A Heart for Making Dreams Reality

By Miriam E. Pagador

If you step into my shoes as an ELL teacher for a day what will you see?

A class of students from different countries, levels of educational background and English proficiency

Your class becomes a safe haven and you their security blanket for a period of time

Days, weeks or months go by but eventually they’ll adjust, break away and make that climb

 

Make learning fun, use a lot of realia and have them share their culture with pride

Be sensitive to their unique qualities and definitely get their parents on your side

Celebrate when you have students who are motivated to learn…but also be aware

For your blood pressure to rise with the few who are always absent, insubordinate, or unprepared

 

Every year K-12 teachers open their classroom doors to new students which they briefly get to know

However, as an ELL teacher…you will bond with your kids for a year or more and watch them grow

 

Being an educator for over 30 years I’m often asked, “Retiring?” I’ll smile and say, “Maybe” but then I’ll stay

So I can encourage these special students to DREAM BIG and KEEP BELIEVING they’ll reach their goals one day

Mrs. Miriam “Mimi” Ellen Pagador was born and raised on Kauai where she attended Koloa Elementary School and Kauai High School. She received an AA in Liberal Arts from Kauai Community College and earned her B.Ed and Professional Diploma in English as a Second Language from U.H. Manoa. She has 31 years of teaching experience and has loved them all, her years and her students. Mimi has dedicated her career to the island of Kauai and to the too often ignored ELL students and their families.

Kindergarten, Ready or Not!

By Debbie Morrow

“When are you going to give my kid worksheets to practice writing her name?”

This from a parent of a preschooler with special needs — a child who struggled with following the flow of the class, who struggled with participating with her peers at morning circle carpet without engaging in distracting and sometimes seriously anti-social behaviors, and who resisted teacher directions just about every time they were given.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of question. Or the thirtieth. My shoulders dropped and my heart hurt. When did we go from “Everything I need to Learn, I Learned in Kindergarten” to “Be Kindergarten Ready?”

Just because a four or five year old child can be taught to write their name with correct size and spacing, using correct letter formation, the product which, when hung on the refrigerator door or classroom wall does look really impressive, doesn’t necessarily mean they should.

There is a cost attached to increasing the curricular expectations of early childhood programs. With only so much time in a day, whatever time is dedicated to letter tracing worksheets and handwriting is ultimately subtracted from the time a child would spend doing inquiry based activities. When they are seated at a desk, forcing their little muscles to carefully trace each letter, following the directional arrows, they aren’t moving around the classroom, learning where their bodies are in space. They aren’t following the progress of a caterpillar across a leaf and wondering what will happen to that caterpillar when its eating is complete. And they aren’t learning to socialize with one another and develop the ability to engage appropriately with others.

If it’s not worksheets, drills, and learning to sit nicely at a desk to complete a task, what is the answer to getting a child ready for the rigors of elementary school? It’s so simple, it is often disbelieved. The answer is play.

There is well-grounded research to support play as pedagogy in early childhood education. Stuart Brown, a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and clinical researcher explains in his book that it is through play that the brain forms connective pathways between the different areas of the brain, allowing for more complex thought. When pondering the question, “what difference does play make,” Brown answers himself stating that “play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”

In the National Association of the Education of Young Children publication of “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Birth Through Age 8,” Copple and Bredekamp (2009) outline four developmental domains that are impacted by play: physical development, cognitive development, language and literacy development, and social/emotional development.

With research pointing towards play as the answer, what is it that prevents educators from looking for play-based solutions to the idea of “kindergarten readiness?”

According to Nell, Drew, & Bush, a big barrier to play is an increased societal value placed on academics and a lack of understanding of how play benefits cognitive development. Dr. Stuart Brown (2009) states, “we are pushed from play, shamed into rejecting it by a culture that doesn’t understand the human need for it and doesn’t respect it” (p. 145). Johnson and Dinger (2012) build on this idea, stating that society has lost faith in play because play is too deceptively simple and something so simple can’t possibly be an effective teacher for young children. Another reason is that adults who were exposed to an education system in which information was delivered in a top-down fashion have a hard time comprehending how learning can occur without a teacher directing all of the learning. Perhaps the saddest reason outlined is that adults have forgotten how to play and how good it feels to play (Johnson & Dinger, 2012).

If we as educators know that play is the answer and know the barriers to play that exist in our educational system, how can we affect positive change? We can start by learning more about play as pedagogy and educating the parents and colleagues we come in contact with. We can dust off our soap-boxes, get up on them, and advocate for the benefits of play and inquiry based activities — to our parents, our administrators, even our legislators. Maybe they can join us in our classes to play and learn with us! We have a moral obligation to educate the various stakeholders that influence our practice. Our youngest, most vulnerable learners are counting on us.

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Debbie Morrow is a public preschool teacher in Kailua, Hawaii. She has been an early childhood special educator for 13 years prior. She was recently named the Windward District Teacher of the Year.

Let Them Lead


By Jenny Howe

It’s lunchtime on the first day of the Jostens San Diego National Yearbook Workshop at the University of San Diego. My four student yearbook editors and I are sitting around the table sharing our learning so far. The students’ ideas cross the table, rapid fire, everyone excited.

“Can Time Logs be online?”

“Let’s make first quarter really interactive.”

“Let’s get a fake bush that we can decorate for the holidays.”

“Can we not use Trello this year? It just distracts everyone.”

“What about that first day of school activity he talked about? With the yarn on the ring finger and the marriage vows on the first day of school?”

“Yeah, let’s do it later in the year at the theme reveal.”

I am excited too, listening to my editors lead. My editors can be more realistic in their vision of the yearbook than I am at times. According to Journalism Education Association (JEA) President Sarah Nichols, “It’s the editor’s job to decide where to go next. If they see something that’s not working, ask them, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

Teachers plan the next steps for students based on student data they receive from daily observations or checks for understanding. However, in a student-led classroom like the yearbook room, my role as “teacher” changes to that of “advisor.”  My editors and I are in a unique position to build a collective leadership team. Sometimes there is a struggle between the delicate give and take of staying in control as the teacher or letting go as the adviser. The yearbook adviser must anticipate this student response: ‘No, Mrs. Howe, let’s do it like this.’

“So this year, we want to have each editor lead a mini-lesson. That way you can be relieved of teaching first-year yearbook students everything, and it will give you some time to work with the yearbook 2-4s because we need your help too,” continued my fourth-year editor.

“Oh!” I said. “Okay, what were you thinking about teaching?”

“We were thinking it could be one editor per day. Each lesson would relate to what the editor’s position is, so maybe Sara could do something about photography. The sports editors could do something on caption writing.”

“Okay, yeah, I love this idea. I’ve been working on my curriculum map, which is like the big plan for the year, because I have ideas about how to change up quarter one to make it more interactive for the yearbook ones. I’ll give you a timeline, so you know what the general lesson topics will be and then we can create a schedule for when all the lessons, including yours, will be implemented. How does that sound?”

They nod and smile in agreement.

Google Maps is a tool that helps people get to new places. It informs you of the best routes, the time each route takes, where one might experience traffic or other roadblocks, and it usually reroutes you if something occurs and a detours is required. That’s basically how a curriculum map functions for teachers. We map out the year, the quarters, the weeks, the days to ensure we help our students achieve the goals and standards that they need to navigate and fulfill the requirements of the course.

What is mine is actually theirs. My curriculum map shouldn’t be about me, it’s really theirs, so I should be jumping for joy that they want to teach our new staffers.

There is all this talk about ownership when teachers talk about curriculum maps, but the strongest maps and plans are those devised by a team.

If my students are diagnosing their needs and want to determine the routes of the class, then they’re deciding what’s next.

What am I going to do about it?

Let go.

Lose some control.

Let them lead.

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Jenny Howe is a freshman English Language Arts teacher, Yearbook adviser, school-level mentor, and instructional coach at President Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex Area. She has also taught English Language Learners, newswriting, arts & communication, digital media, and broadcast media. Jenny is a member of the Hawaii Scholastic Journalism Association and is the State Director for the Hawaii State Journalism Education Association. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

How Can We Better Understand Our Students? Build a Cultural Bridge

by Verona Holder

I have been teaching for a total of 14 years and every year has been a learning experience for me both professionally and personally. I do my best each day to respect others’ thoughts and feelings and to always take them seriously. I believe it is important for every teacher to do the same, especially when teaching in an area where the cultures of their students may be different than their own.

My interest in other people’s cultures started when I was very young. For as long as I can remember, culture has been an integral part of my daily life. Although I was born in the United States, both of my parents and all of their families are from the Caribbean islands. They were intentional about embedding their culture into our daily lives. Their family members were constant guests in our house throughout our childhood. I always enjoyed listening to their beautiful accents and stories about our other family members and the way they lived their lives now. I savored the foods that were part of our heritage and watched and listened carefully, hoping to replicate the same meals when I grew up. I took delight in the traditional celebrations that were special to my family and planned how my future family would carry them on.

I grew up  in an area of South Florida that was extremely diverse. My classmates came from all areas of South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. I couldn’t wait for each school year to roll around so I could have another opportunity to meet people from a different culture than mine. Once I made a new friend, I made a point to learn more about their culture. This was natural for us.

We shared with each other by spending time together during school and engaging in conversations. I spent much time with my closest friends’ families, listening to the beautiful accents and languages of their parents and savoring their delicious foods. I was honored when I was included in the traditional celebrations that were special to their families and was always honored when they would share time with me and my family.

When I married my husband, again I was ready to be immersed in a new culture. I had never met a person from Europe, and now I was married to an Englishman. Throughout our 18 years of marriage, I’ve been able to meet his family members, listen to their beautiful accents, and hear the stories about the places they have lived. He shares the food of his culture through the delicious meals that he prepares for our family. I have learned about his traditions and our celebrations have been meshed into one.

As a teacher, I engage in learning about the cultures of my students. I’m amazed not only at the differences, but the many similarities between my culture, the culture of my childhood friends, my husband’s culture, and the multiple cultures of my students. I believe that it is my job as a teacher to facilitate the exchange of cultures between myself and my students.

Each year, my new set of students become members of my family. When they walk into my classroom, I let them know “You are now not only my students, you are my children. I intend to treat you like my children. I am here to support you, to encourage you, and to help you become a better version of yourself. I want you to treat your classmates like they are a part of your family, as well. You may have disagreements, but I expect you to respect each other, and do all that you can to work them out.”

Moving from Georgia, to California, and now to Hawaii, I have been able to learn so much from my students and my co-workers. I am honored to share in their cultures through discussions, social gatherings, and the sharing of celebrations and traditions. It has added to the depth and breadth of my knowledge as a person and as an educator. I am open and willing to understand where they are coming from and to adapt to their expectations and cultural norms. I am always happy to share what I have learned with others, and I do believe that it helps us to build a special bond.

As teachers, we should all do our best to learn and grow with our students. It can be as in-depth as an “All About Me” that includes pictures and descriptions about their favorite foods, cultural celebrations, and countries of origin. Or, it can be as simple as 10 minute structured daily discussions where we engage with each other and share information about our lives. Hopefully, when students leave our classrooms, they will be one step closer to learning how to immerse themselves in the cultures of others in order to grow as individuals. This is my goal as a teacher, and my hope is to one day pass on my passion for learning about cultures to other teachers.

There is Still Hope

by Clint Labrador

“3 suicides in one week.”

A comment from a Kauai High School student at a recent student forum, part of a teacher conference I attended. I immediately thought about the multiple suicides I have heard about over my 15 years of teaching on Molokai.

I asked the student “Have any teachers taught you strategies to cope with school pressures and emotions? Have you learned mindfulness?”

He answered “Nope.” A pause. “I wish teachers took the time to teach us those things.” Silence settled over the teachers in the room.

***

A few months have passed and this exchange bothers me everyday. Questions crowd out my other thoughts. What can be done to address this madness? What can drive humans to get to this point? What can I do to help calm the turbulent waters for our children? Why, in a place everyone calls paradise, are our island people in such distress?

I don’t know the answers but I decided that the fact that this student was able to muster up the confidence to speak honestly to a bunch of teachers meant that he was moving mountains and giving hope to our future. It gave me hope.

Thanks to the work of various groups, including nonprofits such as The Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellowship, we are redefining what it means to be a teacher and rethinking what we can accomplish across our state and profession. More now than ever, we need to prioritize Social/Emotional intelligence as the first stepping-stone in developing our children for their lives. One way to do this is to take time to just listen to our students more.

How do we remain hopeful in teaching? How are we going to address this and other epidemics our young people face? First, the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellowship treats us like professionals and allows us the time and space to work cooperatively towards solutions. Convenings are held in creative and conducive learning spaces like the Impact Hub in Honolulu where we bounce back ideas and learn from each other in a café like setting.

The teachers in the fellowship represent all parts of the state and all grade levels and are selected in part based on their dispositions, the way they tackle problems and approach this wonderful art we call teaching. The process is similar to how companies such as Google are hiring their professionals, not on a grade point average or lengthy resume, but how the individual approaches problems. Overall, we are a team of dedicated teachers committed to improving our profession.

As a team, the State Teacher Fellows seek to collaborate, problem solve, and tackle the problems plaguing our profession. At our recent convenings, we not only spent time listening to students’ concerns, working together as teachers, and growing together through professional learning sessions but we heard from the assistant and deputy superintendents, the board of education, and the superintendent herself. They came to talk to us about their jobs in the public education system but also to talk to us about their WHY. This was a breath of fresh air to see that their intentions were genuinely focused on the wellbeing of our students, all students.

Ultimately, the hope in teaching lies in bridging the gap between these individuals at the top and the teachers and students because we are all here to serve a common need: leading students to a bright future. Through the type of communication and relationship building embedded in the fellowship, we are going to pave the way for teachers to truly address and respond to the issues concerning our island students, their needs to survive in our ever-changing world of information. The fellowship is also a model for how teachers should interact with their students.

***

As I digest all the information from the convenings, I think about my own practice as a teacher on Molokai. I think about how I have to teach children who have witnessed suicides with their own eyes or have had to deal with loved ones contemplating suicide. How in the world will I tackle this? How will I give hope to this child who views suicide as a way to cope? What is the solution?

Just as the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellowship gives teachers hope that we can bridge the gaps and have a voice in education, that we matter, we need to instill the same type of hope in our students. We need to encourage self-awareness and emotional resiliency. Schools need to become innovative sanctuaries for children where they can feel safe, listened to, and able to take risks. Teachers need to bridge the gap between themselves and their students and dive deeper into understanding them as human beings.

Ultimately, our everyday lives come down to decisions and responses. With the speed and rate that information is coming towards us, at times, life can be quite difficult to process. It is especially difficult when rejection is rampant on social media and data driven academics label us and our students by our scores.

Sometimes we need to stop, slow down, and take time to listen to our children and model how to cope and make mindful decisions. When we respond with hope, we instill it in others.

Teachers: You Could be Anywhere Else

by CC Chung

I was in line for snacks at a Professional Development day, readying my paper plate for some homemade banana bread and chips. The teacher behind me struck up a conversation while scooping some dip onto her plate. She asked how I was doing in my second year. Fine, I thought. I’m adjusting. I was piloting 1:1 Chromebooks with my students, integrating game-based learning, and slowly building my tool box of teaching strategies. Fine, I thought again.

As we shuffled through the snack line, we began talking about technology and about the college I had graduated from and then she bluntly asked:

“But then… why? Why are you in teaching? I just don’t get it. You could be anywhere else.”

She suggested that workplaces like Amazon and Google offer higher salaries with optimum working conditions, that I could do less grueling work and have a better life.

The directness of her question, of her suggestion that a different job could lead to a “better life,” forced me to stop and think for a moment. Here was a teacher, who I knew and respected, discouraging me, another teacher, from staying in the profession. It felt like she was trying to “save” me.

Many of us have heard a version of this before: “My daughter told me she wanted to be a teacher, like me, and I said no. I made sure of it…so she doesn’t have to live like I do.”

In a 2015 article from The Telegraph titled, “Does Teaching Have an Image Problem?,” Gillian Harvey writes that,

“...far from being regarded as high-working professionals, it seems that teachers are perceived as incompetent, militant and...lacking the ability to deliver curriculum in a balanced way.”

Harvey continues, “This negative working environment leads many teachers to leave the profession.”  

How do we begin to peel away at the complexity of the “teacher image” problem?

Start small. We can start with us.

1. Identify areas of growth and spark a conversation.

What are some aspects of the teaching profession that frustrate you? Is it the low salary? Diluted professional development? Inconsistent curriculum? Acknowledging that there are many areas of growth within education is important-- in fact, acknowledgement is the first step. However, how can we begin to spark a conversation around these issues in a solutions-oriented way?  

Taylor Mali, in a spoken word piece entitled “What Teachers Make,” sparks conversation nationally as his poem gives teachers a platform to question, think, share knowledge, and find points of pride in our profession.

Just as Mali sparked conversation, so can we. In small and big ways. Instead of asking, “Why is it so difficult?,” we can ask, “How can we make it simpler?” Instead of asking, “Why don’t I just quit and work for Google?,” we can ask, “How can I share with others my triumphs, that add to the reasons why I love teaching and why I love my job?”

2. Words have power. Choose them wisely.

Words have power and we must choose them wisely, writes Dr. Jack Schafer in Psychology Today’s article, Words Have Power. Stop and think-- take a moment to reflect on how you speak about your own teaching profession. How much do you contribute to the negative image of teaching through your words?

“Words cannot change reality,” Dr. Schafer continues, “but they can change how people perceive reality.” When having conversations with people outside of the teaching profession, acknowledge the issues but also celebrate the good and be proud of your role in the lives of students who need us.

Recognizing that words are powerful can help us to remember that they can lead us down positive or negative paths. Back up your words with research and action. Educate yourself around issues you care about, have conversations with others, and find opportunities to find solutions and take action.

3. Celebrate the good.

After a long, hot, and tiring day of facilitating learning for classrooms of students, thinking of the good things that happened in a day can be tough; but you can do it - stop and spend a moment to find that one good thing that happened. Celebrate it. Perhaps it’s the “aha” moment from a student who has been struggling or maybe your grade level or department meeting went smoothly. Whatever it is, find it and celebrate it by simply thinking about it, by writing it down, or by telling a friend about it.

You can also celebrate the good by creating small events within your school or complex area to acknowledge and appreciate the hard work your colleagues have done. How often do we celebrate teachers? In the past year, through events like ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching), there has been a slow and steady movement to celebrate teachers. In the state of Hawaii alone, there have been over five regional ECET2 HI events that have inspired teachers to continue the celebration in their own schools.

It starts small. It starts with us.

***

Teachers matter and teachers have power. We are the most important group in shifting the negative narrative around our profession. We can and should reclaim that narrative. People may say, “you could be anywhere else,” but you chose to be here. Tell us why.


Resources

Outside of the Class

by Caroline Freudig

1992. That’s the year I started teaching. I’ve been a teacher for 26 years now, more than half my life. Over those years, I’ve experienced quite a bit of change but nothing like what I’m going to go through this school year. I am back in the classroom after having been a non-classroom, district resource teacher for six years. While I’m not looking forward to leaving the position I’m in and the work I’ve been doing with our Kahua Kaua‘i Teacher Induction Program, I am looking forward to applying so much of what I’ve learned these past six years to the work I will do with my first graders.

To begin with, I am a much better teacher now than I was six years ago. My work with adults has been challenging but has helped me hone my teacher skills. As a district resource teacher and a teacher mentor, I was pushed to really think about purpose and intent, in particular. Why does the beginning teacher-mentor PD day include a huaka‘i (trip) to the Kaua‘i Museum? How does the trip align to the overall outcomes of the session? In what ways will our beginning teachers benefit by leaving their students for the day to attend this session? Why should our complex area spend federal funds to pay for subs for these teachers to attend the session?

These are not easy questions but they drove me to really reflect on the ‘why.’ I know that when I’m back in the classroom this school year, I will utilize this type of reflection when creating lessons for my students. Maybe instead of focusing on questions like What will we do today? Or even What will we learn today? I will ask myself reflective questions like Why will we learn this? Why are calendar skills important? How does this align to student standards? How else can students learn, practice, attain, and demonstrate these skills?

Another way my teaching will benefit from having been a resource teacher is that I now have a different perspective of our education system. Prior to being a resource teacher, I mostly dealt with colleagues at my school and didn’t have much interaction with other teachers from across our state. The past six years provided me with the opportunity to engage in conversations with colleagues, administrators, department of education employees, board of education members, community members, parents, and more from all over the state. These conversations allowed me to see and hear perspectives that I would have missed if I had stayed in the classroom and these diverse perspectives will help me create an equitable and effective classroom.

These opportunities to work with such a diverse cross section of the public education landscape also helped me to expand my social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). These connections with professionals from across the state have in turn lead to connections with others across the country and even across the world.  All this connecting with others has provided me with novel ideas that I will bring back into my classroom this year. Ideas such as not having a behavior chart and including more physical activity for my students. Without taking time away from my role as a classroom teacher, I would have missed the rich experiences that will now color my switch back to the class.

Why have I chosen to share these thoughts with you? Well, what it boils down to is this: I strongly believe that to foster the continued growth of our best classroom teachers, at some point in their teaching career, they should be given the opportunity and should be highly encouraged to step outside the four walls of their classroom. They should spend time in a non-classroom teacher position, at their own school or beyond.

This won’t be easy as classroom teachers frequently hate leaving their classrooms and their students. I know this first hand. I was one of those teachers who never called in sick and hated when my principal sent me to some professional development somewhere because it meant I wasn’t with my students and I wouldn’t be there to teach them. However, having taken the opportunity to leave the classroom and work in such a position, I know that the professional growth I’ve had the past six years could not have happened if I had still been teaching 3rd grade and had never left. Teachers’ roles should become more flexible to include more of these out of the class opportunities. The benefits to our expertise and our teaching far outweigh the drawbacks.

Lucky We Live Hawaii: The Case for Environmental Education

by Whitney Aragaki

I recently polled my AP Environmental Science students about their experiences exploring their island’s unique natural and cultural heritage sites. My curiosity was piqued when many of them said they had never walked on a lava field or traversed the high elevation cloud forests or the near shore reef systems, or the many areas in between. These students, within a year or so, will be graduating from high school and the majority of them will be attending college on the mainland. This lack of engagement in their own landscape is an important missed opportunity.

Beyond the geographic isolation and sandy beaches, overemphasized in college application essays, how many students recognize their luck to live in Hawaii? How many teachers prioritize this luck?

When students enroll in my AP Environmental Science class, I ask them why. Why is environmental science important? Not surprisingly, many students reply with versions of “I love the earth” or “Climate change has been in the news a lot and I want to learn more.” While these are valid reasons, they do not reflect the responsibility that our students have to our island home. These students have nearly a decade of compulsory education behind them before walking into y class and making these statements.

Why aren’t students learning about and feeling their responsibility to Hawaii? Where is the urgency to action and connection? Why aren’t we teaching this responsibility to place and action and stewardship?

The development of Nā Hopena A‘o is a start. Since 2013, the Hawaii Department of Education has invested time and resources into this framework to develop the skills, behaviors, and dispositions that reflect Hawaii’s context and honor the language and culture of Hawai‘i. Engaging students in meaningful conversations, activities, and assessments that elevate their global understanding and ground them in local context is crucial for the perpetuation of culture and language but the physical, natural aspects of Hawai‘i are key to this necessary learning.

As Nā Hopena A‘o was coming to fruition, a disease blanketed Hawai‘i Island. Rapid Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) decimated Ōhi‘a trees islandwide and sent the scientific research community into a frenzy. This tree is important, physically, in its relationship to native birds and forests. But is also important in a less visible way. Real parts of Hawaiian language and culture rely on the ōhi‘a existing. The description of Panaewa rains (Ka ua lu lehua o Pana‘ewa), for example, requires knowledge of the ōhi‘a lehua blossom. If ōhi‘a disappeared, parts of the Hawaiian language, important cultural stories and lessons, could lose their meaning. When connections between the natural and cultural realms are severed, more than just a tree is lost.

Students in Hawai‘i have the opportunity and responsibility to become the near-future stewards of our land. While they all have the basic opportunities to explore and learn, the current structure of science classes and educational funding doesn’t lend itself to actual environmental engagement and action. In previous decades, there was dedicated funding for field trips, field work, and community activities that would bring the classroom outside. Recently, we have focused our teaching on bringing the outside into the classroom. To combat student disengagement from the natural world, it is imperative that we flip our classrooms back outdoors and put our students directly in the natural world so they can truly learn about the connection between theory and the culture and place in which they live.

One of my students put it best when she said, “As someone who tries to perpetuate the sacredness and values of Hawaiian culture, I was taught to care for it. I try to live by the 'ōlelo noʻeau, or Hawaiian proverb, ‘He aliʻi ke ʻāina, he kauā ke kanaka.’ This translates to ‘Land is chief, man is it's servant,’ and speaks to the kahiko Hawai'i concept of how people are here to look after the land and not cause it harm nor destroy it. Because Hawai‘i nei takes care of us by providing food and life, we should mālama it in return. One way I can do that is to dedicate some of my time to becoming more educated about it.”


This is the knowledge and responsibility that we want all our students to take with them after graduating: a keen sense of belonging and responsibility to cultural and natural resources. And this is the epitome of a young spokesperson for Hawai‘i. Fostering more young people like this must be the goal of a public education in Hawai‘i.

 

 Whitney Aragaki is a high school science teacher at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, serves on the Hawaii State Science Work Group, and is a part of the Hawaii District Science and Engineering Fair Steering Committee. A former Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Aspiring Teachers of Color and National Science Foundation GK-12 Graduate Fellow, she was born and raised on Hawaii Island. Whitney has a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College, and an MS in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Whitney Aragaki is a high school science teacher at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, serves on the Hawaii State Science Work Group, and is a part of the Hawaii District Science and Engineering Fair Steering Committee. A former Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Aspiring Teachers of Color and National Science Foundation GK-12 Graduate Fellow, she was born and raised on Hawaii Island. Whitney has a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College, and an MS in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

#TeachersTakeCare: The Importance of Self-Care as an Educator

By Piikea Kalakau

To many, the idea of self-care is just another trendy term Millennials use to defend a selfish need for maintaining a work-life balance. While the term seems new, the concept of self-care is not; originating as a means of alternative medicine, self-care in the past has been recommended for professionals needing tangible methods to counteract daily stress, including first responders, social workers and more.  While almost anything can be considered self-care, ideas like mindfulness, paying special attention to one’s personal needs and wants, and prioritizing oneself are generally associated with the term. Here in Hawaiʻi, self-care can be as simple as stepping out of the office and taking a lunch break at the beach. Self-care can be as complex as learning a new skill. The main point of practicing self-care is to pay special attention to and maintain one’s physical, mental and emotional health--an idea often lost in the constant hustle of our current society. Skeptics consider self-care a fantasy both unnecessary and impossible to incorporate into one’s daily life. However, self-care is necessary in today’s world because of the rate at which we incessantly receive and digest information from all outlets.

While practicing self-care is beneficial for everyone, it is especially important for local educators because of how grueling the teaching profession is. Teaching is incredibly difficult, complex and important.  Finding efficient (and affordable) ways to uphold a consistent work-life balance has been essential to my success as a fairly new classroom teacher. When I became a teacher a few years ago, the transition from a traditional desk job that rarely required more than 40 hours of my time weekly to the literal never-ending tasks associated with being an educator was challenging, but I found that my ability to successfully prioritize and learn to completely stop working at times has helped me to sustain my career in education for at least the time being.

Summertime and the Living’s Not-So-Easy

Hawaiʻi’s teachers must balance the endless demands of this often thankless profession, unpaid overtime and addressing tasks beyond the scope of one’s personal control while remaining dedicated professionals. The reality is, educators are burnt out and grossly underpaid for their labor.  A colleague once shared with me that she calculated her hourly wage as an educator according to everything she does in a typical day and based off her current salary as a veteran teacher. She was appalled to find that she makes around $12 per hour molding the young minds of our future; a salary rate that took two degrees worth of schooling to reach. Now imagine just starting as an educator in Hawaiʻi, where the possibility of “getting ahead” in 2018 can seem slim to none.  Considering Hawaiʻi’s inflated cost of living and one’s meager salary coupled with a sizable benefits cost at the bottom of the DOE teacher pay scale, one may need to live with roommates or family for many years to stay afloat.

For teachers, the work doesn’t stop when the last school bell rings, or on holiday breaks.  Educators often take their work everywhere with them both physically and emotionally, constantly checking items on a seemingly never-ending to-do list during any free time, including holidays, weekends and most often, weeknights. We grade assignments, lesson plan, place hundreds of phone calls, send emails and text messages to our students’ homes in order to best support them. A teacher’s work day isn’t confined to our students’ 6-hour per day schedule as many believe, but realistically more like 8-10 hours (or more) per day, including summers spent planning for the school year ahead.

Teachers in Hawaiʻi are not compensated adequately or fairly for the professional services they provide to society, and this shows through our dismal retention statistics each year. Nationwide, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of teachers going on strike in demand of better pay, better overall treatment and better schools for their students. In West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado, teachers have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands. No teacher wants to strike, potentially leaving their students without a hot meal for the day and compromising their learning. Striking teachers (and employees in general) simply have no other choice; the fact is, the labor force ceases to exist without the actual laborers, but we simply cannot work under these impossible conditions.  

Local teachers are struggling as a group because the profession is simply not sustainable for the average individual living in Hawaiʻi. If a candle is lit repeatedly, all day, for multiple days on end, it will quickly perish.  While teachers don’t usually tend to melt into heaps of burnt wax, the end of a school year or even week can often feel similar to a candle losing its ability to provide light to others. Each day, after our state’s teachers finish shining their light on our local students, many of them must continue on to other jobs in order to supplement their incomes and support their own families. This leaves little time for an educator to practice any kind of physical, mental or emotional self-care, which undoubtedly accelerates teacher burnout.

Mandatory Recharge

With all of these things in mind, educators should be encouraged to take the time to check in on their overall well-being through self-care techniques. In solidarity, schools could provide opportunities for their staff to decompress and check-in periodically, showing they prioritize mental health care for their employees. Legislators should advocate for the professional rate at which educators in Hawaiʻi deserve to be compensated.  Supporters of education could exercise their voting rights in support of measures that will help improve our schools, students and educators. Anyone who values a thriving society can see the value of investing in education in Hawaiʻi.

Given the myriad of issues local educators face in this profession, many successful, student-centered teachers are forced to find ways to create sustainability and balance within their individual lives in order to uphold lasting careers in education, which is not always possible, and force many to leave the profession all together. Teachers need to first care for themselves in order to care for others.  I can’t name a single educator who accepted a position in this field without knowing the job can be difficult and draining, but this doesn’t defend the fact that teaching is unsustainable as a career. If a business is recognized as unsustainable, it will eventually cease to exist, as it is economically irresponsible to continue working under those conditions. This same business principle applies to the field of education and its teachers.  

In order to prevent teacher burnout and create continued and long-term results, we must support individuals to pursue healthy balance in their daily lives and provide opportunities for educators to successfully manage the many overwhelming aspects of this important profession. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk once said, “A good teacher is like a candle—each consumes itself to light the way for others.” Local educators will continue to work relentlessly for our students and communities as long as we are able to.  For Hawaiʻi’s future, it is important that we keep the flame burning by supporting both our teachers and self-care practices.

 Piikea is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher currently working in the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae Complex in Hawai‘i. She is a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate from Waimānalo, Hawai‘i, Piikea received her BA in English from Hawai‘i Pacific University and her MSEd from Johns Hopkins University. Piikea has taught eighth-gradeinclusion English Language Arts and currently teaches seventh-grade AVID English Language Arts at Wai‘anae Intermediate School. During the summer, Piikea teaches P3 scholars through the PUEO program at Punahou School. She has previously served on the Makiki Neighborhood Board. Piikea’s work in education is fueled by her #WaianaeStrong students, her devoted family and her quest for educational equity in Hawai’i. Piikea is a Teach for America-Hawai‘i alumna.

Piikea is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher currently working in the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae Complex in Hawai‘i. She is a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate from Waimānalo, Hawai‘i, Piikea received her BA in English from Hawai‘i Pacific University and her MSEd from Johns Hopkins University. Piikea has taught eighth-gradeinclusion English Language Arts and currently teaches seventh-grade AVID English Language Arts at Wai‘anae Intermediate School. During the summer, Piikea teaches P3 scholars through the PUEO program at Punahou School. She has previously served on the Makiki Neighborhood Board. Piikea’s work in education is fueled by her #WaianaeStrong students, her devoted family and her quest for educational equity in Hawai’i. Piikea is a Teach for America-Hawai‘i alumna.

Create a Culture for Teacher Talent Development

by Lorna Baniaga-Lee

Kim came into my classroom as a teacher in training. She was eager to learn about what it would take to be an Freshman English teacher.  Her first semester with me included basic observation of my day-to-day routine with my students. I also brought her to all the after-school meetings and any additional meetings that I attended to expose her to the responsibilities teachers had outside of the classroom.

After two semesters of teacher training with me, Kim was hired to work at my school, and we became colleagues.  I mentored her in the first two years as a beginning Freshman English teacher. In her first year, we focused on assimilating into the career.  I watched her embrace the profession even though she had many difficult days in the classroom. In her second year, we reflected on her teaching practice and focused on finding her own style within the mandated curriculum.  With each observation, I saw her develop deep relationships with her students and watched her own teaching style blossom. In addition to developing her teacher practice, she began to show greater interest in the processes of the school and started to voice her suggestions on improving our school culture.  In her third year, although uncommon, I asked her to become a mentor for a beginning teacher. I believed her positive energy, forward thinking, and growth mindset would shape her to become an effective mentor. She then became a trained mentor to someone else. Her new role helped her grow as a classroom teacher as she continued and modeled the importance of reflecting with her new mentee teacher.  And with her growth, my mentoring focus shifted; she was becoming a teacher leader.

Yes, I am proud to have played a part in Kim’s development; however, in order for any teacher to grow and develop, other structures need to be in place.  The culture of the school must create an environment where teachers feel successful and know that their everyday tasks make a difference. There has to be a sense of empowerment for teachers that they have a voice for making and being part of change.  These factors are the foundation for talent to emerge. Once talents are identified, there needs to be appropriate professional development for them to grow, such as providing mentoring training to teachers like Kim to become effective mentors.

In reality, a school’s culture is not always ideal.  Each school and its environment is different. How can we build a student-centered culture driven by teachers?

How can we close the gap to ensure that schools are closer to reaching that ideal culture in order to recognize and to develop talent?    

The culture of a school is the responsibility of all stakeholders. We all need to take an active role in creating an environment where educators and students can thrive and evolve in our different capabilities and  talents. In order for this to happen, teachers, administrators, and Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) must do their part.

Teachers are the best at seeing growth in each other.  They understand the struggles and will seek solutions from each other.  When their colleague overcomes an obstacle, whether it is connecting with students to improve class management or to tweak an existing lesson to pique their students’ interest, they know firsthand what it takes to find and implement a solution.  As teachers, we need to continue to encourage and praise each other for our innovation as well as our tenacity to persevere. This is crucial in helping each other to develop our talents. Being encouraged by administrators to recognize each other’s talent can also help provide that culture of support that is needed for teachers to thrive.

According to data collected during the 2017-2018 school year from Hawaii DOE teachers, administrators can best support them as leaders by modeling excellent people and leadership skills themselves. Having administrators be present and be part of the learning community builds trust with their teachers. Creating an environment where leadership can happen at any level encourages collaborative leadership instead of mere compliance. To recognize and reinforce talent, having administrators be present in a teacher’s everyday environment like in the classroom or any teacher-led extra-curricular event will help them further understand the capability and potential of a teacher.  And importantly, administrators must celebrate teachers for the impactful work that they do. These steps provide a sense of empowerment that is needed for teachers to feel valued and heard.

Lastly, the HIDOE should provide specific and relevant professional development and support for both administrators and teachers.  Administrators should be provided with continuous opportunities to build their own skills in identifying and developing talent. Identified teachers can and will continue to grow and hone their craft if provided with specific training and professional development.  In addition, making it a priority to provide ongoing mentoring for both administrators and teachers in this symbiotic journey will reinforce and strengthen their dedication and commitment.

As we look at our existing system to improve our practices, this investment of time and money is a needed step to find and develop talents in our teachers.  In doing so, we are equipping everyone to reach our main goal in education: to develop our own students’ talents so they can be successful and positively impact our world.

 

  Lorna Baniaga-Lee is National Board Certified and has been an English teacher for over 20 years at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. In addition to being a classroom teacher, she leads the school’s Induction and Mentoring program to support beginning teachers and provides professional development courses to help build teacher leaders. She is also a 2016-18 Hope Street Group Fellow.

Lorna Baniaga-Lee is National Board Certified and has been an English teacher for over 20 years at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. In addition to being a classroom teacher, she leads the school’s Induction and Mentoring program to support beginning teachers and provides professional development courses to help build teacher leaders. She is also a 2016-18 Hope Street Group Fellow.

Deliberate School Design that Fosters Teacher Collaboration

by Erin Mendelson

I give enormous credit and respect to full time classroom teachers who remain optimistic and good at their game. When I first joined the profession 11 years ago, my father smiled and remarked that he was once fired as a history teacher in his younger years. My dad was a successful accountant and businessman; thus, this story always baffles me. He often tells me how proud he is that I am a teacher--“not many jobs make a positive difference everyday.” When I stay over at my parents’ house, as I am packing up for work, he likes to say, “Teach the children well.” This school year, I have moved into a different role as a curriculum coach. Now my dad says, “Teach the teachers well,” when I head out the door.

This new career move has given me time to think about my teaching and to be more metacognitive about my teaching choices. Studies show that “when teachers are given time and tools to collaborate with their peers, they are more likely to teach effectively and more likely to remain in the high needs schools that need them most” (Berry, Daughtrey, and Wieder, 2009). In the coaches’ room, twice a week, I convene 7th grade Structured Teacher Planning Time (STPT) meetings with some of the brightest and most tenacious teachers around. In a comfortable meeting space, we run through upcoming teacher-made lesson plans, review and analyze data and celebrate the big and small wins. The new superintendent, Dr. Christina Kishimoto, recently sat at our table and discussed school design and data-driven instruction. Our model with designated curriculum coaches supported me as a teacher for several school years. Now, I am excited to provide the same support to new and veteran teachers.

When I first joined my school, my classroom was the last portable on campus. I was not only geographically distant, I felt isolated because I had no idea what other teachers taught each day. I would scurry through the discarded papers in the copy room to discover great ideas or the direction of my next unit. I planned alone with little feedback from other teachers.

A couple of year later, in 2011, teachers were assigned to STPT with a designated curriculum coach. These face-to-face meetings brought teachers together by grade level and content areas to share their knowledge and expertise. This move came before HIDOE and WASC pushed for the implementation of Formative Instruction Data Teams in all schools. Our data teams developed organically from a desire from teachers to meet on a regular basis to increase teacher accountability and rigor in all classrooms. The master schedule and design of teacher lines were reconfigured to allow shared planning times during the school day. The role of a coach received some pushback as teachers questioned the need for an entire teaching line designated to mentoring and overseeing the design of a shared curriculum. For me, once I began to feel some of my extraneous work responsibilities turn to shared responsibilities, I felt invested and appreciative of the teacher leaders who were facilitating the process. With a pacing guide, we planned out weeks ahead, previewed assessments, and distributed the workload.

This level of collaboration required the investment of time and an equal measure of responsibility. There were heated debates, disagreements and some covert planning. The coaches needed to mitigate, blend ideas and encourage compromise. When passionate teachers deliberate over a particular test question for the unit assessment, the students really do benefit. Soon a healthy dynamic was established in which we depended on each other and trusted the criticism as constructive.

As educators, we face common problems in our classrooms and ought to find solutions together. Schools can create cultures and conditions for effective collaboration by providing some key systems and structures. For example, shared planning times integrated into the school day reduce the burden of additional meetings outside of school hours and honor teachers’ time. It is important to have a designated workspace with a projector or tv so that documents can be reviewed together. Common data trackers, pacing guides and assessments can be shared on Google drive to allow for ongoing editing and creating. Additionally, a clear set of expectations and group norms will maintain a safe and productive environment where teachers willingly take on leadership roles and ownership of all students’ success. Our leadership team and teachers continually review and improve the design of our school to best support teacher collaboration. What can your school do to make the most of its biggest asset, the teachers?

 

  Erin Mendelson has dedicated eleven years to honing her craft as a special education teacher and curriculum coach at Wheeler Middle School on Oahu. After graduating from Columbia University in New York City with a major in Eastern Religions, Erin discovered her love for teaching while working one-to-one in a classroom setting with students with autism. She earned a Master of Arts in Communications and Leadership at Gonzaga University and is a candidate for National Board Certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist in Early Childhood through Adulthood. Erin serves as a mentor teacher with the James Madison Legacy Project that increases the availability and effectiveness of civic instruction in schools.

Erin Mendelson has dedicated eleven years to honing her craft as a special education teacher and curriculum coach at Wheeler Middle School on Oahu. After graduating from Columbia University in New York City with a major in Eastern Religions, Erin discovered her love for teaching while working one-to-one in a classroom setting with students with autism. She earned a Master of Arts in Communications and Leadership at Gonzaga University and is a candidate for National Board Certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist in Early Childhood through Adulthood. Erin serves as a mentor teacher with the James Madison Legacy Project that increases the availability and effectiveness of civic instruction in schools.

What will I learn about my students today?

by Erin Medeiros

I have too, too many days when teaching feels impossibly complicated. My mind is on thirty things at once, and I think I can’t actually do this job and be a mother and a wife and a sane person. WASC, ALICE, AP, AVID, grading, IEP meetings, and I need to pick up the kids and make dinner and work out. But then I’m struck with some profound moment of clarity, and I remember that teaching can and should actually be so simple.

Know our students.

It’s the origin of everything we do, a catalyst for student success, the method for preventing madness, and the solution to a wide variety of pedagogical and social problems. I’m certain the phrase “student voice” quite literally did not exist when I became a teacher, but now it’s the trendy yet obvious cure-all. Knowing what those voices have to say is our quest, our captivation, our salvation. Suddenly, student voice, the fantastical oracle, is everywhere. And that’s as it should be.

This simple act of knowing our kids is both our why and our how.

I was reminded of this most recently when I joined nearly 700 educators gathered at the UHCC Hawaii Student Success Institute. The goal was to celebrate the many recent advances in our community college system and also to expose instructors and other staff to promising practices and new perspectives on community college education. The morning began with three powerful keynote addresses, which all pointed to the need for “student-ready” colleges. As a high school teacher, I was awed by this new term! I’ve spent 12 years in an institution trying to make students “college and career ready,” so I was refreshed by the idea that many of these same students are entering into community college institutions who want to know and be ready for them.

But the highlight of the day? The student panel at lunch shared perspectives from each campus, and their resonating theme was that college and career only began to feel accessible when they felt known. One student explained that adults too frequently asked “What career do you want?” and too rarely asked “What are you interested in?” The difference may seem minimal, but it’s monumental. The former asks about a thing, a future, an achievement, while the latter asks about a person, a present, a possibility.

Among the students’ other insights that serve as simple reminders for all of us in education:

  • “We want to do well, but we just don’t know how to ask.” Students suggested one on one meetings, taking five minutes to check in, and providing specific resources when we notice someone is struggling.

  • “Hear what they’re saying, but look too for what they’re not saying.” This student, who earned a 1.9 GPA in high school, always felt that college prep was only for the “Harvard-bound” 4.0 kids. He’s now a student representative and an eloquent, compelling, motivated student and learner. He flew under the radar in high school.

  • “Keep reaching out.” Another student shared that he struggled and got kicked out of his high school. He knew that he seemed like a tough and distant kid but wished his teachers had continued to reach out and check in with him. He’s now finishing his AA and deciding between becoming an educator or going into medicine.

  • “I would’ve been an A student from the beginning if I’d had relationships from the beginning.” Relationships on campus reduce students’ fear of asking questions and seeking help. Require office hours or conferences just because. Early interactions are the start of a safe space and sense of confidence.

  • “Teachers don’t need to be cheerleaders, but they need to know their students.”

  • “Tell your students they’re doing a good job when they are!”

Too easy? Too obvious? Yes, certainly. Then again, I know I've failed at this and still do. I get complacent and swept up in the daily to-do list. I make teaching the lesson more important than teaching the kids. But I don’t have to. I learned long ago that effective teaching begins with the question: “What do I want my students to learn and how will they learn it?” But I’m retraining myself to ask first: “What will I learn about my students today?”

Teaching has never seemed so challenging, yet it has never been so simple. The students we try to reach everyday have the solutions we’re working so hard to discover. If we focus on knowing our students first, we can’t fail.

 

 

 Erin Medeiros is a National Board Certified Teacher who works with students at Kauai High School. She currently teaches 12th grade AP English Literature & Composition and 9th/10th grade AVID and directs the school's Peer Mediation program. She was recently selected for the pilot year of the Merwin Creative Teaching Fellowship, and has previously participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Program and the Hawaii English Language Arts Content Panel. Erin earned a BA in History from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR and a Master of Education in Middle/Secondary ELA and Social Studies from the University of Oregon.

Erin Medeiros is a National Board Certified Teacher who works with students at Kauai High School. She currently teaches 12th grade AP English Literature & Composition and 9th/10th grade AVID and directs the school's Peer Mediation program. She was recently selected for the pilot year of the Merwin Creative Teaching Fellowship, and has previously participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Program and the Hawaii English Language Arts Content Panel. Erin earned a BA in History from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR and a Master of Education in Middle/Secondary ELA and Social Studies from the University of Oregon.

Sustaining​ ​Support​ ​for​ ​our​ ​Beginning​ ​Teachers

by Caroline Freudig

As I enter into my 6th year working at the District Office on Kaua‘i as the Teacher Induction Program Coordinator, I am thrilled some of our schools across our complex area and the state have embraced school-level, sustainable systems of support for our first and second year teachers. These systems need to be in place especially as our future Title II* funding is very uncertain and it’s not clear what supports the federal government will provide in the coming school years.

Having worked closely with our newly hired teachers these past 6 years, I have seen and heard first-hand what impact our induction program supports have had on our beginning teachers and even on our instructional mentors. First and second-year teachers have said things such as “I really appreciate their (mentor) support and patience to teach each and every new teacher the skills they need to become a successful teacher” and “The teacher induction program has really given me a sense of place. It has allowed me to really understand where my students come from and what the island has to offer to someone new”.

The school-level instructional mentors have also found the trainings provided and the time spent mentoring valuable as I’ve heard things such as “Supporting our new teachers benefits everyone, the students, schools and families” and “They (trainings) really help with suggestions/opportunities for approaching the beginning teacher as well as providing proven strategies to support student learning”. This feedback from our beginning teachers and instructional mentors drives what we do and how we do it here on Kaua‘i.

In order to provide the support, we are supported by the state of Hawai‘i Teacher Induction Center (HTIC). The State Department of Education has been on a journey since 2003 when our Department of Education-Office of Human Relations and the University of Hawai‘i Special Education Department partnered with New Teacher Center, a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving student learning by guiding a new generation of educators. Ever since then, the DOE has worked diligently to provide dedicated support to our beginning teachers and instructional mentors. To this date, Induction & Mentoring is included in the DOE State Strategic Plan.

What does this mean? Well, there is an ongoing focus on supporting our beginning teachers and instructional mentors. And, honestly, why wouldn’t there be? Our state continues to actively recruit teachers from other states, some of which come with many years of experience and others which are brand new to the profession. Each year we have many openings across our schools throughout the state, with Special Education being an area of need.

So, when teachers do apply for and accept a position at a school, it’s vital the school has a process and program in place for how they will provide support for those teachers and that system needs to be differentiated for all types of newly hired teachers- those with teaching experience, those new to the profession, those have lived here all their lives and those from other states or countries. The teacher’s school becomes their home and it all begins there. They need to be embraced and become part of school community and culture, especially for those teachers that move here without any family or friends.

This doesn’t mean there won’t or shouldn’t be any supports provided for the new hires by the district. The district supports, such as a summer orientation, or training for new mentors should continue in collaboration with the schools and their Induction Programs. However, a school needs to take ownership and responsibility for the teachers setting foot on their campus for the first time which needs to include dedicated mentors working with first and second year teachers to assist them in reflecting upon their teaching practice and reaching the diverse needs of their learners in an equitable way.

This type of school driven support for inducting newly hired teachers is necessary and can easily be adapted into a school’s culture given all the supports provided by not only the district but by the state as well. There needs to be an expectation that all schools will have a system in place to support their newly hired teachers and the system or structures provided are rooted in the many years of research on best practices of teacher induction. Many of our schools across the state have embraced this philosophy and they provide an example of how this support can be sustained within the school’s norms. By shining the light upon these school’s structures & systems, other schools can rethink their school design to include ongoing and sustained supports for their new hires.

*Title II funding is U.S. Department of Education funds dedicated to “Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High Quality Teachers and Principals”.

 

 Caroline is the Kaua’i Complex Area Teacher Induction Program Coordinator and has worked as a Kaua’i Complex Area Resource Teacher since the 2012-2013 school year. Caroline completed the New Teacher Center Mentor Training Presenters’ Academy, facilitates mentor training for mentors on Kaua’i and has completed the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy. She was part of the Hawai’i two-year cohort for the NEA/CTQ Teacher Leadership Initiative. A member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of educators, Caroline is HSTA Kaua’i Chapter Treasurer. She received her BA in Early Childhood Education and MA in Elementary Education from Queens College, New York.

Caroline is the Kaua’i Complex Area Teacher Induction Program Coordinator and has worked as a Kaua’i Complex Area Resource Teacher since the 2012-2013 school year. Caroline completed the New Teacher Center Mentor Training Presenters’ Academy, facilitates mentor training for mentors on Kaua’i and has completed the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy. She was part of the Hawai’i two-year cohort for the NEA/CTQ Teacher Leadership Initiative. A member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of educators, Caroline is HSTA Kaua’i Chapter Treasurer. She received her BA in Early Childhood Education and MA in Elementary Education from Queens College, New York.

Messages from the Heart

by Stephanie Mew

Good Vibrations

Early Sunday morning, I woke to the familiar ping indicating a text message. Written in capital letters it read, “WE MADE THE PAPER TODAY!”

“Really?” I replied with a smiling emoji.

“Yes! And three of our students made it too!” my co-teacher answered attaching the news article.

While reading the essays written by my fourth graders, I cried. Not fully understanding the feelings behind the tears, my reaction had definitely caught my attention. A few days later, the “aha” came from the editor’s feedback and comments.

She wrote, “…we ran the three (essays) for their inspirational vibe that might spur on other youngsters...words hold beauty, strength and open life’s possibilities; and the excitement that everyday is a surprise filled with wonder and learning.”

Of course! I was responding to the “vibe” - the energy that exudes from their heartfelt words. I could feel their gratitude through their simple words and clear message that without friends, family, and school, life would be poor. But with these cherished people, and the opportunity to learn, their lives are expansive and full. The young writers understood that life is generous and that they are rich in so many ways.

The students’ inspired commentaries expressed their sincere love. This is what I felt when I read their essays for the first time in their journals, again in their drafts, in the Sunday paper and every time since then. The inspired words from a child are like no other. The innocence, the untainted love for family and friends, the recognition of all that is being done for them to succeed, and the honest and genuine gratitude expressed are truly tear-worthy.

The Road Less Traveled

To reach this perspective of appreciation, the students took a road less traveled in the classroom. It is a path that I often take when I reflect deeply, and look for inspiration, solutions or answers to a question. At the end of the path, I arrive at a destination or conclusion that is sourced from love. This practice is one of the roots of education.

Educere - Root of Education

Educere, the Latin root of education means to bring forth from within. This origin reminds me to see each child as “whole” rather than someone who is lacking. Their latent talents and voice are drawn out by helping them to recognize, develop, use and share their gifts for a fulfilling purpose.

As a teacher, one of my favorite activities is when students present a report or perform a skit. Personalities shine, interests are revealed, and nervousness is shown as I gain a glimpse of their authentic selves. I also treasure the moments when a heart to heart discussion occurs and the students’ compassion, insight, hopefulness, resiliency and depth are uncovered. The young travelers already have many experiences, loves, dislikes, hurts, triumphs, regrets, opinions, gratitudes, dreams, insights and solutions, and I am grateful to be in a position that helps them develop their self-awareness to find their voice. A recent writing project on thankfulness confirmed the belief that beauty lies within and that my role as a teacher is to assist them in drawing out their inner knowing and encourage their self-expression. The conclusion of the thankfulness project illuminated the benefits of educating children in a way that empowers them to observe, reflect, and share what is in their heart.

The Journey

Drawing out the students’ insights and voices occurred in three gradual steps: 1) sitting silently and practicing mindfulness, 2) engaging in reflective activities, and 3) bringing voice to their insights. These exercises can be used for many purposes and situations.

Silent Sitting

At the start of the school day, we sit silently and focus on our breath, heart and love. This five minute exercise provides the opportunity to calm the mind and connect our thoughts and actions to the heart. Through the practice of quieting our mind a sense of well-being and connectedness to self and others is created. With this consistent daily practice the class has shifted to becoming mindful and reflective.

Reflective Activities

Reflective activities encourage students to look inside themselves, ponder and draw out their insights, ideas, thoughts and opinions. For three weeks, we wrote a daily gratitude list which contained seven things or people that they were thankful for. This activity encouraged the children to become aware of and appreciate all that is being done for their benefit, growth and enjoyment. The ultimate goal was to inspire a feeling of abundance, thankfulness and generosity in turn. The students cultivated the feeling of gratitude and accumulated a variety of lists.

Bringing Voice to Their Insights

Once the students chose their topic, they sat silently in a quiet place. With soft music in the background, the students focused on their heart and gratitude for that person(s) or idea. With a few guiding questions, they uncovered the reasons for their thankfulness, what life would be like without that person(s), a message that they would like to convey to the world, and any thoughts or insights that surface. The young writers then poured their hearts out on paper.

Technology can play a significant role in helping students share their voice. The “voice typing” tool removes several barriers to writing. The speech-to-text function allows them to have their unique style where their personality shines unencumbered by the fear of spelling or writing skill. Also, writing and editing skills are strengthened as students are eager to perfect their authentic message.

A Joyful Moment - Becoming Published Writers

The fourth graders found their voice and it was heard across the state. After reading their essays in the Sunday paper, I began texting parents about their child’s achievement and posting the essays on social media. It was well received with instant feedback of likes, hearts, thumbs up and retweets. The next day, there were smiles and acknowledgements from co-workers who read the article. Copies of the article were left in my inbox with handwritten notes in the margins, “Good job. Keep up the good work.” In class, one of the student authors told the story of her mother’s surprise to see her daughter’s name in the byline. We displayed the newspaper on the classroom wall. This time it had a special significance. The authors were our friends! The students exposed their hearts to a large audience and it was acknowledged that it had made a difference.

Two Roads Diverge

In education as in life, we often encounter two or more roads before us. Many approaches, tools and best practices are at the hand of the teacher. I will take a cue from my students and remember this experience when faced with choosing how to educate. Knowing that the path of reflection and mindfulness will lead me to insights and solutions derived from the heart, this will be my preferred path. By sharing my thoughts, dreams, concerns, inspirations and gratitude, I hope to also spur on others to consider the powerful and beautiful possibilities when we are mindful and reflective and teach students these valuable skills. Robert Frost’s poignant poem continues to echo in my heart.

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

 

 Stephanie is a third grade teacher at Kapunahala Elementary School in Kaneohe. She has been a public school teacher for the past 16 years. Stephanie has received her Masters in Elementary Education with a Montesorri Emphasis from Chaminade University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Hawaii. She spent two years at the Sathya Sai School in Thailand studying the Education in Human Values program and teaching conversational English. She is the 2016 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year. Her passion is teaching children how to develop good character and positive mindsets for learning and life.

Stephanie is a third grade teacher at Kapunahala Elementary School in Kaneohe. She has been a public school teacher for the past 16 years. Stephanie has received her Masters in Elementary Education with a Montesorri Emphasis from Chaminade University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Hawaii. She spent two years at the Sathya Sai School in Thailand studying the Education in Human Values program and teaching conversational English. She is the 2016 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year. Her passion is teaching children how to develop good character and positive mindsets for learning and life.

Intervention Teacher At Your Service: Perceptions & Reality of the “Push-In” Provider

by Eileen Carr

I walked in the door and set down my bag. The teacher glanced up from her lesson, noticed me, and called to her students. “Raise your hand if you don’t understand the math.” A classroom of pre-tweens shrunk down in their seats, mortified, surreptitiously looking around at their peers while expertly avoiding eye contact. “Okay then, just take him. He’s so behind. Everyone else is fine.” Nash gathered up his materials and began heading to our table. Grabbing a seat, I quickly skimmed the day’s lesson and brainstormed a list of manipulatives to help today’s student visualize multiplication. Whiteboard, Expo pen, interlocking cubes-- and GO!

This was the refrain throughout my year as a math and English Language Arts intervention teacher providing “push-in” services, or going into classrooms to provide on-the-spot support during classroom lessons. Having relocated to Hawai’i after spending 12 years as a classroom teacher in New York City, I had jumped at this opportunity to put my skills to the test with students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Initially, I had ambitions of bringing greater structure to these sessions, but it didn’t take long to realize how challenging that would be. I was brand new to my school and the Hawaii DOE, and I needed time to build relationships and earn the trust of the teachers. Additionally, this was the first time most of the teachers in this school had ever experienced push-in intervention. So when I showed up in their doorways, I represented a host of stressors, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Why does admin think I need help? I don’t need help. I know how to teach.
Which kids don’t get it? Which ones NEVER get it? She can help them learn the basics.
Who’s got the biggest pile of unfinished work to plow through? She can keep that one on task.

Intervention teachers are intended to be educators who provide support to particular students or groups of students. Their function is to provide additional assistance to students who need it, and their success is largely dependent on ongoing communication and collaboration with the classroom teacher. Nonetheless, they can make a lot of teachers uncomfortable, regardless of their years of experience. Many teachers are accustomed to high levels of control and autonomy within the walls of their classrooms and aren’t thrilled by the prospect of an outsider coming in to watch, listen, possibly even judge. Even when a school’s administration articulates the optimal role of the intervention teacher, an intervention teacher’s presence can often be incorrectly perceived as an intrusion, a nuisance, a threat.

The greatest realization that took place during my year of transitioning from classroom teacher to intervention provider was this: Intervention services are not only about supporting the teacher, they’re about supporting the students--as a team. An intervention teacher is not an assistant, but rather a qualified teacher trained to provide differentiated support to students based on their diverse learning styles, academic readiness, needs, and goals. When an intervention teacher offers services to a classroom teacher, they are certainly striving to support the classroom teacher’s objectives. Equally importantly, they are there as a support to the student(s) in need. They are best able to accomplish that goal if there is clear communication, trust, and a commitment to working together as partners. Over time, carving out concentrated moments to put our heads together to envision teaching trajectories was something that my classroom teachers and I learned to value and work towards.

Classroom teachers are the primary links between their students and the resources that a school has to offer. Classroom teachers play a critical role in identifying potential small groups, describing learning objectives, and clearly defining goals and deadlines. They know their students best and are in a unique position to advocate for their students. Intervention teachers can provide additional small group experiences, allowing classroom teachers to attend to their primary responsibility of managing and caring for a larger group of learners. Intervention teachers can assist classroom teachers in their goals of reaching the broadest range of students possible while offering students a more intimate forum to grow and learn. In the context of these small groups, students of all skill levels can deepen their understanding, hone their skills, and give voice to concerns that may be out of place in a larger setting. Working together, classroom teachers and intervention providers can come together to provide targeted groups of students with just what they need.

Nash pushed one final row of cubes into place. He began counting by ones, then stopped himself. “Wait, I can use multiplication to do this faster, right?!”
“Yeah, and you can even break it in half and double that,” Maya explained.
“Exactly!” I crowed. Maya showed Nash how to halve the array, and they worked together to find their total.
“I
would never have asked that question in front of the class,” he confided.
“Working in a small group makes me feel like I can be good at math, too,” Maya agreed. She smiled quietly with the enormous pride of being able to help someone else understand.

There is power in teaching partnerships at the classroom level. The range of needs, abilities, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, and proficiencies in any classroom is vast and ever-changing, and therefore the range of approaches should also be differentiated. The possibilities for supporting students can flourish through the combined creativity and pedagogical expertise of multiple teachers. Think about the various dispositions in your classroom. Are there students with boundless creativity who struggle to put the first markdown on paper? Students with insatiable appetites for challenges? Students who just want to run free? Through collaborative conversations with teachers in my school, we developed an intervention program that supported these learners with mathematical song-writing, advanced math study groups, and behavior modification plans that led to free play. All of these interventions were designed to suit specific learners, and all of these interventions arose from creative collaboration and two pairs of hands on deck.

The next time you have the opportunity to work with an intervention provider, say yes. Get to know your provider’s interests and strengths. Describe your class, and encourage your class to develop a relationship with your provider. Give them a minute to say “hello” and talk story. Check in frequently about how things are going, and don’t feel like you need to have all the answers. Find a system for communication that works for you, whether a jotted summary of the day’s progress, a quick verbal check-in, or an email. Have lunch together periodically. Trust your provider and know that she is there for the same reason that you are. Most importantly, trust that allowing your students more opportunities to talk, more opportunities to try, more opportunities to be challenged, can only lead to more opportunities to shine--for everyone involved.

 Eileen is a 5th grade teacher in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex in Honolulu. Prior to teaching in Mānoa, she taught in New York City public schools for 12 years and an additional four years in Waldorf, French immersion and EFL programs in Martinique, Taiwan and Lebanon. She embraces leadership roles that enhance her school communities, particularly those that highlight social justice, curriculum development, and interconnectedness of people and places. She seeks to promote learning environments that emphasize direct experience, creativity, inquiry and debate. She earned a BA in Urban Studies and French Studies from Fordham University and a Masters of Science in Education from City College.

Eileen is a 5th grade teacher in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex in Honolulu. Prior to teaching in Mānoa, she taught in New York City public schools for 12 years and an additional four years in Waldorf, French immersion and EFL programs in Martinique, Taiwan and Lebanon. She embraces leadership roles that enhance her school communities, particularly those that highlight social justice, curriculum development, and interconnectedness of people and places. She seeks to promote learning environments that emphasize direct experience, creativity, inquiry and debate. She earned a BA in Urban Studies and French Studies from Fordham University and a Masters of Science in Education from City College.

Creating Community For New Teachers

by Debra Heyler

It was the summer before the start of the 2016-17 school year, and my principal had yet to fill several teaching positions.  Perhaps they were still vacant because Hawaii faces a persistent teacher shortage, or the notion of teaching at a school that services the disciplinary referrals and incarcerated youth appealed to few applicants.  In any case, it didn’t look promising that these positions would be filled before school started.  A couple weeks before the start of school, however, the principal informed me that she had filled the vacancies, and one of those new teachers was a lawyer.  Wow, I thought, a career change! The reason he left the law profession to work as a teacher intrigued me, but Brian’s transition to his new profession also concerned me , especially given the national crisis in teacher retention. The essential questions became, how can our schools provide support to new teachers like Brian so that they find success and stay in the profession. How do we establish a community so that new teachers feel cared for, transition smoothly, and continue to work with kids?

In his first weeks, Brian had a very positive outlook, but as we talked more he shared that one particular class period wore him down because of the larger size and a couple dominating boys pushing the line.  I clearly remember those growing pains of being a new teacher at our school, where students transfer in because of discipline issues at their previous schools.  I decided to commit to being a part of that class and be that additional support.  My current roles as data coach and coordinator for the school’s accreditation took me out of the classroom, so this decision also helped keep me grounded in teaching. Brian mentioned how helpful it was to have another adult present to add to the discussion and to bounce ideas around.  In addition,  I was able to model and discuss strategies I’ve found effective. In a short period of time, I got to know the students, and these relationships carried outside of the classroom and into the new school year. It was a win-win situation for all of us.

My experience with Brian is an example of how personnel can be distributed to optimize student learning and teacher support. Rather than conform to the traditional paradigm of straight teacher lines, why not have support staff, counselors and non-classroom teachers support teachers in their classrooms? Regular participation in a class and/or co-teaching is especially important in those classes that are struggling.  Another consideration is creating mentor-mentee relationships that includes scheduling a common prep time to discuss and another class period for the mentee to observe and/or co-teach with the mentor.  In a recent focus group I conducted on the topic of teacher retention, a veteran teacher shared how he coordinated a master schedule that lined up mentor-mentee relationships so that there would be regular interactions, modeling, and coaching.  His school historically had a high teacher turnover rate, but many teachers recently chose to stay because of the support they were receiving. Lastly, schools should consider creating a structure in which  teachers work in teams; this paradigm would naturally lend itself to mentor-mentee relationships. Currently, our school is in its third year of integrated Project Based Learning (PBL) teams. This model has been wonderful for providing new teachers, like Brian, a team to discuss concerns, questions, and ideas to try out. In fact, at the end of school year Brian gave a “shout out” to his wonderful PBL co-teachers at our faculty meeting.

When I asked Brian what advice he would give administrators to help support new teachers, Brian did not hesitate to list a few considerations:

  1. Provide meeting times for teachers to get together and share practices, classroom management strategies, and ideas.  Often meetings have set agendas and so there isn’t time for teachers to freely share ideas.  Consider school a learning community for adults.  I recall my education professor who had decades of classroom experience share that in teaching it’s “okay” to steal great lesson ideas. We must make time and space for this to happen.

  2. Reduce non-teaching duties so new teachers can spend time concentrating on lesson planning and receiving coaching.  There are some  responsibilities that come with teaching that cannot be avoided such as special education and mandatory evaluation paperwork; however, they could be exempt from other responsibilities such as club/class advisorships and yard duty.     

  3. Find mentors or people who are happy to field questions and guide new teachers.  Just as healthy schools have students who can identify an adult they feel comfortable talking to and seeking advice from, teachers should be able to say they have a colleague from whom they can seek advice.  Schools will often have designated a “mentor” teacher on campus, but the quality varies. I recall my first teaching assignment at a large high school. I was told I had a mentor teacher, but this teacher never approached me. My education program then provided me a mentor teacher, who helped me through my first semester with observations, cognitive coaching, and continual encouragement.  Schools need to carve time for mentorship into the master schedule and allow more teachers to be mentors, thereby making the mentor:mentee ratio manageable and meaningful.

It’s a new school year, and our principal has designated two teachers to be mentors; Brian is one of the mentees. In addition, each teacher is part of a PBL group of teachers who regularly meet. I do my part to check-in casually, and I’ve been giving rides home to one teacher. This has been a great opportunity to discuss teaching strategies, classroom management, and teaching philosophy. I have enjoyed the discourse and appreciate his candid sharing of the positives and trials he faces daily. In thinking about retaining good teachers, all of us need to look at ourselves as part of the solution.  Solutions may be on a systemic or individual level, but in whatever form, we need to ask ourselves, how are we contributing to creating a learning community that teachers want to remain a part of for many years?

 

  Debbie has been at Olomana School for 19 years, serving as a social studies teacher, curriculum coordinator, Title I coordinator, data coach and currently as the WASC self-study coordinator.  Olomana School is a unique setting, having multiple campuses, which includes a secondary school servicing students in Oahu’s Windward District, the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility and the State’s juvenile detention facility. She enjoys working with these youth, and passionately believes that every child deserves a quality education. She has served on numerous WASC visiting teams, completed the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy, and taught English in Japan with the JET program. She earned her BA from the University of California Santa Cruz and her MEd from the University of Hawaii’s MET program.  She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and their three children.

Debbie has been at Olomana School for 19 years, serving as a social studies teacher, curriculum coordinator, Title I coordinator, data coach and currently as the WASC self-study coordinator.  Olomana School is a unique setting, having multiple campuses, which includes a secondary school servicing students in Oahu’s Windward District, the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility and the State’s juvenile detention facility. She enjoys working with these youth, and passionately believes that every child deserves a quality education. She has served on numerous WASC visiting teams, completed the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy, and taught English in Japan with the JET program. She earned her BA from the University of California Santa Cruz and her MEd from the University of Hawaii’s MET program.  She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and their three children.

Will All the Teacher Leaders Please Stand up?

by Dana Tanigawa

It takes a certain finesse to be a teacher within the Hawaii Department of Education, especially when you strive for students to be successful. Navigating a system that operates as both a state and local education agency is complicated. Meeting mandated requirements like the Educator Effectiveness System and abiding by the Every Student Succeeds Act takes careful precision for teachers concerned with demonstrating accurate measures of student growth. Understanding how to best support and teach students from diverse backgrounds and geographically isolated areas is a challenge. Pursuing constant and continuous professional development to further our craft is rewarding, yet time consuming. For the past fifteen years I have worked alongside teachers who I believe are leaders within our profession. Each teacher has tackled different problems in their own way while trying to guide students, support their colleagues, and strengthen their school.  

What defines a teacher leader? How do you know when you are in the presence of a teacher leader? Do teacher leaders need to have super powers to do everything or can they excel in one area?  Even among teachers and administrators, many questions surround teacher leaders, but if the Department of Education wants to prepare students to be successful in college and career, it should begin conversations around teacher leadership. The department, in coordination with its teachers, should define a teacher leader and develop a better understanding of what teacher leaders do. This would help educators see the need to use our collective strengths to build our community and to amplify the call to support the areas of need.    

Many equate professional development with being a teacher leader, though it’s not a perfect equation. Teachers attend trainings or classes and learn more. They know more about the topics they’ve studied: phonics, relationship building, math, and so on. The traditional salary system only rewards teachers’ education level and years of service (Augenblick, Palaich, & Stoddard, 2014). But is that all? Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (2012) shows that 96% of teachers entering the profession with a bachelor’s seek more professional development. Teachers continue to learn and often acquire a master’s degree, but then professional development is sought after less and less. What do teachers do after they receive these degrees? What professional development opportunities do these teachers seek out?

Personally, my experiences lead me to define teacher leaders as those who create a lasting impact in education so students can succeed.  Teacher leaders play a critical role in helping students, schools, and states progress.  Schools need these leaders to support, influence, and guide all those involved.  Creating impact doesn’t follow a roadmap or a criteria sheet. It is different from classroom to classroom and school to school. These leaders assess the situation, collaborate, develop a plan, take action, reflect, and continue the cycle.

I commend teachers who attend workshops or other professional learning beyond the school day and put their new skills into practice. But what the teacher does with the learning from the workshop and her past experiences shows her impact as a leader. Does she form a professional learning community and read books or research connected to the workshop?  Does she implement her learning with students and invite others to reflect on the instruction?  After receiving a higher degree, does she do action research projects to see if she can implement better reading strategies?  If a teacher took a GLAD training to know how to better support her English Language learners, what does she do after the training? Does she say, “Man that’s a lot of work! I don’t have time to do all of that!” or does she find someone at her school who has also taken this training and collaborate to work and create lessons to influence student learning?  This is what teacher leaders do.

Leadership goes beyond acquiring knowledge.  Rather, those with the knowledge from learning and experiencing must now provide or continue the learning.  When leaders show their qualities and design ways for those within the organization to internalize and build capacity, the more progress is made as an organization. Teacher leaders move our profession forward. They lead by learning, collaborating, persevering, communicating, and impacting those around them.

Teacher leaders lead in many ways. Some may not even know they are leaders. Giving teachers a clearer understanding of what it means to lead could transform our education system. Valuing teachers and giving them an active service role could elevate our profession while further propelling our students toward success.

 

  Dana Tanigawa, EdD, NBCT has enjoyed teaching in the Hawaii Department of Education for the past thirteen years. She continues to learn as she has been a grade three, four, and six teacher, literacy coach and curriculum coordinator. She currently works as a content curriculum coach for grades 3-6 at Waipahu Elementary School. Dana earned National Board certification in Literacy in 2011. You can find her supporting her public library on the weekends or volunteering with Ka Hui Heluhelu Hawaii Literacy Association.

Dana Tanigawa, EdD, NBCT has enjoyed teaching in the Hawaii Department of Education for the past thirteen years. She continues to learn as she has been a grade three, four, and six teacher, literacy coach and curriculum coordinator. She currently works as a content curriculum coach for grades 3-6 at Waipahu Elementary School. Dana earned National Board certification in Literacy in 2011. You can find her supporting her public library on the weekends or volunteering with Ka Hui Heluhelu Hawaii Literacy Association.

SCHOOL = LIFE

by Kristilyn Oda

Suffocating silence ruled my high school history class. Curriculum and expectations were clear and concise. Week after week, we were given the same lesson plan every single period. Read the next textbook chapter and submit an outline. No thought-provoking discussion guided by my teacher, nor enduring learning was retained. Like my peers, I was a teen with pressing questions, facing societal issues, and launching into the future in which I would be charged with designing, navigating, and implementing complex solutions to our world’s problems. That semester, however, I did not walk out of that class viewing myself as a global contributor or as someone capable of leadership. I left feeling largely ignored, prepared as an exam taker, on my way to graduation.  

In the United States, compulsory education is a path to enable students to secure jobs, supporting themselves and the economy. Only about half of the states and just 25 percent of major countries mandate attendance beyond 16 years old. Yet for many emerging communities, school is a privilege. Hard sacrifices are made to send a child to school. You don’t have to go. You get to go. Whether by law, custom or choice, children are greatly influenced by their teachers and schools, academically, emotionally, and socially.

For many students in Hawaii, teachers and schools have the ability to help clear the confusion cloud brought on by dysfunction at home. I changed locations a number of times throughout my childhood years due to family economics and as I adapted to a new lifestyle and landscape, my school became my haven. School offered hope, health, excitement, friendship, accomplishment, and stability. It was the safe, predictable place I could observe structure and cause & effect. The daily routine of academic subjects was punctuated by morning business, common procedures, recess, lunch, and dismissal. If I had incomplete homework, I would have an unpleasant consequence. If I studied, a glorious A+  followed. When I encountered teachers who went beyond simply teaching their content area, I gained a sense of well-being and belonging.  This is what carried me outside school walls as I became more aware and equipped to navigate both challenges and opportunities.

My teachers were the ones who taught me life lessons that filled gaps left by parents who were either physically distant or emotionally drained. I learned the meaning of real community through my first grade teacher, Mrs. Ball, who invited our whole class to a pool party at her home. In another instance, a sixth grade teacher helped me understand fairness and empathy as he coached me to advocate for myself with a boy who was unkind. A middle school vice principal taught me about truth and justice as he drew out a confession from me during a disciplinary conference. A math teacher guided me through our first experience of deep collective mourning when she canceled instruction to watch breaking news about the space shuttle disaster. My photography teacher taught me responsible decision making and self-management as he gave opportunities to connect exploration with creativity. My art teacher helped me learn to appreciate and respect the talent of others, even when my own ability was lacking. My accounting teacher taught me goal setting and grace when a long-term project was lost. Furthermore, a memorable psychology teacher taught me how incredibly unique and interesting humans can be and how developing relationship skills can be so meaningful. Although these learnings aren’t written explicitly in the school curriculum, these are the ones that endure. If missed, it proves detrimental to communities.

In the 1,000 hours per year that educators are entrusted with students, precious life lessons can be imparted or squandered. We have started to see praiseworthy frameworks bubbling up in education reform circles that prioritize this essential learning for children. Hawaii Department of Education and Board of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 highlights the policy efforts to cultivate student success by addressing the whole child. Thus, we look forward to expanding the emphasis on social-emotional learning statewide. There is an urgency to make intentional decisions as we hone these vital competencies in our students. As community leaders and parents spark ideas to support our schools, write on your heart the exponential impact of an educator on each child. Never underestimate the opportunity and purpose of making a positive difference in the lives of students. It can change the world.

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Addressing the WHOLE child can change the world.

  KRISTILYN ODA    @kristioda     Kristilyn earned National Board Certification in 2003 and currently mentors candidates, as well as pre-service university students. Recently, she co-chaired to host the first statewide NBCT Education Policy Summit. Additionally, Kristilyn has taught, directed, and organized international summer camps and homestays. Her passion is equipping teachers and children with knowledge, resources, and attitudes to positively impact our communities. She has been educating fourth graders for the past two decades at Holomua Elementary and is a Hope Street Group Fellow planning the first ECET2 in her local area.

KRISTILYN ODA   @kristioda

Kristilyn earned National Board Certification in 2003 and currently mentors candidates, as well as pre-service university students. Recently, she co-chaired to host the first statewide NBCT Education Policy Summit. Additionally, Kristilyn has taught, directed, and organized international summer camps and homestays. Her passion is equipping teachers and children with knowledge, resources, and attitudes to positively impact our communities. She has been educating fourth graders for the past two decades at Holomua Elementary and is a Hope Street Group Fellow planning the first ECET2 in her local area.

The Wave of Education

by Clinton Labrador

We are at a critical time in education right now. Teachers are over-burdened with data, initiatives, and a growing number of students with adverse childhood experiences, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), and a multitude of other diagnoses. Teachers and students alike are overloaded.

As a turbulent ocean, information and initiatives are coming at us from all directions. We are drowning, forgetting what it’s like to keep ourselves afloat, attempting to balance the multiple demands of being a teacher while nurturing our students, our own personal lives, and our original intent of being an educator. So how do we cope, or ride the waves, instead of flounder? How do we traverse the ever-changing tides of education? And how do we prepare intently for the next WAVE of education?

Just recently, Hawaii’s own double-hulled canoe called Hōkūleʻa navigated the world. . Interestingly, with all the technology in the world, Hōkūleʻa voyaged without using modern instruments. They only used the elements of nature such as the stars, wind, and waves. The mission of the voyage was Mālama Honua, to take care of our island Earth. However, part of this mission was not only taking care of the environment, but also taking care of ourselves as people, as humans on this small planet by returning  to simplicity, Aloha, and human connection. The belief is, when we take care of ourselves, everything else will follow. The same is true with education.

The intent of the DOE and BOE is not to overburden us. Stress reduction and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn writes: “The big issues of yesterday are literally nothing today, the big issues of today will be nothing tomorrow.” We often stress ourselves out as teachers with the current initiatives. But there are always hoops we are going to jump through, currents that we are going to face. There are ALWAYS going to be initiatives to follow. However, we need to revisit our constant, our WHY and reflect back on the reasons we entered the teaching profession in the first place. Using our why, we are allowing ourselves to navigate or ride our own personal visions, our paths with integrity. By charting our paths we are, in a sense, going back to the original essence of being an educator, similar to the Hōkūleʻa. Simplicity can reveal our true integrity and mission. What might it tell us about navigating the rough, ever-changing waves of education?

The current vessel that is being explored in the education world is social and emotional learning (SEL). Ultimately, I believe it will help us navigate through the challenging currents. With all the distractions of modern, digital technology, our children are also getting lost in the currents. They are literally immersed in a digital reality of instant gratification. Social media has turned the tides of social interactions, which sometimes works for the worse. For example, I have witnessed students become popular in school overnight just because of the amount of followers they have accrued through a social media app.  At the same time, I have seen students feel rejected because they have not received the recognition that they feel they deserve. Studies indicate that more adolescents than ever suffer from depression and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by social media.

As educators, it is our responsibility to take them back to the humanity of person-to-person connection and contact. We need to guide them through the emotions and rejection they are feeling, irst by exploring themselves. We need to find out what their WHY is. What drives them to be passionate about life? Is it social media? Technology? Ultimately, their WHY may be far from anything we might be able to comprehend because of the generational gap. However, by attempting to understand their WHY, we may tap into their schema of the world and together chart a course  through life.

So who is to steer this SEL vessel? And what is the tool to steer? Ultimately, teachers have the power to create an environment where children can freely navigate and chart their own paths. Instruction should start with the children first and build from there. As teachers we serve as guides to steer the children in the paths that will help them navigate the ever-changing world of technology.  For example, a teacher should understand that children (not to mention many adults) are constantly on devices feeding their brains with instant information and gratification. This is one of the reasons why traditional teaching such as lecturing is obsolete. Information can be obtained in an instant. But the ability to think cannot. As teachers, as steersmen, we need to use tools such as mindfulness to engage children to be aware of all the stimulation by teaching them to be aware of the wave of their thoughts and obstacles they face. We need to guide them in quieting their minds and to be able to cope, judge, and respond appropriately to information they may be exposed to. We also need tools that will engage them to think about their course in life, their personal voyage.

As a teacher, I have used my passion for mindfulness, SEL, and relevance to fuel my teaching. Especially on the rural island of Molokai, it is important that I tap into the students’ perspectives because they are brought up in an environment that is unique from most of the world. At the same time, I still see the effect that modern technology is having on this rural island with a population of 7,000. I teach the students Response Ability: the ability to respond to emotions of rejection, failure, and loss. Everyday, I use metaphors to connect to the children. On a daily basis, I refer to my class as OUR canoe. My writing rubrics mirror a fishing tournament. When I talk about accuracy, I mention hunting. And I constantly relate everything they learn to WHY it’s relevant to their future and life and let them know that I genuinely care about them.

The next WAVE of education is to start with the students, understand them, build them up with relevancy and compassion, and connect with them so we can help steer them through the currents of life. Social and emotional learning and patience are the vessels that will help us take care of our future stewards. Once we have instilled the passion to learn, and engaged their minds, they can voyage across the world like Hōkūleʻa, riding the wave of life.

  Clinton is a Special Education Teacher at Kaunakakai Elementary School on the island of Molokai where he lives with his wife and two children. He has 14 years of teaching experience and has taught a variety of grade levels from preschool to high school, both general and special education. He currently serves as a leader on the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) teams. He leads professional development on the topic of mindful learning strategies in the classroom. Clinton received his Bachelors in liberal arts at California State University Fullerton and his Masters and teaching degree at Chaminade University on Oahu. Clinton is very passionate about social/emotional learning and believes that It should be emphasized in schools. He currently implements Mindful Awareness strategies with his students as a way to nurture a rigorous learning environment. Clinton loves to travel the world and enjoy water activities such as surfing, paddling, and fishing.

Clinton is a Special Education Teacher at Kaunakakai Elementary School on the island of Molokai where he lives with his wife and two children. He has 14 years of teaching experience and has taught a variety of grade levels from preschool to high school, both general and special education. He currently serves as a leader on the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) teams. He leads professional development on the topic of mindful learning strategies in the classroom. Clinton received his Bachelors in liberal arts at California State University Fullerton and his Masters and teaching degree at Chaminade University on Oahu. Clinton is very passionate about social/emotional learning and believes that It should be emphasized in schools. He currently implements Mindful Awareness strategies with his students as a way to nurture a rigorous learning environment. Clinton loves to travel the world and enjoy water activities such as surfing, paddling, and fishing.

Don't Wait for Superman--Be the Superhero for Your Students

by Lorna Baniaga-Lee

In 2010, Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman documentary called his audience to take action and make a difference in our dysfunctional educational system in America. The trailer of the film lures the audience with images of students who desperately want to succeed in school. It continues with statistics of how our schools are failing them. The trailer ends with clips of students and parents, distressed and anxious, as they wait for their number to be called. The film follows the journey of five students and their families as they apply for a lottery to get into a charter school--portrayed as the light in this dark educational system.

Guggenheim presents the audience with a glimmer of hope through charter schools--schools that are given the flexibility to be innovative to meet students’ needs to be successful. Guggenheim cleverly ends the documentary watching each student being denied or accepted to a school while keeping that glimmer of hope flickering to those who were accepted. In the end credits, Guggenheim states that “the problem is complex” but the “steps are simple.”

It is now 2017 and our nation is still looking for that glimmer of hope to provide that quality of education for our children. For the last 20 years as a classroom teacher, I find that glimmer of hope seems to be so heavily dependent on policy makers and those who are not even in the classroom. Why? Why do we look for hope in those who lack the knowledge and experience of what it means to be a classroom teacher? Why do we look for hope and solutions from a group that has no idea of what it is like to teach 35+ students in a 100-degree classroom? Why do we look for hope in those who only measure the success of our schools through numbers and test scores? Why do we hold their conclusions so dearly when they don’t even understand what we as educators deem as being successful? Why do we waste so much time and energy being so disappointed and angry at those who think they are the answers to our educational problems?

Instead, let’s look around us.  Let us look in the mirror.  We--teachers, administrators, counselors, educational assistants--are that glimmer of hope for our students. We may already have what it takes to make changes within our schools to provide that quality education that our students deserve. Our students see us; they do not see the politicians and policy makers.

Campbell

James Campbell High School Superheros of administrators, counselors and teachers convene to plan and collaborate for a successful school year.  

Even when there is too much emphasis on testing and not enough real life skills taught in our classrooms, we still have the power to develop those important skills. Important life skills of not giving up and persevering.  While delivering a mandated curriculum and being expected to provide a place for students to be innovative can be infuriating, we still have the power to make things better for our students. When I realized that I was getting angry at an invisible person for these circumstances, I decided to focus my energy on how I could provide a space for my students to be innovative within the curriculum I was given.

I also realized that I could not wait for others to validate what I do. Our students also can’t wait for others to value our profession. As educators, we need to value each other more for the amazing work that we do everyday. When observing a colleague in one of your learning walkthroughs, be that person who acknowledges them for that great lesson delivered. That simple act will go a long way. In addition, we need to celebrate each other and our profession. Let’s find ways to honor and highlight our many little successes. In doing so, we are elevating who we are and the important work that we do for our community, our society, our world.

I am not dismissing the responsibilities of the elected officials whom we put into power. We need to hold them accountable for their promises and positions; however, we cannot rely on them to be the solution. Instead, we need to believe that we have more power than we will ever know. Our educational problems are complex but we can’t simply wait for Superman to swoop in and solve them for us. We need to be the superhero and that glimmer of hope for our students. They deserve it. We owe it to them.

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Lorna Baniaga-Lee is National Board Certified and has been an English teacher for the last 20 years at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. In addition to being a classroom teacher, she leads the school’s Induction and Mentoring program to support beginning teachers and provides professional development courses to help build teacher leaders. She is also a 2016 Hope Street Group Fellow.