
Many Students Hang Around Home After
After listening to rural Native high school
students talk about their school experience at a statevvide
conference, one experienced rural educator expressed a common
They are not being challenged enough. They
are not being pressed hard enough, not by their teachers and not by
their parents. The generation is floating. Students in these high
schools don't have any clear idea of how they are going to make a
living. They have no vision of the future. They didn't need one a
generation ago, but now people in their twenties and thirties are
just sitting at home, bored to tears. They don't like
A Native teacher, doing a case study of
what happened to the graduates of small high schools in her
community, reached a similar conclusion. She pointed out that the
situation was worse for the young men than for the young
Since the high school program began, there
have been forty-nine graduates. Of these, fourteen have gone on to
college and two to a seminary. All have returned home after a year or
less except for one seminary student. They have returned for various
reasons: homesickness, lack of preparation, and no money are the
three main ones.
Of the forty-nine graduates, thirty-two are
males. All the young men are single and staying at home. Many of them
complain about nothing to do in the village but do nothing to change
Of the seventeen females, twenty-three
percent are married and twenty-three percent are single with a child.
The young women do not talk about being bored as much as the young
men and are not as involved with drugs and alcohol.
Other statistics on high school graduates
point to the some problems. One rural school district, for example,
did a careful follow-up study of the 1980 to 1982 graduates of its
small high schools. It found:
Only twenty-nine percent of the responding
graduates indicated that they were presently employed. In some
villages, employment is zero percent. Even for the graduates that are
employed, forty percent stated that they were working less than
one-half the time.22
Small high schools have not caused the
difficulties which rural students experience in making a transition
to adulthood. The same difficulties occurred during the boarding
Indeed, in the boarding school era, many
people blamed the boarding schools for the problem: the reason young
adults just hung around home after high school, the argument went,
was that the boarding schools had taken them out of the village
during the crucial adolescent years. Students acquired tastes for
modern conveniences at boarding school, but they did not acquire the
skills and dispositions necessary to satisfy these tastes. Because
they were away from the village during adolescence, the students had
not learned subsistence skills. Many were caught between two cultures
but were comfortable or competent in neither.
The high school-whether it is a village
school or a boarding school-is not the main cause of the difficulties
some rural students have in finding a satisfying adult role. The
situation has many causes: the shortage of wage work in rural Alaska;
dislocating cultural change; the discrimination and victimization
that young people encounter in the city; pressures from parents and
peers to remain in the village; and the difficulty young Native
people have in identifying desirable role models (Exhibit
The small high schools have not caused the
problem, but they are not helping to solve it either. If we take a
broad view of the socialization system our society has organized for
rural young people, we see a high school period characterized by
intense nurturing and support, followed by an abrupt withdrawal of
support at graduation. During high school, students learn in a small,
personalized setting with a helpful teacher close by. After high
school, students are thrown on their own.
For urban as well as rural young people,
the early adult years are a difficult stage of life. As Levinson
shows in his study of adult development, it is a myth that urban
young people settle down in their early twenties.23
Most of them explore, experiment, and flounder around until they are
close to thirty years of age.
Many village young people lack the support
that their urban counterparts can count on during this difficult
early adult period. Village young people are much less likely to have
an uncle who can call in a favor and get them a job. They are much
less likely to have a father whose business they can always fall back
on. They are much less likely to have parents who know the system;
who have thought seriously about their child's particular
constellation of talents and limitations; and who can give guidance,
emotional, and financial help during the young adult
An Interview with the Mother of a Rural High School
Jimmy's mother cleared away a place at the
kitchen table so I could interview her for the Small High School
Project. Jimmy was sprawled in a recliner in the living room,
watching an afternoon soap opera on television.
Jimmy is twenty years old, a graduate of a
small high school. He spent his freshman through junior years at an
Anchorage high school, however, before the family moved back to the
I started to ask his mother about the
advantages and disadvantages of small high schools. Jimmy got up,
flipped off the television set, and walked out.
Jimmy's mother used the interview to vent
her frustration, not about the small high schools (which she thought
well of), but about Jimmy's situation. He didn't want to live at
home, his mother explained, but he didn't want to leave home either.
His entire family lived nearby. She pointed down the street toward
the homes of each of her sisters and brothers and all of Jimmy's
That summer, Jimmy had worked for a month
repairing the village water system. When that job ended, he went to
Anchorage and worked for four months at an auto parts store. He got
laid off. When his money ran out, he came home.
"The kids come back home, and they've lost
all their confidence," his mother said. "They get seventy dollars in
their pocket, drive to Anchorage, party, watch TV in a motel room,
and come back home. What's the sense of that?"
"He tried to get into electrician's
school," she continued, "but the test required math. Now he wants to
go to heavy equipment operator school, but that's real
"Our biggest problem," she said, "is the
young adults. The high school kids look at the young adults and
wonder if they themselves have any future."
A Promising Strategy for Helping Rural
Students Make the Transition to Adulthood: The Postsecondary
Counselor in the School District Office
Rural schools have developed few strategies
for helping rural young people make the transition to adulthood. This
is understandable. The immediate problems of constructing high school
buildings, developing a districtwide curriculum, and establishing
sound programs in unconventional circumstances have absorbed the
attention of rural districts. In addition, the high school as an
institution does not traditionally take responsibility for students
We did find, however, an exceptionally
promising approach in one district-a postsecondary counseling
program. The postsecondary counselor, located in the district office,
opens a file on students when they are about to graduate from high
school. The counselor shows students how to fill out the maze of
college admission forms and financial aid applications. (He also
keeps copies for himself in case the students lose them.)
The counselor accompanies students to
interviews for apprenticeship programs. He talks to them about the
impression they are making if, for example, they come to an interview
with liquor on their breath. He visits students on campus and
interprets students' reactions to people who do not know them. ("This
psychologist thought the kid was nuts because he looked at an ink
blot and said he saw someone skinning an animal. I had to tell the
psychologist that, in the Bush, it's normal to skin
Students at college who need advice
telephone the counselor during a crisis, sometimes during the middle
of the night. College staff call him to get background information on
students having problems. The postsecondary counselor also routinely
visits the students away at school, as well as their relatives in the
villages, reassuring everyone that everything is all
We came to call this postsecondary
counselor program the "Freelance Father" program because the
counselor resembled a cautious father-eager to help but anxious not
to interfere, alternately bolstering students and bawling them
The program's initial success was
impressive. Of the 154 district graduates who enrolled in
postsecondary institutions during the two years of the program, only
fifteen percent dropped out.
In this district, the postsecondary
counselor works primarily with students going on to higher education.
The approach could also be used, however, to help rural students find
employment and help them through the rough spots on a job.
Postsecondary counseling adds one more
burden to an already overburdened school system. Rural school
districts, however, do occupy a strategic position to provide this
type of assistance. Experienced school staff typically know the
students well-their abilities, personalities, and family situations.
School staff also know how the postsecondary system works and how to
locate jobs. Few other rural institutions enjoy the stability, the
financial resources, the expertise, and the legitimacy of the
College Entrance Rates in Alaska by Ethnicity and
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith,
Gorsuch, Lee, & Kerr, Jim. (1988). Minorities in higher
education: The changing north . Alaska [a report prepared by
the Institute of Social and Economic Research in cooperation with the
Western Regional Office of the College Board]. New York: College
Entrance Examination Board.
Natives are substantially underrepresented in enrollment in both
two-year and four-year institutions. While Alaska Natives in 1980
comprised sixteen percent of the population, they accounted for less
than six percent of enrollment at two-year institutions and less than
eight percent of enrollment at four-year institutions.
Whites are represented in
enrollments in both two-year and four-year institutions in
proportions greater than their proportions in the population. Every
other Alaska ethnic and racial group-Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics
are enrolled in proportions less than their proportions in the
Among Alaska Natives, females are
enrolled in both two-year and four-year institutions in much greater
proportions than males. Among Alaska Native females in 1980, 1,700
were enrolled in four-year programs compared to 1,036 Native males.
In two-year programs, 1,756 Native females were enrolled compared to
The disparity in higher education
enrollments between Native males and females increased in 1982 and
increased again in 1984 (data not shown). In 1984, 2,756 Native
females were enrolled in four-year programs compared to 1,408 Native
males, and 2,059 Native females were enrolled in two-year programs
compared to 1,021 Native males. In short, about double the numbers of
Native females were enrolled in both two-year and four-year
Participation of Inupiat Men and Women in the Wage
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith, Kruse,
Jack, & Travis, Robert. (1983). Inupiat participation in the wage
economy: Effects of culturally adapted jobs. Arctic
Anthropology , 20(1), 1-21.
This study examines the response of North
Slope Inupiat to large numbers of high paying local job opportunities
partially adapted to Inupiat cultural patterns. These jobs were
created by a local Inupiat government, the North Slope Borough, using
tax revenues from Prudhoe Bay oil properties on Alaska's North
North Slope Inupiat Labor Force
Compared to National Norms
Compared to national patterns, substantial
differences occurred in Inupiat male and female responses to North
Slope job opportunities. Surprisingly, Inupiat women participated in
the labor force almost as much as women nationally. In 1977, Inupiat
women had an annual labor force participation rate of 52% compared to
a national female labor force participation rate of 61%. In the
regional center, where job opportunities were more abundant, the
Inupiat female labor force participation rate reached 62%. Those
Inupiat women who did not choose to work in the wage economy tended
to be a group of older women from the smaller villages who did not
speak English during the interview. However, village women who spoke
English during the interview were in the labor force an average of
6.7 months, about as much as women from the regional center, who
averaged 7.3 months of labor force participation.
Only about 26% of Inupiat women did not
work for wages in 1977. As with women nationally, the major reason
(84%) Inupiat women gave for not working outside the home was family
pressure and responsibility. As one explained, "My husband doesn't
want me to work-just take care of the kids. I've been wanting to go
to work but he won't let me."
In contrast to Inupiat women, the labor
force participation of Inupiat men in the prime working ages differed
substantially from national patterns. While an annual average of 91%
of U.S. men aged 18-54 are in the labor force, the annual average
labor force participation of North Slope Inupiat men in this age
group was 58%, less than two-thirds the national average. Inupiat men
in the regional center participated in the labor force only somewhat
more (62%) than men living in the villages (53%).
This pattern did not occur because large
numbers of Inupiat men chose not to work at all in the wage economy.
Very few Inupiat men (10%) were nonwage earners. The largest
proportion (41%) of these stated that health problems prevented them
from working, while another 34% reported that they were laid off or
could not find work. Rather, the major reasons for the comparatively
low rate of Inupiat male labor force participation was that about
half of Inupiat men in 1977 participated in the cash economy
intermittently. During 1977, on the average, somewhat less than a
third of the Inupiat male workers were temporarily withdrawn from the
labor force (Table 1).
Annual Average Labor Force Participation
of North Slope Inupiat Males and Females, 18-54,
SOURCE: ISER North Slope Survey,
IN LABOR FORCE
Unemployed, wanted work
NOT IN LABOR FORCE
Number of Respondents
Basis of North Slope Inupiat Male
of Labor Force Participation
There are two reasons for the comparatively
low rate of Inupiat male labor force participation in the wage
economy. The most important is economic. Despite the North Slope
Borough's efforts to provide "full" employment, there was a lack of
job opportunities during certain seasons and in certain villages. The
second is the personal preference of about half the Inupiat male
population for an intermittent work cycle. The effects of both these
factors were evident in 1977, when a summer job boom followed a
winter of poor job opportunities.
Due to temporary financing difficulties in
the winter of 1976-1977, the Borough cut back its construction
program. Intensive construction work resumed in the summer of 1977.
This increase in job opportunities between the winter and summer
resulted in a large increase in Inupiat male labor force
participation. While only 47% of Inupiat men participated in the
labor force in November 1976, 74% of Inupiat men were in the labor
force in September 1977.
However, even during the summer months of
abundant, high paying jobs, Inupiat male labor force participation
still remained well below national norms. In the regional center
during the intense 1977 summer construction season for example, labor
force participation peaked at 76% of 18-54 year old Inupiat
When asked about their work schedule
preferences, slightly over half of Inupiat men said that they
preferred to work in the wage economy only part of the year (Table
2). The high paying blue-collar construction work available on the
North Slope provided men with this job flexibility. Interestingly,
about the same proportion of Inupiat women also preferred
part-year work. However, Inupiat women
primarily held white-collar jobs requiring conventional work
schedules. While 60% of Inupiat female workers were employed on a
year-around basis, only 39% of Inupiat male workers were employed
The preference of many Inupiat men for
part-year work does not appear to be changing in the younger
generation (Table 2). In a survey of North Slope high school
students, more than half of the males also preferred part-year work
schedules (Kleinfeld & Kruse, 1977). In contrast, Inupiat female
high-school students, especially in the villages, were significantly
more likely than male students to want to work
The dominant explanation in the research
literature for the intermittent participation of northern men in the
wage economy is desire to participate in subsistence activities. The
time requirement for wage work is thought to conflict with the time
required for hunting. Our analyses of the way North Slope Inupiat men
allocated their time in the subsistence and wage economy suggest that
this explanation requires modification. Time conflicts between
hunting and wage work may indeed explain withdrawal from wage work in
some situations, for example, when the work is located outside the
region or when employers do not give subsistence leave. As one young
Inupiat man described why he had quit his pipeline job, "I worked
until April '76. It was whaling time and I came home. I told them
they didn't have enough dollars to keep me working." The North Slope
Borough economy, however, provided local jobs and major employers
granted subsistence leave. When asked why they had left their jobs,
only 4% of Inupiat men said they quit work to hunt, and they were all
18-24 year olds. Moreover, we found no relationships in our survey
analyses between withdrawing from wage work and subsequently higher
participation in subsistence activities.
Carrying out a high level of subsistence
activities does not necessarily require long periods away from wage
work. Modern hunting technology-snowmachines, rifles, outboard
motors, and CB radios has greatly reduced the time requirements. No
longer must large amounts of time be spent traveling to good hunting
areas or in the painstaking construction and repair of equipment.
Subsistence activities can be actively pursued on weekends, after
work, and on vacations and leave time. Indeed, half or more of the
North Slope Inupiat adults surveyed participated in central
subsistence activities on this part-time basis.
North Slope Inupiat men who work in the
wage economy nonetheless maintain high levels of subsistence
activity. Indeed, Inupiat men who worked in the wage economy most of
the year and those who worked shorter time periods differed very
little in their level of subsistence activities, and none of these
differences reached statistical significance (Table 3). Among Inupiat
men who worked 9-12 months per year in the wage economy, 52%
maintained medium to high levels of subsistence effort. Among men who
worked only 1-4 months, 45% maintained similarly high levels of
In interpreting these patterns, it is
important to keep in mind that the measure of subsistence activity
used in the survey was crude. The interview asked if the person
participated in each subsistence activity and whether or not that
participation was "most of the time." The interview did not ask, for
example, how many days or hours the person spent in the activity.
Nonetheless, these results raise questions about the common
assumption that a time conflict between wage work and subsistence is
the central explanation for intermittent wage work
Wage Work Preferences of North Slope Inupiat Adults, 18-54,
and North Slope Inupiat High School Students, by Residence and
North Slope Adults
Part of Year Job
North Slope High School
Part of Year Job
*Significant male and female
differences at the p < 0. 0 L level.
Sources: ISER North Slope High School Survey, 1977; ISER North Slope
If time conflicts between wage work and
subsistence are not the central explanation, what else might be
important? One possibility is the historical experience of Inupiat
men in the wage economy, the wage work patterns that have become
customary on the North Slope. Wage work patterns of North Slope
Inupiat men from the turn of the century onward reinforced the
intermittent work rhythms of the traditional hunting economy. During
the commercial whaling economy (c. 1854-1906), whalers competed
strenuously for the labor of Inupiat crew members, particularly
skilled harpooners (Sonnenfeld, 1957). For a six week's whaling
season, the Inupiat crew and their families were supported through
the remainder of the year by provisions of food, clothing, and
Inupiat men's first widespread experience
with wage work unrelated to hunting and trapping occurred through the
Department of the Navy's oil exploration program in Naval (National)
Petroleum Reserve #4 between 1946 and 1953 (Sonnenfeld, 1957). Barrow
Inupiat petitioned for construction employment, and the Navy agreed
that its civilian contractor, Arctic Construction (ARCON), would
employ local labor. Inupiat men received union wages with time and a
half for overtime. The work required a seven-day, nine-hour time
schedule, and layoffs occurred frequently. The majority of Inupiat
men worked twenty-five months out of the possible eighty-seven-month
work period (Sonnenfeld, 1957).
The end of ARCON brought a period of severe
unemployment, but Defense and Early Warning (DEW) Line construction
began within a year. In his study of DEW-Line employment at Kaktovik,
Chance (1966) found a pattern similar to ARCON employment-high demand
for Inupiat labor, high wages, desire on the part of the Inupiat to
participate in wage work, and a successful work adaptation combined
with some intermittent work patterns. In the late 1960s, a series of
uncoordinated government construction projects (schools, water supply
improvements, electrical power and airport improvements, a gas
distribution system, etc.) continued the boom and bust cycle (Rice & Saroff,
1964). Given these historical patterns, intermittent work at high paying jobs
may have become a central adaptation of many
Inupiat men to the wage economy. The current North Slope economy with
its high paying, intermittent construction work is continuing this
Perhaps the better question is not "why do
many Inupiat men prefer part-year work?" but "why would many Inupiat
men want to work year-around?" Unless men are married and supporting
a family (an important factor discussed later), economic pressures to
work year-around are not necessarily strong. A teacher described the
situation in one large North Slope village:
I've had 23 students graduate over
the last three years. Except for two working temporary
construction, the others are hanging out. Last year I placed five
graduates in good jobs. They drifted out over the summer. What's
the incentive to work? The kids live with their parents. They get
food, clothes, some spending money.
It is not clear that social prestige or
sense of identity among North Slope Inupiat has much to do with one's
occupational niche, as it does among middle-class whites. Our initial
exploratory interviews suggest that hunting remains psychologically
more important. Young men who choose intermittent work patterns
discussed their wage jobs in superficial generalities but described
their hunting activities in intense detail. Despite the shift from
subsistence to cash as the economic foundation of contemporary life
on the North Slope, the "professional" hunter, competent to survive
in the Arctic, remains a central male character ideal. As one young
man said of his brother:
He's a hunter. He's always hunting
He'd be there surviving. That guy can live on anything. He's all
right. He got a fox by running after it. He only works part time
when he wants to make money. He's a wise man, smart.
Two characteristics distinguished those
Inupiat men who chose to spend greater amounts of time in the wage
economy (Table 4). The most important was being head of a family.
Preservice vocational educational also made a difference but only for
men who were heads of families. A North Slope Inupiat male who was
not a family head and had not received vocational education was in
the labor force less than half a year, an average of 5.1 months. A
North Slope Inupiat male who was a family head and had vocational
training was in the labor force almost twice as much, an average of
9. 4 months.
Our exploratory interviews suggest that
family responsibilities may increase interest in obtaining wage work.
One young man said:
Before I started this job, I
decided to keep it as long as I can-then I'll be doing my hunting
every chance I get. One of the reasons was I got married . .
In examining the work adaptations of urban
Native men, Jones (1976) similarly found that marriage was related to
more stable work histories. She suggested that marriage is important
not only because it brings financial responsibilities but also
because it provides an important source of emotional support to men
in dealing with job stress. Inupiat male labor force participation
has probably not risen much, if at all, between 1960 and 1977.
Inupiat female labor force participation, in contrast, has
Why Inupiat Women Have Surged into the
Economic development does not necessarily
increase the labor force participation of women. Quite the contrary,
in many countries, the transition from a traditional to a modern
economy has reduced activity of women in paid work (Durand, 1975). In
some developing African nations, for example, men typically seek wage
employment in mines and factories, leaving women in rural areas to
tend children and work on small subsistence farms. In addition,
growth of a modern commercial sector tends to hurt informal trade, a
traditional sphere of African female economic activity. Colonial
education systems also shut women out of the modern economic sector
by neglecting the education of women in favor of preparing a small
group of men for government jobs (Standing, 1976). A central theme in
the research literature is the deterioration which economic
development frequently brings to the economic position, status, and
prestige of women (Boserup, 1970; Tinker et al., 1976). The effect of
economic development on female labor force participation depends on a
number of factors: the particular types of labor that are in demand,
the educational levels of women, and cultural norms defining women's
roles. Examining changes in female labor force participation over
time in more than 100 countries, Durand (1975:120, 150)
As economic development
progresses, the overall level of participation by females in the
labor force rises in some countries, falls in others, and
oscillates in still others . . .
Whether economic development brings an
increase or a decrease of opportunities for women to be employed
depends to a great extent on the relative proportions of female
workers employed in the fields that expand and those that contract
in the process of development.
The high rate of participation of Inupiat
women in the wage economy results from a number of conditions. On the
labor demand side, the specific type of development that has occurred
on the North Slope has brought large numbers of jobs which the
majority culture has conventionally defined as women's work. Since
the 1960s, government has been a steadily expanding industry, and
government employs large numbers of clerical, education, health, and
social service workers.
On the supply side, Inupiat women have
received both the general education and vocational training that
qualifies them for wage work. In the younger generation, Inupiat
women's level of educational attainment parallels that of men (Kruse,
1981). About a third of Inupiat women have received vocational
training in paraprofessional programs and another 20% in clerical
fields. Nor do Inupiat cultural attitudes toward women's roles
seriously restrain female labor force participation as they do, for
example, in Moslem countries with a tradition of female seclusion.
The difficulties of women's role in the former subsistence economy
may also have intensified Inupiat women's desires to move into the
modern sector. Brower (1942:106) describes the allocation of work at
the turn of the century:
The old man hung all his whalebone
on his wife's back, first lashing the butts so that the tips of
the bone stuck out six feet on either side. Although the woman
took it as a matter of course, it made me groan just to see her
straining under the load. Not so their two full-grown sons. Hardly
had they started when the boys hung their bone on her back as
well. This left them with only their rifles to carry. Soon even
these were a burden, so they piled them on their mother, too. It
was a sight to remember-that loaded down woman followed by three
husky men sauntering along with their hands behind them, at peace
with the universe.
In examining the response of men and women
to culture change among the Blood, Cree, and rural Germans, Spindler
and Spindler (1975) point out that women tend to be less conservative
than men and more interested in instrumental adaptations outside the
traditional system. Economic changes on the North Slope provided
Inupiat women with nontraditional opportunities. However, while
Inupiat women focus a large part of their economic efforts in the
wage economy, their earnings help the household maintain effort and
prestige in the subsistence economy. In households where Inupiat
women worked more at wsge jobs, other family members spent more time
in subsistence and the household shared more subsistence foods with
other households (Kleinfeld et al., 1981).
Counseling Programs in Small Rural High Schools
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith,
McDiarmid, G. Williamson, & Parrett, William; (1986). The
teacher as inventor: Making small high schools work . Fairbanks:
University of Alaska, College of Human and Rural
When Dorian Ross became principal of the
Togiak School, he brought with him the experience of starting
counseling programs in Iran and in Craig. In this program, individual
teachers serve as mentors for small groups of students.
Here's how Dr. Ross' counseling period
carries out the theme for
the month. At the beginning of the year, the theme
is orientation to the junior high, the high school,
or the new term. Later in the year, counselor and
students focus on test-taking skills in preparation
for the annual California Achievement
is used to develop
problem-solving and decision-making
is reserved for academic
and personal guidance. The teacher-counselor checks
on individual academic progress or works with
students on social skills and
is left up to the
students. Some use the time for special
meetings-such as the DECA club or student council.
Others use it as a study hall or as an opportunity
to get tutorial help from the teacher-counselor.
Students may even choose to use the time for social
events such as birthday parties.
is reserved for
schoolwide assemblies. These could be pep rallies,
talent shows, guest speakers, or special student
Dr. Ross explains that the program serves
two primary purposes. Because full-time counselors are an almost
unheard of luxury in small schools, teacher-counselors provide career
and educational guidance and social and emotional support. Secondly,
the program strengthens relationships between the student and
teacher. The teacher-counselors act as "scholastic leader, trusted
friend, parental stand-in, and adult model." The warmth of the
relationships created through the program radiates throughout the
1. "Don't set rules and then expect the
students to buy into them ," advises Dr. Ross. Consult with
teachers, students, and their parents.
2. Creating counseling groups . At
least two approaches may be used in forming groups. First, students
may be grouped by grade level. This approach has the advantage of
familiarity; students know the others in their grade. Second,
students can choose their advisor; students name their first two or
three choices and the principal apportions students accordingly. This
method allows cross-age relationships to develop among the students
and is more like the family structure in the community. If you choose
the family grouping method, Dr. Ross suggests that students be
limited to two or three changes of advisors during their six years in
junior and senior high school.
3. Be flexible . Be prepared to
alter the daily schedule to take advantage of unexpected visiting
talent such as an archaeologist or UAF's TUMA Theater.
4. Follow the the morning group meetings
with a "cooling out" activity. For schools using traditional
fifty-minute periods, Dr. Ross suggests a twenty-minute block of
silent sustained reading.
With a program structured into the regular
school day, teachers have the time and opportunity, often denied by
the sheer "busy-ness" of schools, to keep up with what is going on
Counselors : Bering Strait School District enlists a teacher at
each school site to serve as a volunteer counselor. "The key,"
explains Director of Curriculum/Instruction and Counseling, Richard
Carlson, "is to start slowly and provide training to the teachers." The volunteers
are brought into the district office for two to three days of training each year.
The district counselor keeps in touch
with the teacher-counselors, sending them materials on scholarships,
study skills, dealing with stress, and so on.
The final step is posting notices to let
parents and students know who the on-site counselor is and what his
Career Counseling : The lack
of rural school counselors has led some teachers to devise special
courses to prepare students to enter careers or postsecondary
education. Dina Thain at Klawock has done just that. In her Career
Class, college-bound students hone their study skills while
vocational education students practice skills such as resume writing.
Dina says that, since the class began in 1982, "about sixty to
seventy percent of the students are in productive fields, doing
something for themselves."
Dina has her students establish goals for
themselves at the beginning of the year. She shows film strips or
holds audio conferences with people in various fields to inform
students of the realities of different professions or
Students focus their career interests
through "self-esteem projects" that help them clarify their
priorities and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Students also
keep journals in which they record their dreams, aspirations, and
autobiographical information. Finally, they keep "career notebooks" in which
they record goals and values, job descriptions, their resume, college descriptions,
application forms, and other practical
Broaden Students' Experience with Travel Programs
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith,
McDiarmid, G. Williamson, & Parrett, William. (1986). The
teacher as inventor: Making small high schools work . Fairbanks:
University of Alaska, College of Human and Rural
In this chapter, we explore how rural
teachers use the opportunity to travel with their students
Broaden the students' experience of the world
the students unfamiliar concepts
the students acquire a more realistic picture of contemporary
the students an opportunity to make better judgments on what they
want to do after high school
The isolation of rural villages leads small
high school teachers to seek ways of broadening their students'
experience of the world. Many teachers see the opportunity to travel
with their students as one of the great advantages of small high
schools. With 17 students, not 1,700, everything is
Some rural school districts have travel
policies built around a "travel scope and sequence." Younger students
go to Anchorage or Fairbanks to get firsthand experience in a city.
Older students travel outside Alaska so they can better understand
contemporary American life. High school seniors go on a tour of
colleges and vocational schools so they can make better judgments
about what to do after high school.
In other districts, teachers are on their
own. Some teachers plan an entire academic year around a big study
Ft. Yukon Students See America on a
Bill Pfisterer and Carolyn Peter, teachers
at the Ft. Yukon School, met with the parents of their 36 Athabaskan
students and jointly planned an across-country tour. They structured
the tour around Greyhound's special 35-day "Ameripass." Pfisterer,
Peter, and a half-dozen parents accompanied the students. To save
money, they traveled at night and slept on the bus.
They toured a furniture factory on an
Indian reservation in the Southwest, saw a calf born on a Midwestern
dairy farm, and didn't forget to stop at Disneyland. In Ohio, the
students visited pen pals who had earlier trekked north to Alaska.
They stayed in their pen pals' homes and swam in their
On the East Coast, they hiked along trails
in the Great Smokey Mountains and toured historical sites in
Washington, D.C. When they returned to Ft. Yukon, they had more
experience of the United States and its diversity than most of their
counterparts in large urban schools.
The trip that Bill, Carolyn, and the Ft.
Yukon parents organized illustrates the benefits of such student
travel. Students experience firsthand many of the places, events, and
concepts that they read about in textbooks. Such travel also helps
dispel students' sense of isolation. They are able to see the
similarities, as well as the differences, between their way of life
and that of others. They get a much more realistic picture of the
world than the one that comes across on the television
Finally, travel helps students to put their
own experience into perspective. They are better able to see the
options and alternatives open to them. Whether they choose to stay in
Ft. Yukon to fish and trap or whether they choose to leave to take a
salaried job, they will have had a chance to see what is over the
For the following suggestions, we are
indebted to Bill Pfisterer, Glenys Bowerman, and the students of
1. Get ready . At least three
options are available for organizing the trip. First, you can work
through a travel agent. Second, you can sign up for a prepackaged
tour. Such tours are available to just about anywhere in the world.
Third, you can plan the trip yourself-which is what Bill Pfisterer
and Carolyn Peter did.
"Get the students involved," says Bill.
Have them write to the Chambers of Commerce in the cities you are
thinking of visiting. Have them contact a local high school in the
city. Send the school a video of your school, the students, and the
village. Have them work out a schedule, computing travel time and
mileage to different cities as well as the money needed.
As they are learning to arrange travel,
they are also reading, writing, and calculating. Not bad for what
some critics call a "frill."
2. Getting together the wherewithal.
With Indian Education and Johnson O'Malley funds, as well as oil
revenues, fast drying up, self-reliance is yet another lesson
students can learn from travel. Noatak students held a carnival and
raised $4,000 in two nights. Nenana students have managed to raise
$3,400 each during the last two years. Ft. Yukon students
supplemented funds provided by the BIA to amass nearly $30,000 for
their cross-country jaunt.
Here are some ideas:
Food: Yes, the ubiquitous bake-sale
is tried and true but think on a grander scale: Open a student store
during recreation hours. Serve cinnamon rolls and juice in a morning "wake-up-teria." Run
concessions for sporting events and cook meals
for visiting teams.
Information: Put together a cookbook
of local recipes and sell it. Students in Nenana collected recipes
including a sure winner, "Polar Bear Grunt Stew"-and had a local
artist draw a picture for the cover. The book was printed cheaply by
a printer in Tennessee.
Stage Special Events: Noatak
students built booths for their Senior Carnival and ordered raffle
prizes. The whole community turned out to play games, eat, and swell
the travel kitty.
For more ideas, contact Glenys Bowerman at
Nenana High School who has generously offered her help.
3. Getting ready academically . This
is an opportunity for true interdisciplinary studies. In social
studies, students can learn about the geography, culture, and economy
of the places they are to visit. In math, they can compute expenses,
mileage, and per student cost. In science, they can learn about the
technology of industries and mining in the places they are to visit.
In art and music, they can study regional art works, architecture,
artists and composers. In English, they can write letters to inquire
about the places they will visit. The possibilities are almost
4. Setting off . Have plenty of
chaperones. Think carefully about an appropriate "span of
supervision." Ft. Yukon had eight adults for thirty-six students.
Frank Mitchell took five adults to supervise twenty-six students from
the Iditarod School District. In other words, plan for one adult for
each group of five or six students.
Students should learn about how to act with
strangers, how to act in public places, and how to address people in
various positions. Students who are unfamiliar with traffic should
learn some rules for pedestrians.
Prepare students for accidental separation.
Tell them how to find the police or in a foreign country, the
American Embassy. Each student should also have an itinerary that
includes the address and phone number of their lodgings for the
(For additional information see Urban
Survival Skills Programs in the last section.)
5. During the trip . Organize a
system for accounting for students. You may want to have students
wear bright sweatshirts or jackets so they can be easily spotted and
can spot one another.
Before arriving at each destination, review
with the students the behavior expected of them. Point out local
cultural rules. Chaperones may also need this information. An
outraged ranger in the Smoky Mountains apprehended a parent-chaperone
who had cut down a tree to make a clothesline.
Have students take along some small,
inexpensive gifts that they can give as tokens of appreciation.
Nenana students ordered pins in the shape of Alaska-at a little more
than a dollar each (from Stewart Photo in Anchorage). Each student
had 20 pins to give away during the trip to Europe.
Students can keep journals, take
photographs, and make videotapes to be shown to their community. Be
sure to allot time for these activities.
6. Follow-up . Research demonstrates
that students learn much more from out-of-school experiences if
teachers create opportunities to reflect on them later in the
classroom. It is the thinking about the trip that is most
educational. Follow-up activities could include:
Writing thank-you letters to people who hosted them or helped fund
Presenting a slide show or showing videotapes for the
Presenting oral reports, using
visual supports such as slides or tapes, to schoolmates, teachers,
parents, and the local and district school boards.
Despite the expense involved, travel is one
of the most valuable educational experiences you can organize with
your students. Once they and their parents get behind the idea, you
are on your way.
to France : In McGrath, Deane O'Dell helped organize a trip to
France for all the students in the Iditarod District who were taking
French in 1978. During the first three weeks of their stay, the
students lived with French families and attended school. The last two
weeks they toured the country-Marseille, Nice, Chamonix,
Paris-relaxing on beaches, visiting fishing and mountain communities,
walking through museums, and shopping.
A Trip to the Tribes : In
1979, Francis Mitchell and 26 students from the Iditarod District
embarked on a "Trip to the Tribes." After stopping at an Indian
center in Seattle, the group rented three vans and took off for
"Indian territory." Traveling from reservation to reservation, the
students learned about various North American Indian cultures,
including the Yakima in Washington, Nez Pierce in Idaho, and the
Salish, Kootenai, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Crow in
At the University of Montana in Missoula,
students learned more about Indian history and current events from
the Indian Studies Program-and got additional information from the
Urban Indian Program. The grand finale was the Northwest Powwow in
A School Travel Club :
Students in Nenana worked for two years to raise the money for their
month-long European tour in 1980. Thus was born the Nenana Travel
Club. In addition to the first trip that included Spain, France, and
England, students have raised money to tour Belgium, the Netherlands,
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Italy, Greece, and
Yugoslavia. When the threat of terrorism forced them to cancel their
1986 European tour, they headed east-to Australia, New Zealand, and
the Fiji Islands.
A Senior Tour of Colleges and
Vocational Schools : Seniors from Kwigillingok visited community
colleges, vocational centers, and universities in Seward, Anchorage,
Palmer, Fairbanks, and Bethel. During their one-week tour, they also
visited Kenai to see the impact of oil development on that
Students prepared by researching the
institutions they would visit, mapping their trip, and learning the
jargon of colleges, stores, and restaurants. Each student also
developed a list of twenty questions that they would have to ask
during their tour. They also kept journals of their experiences. When
they returned to Kwigillingok, they had conferences with their
parents and the school counselor to discuss their career
University Programs that Assist Rural High School Students
Make the Transition to College
Source: Kleinfeld, Judith,
McDiarmid, G. Williamson, & Hagstrom, David. (1985). Alaska's
small rural high schools: Are they working? Anchorage: University
of Alaska, Institute of Social & Economic Research and Center for
Several statewide programs bring rural
students to a college campus during the summer both to sharpen their
academic skills and to get them used to the demands of college life.
These programs include (1) Upward Bound, (2) the Della Keats Health
Careers Program, and (3) the Rural Alaska Honors
The Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI),
for example, selects academically talented juniors from rural high
schools and brings them to the University of Alaska's Fairbanks
campus for a six-week college experience. Students see for themselves
exactly what college classes are like. They see the kinds of academic
skills they will need in college at a time when they are juniors and
still have another school year to prepare themselves. Students not
only improve their mathematics, writing, and research skills; they
also learn how to handle such demands of college as having to stand
at a podium and make a formal presentation in front of an audience.
Rural students also experience bouts of homesickness and loss of
nerve in a short college program where the staff expects such
difficulties and knows how to support students through
RAHI deliberately creates stressful
experiences such as a paper due the same day as a midterm exam-to
simulate the pressures of college life. Students have the opportunity
to learn in a protected setting exactly how they will do on an exam
when they have stayed up all night to write a term paper.
Over 80 percent of the rural principals who
had students in this program rated it as "very effective." Of the
thirteen RAHI students who entered as freshmen at the University of
Alaska, Fairbanks, campus in 1984, all thirteen completed the
semester, and twelve returned for the spring
22 Carlson, Richard E. (1989, May 24).
Report on the district-wide graduate follow-up study of the classes
of 1980, 1981, and 1982. Unalakleet, AK: Bering Strait School
23 Levinson, Dan. (1978). The seasons of
a man's life . New York: Alfred A. Knopf.