#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.

A Voice from Mali: Discovering my African Ancestor

by Jonathan Gillentine

 

Recently my mother and I were sharing our thoughts about diversity: our Scots-Irish heritage; the tragedies experienced by black men across the country at the hands of white police officers; and the possibility of ethnic diversity among our ancestors. After reflecting on our conversation, I decided to have my DNA tested, curious to know what other ancestry there was in my family. The results – a high percentage for Europe, mostly Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia. I scrolled down – the list of origins was alphabetical – to see the source of the remaining, small percentage of my DNA. Nothing. I scrolled back up. America? Nothing. Hmm . . . scrolled to the top of the list. Africa? Yes, AFRICA - an ancestor from the region of present-day Mali. It was such a joyful epiphany!

 

I looked online to see how many others there were like me: “white” people with a small percentage of “black.” In 2014, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in The Root on the subject of white Americans having recent African ancestry. He cited Kasia Bryc’s research: “Bryc found that about 4 percent of whites have at least 1 percent or more of African ancestry, known as ‘hidden African ancestry.’” Gates also stated:

 

My hope, in sharing these findings, is that those of our white brothers and sisters who discover that they have at least 1 percent of African DNA will be filled with as much joy and pride in their black ancestors as they would be if they found out they were related to the British royal family, or if their original American ancestor arrived on these shores on the Mayflower, rather than on a slave ship.

 

The discovery of my African ancestry has brought me to wonder: How can I continue to use my voice, and the voices of my African ancestors, to fight against institutional racism, both within the context of education and in the larger sphere of American racial and cultural identity? How will revealing that I am not only white, but also black help me take another step toward living with authenticity? These are questions I will continue to answer I as ponder the question of my racial origins.

 

I recently read a tribute for South African artist and activist Zanele Muholi in Out100. In it she described her own revelation while creating a collection of self-portraits that celebrate her own culture while challenging stereotypes: “We get caught up in other people’s worlds. You never ask yourself how you became.” These words resonated for me within my own discovery. How did I, indeed, become who I am? I am likely a descendent of a slave, yet I will not be a slave to hate, shame, or denial. Nor will I hide. I take joy and pride in my discovery.

 

I am African American.

 

  Jonathan Gillentine, PhD, NBCT served in the Department of Education for over 36 years, most recently as a mentor teacher for the Executive Office on Early Learning. He was a Hope Street Group Hawai`i State Teacher Fellow from 2014-2016. This year he was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the first Hawai`i teacher to be chosen for this honor.

Jonathan Gillentine, PhD, NBCT served in the Department of Education for over 36 years, most recently as a mentor teacher for the Executive Office on Early Learning. He was a Hope Street Group Hawai`i State Teacher Fellow from 2014-2016. This year he was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the first Hawai`i teacher to be chosen for this honor.

How Every Student Succeeds in a Career Academy School

by Whitney Aragaki

Could you identify a career path when you were in high school? Were you able to recognize the skills and traits in your teenage years that would make you successful in your current job? Would your journey to your dream career have been easier if you started preparing in tenth grade?

Today, career academy schools are on the rise. These schools streamline their student populations into groupings based on interest and career goals. They build personalized programs of study and help students make more informed post-high school decisions. In Hawaii, there is a consortium of fifteen high schools that expound on this model to fulfill the needs in their own communities.

 Graduated seniors from Waiakea High's Career Academies. Mrs. Aragaki teaches an AP Research course for seniors.

Graduated seniors from Waiakea High's Career Academies. Mrs. Aragaki teaches an AP Research course for seniors.

 Public Services Academy students at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conference in Honolulu, 2016.

Public Services Academy students at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conference in Honolulu, 2016.

 Cultivating Careers Day 2017 for incoming Waiakea high school students. Career presenters were mostly (all pictured) alumni.

Cultivating Careers Day 2017 for incoming Waiakea high school students. Career presenters were mostly (all pictured) alumni.

In the state, there is a strong push for CCCR - college, career, and community readiness - and the career academy model answers the call for all students. To expound on this argument, let’s focus on six “Friends”, one or more who may have been similar to your classmates, or even yourself.

Ross is the typical strong student. Always hitting the books, on the honors/Advanced Placement track, but not the most involved in other activities. In a school with career academies, Ross would still be able to take the honors programs, but electives would be offered to develop his communication skills, hone his paleontology interests, and also offer a senior capstone course that would challenge his academic skills with a culminating research project with a local mentor. Ross would graduate with honors and have a college application that appeals to Top 10 universities looking for students who go above and beyond the curricular day.

Rachel shows great interest in fashion but would rather chase boys than books. She finds little relevance in core subjects when they are taught in isolation. In a career academy, Rachel would take core and elective classes with classmates that share her career interest, and have teachers that tailor their lessons to a specific population. While on this academy track, Rachel would be encouraged to also take business classes that would develop her entrepreneurial skills and help her build her brand in the future.

Phoebe is the dreamer and the artist. Often, she is found with a guitar in her lap and not a care in the world. Although others might have told her that a musician would not make much money, a career academy model would value her interest as it would a doctor or a lawyer. Career academies treat all careers with significance and worth because students are not compared across the board. This personalization fosters Phoebe’s growth in the arts throughout her high school years, where she is able to present an authentic musical composition to her peers and the community in her senior year.

Joey would someday become a soap opera actor with a stroke of luck, but in high school he shows little interest in academics or any type of job. In career academy schools, every student must choose an academy to be a part of. Joey is the type of student that career academies can drastically change. By placing him on a structured path, this academy ensures that Joey takes his core classes but also elective courses directed to a potential career path. The carpentry and woodworking classes Joey takes are dual credit courses with the local community college, and gives him advanced standing if he were to take that path. However, after his senior project demonstration, he acknowledges he is not interested in the carpentry field and would rather pursue a career in modeling and acting. This cost-free experience in high school saves Joey thousands of dollars and a few years of frustration.

Chandler is the student who sits in the middle of the class, blending into the background while more outspoken peers take the teacher’s attention. Rather than allow him to float through four years unnoticed, his career academy adviser is able to translate his aptitude for numbers and his ability to work well with different peers into a career in advertising rather than setting him up for years of meandering through IT procurement.

Monica shows aptitude for science and math, but her lack of confidence can limit her exploration into new fields. Through career academy offerings, Monica signs up for an introductory tech course, Women in STEM, a course that can only be offered with the academy model and master schedule variety. Monica is able to recognize how to transverse STEM pathways that lead her to investigate options for future success as a food technologist as pursue her hobby of molecular gastronomy.

These students are sitting in a classroom near you - perhaps overlooked, perhaps undervalued. Perhaps you can see yourself in one of their stories. With a little guidance from a school mindset shift, our students will individually have the chance to be recognized and appreciated for their own intelligence and interests. They will be the driving force for new industries and thriving communities of the future.

Support a local career academy school - reach out to assist in senior project mentoring, serve on a career panel, or offer an internship.  This is an initiative that every career pathway can support. Chances are, the future star of your company is right in your community, ready to shine.

Whitney

Whitney is a high school science teacher at Waiakea High School on Hawai’i Island. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, serves on the Hawai’i State Science Work Group, and is a part of the Hawai’i 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 Hawai’i Island. Whitney has a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College, and an MS in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

Thanks for Listening: An Open Letter to the Teacher on the Plane

By Lory Walker Peroff

“Earbuds available to listen to our free entertainment options….or to block out children.”

The crisply dressed male flight attendant with neatly slicked back brown hair announces this as he passes the row containing my two young daughters and me as we begin our ascent for the six and a half hour flight across the Pacific Ocean. Then, looking directly at me, he adds with a smirk and a stifled giggle, “No offense.” With a deep cleansing breath, I overcome the urge to share some choice remarks with our steward.  

By some act of God, soon after take off my daughters quietly nestled themselves into my lap.  The only sound from these exhausted travelers was slow rhythmic breathing indicative of deep sleep. The airplane, however, was not quiet. Directly behind my seat a man was ranting loudly.  He was frequently using language inappropriate for young children’s ears. He clumsily kicked my seat.  He even managed to spill his double Jim Beam on the passenger beside him. And all the while he was sharing his opinion about how transgendered people should not be allowed in the military. I listened. I had no choice. For two hours, I used all my energy to not turn around and shout “Shut Up!”. Not only was his volume turned up to 11, I fundamentally abhorred everything he was saying. Through the profanity laden tirade, I heard a smaller, more rational voice. It was the voice of the young woman seated next to this passenger. She also disagreed with his point of view, but she listened. She listened very differently than I did. She asked clarifying questions. She inquired about his personal experiences. She repeated what she heard him saying. She turned toward him and made eye contact. She did this for two hours. Then through the din, I heard her say, “I am a teacher.”

This incredibly patient young lady set an example of something that all teachers and people should strive to do everyday. She beautifully demonstrated active listening. She was calm and refined. She did not interrupt. She allowed the speaker to finish his point before asking questions. She did not pass judgment. She listened to understand and learn from this stranger seated next to her in an airplane. Despite having wildly different opinions, at the end of the flight she had not made an enemy. Rather, she built a bridge between two very different perspectives.  She graciously thanked him for an interesting conversation and shook his hand.         

Listening is an endangered skill. In a world where people constantly tweet, post, and update all about themselves, listening is becoming increasingly rare. There is so much noise in our daily lives, our attention is constantly under attack by some source of digital distraction. Everywhere you turn phones are being used for everything from giving us directions to counting calories, but seldom used for actual verbal communication. Texting is rapidly replacing speaking, thus further reducing the time we spend listening to each other. Sadly, it is not unheard of for our Commander-in-Chief to shoot out a quick tweet before listening to advisors.   

Why is active listening important?

Listening is an important way for us to learn about the world around us. Listening opens the door to understanding lives, experiences, and beliefs that are different from our own. Active listening skills are an important part of effective communication. Active listening helps us become better collaborators. Active listeners are better equipped to work with others to solve the unknown problems our future holds.   

What does active listening look like?

Active listening requires attention. In his article “The Science and Art of Listening,” Seth Horowitz states, “The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.”  In order to truly listen you must focus your full undivided attention on the speaker.  Herein lies the challenge. Our attention is almost always divided. The listener must intentionally remove all distractions and train the brain to focus solely on the speaker. The first step is to put away papers, phones, and all other distractions. Next it is important for the listener to clear some time in his or her schedule. An active listener should not be in a rush. While listening it is best to make eye contact with the speaker this communicates interest in what is being said. An active listener should have an open mind and refrain from passing judgment.

How do we teach active listening?

1. Model active listening in your classroom.  

Active listening involves listening with all the senses. An active listener faces the speaker and makes eye contact. A person who is actively listening remains relaxed and is not in a hurry. An active listener is not in a rush. Make time to settle in so that the speaker can see, hear, and feel that you care about what is being said.  

2. Explicitly teach the skill of listening.

Teach lessons explaining active listening. Inform the students that active listening is a skill that needs to be practiced just like any other skill. Create charts and examples of what active listening looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Do role plays to allow students to practice the skill of active listening. Make sure to praise students who actively listen to you and their classmates.

3. Give students a voice.

With large class sizes, despite really wanting to listen, it is often a challenge to find time to truly listen to all the voices in class. After teaching about active listening and setting expectations, create sacred times dedicated to active listening. It can be a community circle, morning meeting, or even a lunch bunch. I conduct an hour long Philosophy for Children circle twice a week.  These circles are how I best get to know my students and are often the highlight of my week.  By creating this time, students have more opportunities to practice  active listening and also be heard by their peers.

Now more than ever it is crucial for educators to protect and preserve the endangered skill of active listening. With a lack of proper role models in society and with constant bombardment from digital distractions, educators need to be the models that children look up to. We need to teach our students how to actively listen and learn from those around them. As educators of tomorrow’s leaders it is incumbent upon us to instill in our students that active listening, done properly, shows the speaker that you value and respect their opinion. Active listening helps build trust and understanding. It helps build relationships. Our future is in dire need of leaders who strive to listen, understand, and respect each other in order to work together to solve the world’s problems. With the skill of listening under attack, our ability to understand and respect each other is also in jeopardy. Our greatest weapon to preserve mutual respect and understanding may just be our ears.

Endnote:

Recently after finishing this piece, race riots broke out in Virginia. These riots were a clash between white supremacists and protesters opposing them. During these riots a car was intentionally driven into a crowd of protesters. A 32-year-old woman was struck and killed. The driver of the vehicle was described as an average student in school who idolized Hitler and a had sympathy toward Nazism. His belief in white supremacism was a “known issue” in school. I can’t help but wonder what the conversation would have sounded like if this young man had sat next to the attentive teacher on the airplane? Would she have listened to this young man with the same patience and calm that she had demonstrated on my flight? And if she did, would this man feel that she valued and respected his opinion? I wonder how do you listen when someone’s point of view is just so vile that you can’t possibly value and respect it? I don’t know the answer to this question but I do know that there was a time when this murderous Neo-Nazi was young, so very young that to his unlearned eyes black, white, brown, and yellow were all just hues on the dazzling color spectrum that make up the beautiful world we all live in together.

 

 Lory Walker Peroff is a 4th grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and a Hope Street Group Hawaii Teacher Fellow who believes writing is not only enjoyable but essential. She lives in Honolulu with her husband, two energetic and curious daughters, three chickens, two goats and one peahen.

Lory Walker Peroff is a 4th grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and a Hope Street Group Hawaii Teacher Fellow who believes writing is not only enjoyable but essential. She lives in Honolulu with her husband, two energetic and curious daughters, three chickens, two goats and one peahen.

Windows and Mirrors

By Aurene Castora Padilla

My grandparents immigrated to America for a better life; chasing the American dream of prosperity through hard work on plantations.  They instilled these values in my parents who were excellent role-models: a retired colonel and principal and a former teacher of the year.

My parents wanted the best for us and they made huge sacrifices to send my brother and me to private school. They trusted that this would enable their children to fulfill the American dream.

My private school years were confusing and lonely.  At school I learned that through education there was an exciting world that I could conquer.  But through social interactions with my peers I felt isolated and alienated.  The more I learned how different I was, the more torn I became.  Every day I struggled with identity.  I ate different foods; I looked different.  I did not fit in.  I learned that assimilation was imperative and I adopted the ways of my peers:  talking like them, dressing like them, and shedding my old self as fast I could.  I stopped going to the beach because I was tired of being teased about my dark skin. I shamefully avoided the Filipino workers on campus when a classmate asked if I was related to “them.”   I was embarrassed to say my middle name, “Castora,” out loud and wished it was Anne or Jean.  I laughed at the jokes about Filipinos eating dogs and fighting chickens.  It was exhausting wishing I was someone else. I slowly grew apart from my family and shunned their ways. I became the “stuck up cousin” that went to Private School.

However, at school I was ashamed, lonely, and longed to find someone to connect with.  All the academic success and athletic accolades did nothing to make me feel like I belonged. Upon graduation from high school I was lost.  A part of me was set on becoming a teacher like my parents, another part of me thought I needed higher aspirations.  One classmate asked me, “Why are you at this school if you only want to be a teacher?” I was torn between who I was on the inside and who I thought I was supposed to be.   There was no one I could talk to about any of this.  Who would possibly understand?  To tell my parents would be devastating. To admit any of this out loud would be shameful. I struggled for years trying to achieve the American dream that my private education afforded me while simultaneously trying to be true to myself. It was impossible.  

A few weeks ago at a conference for teachers I attended a presentation by Dr. Patricia Halagao of the University of Hawaii.  Her words resonated within me, “students need windows and mirrors, windows to see out of and mirrors to reflect who they are.”  Her words provided a clarity that evaded me for many years. At that moment I understood my years of struggle.  As a student I had many windows that showed me the world that I could be successful in, but I lacked mirrors in school to reinforce I could be successful exactly as I was.  Luckily for me, I had strong role models at home in my parents.  But what about those students who didn’t?

And so, it made sense that when I finally committed to teaching and began my teaching career I signed up to teach in school districts that had students of FIlipino ancestry.  I instinctively knew that I wanted to ensure that students that looked like me knew that their dreams could be fulfilled in an unfamiliar world. I wanted them to be proud of their heritage and not feel the shame that I did for years.  I was determined that no child would lose their identity while pursuing the American dream.  I would be their mirror.  

My first teaching job was teaching Kindergarten Summer School.  Most of my students looked like me and many were English Language Learners.  One day I was doing a Language Arts lesson and asked my students to list words that began with the “B” sound.  I dictated the words, “bat,” “boy,” and “big,” on the chart as they were called out and was startled  when one of my shy English Language Learner students raised her hand and said “baboy.”  After a pause I gained my composure, smiled, and wrote it on the board below the others asking if anyone knew what “baboy” was.  Suddenly the class was alive with chatter.  “Baboy” is the Ilocano word for “pig,” and writing it on the board with the other english words proved to be significant.  My student and I formed a bond that day and thereafter she would regularly chat with me at recess and offer to share the filipino foods her mom had packed her for snack.  I believe that I was a mirror for her, allowing her to realize that her culture and language was valued in school in America.  

After that summer I got a permanent  job at another school with a predominantly Filipino population.  Upon meeting me, parents would ask, “Filipina?” and beam with pride when I answered yes. I was the first Filipina teacher their children ever had.  Plates of delicious lumpia and pancit were often delivered to my classroom.  I didn't realize the tremendous impact my ethnicity had on my students until recently when a former student posted on my Facebook page:

“There was something in me that felt a lot of pride having someone who was also Filipino other than my parents who kept pushing you, and being the oldest in my family, I never had that mentorship other than my parents.“  Hermie Castillo

Nationwide, statistics show that only 20% of our teachers are of an ethnic minority, however, minority students make up about 50% of the population in public schools. Research has shown that minority students taught by minority teachers tend to have better academic success. It is heartbreaking to know that my story is not unique. How can we ensure that our schools have both windows and mirrors?

  • It is imperative that we recruit and retain a diverse teaching corp that reflects the populations in our schools. Teaching Pathways and Academies in high schools must identify potential educators and recruit them to return to teach in their communities.  

  • College and career counseling should be readily available to all students and not just students who outwardly fit the higher education profile.  

  • Teachers must be adept in issues of diversity and create communities in schools that recognize and celebrate all students’ cultural identities.  Professional development that encourages teachers to learn about other cultures should be readily available, especially when the teacher is unfamiliar with a community’s culture.

  • Schools must be safe zones for students where their uniqueness is accepted and celebrated. Curriculum that stresses socio-emotional well-being as well as the building of relationships is paramount.  

I currently serve as an Induction and Mentoring Program Coordinator in the Hawaii Department of Education.  My work brings me to Title 1 Schools where Filipino and Micronesian students populate campuses.  It makes me hopeful that there are beginning teachers that I work with who grew up in the communities that they are now serving and who are serving as mirrors for their students.  

In my teaching experience, formidable relationships are established when students are able to see themselves in their teachers and teachers are able to relate to, identify with, and value a student’s culture.  These bonds strengthen a student’s will to persevere through adversity. These “mirrors” enable students to look out through the windows into the world to  formulate dreams and achieve them. Sometimes it’s not possible to have mirrors that completely reflect who a student is. In those instances, students need advocates who enable them to embrace their diversity and help them maneuver through chaotic times.  Let’s make sure our schools are filled with both mirrors and windows!  


 

 

 

  Aurene Castora Padilla is the granddaughter of the late Catalino Suero, also known as “Tata Suero” who was a celebrated disc jockey of a popular Ilocano program on Kauai Radio Station KTOH in the 80’s.  She is a second-generation educator and is the Induction Program Coordinator for Central District, Leilehua, Mililani, Waialua Complexes and is a Hope Street Group Fellow for Hawaii.  Aurene has taught in the Hawaii Department of Education for twenty years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, a Professional Diploma in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Reading Instruction. Aurene is the proud mother of Dannika, 11 and Noah, 9 and has embraced her Filipina roots. When she is not teaching or being a mom you will find her on the north shore enjoying the sun and ocean. Aurene enjoys surfing, cross fitting, gardening, and training for marathons.  

Aurene Castora Padilla is the granddaughter of the late Catalino Suero, also known as “Tata Suero” who was a celebrated disc jockey of a popular Ilocano program on Kauai Radio Station KTOH in the 80’s.  She is a second-generation educator and is the Induction Program Coordinator for Central District, Leilehua, Mililani, Waialua Complexes and is a Hope Street Group Fellow for Hawaii.  Aurene has taught in the Hawaii Department of Education for twenty years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, a Professional Diploma in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Reading Instruction. Aurene is the proud mother of Dannika, 11 and Noah, 9 and has embraced her Filipina roots. When she is not teaching or being a mom you will find her on the north shore enjoying the sun and ocean. Aurene enjoys surfing, cross fitting, gardening, and training for marathons.  

PD - Who is the Professional Development Really For?

By Caroline Freudig

    As I near the end of my 25th year of teaching I am reflecting on the types of professional development that I have most recently been a part of and I wonder if we’ve being doing it all wrong these past 25 years. 
    Let’s start with the conference I attended this past March. As a Hope Street Group Hawai‘i State Fellow, I was invited to the ECET2  (“Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers”) Hawai‘i regional conference. The day and a half was structured with Keynote speakers, breakout sessions and celebrations all along the way. Prior to the weekend, an email was sent out that allowed me to read over the various breakout sessions and choose which ones I would prefer to attend. How often does that happen at our schools where teachers are given a menu of options for professional development prior to the day it’s being delivered? 
     Another novel idea that we don’t often see in our schools is that the breakout sessions were facilitated by our teachers. I attended one session on VTS: Visual Thinking Strategies where the presenters included the school coach along with three classroom teachers from Kalihi Kai Elementary School on Oahu. The content well-delivered and we had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the teachers that were implementing the strategies being shared with us. They were upfront and honest about what was working and some of the challenges they were facing. They didn’t present themselves to the be the ‘experts’ but rather they were genuine teachers experiencing something they were finding beneficial for their students and they were willing to share their day to day struggles and successes with us. When does that happen in our schools? Do we invite and allow all teachers to have an opportunity to share their teaching experiences with other teachers in a formal setting considered to be professional development? 
    In this environment at the ECET2 Hawai‘i regional conference, I found myself fully engaged throughout the weekend and was excited to share what I had learned and heard from the breakout sessions, the keynote speakers as well as my fellow colleagues with the teachers back on Kaua‘i. It also reminded me of the HSTE Edcamp workshop that I attended on Kaua‘i in January. This too was something that I hadn’t yet experienced when it came to formal professional development for teachers. 
    Edcamp was designed so that everyone attending planned the breakout sessions right on the spot. All of us attending were asked to ponder on what topics we would like to facilitate conversation around and/or participate in. If we felt there was something we wished to share, we wrote it onto a paper and placed the paper on the grid filling up a spot. Once all the spots were filled, we each had to choose which session we would attend during each time slot. Could you imagine what a faculty meeting or a full day of professional development might look like if it was designed this way? What an ingenious idea to have “on the spot” topics of professional development that are led by both administrators and teachers, equally considered to be leaders. 
    When I take these recent experiences and reflect upon how our teachers, both on Kaua‘i and within the state of Hawai‘i, were living examples of teacher leadership engaging their colleagues in rich learning experiences, I wonder why we aren’t taking these best practices of delivering professional development and embedding them into each and every school throughout the year. I recently read an article from Powerful Learning Practice that stated, in very simple terms, ten things that teachers want from professional development. The number one item on their list of top ten was teachers wanting “a voice and choice in the PD offered”. Although this article titled “10 things Teachers Want in Professional Development” from Aug 28, 2015 didn’t really contain any earth-shattering, new information, I ask myself why do our schools continue to deliver professional development in the same way that we know is not best for our teachers? How difficult would it be really to get to know the teachers at the beginning of the school year by surveying what their most immediate needs and concerns are for ongoing professional development? I would think this can easily be a quick survey via google perhaps that teachers fill out during one of the two administration days at the beginning of the school year and, poof, there you have it, professional development topics that the teachers are looking for. At the same time, the topics could be shared with everyone so that the teachers would be able to present the topics if it was an area of strength for them. 
    So, what now? Do we return to the same old, same old for our PD next year? I say, let’s not. Let’s make a change and start the school year off right. Let’s survey our teachers now and see what types of PD they’d like to see happen in their school next year. Then, as a complex, let’s take those survey responses and create district PD that’s differentiated so that teachers can choose how they want to spend six hours of professional development at least for one or two PDs that are offered. 

 Caroline Freudig is the Kahua Kaua‘i 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 Freudig is the Kahua Kaua‘i 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.

Social Media and Song: Inspired Teaching

I was not eager to join Twitter, thinking to myself I hardly care what everyone is doing in 140 characters or less. Little by little I started to unfollow the celebrities I had initially engaged and my profile became more and more about education. My education circle started to grow, the more I engaged and followed, the better my Twitter feed became. As an educator, Twitter has provided a completely new path of bite-sized professional learning.  

In early August I opened my Twitter account and saw something posted that caught my attention...reading fluency through song. I saw how a local school had embraced this strategy and I was intrigued. So that lead me to research the topic, and I saw how this could be a great way to support our school’s prioritized goal of reading fluency. As a support teacher I cover students so grade-level teachers can observe each other, but the lessons I teach are only 15 minutes and it has not always been easy planning and executing something where I felt effective in such little time. So based on what I had discovered, I picked a couple songs, printed out the lyrics and headed off to my first class eager to see how this would turn out. Now as I look back on this journey I can say it has provided some of my most memorable teaching moments and something that I know the students will remember.

I have included many genres and read songs like “This Land is Your Land” and “Coming to America.” I was surprised but I can say that my 2nd and 5th graders loved signing along with Neil Diamond. We have also spent time going over various vocabulary words that come up in the songs ranging from simple words like rambling to more academic words like fractal. Sometimes songs have meanings beyond their words and we had a lively discussion and debate about what the lyrics to “Fireworks” by Katy Perry meant.  

I stress to the students that the learning goal is to read fluently and it’s not about the quality of their voice. I also take the time before we begin to emphasize why reading fluency is so important, and include strategies that help support fluency. Fluency comes down to lots of practice, and the students don’t mind singing a song more than once which is why this strategy is so effective. As I observe them, I see high engagement, with more than 90% of the students following the text as they sing. The other 10% are students who occasionally get lost in belting out the song and have their eyes closed, or typically are just looking around at their friends with a big smile.  Of course I direct them back to the lyrics and they eagerly re-engage in this reading activity. I also see some of our struggling students or students that have very limited English proficiency engaging, especially during the chorus, where the song repetition starts to build capacity. While these students may not be reading the text fluently, they are engaging in speaking and the lyrics help to make these words more accessible. I have left these classrooms with such joy after listening to students sing “Let it Go” from Frozen or “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana and knowing that they were also improving their reading skills at the same time.  I now get requests from students on what they want to read next, and of course I can’t wait to see how the next song evolves.  

This all came about from expanding my engagement beyond the walls of my school, and a desire to learn from my fellow educators. I feel Twitter is a tremendous source for growth, collaboration, and a way to expand my voice and listen to others. There have been so many times that I have clicked on links on my Twitter feed that have helped me expand the way I think and practice.  I am glad I made the leap and engaged in social media as a means to improve myself as an educator. I would not have known about reading fluency through song, and it was one of the best experiences I have had as an educator.

 


 Debra just completed her 7th year at Kaiulani Elementary School as an ELL Coordinator in Honolulu. She will be joining Ben Parker Elementary as an RTI teacher in August.  Debra is a 2016 Hope Street Group Hawaii State Teacher Fellow. She received her B.A. in Political Science and a M.Ed. in Educational Technology and a teaching certificate in Early Childhood - 6th grade.  Follow on Twitter @DebraMasden

Debra just completed her 7th year at Kaiulani Elementary School as an ELL Coordinator in Honolulu. She will be joining Ben Parker Elementary as an RTI teacher in August.  Debra is a 2016 Hope Street Group Hawaii State Teacher Fellow. She received her B.A. in Political Science and a M.Ed. in Educational Technology and a teaching certificate in Early Childhood - 6th grade.  Follow on Twitter @DebraMasden

An Epidemic: The Power of Positive Leadership

My stomach was all aflutter as I, the new girl, nervously looked for an empty seat in the circle of wooden stools that were placed in the library for the first faculty meeting of the school year.  My new principal had rosy cheeks and down turned eyes that communicate friendliness without saying a word.  She started by addressing the teachers in the circle.  “Each and every one of you is great, I am so proud to work with you.  I know we are going to have a super year because of all of you.  I am really super excited to hear all your great ideas for this year.” We then went around the circle to share happy memories of the summer and ideas for the upcoming academic year.  I found myself surprisingly unnerved by the relaxed even joyful atmosphere.  But what struck me the most was the trust and shared stage between the staff and the principal.  This was not the first day meeting that I had been expecting.  I left the meeting wondering “What’s the hitch?”  

I had heard that meetings were filled with long lists of things teachers had to do and programs that teachers were expected to follow in order to pass the state test.  I had subconsciously been bracing myself for a meeting that devolved into a gripe session for teachers to express unwillingness to follow the latest mandates passed down from the state.  Staff meetings were not typically something that teachers looked forward to and in some cases even dreaded.  This meeting felt different. It felt like this principal valued and trusted her staff’s ideas.  It felt like the staff had the freedom use their skills and knowledge to be innovative in their classrooms.  The staff meeting was a time for sharing and celebration.  However, I remained a bit skeptical that there must be some hidden agenda I was missing.  

I had just returned to teaching after taking time off to raise my two young daughters.  I wasn’t feeling particularly confident.  I was starting small as a part-time reading-improvement teacher.  Was teaching like riding a bike, sort of a muscle memory, once you learn it you will never forget?  Or would I need to relearn and reteach myself how to be an effective educator?  I returned to the teaching profession and the school community with equal parts excitement and apprehension.   

The first couple weeks had some successes and some flops, but the school leader made that seem perfectly welcome.  Teaching metaphor poems to second graders did elicit some tears from the little ones, and I had to be flexible and scale back and meet the students where they were.  During a lesson in the first couple weeks of school my principal popped into the classroom unannounced.  I did not have the standards stated clearly on the board.  I did not my have the lesson plan handily written. Wondering if I had been “caught” by the principal, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over my body.  I swallowed my fear and powered on with my lesson.  After several minutes passed and a natural pause emerged, I held my breath, as my principal turned and addressed the students, “Aren’t we all so lucky to have Mrs. Peroff at our school? She is such a terrific teacher.”  The students smiled and nodded in agreement.  I had to consciously close my gaping jaw to respond to such undeserved (in my mind) flattery.  I expressed my gratitude for having such fantastic students and a wonderful principal.  What? This truly was some sort of twilight zone where principals stop by just to pay a compliment?  Was this more evidence to support the outlandish idea that a principal can trust and value her staff to teach the students without checking the boxes of some mandatory evaluation?

As the days and weeks passed I developed a rapport with my students and staff.  Like anything in life, some days I left work feeling great while other days I felt like a sham sure that someone was going to expose me as sleep-deprived new mommy masquerading as a teacher. As I was navigating my way back into the teaching profession, I was continuously nurtured and supported by my principal.  On several occasions she stopped by the classroom.  She did not scrutinize my lessons, demand documentation, or even offer feedback.  She just stopped by to touch base and share a kind word.  I felt supported and respected.  I felt that she trusted my instincts and valued me as a teacher with the ability and training to know what is right for my students.  Her confidence in me was contagious.  With each time she expressed her gratitude for my work, it began to become internalized in me.  If she thought I was great then I must be great, right?  I began to notice it wasn’t just limited to her either.  Other staff members were equally positive and supportive.  It was common to hear staff members paying compliments to each other in the hallways, lunchroom, or while making copies.

Shockingly, staff meetings were a particularly pleasant experience.  Even the physical structure of meetings fostered community.  We sat in a circle allowing every staff member to see the faces of their colleagues.   The principal always made a point of beginning meetings by celebrating the successes of the school, staff, and students.  I noticed that staff members shared a sense of pride in our school that was not linked to test scores or data although that was cause to celebrate too.  It was more authentic than that.  Because our leader was proud of us, we too were proud of ourselves and our students.  This pride swelled and built confidence in me that pushed me to do more and be more.  Because someone thought I was great, I strived to be even greater.  

I think this should be a lesson for all school leadership or anyone in a leadership position for that matter.  Never underestimate the power of positivity and trust.  In my school it is an epidemic.  My principal first caught the bug.  She used her words and actions to help great teachers want to be even greater.  This culture of positivity was highly infectious.  It first spread from the principal to the teachers.  Teachers then shared this with their students.  It is not confined to the school campus either.  It is so contagious it even followed the kids home and into their houses and to their parents.  In the community, family members are proud to share that they are part of our school ohana.  Staff, students, and community members alike proudly sport fashionable school trucker hats and other school swag.

Back to the itching question, what’s the hitch with this positive joyful school environment? Well, there is one.  The hitch is that as a staff member in this school you have to believe in yourself and be as great as your leadership knows you are.  Teachers can be a highly critical bunch, especially of ourselves.   A kind word and authentic support can work to dispel the false notion that we are not good enough, smart enough, or even qualified enough to do what we know is right for our students.   Positivity is a powerful tool in cultivating happy staff, students, and community members.  I will carry this lesson with me always, along with my school trucker hat.      

 

  Lory Walker Peroff is a third grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow who believes writing is not only enjoyable but essential.   She lives in Honolulu with her husband, two energetic and curious daughters, three chickens, two goats, and one peahen.

Lory Walker Peroff is a third grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow who believes writing is not only enjoyable but essential.   She lives in Honolulu with her husband, two energetic and curious daughters, three chickens, two goats, and one peahen.

 

 

 

What Parents Should Know

By: John Mulroy

Mind blank. Anxiety sets in.  I am not sure this is for me. What could I possibly write that hasn’t already been written?  What can I offer this group of intelligent and ambitious teacher leaders?

Last fall, I sat in a conference room in Chicago surrounded by Hope Street Fellows from across the US. They were Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Hawaii proud. Our colleague opened the session,  “What do you want parents to know about their child’s teacher?”  

I flashed back to classrooms, colleagues, students, and parents and recalled days when I felt like a “Super Teacher” and days when I questioned if I was good enough for my kids.

But I am here, I thought, I do have a voice. Saying something differently, not necessarily new, will have an impact.  Thinking back on all those days, what do I want parents to know?

Teachers view teaching as a privilege.

Teachers view themselves as professionals.

Teachers are reading professional articles and having collaborative discussions with colleagues.

Teachers are taking professional development courses to improve their practice.

Teachers are proud of this profession.

Teachers are inspired, empowered, and ready to change the narrative and impact policy not only for themselves but for the children you place in their care each and every day.

Teachers are not perfect.

Teachers do not want sympathy.

Teachers are leaders in the community.

Teachers are leaders in their schools.

Teachers call your children “my kids.”

Teachers want to see and hear about your child’s success.

Teachers have shown your children their best and their worst.

Teachers have cried in parking lots when their best wasn't good enough.

Teachers are working with the best and brightest of tomorrow.

Teachers are providing a safe space that might not be provided at home.

Teachers are teaching all day and then mentoring new teachers to become your child's next favorite teacher.

Teachers have thought about your children days, weeks, months, and even years after they lefttheir classrooms.

And, finally, parents should know that teachers can reach students because we are all students too, lifelong learners who put ourselves in their shoes, often embracing uncertainty and anxiety in order to improve our practice and better serve our kids.


  

John Mulroy earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and  Special Education from La Salle University and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He dedicated eight years to teaching in a multitude of special education environments including resource, self-contained, and Co-teaching classrooms. John is a resource teacher and mentor for newly hired Special Education Teachers within the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex as well as a trainer with Hawaii Teacher Induction Center.