Northern Experience February 28, 2019

A Winter Wonderland

Jaya Sharma

Jaya Sharma has been teaching grade 5 since September 2018 in Eabametoong First Nation in Northern Ontario. Jaya has a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education from Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati University, India, and has worked in curriculum development and as a teacher in both India and Canada over the last 13 years. She is originally from India.


Headshot of Jaya Sharma, a Teach For Canada teacher

Jaya Sharma has been a Grade 5 teacher in Eabametoong First Nation since September 2018

At times you can find yourself in a phase of life that is amazingly beautiful in its entirety, but the individual parts are difficult, tough and require tremendous effort and will to succeed. It is like climbing a mountain. The climb is treacherous, lonely and full of difficulties. But the journey is beautiful, the experience is unique and it gives one strength to become what could not be imagined in any other circumstances.


Jaya stands outside a building in Eabametoong First Nation

Jaya on a walk in the community during a winter sunset.

Living in a First Nation in Canada has been a similar kind of experience for me. The individual days have brought me face-to-face with suffering, pain, loss, bitter cold, and loneliness. The days are short and the time endless. But put the days together and form a week or a month and you see breathtaking sunrises and sunsets on a pristine white frozen lake, a full moon in a purple sky, beautiful tall trees laden with snow, and the whole place looking like a winter wonderland.


A winter scene in Eabametoong First Nation photographed by Jaya

A winter scene in Eabametoong First Nation photographed by Jaya

The cold and the pain are strong but they are not strong enough to faze the excitement from the sparkling eyes of children or the adults. Children free fall into the deep banks of snow giggling, laughing, and playful. I wanted so very much to try it – free falling into snow, backwards. But I was scared. One of my students said to me, “You can do it on your own or I can help you by pushing you.” And so I did it on my own.

I fell backwards into the snow and boy, was it fun!

On a beautiful afternoon we decided to go for a walk. The snow was falling and we loved spending time outside. By the end, my nose was freezing and I said that I couldn’t feel it. One of my students replied, “It is because it’s not there. It must have fallen off somewhere in the snow.” Who wouldn’t burst out laughing at that?


Jaya teaching her students sitting on a mat in her classroom

Jaya teaching her students in her classroom

If I look at one of my days here, it may just be filled with assignments, report cards or difficult situations like when two of my students ran off into the hallway to yell at a student in another class. Bullying can be a challenge.  But the next day or the day after we sit down and draw what we would like to do with our loved ones, even with those who are not there anymore. We talk, draw, and find hope just by way of sharing our pain and our joy with each other.


Dusk with pink and blue clouds in Eabametoong First Nation

Dusk in Eabametoong First Nation photographed by Jaya.

I look at my beautiful students and the beauty of mother nature outside my classroom and realize that the spirit is still strong. There is hope and there is tremendous beauty in this place.

And I am thankful to be a part of my students’ strong and beautiful world. I am thankful to be here!