Monthly Archives: June 2012

Things I Can Control, Things I Cannot

On Tuesday, when we had the LGBT panel, I was a little shocked when Kai came up to me before class. I looked at his button, readjusted the picture of the 8th grader in my mind and then really had to think back to see if I hurt, helped or was a non-factor in his middle school years. I  have a perception of who I think I am in the classroom, but until I get feedback, or years later  when someone comes up to me to say something, or a colleague says, “I met your former student,” we really don’t know. We only hope. So I’m staring at those brown eyes that I know I’ve stared into before, and I wait, and worry, and wonder if this will be a bashing. Kai tells me that he was thinking about me and he thanks me for allowing him an outlet through poetry to vent his frustrations. He tells me I prevented his “going Columbine” in high school. Frankly, I’m surprised and a little relieved that despite my ignorance of his family situation, his role-playing and the building of his facade, I still was able to do something positive, even if it was unintentional.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that in reality, it wasn’t unintentional on my part, I just wasn’t able to hone in on the source of angst. Would I have changed anything if I knew he was a closeted homosexual? I don’t think so. I know that if he came to me in confidence, I would keep his confidence. If he came to me for support, I would support him. I would do that if he was a heterosexual.  I used to spend two months on building a community in my classroom. When we actually got into curriculum mapping, my community and skill building unit of two months looked a little excessive to my colleagues, so I had to add things to it in order to make it look more “academic.” Community building as writing workshop and literature workshop, immersion into poetry, immersion into short stories. Really, it was community building, sharing ourselves, creating safe zones for catharsis and blooming. Their main job was to take care of each other. When one fails, we all fail. I always rely on Sandra Cisneros’ book House on Mango Street to drive that idea home. Esperanza is a bright girl who can pull herself out of the barrio, but by the end she realizes that she must leave in order to come back for those who cannot leave.

When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. . .” Chapter 41, pg. 105


I think I’m purposeful in bringing in literature that will speak to the kuleana that I want them to own. In my second year of teaching, I found out that one of my former students committed murder in Hilo and when I read that in the paper, I felt like I was partly to blame because the purpose of English should be to use literature to teach us about ourselves at our ugliest and our most beautiful so that we can learn vicariously and reflectively. I became much more purposeful after that and ditched the textbooks for things I brought in.  I think Kai still has more maturing to go, but I’m glad that I remained purposeful in ensuring that everyone had a safe outlet to release his or her fears and frustrations and worries. I cannot control what students take away, but I can control what I offer.

The other issue that I have been bouncing around and the one that has definitely kept me from sharing anything, if the issue of my boss. I would consider him a partially closeted gay man. For many of us, he was our colleague before he was our boss. I have a relationship with my boss outside of school, so if we are doing something like going camping or having a party, his partner, Lucas, is always invited, but it’s interesting to note when he brings Lucas and when he comes alone. I think it just depends on who will be there, so I’m not really sure who he is out with and who he is not out with. Personally, I think everyone knows, but I can’t be sure of that. I know my son, as his student, knew and his classmates knew, but they didn’t make a big deal about it. If any of the students actually questioned him, I don’t know what he’d say. When Kaleo started talking about how his students know that he’s gay, I started thinking about the potential of my boss to be that kind of role model. I thought about Kai in his social studies class in 6th grade and I wondered if he could have been a positive force in Kai’s life to show Kai that things do eventually get better. I have no hidden identities, my identities are in the color of my skin, the swell of my hips, the accent  of my voice, the tattoos on my body. I have nothing that is hidden like my boss, so I don’t know how he’s feeling, or if he even thinks about it at all. Is he building walls and fences? Who does he let in? Why are some people left out? What are the implications of the hiding versus implications of the revealing? What are the repercussions? I can control the way I treat him. I can control the way I treat Lucas. I cannot control the world.

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(with thanks to “We Speak Your Names” by Pearl Cleage)


Because we are powerful women,

born of powerful women,

who are born of powerful women,

back as far as creation out of darkness,

we celebrate your power.


Because we are wise women,

born of wise women,

who are born of wise women,

we celebrate your wisdom.


Because we are creative women,

born of creative women,

who are born of creative women,

we celebrate your creativity.


Because we are magical women,

born of magical women,

who are born of magical women,

we celebrate your magic.


My sisters, we are gathered here

to speak your names.

We are gathered here to speak our names.

We are here to speak the names

of the powerful, wise, creative, magical women in our lives

because we are your daughters

as surely as if you had conceived us, nurtured us,

carried us in your wombs, and then sent us out

into the world to make our mark.

We speak your names to honor

the comet of your life force,

the illumination of your spirit

that streaks indelible across our own life force.


We are here to speak your names

because we have enough sense to know

that we did not spring full blown from the

forehead of Zeus,

or walk out of the void like Kane.

We know that we are walking in footprints

made deep by the confident strides

of women who parted the air before them like the

forces of nature that you are.


We are here to speak your names

because you taught us that the search is always

for our truth.


We are here because you taught us

that sisterspeak can continue to be our native tongue.


We are here to speak your names

because of the path you made for us.

Because of the prayers floated up into the heavens for us.

We are the ones that you conjured, hoping

we would have the strength enough,

and discipline enough, and talent enough, and

nerve enough

to step into the light when it turned in our

direction, and just smile awhile.


We are the ones that you hoped would make you proud

because all of our hard work

makes all of yours part of something better, truer, deeper.

Something that lights the way ahead like a lamp

unto our feet,

as steady as the unforgettable beat of our collective heart.


We speak your names.

We speak your name.


Margaret Okimoto Sturm Moffatt,

Lahaina born and raised,

1947 Brown University graduate

first female and first Asian graduate

in electrical engineering

NASA computer engineer

daughter, sister, mother, aunty, grandmother

for your triumph over sexism,


for all the times you had to wait outside your

in-laws’ German house so that no Japs would pass through their doors,

for your belief in education as a spear, and a shield,

We speak your name.


(and if every one of us could offer up one name, one stanza, then we’d have a complete poem)


The Power of Community in the Classroom

Today’s share-out of the critical incident survey (June 15, 2012) just exemplifies the power of building community in the classroom. It’s a purposeful, democratic way to teach and the questionnaire is evidence that it’s working as planned. According to Wolk (2003), “Community is central to a democratic classroom” (p. 14). He goes on to say that in democratic classrooms, teachers win students’ trust and hearts while engaging their minds (p. 14).  Our classroom fits into the ideal classroom community in that we have discussion and debate. The community itself becomes a force in our own learning.

  • The class discussions and activities help to unpack the complex and messy concept of identity.
  • During most of the discussions; typically large group. But small as well. I find myself thinking about the class well after, and before. . .
  • Our discussions are invigorating and liberating.

Another way we fit into a classroom community is in the way that the teachers honored our stories by giving up time (2 days) to get to know us through the sharing of our legacy papers as well as the instructor sharing. It showed that our interests, cultures and life experiences were valued. It showed that we are all equal in this. When I was in the classroom, I would always write with my students too, and then share my raw “shitty” first draft so that the students understood that we were in a process together, and the goal was not to be perfect. I think with our other classes, there is an emphasis on perfection and aggression. The talkers with their erudite discourse and their plethora of researchers and academe that they can name drop are found on shaky ground in this type of democratic classroom where one must stand naked in one’s own identity to take part in the discourse, and wait time and encouragement is given to the meek.

  • I felt most engaged when my classmates and instructors were sharing their legacy stories. Every single one of them. I’m grateful to be part of this wonderful, caring group.
  • The two days of values, sharing were invaluable. I was awash in my colleagues’ lives, their stories, their being. Sacred moments.
  • I liked connecting with the others in the cohort in ways that we’ve not previously had the opportunity to connect.
  • I found the sharing of the plate very affirming as my partner was a good listener, was kind, cared about what I said and I think the feeling was mutual.

The third way that we are a democratic classroom is in the constructivist and generative curriculum. This is not one-way teaching (like statistics). In our democratic classroom, teaching and learning is a transaction: teacher to student, student to teacher, student to student.  This classroom nurtures our creation of knowledge and advocates for learning as a social act.

  • Hearing the discussions and thoughts from colleagues and kumu help to clarify many ideas/thoughts/lessons from the reading.
  • In small group discussions my group members helped explain and clarify certain concepts so that I gained a better understanding.
  • The shift this class has made to the interrelation of the group. I am excited to see how this will affect our classes as we move forward.
  • I feel that I am being affected not by pressure or difficult assignments, but by social conversation and collaborative learning.

And finally, we are a democratic classroom because our instructors allow us to see them as complete people with emotions, opinions, and lives outside of school.

  • I appreciated when Lori shared her thought today, reflecting on being Japanese in Hawai’i vs. other places and her recognizing that she did not lift while she climbed.
  • I appreciate the opener and being receptive from Gay, Walter and Lori has been very calming. We can be who we are – truly – without feeling judged.


Wolk, S. (2003). Hearts and minds. Educational Leadership, 61 (1), 14-18.


Complexity Theory, Corporatocracy, Incubation Spaces


In class Walter mentioned that some people process by speaking and some

people process by thinking. I’m definitely a writing processor, which seems even slower than being a thinker. It’s one extra step, and that one extra step allows my mind to wander out for a little while, and then start making relationships and connections on paper through the rhythm of my fingers moving. It’s doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always fit nicely onto an 8 1/2 x 11″ “screen,” but if anything is to stick and be added on, this is what I have to do.  Today’s reading and discussion was especially difficult because I had a hard time processing on my own and relied solely on discussion and conversation to make any kind of sense of what I read. Because of that, there is no apt metaphor or story to pull my thinking together. Instead I have random snippets of thoughts, I’ll call them vignettes of connectivity.

Ka Pi’ina Complexity Theory

It’s hard to describe what I do. I don’t work with students, although if someone asks me what my occupation is, I always say I’m a teacher. I work with teachers, I work with systems, I work with administrators, I work with other people’s visions, I work with human resources, and I work with professional development. Basically, I work as one of many team members to bring Sylvia Hussey’s directive, her vision, into systemic and sustainable fruition. Ka Pi’ina is a complex living system designed to offer a myriad of integrated services and interventions for the purpose of workforce capacity building. The more we unpacked complexity theory today, the more I realized that this huge brain child of the Ka Pi’ina design team is exactly what complexity theory is all about.

Ka Pi’ina is complex, with large numbers of constituent elements or agents connected to and integrating with each other in many different ways. (I would attach the 76-page annual recommendation report, but that would be overkill). As far as myriad ways of looking at workforce capacity building, within the report, we have updates from the different elements or agents. We have: framework, organization and education group updates, career opportunities updates, performance management and evaluation updates, professional growth and renewal updates, compensation and rewards updates, as well as general field test recommendations.

It’s a living organism because we continue to add new elements or agents to Ka Pi’ina, which according to Mason, will exponentially multiply the number of connections or potential interactions among those elements or agents, and hence the number of possible outcomes (39). Critical mass, I believe, was reached with the new and unplanned  emergence of a need for a Ka Pi’ina office as a way to more clearly and consistently offer the interventions throughout the system.

KSBE as a Corporatocracy

I’m sure it’s not a big AHA for many, but it was a big AHA for me. The Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate is a corporatocracy with the 3 major players being KS, KS and KS. We are run by the corporation of KS, governed by the government of KS and funded by the bank of KS. As such, we hold sway and power over smaller agencies through programs like LIS (literacy instruction) that provides literacy teachers and support teachers in high needs public elementary schools. We fund education of native Hawaiians, including native Hawaiians not on the campuses through Pauahi Scholars, scholarships and support of Hawaiian focused charter schools. Our board is made up of bankers, business people, and managers. We are an educational institution, but we are able to be our own governing body because we are able to fund ourselves. I’m not sure if it’s corporatocracy, nepotism, or bullying.

Incubation Spaces

The short video on where big ideas come from connected to our imperfect capital metaphor discussion (Bordieu) and the Education Week commentary by Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves (2012) on “Reviving Teaching with ‘Professional Capital’.” Gay asked a question about alternative models from a corporatocracy and some of the alternatives suggested were culture based education, and the charter school movement. These are normally grass roots, bottom up institutions that started in some kind of incubation space where big ideas are said to come from. How do we carve out these incubation spaces within our schools? I think I’m good at carving out incubation spaces in my classroom, but how do I as a teacher leader with influence rather than authority, make sure that incubation spaces are carved out for my faculty? Starbucks and Barnes and Noble have sometimes been incubation spaces for me. My shower is a great incubation space in the morning. I also rely on my cloud space, my PLN – professional learning network to miko ideas through my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and blog people that I follow and interact with in the clouds. How can I provide that same type of structure to the faculty who do not see their classrooms as incubation spaces for themselves? Where do we build this third house between home and work? What does it look like? Smell like? Taste like? And, how do we get there from here?


Fullan, M. & Hargreaves, A. (2012, June 5). Reviving teaching with ‘professional capital’. Education Week. Retrieved from

Mason, M. (2008). What is complexity theory and what are its implications for educational change? Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(1), 35-49.

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Why I Refuse to Play the Colonizer

Today’s exercise in indigenous groups left me drained and alarmed. I could feel my red flags going up. I could only influence my group. We had a philosophy: do no harm, we are not the colonizers, try to leave something positive, aloha ke kahi i ke kahi. However, I had no control over the other groups. I had no control over the outside forces (Walter’s directives). I felt like I was in an exercise of genocide and with each rip my sense of dread and sorrow grew larger and larger. In my logical brain, I understood this was an immersion exercise. In my heart, I was trying to mourn for each extinction. I refused to be the colonizer, even if we were just playing, but I died a little to see some of my classmates so easily slip into that role as if this were a game of strategy where there would be just one winner. This is very close to reality television. We were all losers, and in the process, it revealed some of our ugliest parts. In the process we lost a little bit of our humanity. The oppressed became the oppressors. Those left behind were forced to watch the destruction of their culture first hand. By the time we returned to our indigenous lands, we could not recognize it. “My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Surrender Speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, 1877).

Stepping out of that experience, and looking from a more clinical lens, what this exercise brought out for me was what Kincheloe and Steinberg (2008) talk about when they say that indigenous knowledge as a foundation for local problem-solving strategies will always have to deal with the shadow of colonization and economic globalization (141). Basically, there is not return to an “uncontaminated pre-colonial past,” because it does not exist (141). When we went back to our society, we couldn’t put the pieces back together. We had already forgotten them. After four generations away, we couldn’t even fill in the blanks. We couldn’t even confront the colonizers. They had already left, and we were left with holes in our culture. Holes in our knowledge. Holes so large they could swallow us.

It makes me question Dunbar’s (2008) conclusion that critical race theorists and Indigenous methodologists emphasize the necessity of telling their own story and doing their own research on their own people (96).  I agree when he says that, “Indigenous scholars and critical race theorists reject the notion of one truth,” (96), however, when I look back at our exercise, even if we were to research ourselves, even if we could tell stories through our lived experiences, would that be our truth when we had lost so much along the way? Would we even know enough about our truth so that like the Māori we could establish our own ________research, rather than Indigenous research? I donʻt have answers. Just questions.


Dunbar, C. (2008). Critical race theory and indigenous methodologies. In N.K. Dezin, Y.S. Lincoln  & L. Tuhiwai Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp.85-99). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Kincheloe, J.L. & Steinberg, S.R. (2008). Indigenous knowledges in education: Complexities, dangers, and profound benefits. In N.K. Denzin, Y.S. Lincoln & L. Tuhiwai Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp. 135-156). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

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Mandala: Labels Owned, Labels Hidden



A mandala, in Sanskrit, basically means circle. But the mandala has been used as a meditation tool as well as a way to tap into the metaphoric conscious and unconscious parts of our psyche. For me, it was a way to examine the labels of my life, both the ones that I owned, by my own accord, the labels that were given to me to own, as well as the balance of these labels, their metaphoric opposites and the unconscious labels that I also must own in order to be a balanced person. The sun symbols are the ones on the right. They are the metaphors that I consciously own. The shadow symbols are the ones on the left, the ones that were up to this moment in my processing, hidden from myself. The exercise of turning a label into a metaphor, an animal, plant, number, shape, gem/mineral, natural element forces me to identify the sub labels, the implications, perhaps even the stereotypes lived within these labels. Starting with the animal, I am most like an elephant because I am the oldest and the only grandchild raised by my grandparents. As the label “oldest” or “hiapo,” I am tasked to remember the stories and the ancestral knowledge passed down to me. My memory is long because I carry the extra burden that is expected of me as the oldest child. It’s expected because I am a “good girl,” which means that I am loyal, family oriented and strong in my convictions. There is a bravery thrust on me as the oldest. It’s the adjective that I’ll use for this exercise to encompass all other adjectives. The opposite adjective would be cowardice, taking the easy route and that animal would be the opossum that feigns death in order to get out of difficult situations. His feet and tail are hanging off the edge of the mandala. Can I acknowledge the cowardice in me? Yes, I can own that title, because being the good girl, doing the brave thing is not always simple for me. It’s difficult for me to be irresponsible, but it’s not difficult for me to feel like a coward.

My sun plant is grass and it goes with the label of Japanese. Although I am multi ethnic, I was raised Japanese, so I own that label. Grass is resilient. People can step on grass, they can burn it, they can mow it down, and it will spring back up. That is the Japanese gaman, the stoic perseverance. I felt like the opposite of resilient was needy, so I chose the orchid as my shadow label. If grass is self sufficient, resilient and low key, the orchid is showy, needy and finicky. Orchids are not very practical plants. They are not used for ground cover to keep the topsoil, or food, medicine or clothing. Orchids are for show. They are meant to be admired and displayed. I don’t know if I can embrace that shadow label, but maybe sometimes the diva wants to come out. It may be nice to be high maintenance.

My gender label, female, is my number, so as a female, if I were to choose a number, I would be the number 15. The number one is upright, moral; it’s again my expectation from my family to be moral and upright.  I come from a family of strong women, most of them single parents and workaholics, and so the term work like a man did not apply in my household. The women in my family were the main breadwinners or sole breadwinners and they were also more educated than the fathers and uncles. “Stand up straight, don’t slouch!” another Maui grandma-ism had to do with being strong and upright, not letting the weight of the world push you down. The shape of the five represents the fact that I’m facing the future and the past at the same time. It reminds me that I am the daughter of Mililani Ah Sing Hughes and Clayton Aolona Sodetani. I am the granddaughter of Ritsuko Okimoto Ah Sing and Joseph Ah Nee Ah Sing. I am the granddaughter of Mary Uilani Kaumeheiwa Sodetani and Susumu Sodetani. I am the great granddaughter of Hattie Kamahalo Edmunds and John Edmunds. I am the great granddaughter of Annie Peleiholani Kaumeheiwa and Benjamin Ilalaole Kaumeheiwa, Masae Tanimoto Sodetani and Shigeo Sodetani. The shape of the bottom of the five reminds me that I should not stay rooted and stagnant. The five is not straight, but round like a daruma, again a call for resilience. The opposite number is the 4, unbalanced, top heavy, unsupportive and unsupportable. I don’t strive to be that way, but my husband may say that I have my moments in four territory.

My shape is my occupation, which is a teacher/learner in true Paulo Friere fashion. My shape is the outward spiral, the koru. This is the metaphor for my journey that starts at the piko and continues to grow, continues to strive. I am a seeker. I am constantly looking for the perfect triangulation of knowledge and I hope to continue on this path until I die. The opposite shadow metaphor would be a square, not even a cube, just a square. The square is locked in, stagnant in its equality, closed off to new possibilities.

For my religious journey through life, I would label myself as a spiritualist in that although I am a Christian by baptism and faith, I feel more in touch with the God in me outside of the confines of the church structure and politics. The gem for my label is a pearl. Pearls in nature are created by a random series of events (irritation to the oyster) and through much hardship on the oyster (I would think), beauty comes out of that process. The natural pearl is not perfect; it sometimes has striation, like scars as evidence of strife. It reminds me to live my authentic life. The shadow metaphor, then, are the manufactured “fake” pearls that are uniform in color as well as size. I am in constant battle to not be uniform and sterile, even if that is part of being the “good Christian.” Conformity and what I call hoop jumping seemed to be the way I had to live in order to be a good Christian. As I get older, I realize that it’s ok to be imperfect and authentic.

Finally, we come to the natural element, which is my marital status label. In February, we will be married 25 years. I met him at 19 and we married at 20, so I definitely have been in this marriage longer than any other relationship. For our marriage metaphor I chose water as our element because water is strong, but fluid, flexible yet destructive. I think that marriages that stay together have learned to live with the oxymoronic duality that is marriage. My shadow symbol is a series of rocks. Although they are solid, they are also unmoving, inflexible and obstinate. I can acknowledge that shadow part too, it is in our hard headedness that we are similar, but we choose the battles that matter, and we choose to agree to disagree and then let it go.

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Using the Naʻau to Make It Up as we Go

  Our middle school has a nohona Hawai’i committee tasked with infusing Hawaiian lifestyle practices into our daily practices. It’s a mixed bag of teachers and administrators, volunteers in the effort to transform the educational practices for our students by exposing them to a Hawaiian worldview. My gut, my na’au, always looks at this effort as a way to create a school culture that embraces both the colonizer and the colonized as a way to create a synergistic, 21st century kula waena. I believe that ignoring our colonization is like burying our head in the sand. There is no forward movement and we wallow in our pity and ignorance. Not everyone on the committee shares that idea. The kūkākūkā has been quite emotional at times. The latest debate was on our kīhei ceremony. One member wanted to get rid of the kīhei ceremony at the end of the year because he could find no written evidence that Hawaiians actually performed a kīhei ceremony as a way to transition or “graduate.” He talked to different people who do kīhei ceremonies and his take away was that the ceremony was done because everyone else was doing it, but again, he found no historical evidence that this was done before. Another member who spends considerable time in her curriculum having the students create the stamps for printing their kīhei based on their family moʻolelo, felt that although the kūpuna should be mahalo-ed  for writing their ʻike down, some of them were also criticized for doing so. As an oral culture, she believed, not everything was meant to be shared in writing, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t exist. She had her own sources.



According to Kincheloe and Steinberg (2008):

“Paulo Friere and Antonio Faundez (1989) warn us that our appreciation of indigenous peoples and their knowledges must avoid the tendency for romanticization. When advocates for indigenous peoples buy into such romanticization, they often attempt to censor “alien” presences and restore the indigene to a pure precolonial cosmos. Such a return is impossible, as all cultures (especially colonized ones) are perpetually in a state of change. ” (p. 143)

If we look at the kīhei debate this way, then we have a romantic view of Hawaiian culture versus a more modern (?), unromantic (?) view of Hawaiian culture. It’s not that the first teacher wanted to go back to a pure pre-colonial time. After all, he is a devout Christian, not willing to go back to the polytheistic worship practices of the Hawaiians before the missionaries. However, what he wanted was written proof, a way to go back to practices done pre-statehood, perhaps. The other teacher acknowledged that Hawaiian cultural practices were not standardized across the kingdom or even amongst different ahupuaʻa. She felt that as an oral culture, how one area did things was not always exactly how another area did things. None of it was wrong, just different. Perhaps she acknowledged that we are practicing a culture, not THE culture.

I agree that we must be in a perpetual state of change in order to survive and remain self-sufficient. The kīhei ceremony issue came down to intent and then compromise. We went back to the oli that another teacher wrote for the ceremony and it talked about this kīhei that wraps around them and is tied tight. The intention of that line was to wrap our students in our aloha, that the winds could not take this support off of them, that they would go to the next level with our support around them. I posed a question to the committee. “Does your naʻau light up (naʻauao)?” After all, we had heard arguments on both sides, and the time for “brain logic” was pau. Now it was time to listen to gut logic, heart logic. Once that conversation could start amongst the rest of the members, then we could talk about compromise and getting to other issues that perhaps could improve the kīhei “process” – starting with calling it a process rather than a ceremony. At Kamehameha Hawaiʻi kula waena, we practice a Hawaiian culture model in our daily working with our students. Perhaps not THE, but A.



Kincheloe, J.L. & Steinberg, S.R. (2008). Indigenous knowledges in education: Complexities, dangers, and profound benefits. In N.K. Denzin, Y.S. Lincoln & L. Tuhiwai Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp. 135-156). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

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Hihiʻo: Dream, Vision

Hihi’o[1]: Exploring Nainoa’s Dilemma

            We are a group of women in a graduate level cultural diversity class, all educators, sitting in the frigid classroom on Sand Island listening to Nainoa Thompson talk about his dilemma, the reason why he doesn’t feel ready to start the worldwide voyage. He has hauled himself out of the sick bed. His eyes are still feverish. On the whiteboards surrounding us are notes and maps and quickly scrawled thoughts and questions. We are in the lair of a madman or a genius, most likely both. We are not water people. We are not here to help with the logistics of the sail, nor are we the money people. We are just teachers. We are one of hundreds of teachers that he’s already talked to. We are not here to be trained by his Polynesian Voyaging Society team. Instead, we are here to listen to his dream and his vision. We are here to help him problem solve, because he will not sail until our educational system in Hawai’i can not only serve the Hawaiian students, but can be a model to save indigenous education around the world. It is as important to him as having a well-trained crew and a safe route. This is his mana’o lana. Mana’o – thought, idea, belief, opinion, theory, thesis, intention, meaning, suggestion, desire, want. Lana – floating, buoyant. He is sharing this lofty, floating, buoyant idea. He is saying it out loud to as many people as will listen so that the mana will build by speaking his truth.

The idea is not new. Dr. Manu Meyer, my master’s level advisor, always talks about Hawaiian epistemology as the game changer for education around the world. I look to the other women. Half of them are department of education teachers, the rest of us are at independent schools. None of us are new to the education field so I would think they would be more jaded, but as Nainoa is sharing his vision, his “seeing Tahiti,” they see it too. It’s an exciting night with a transformative leader. Mana’o ‘i’o – faith, confidence. It’s a Herculean task that takes collaboration and community buy in, but he has the skill to empower individuals to fulfill their kuleana and go beyond to better the organization, the community, etc. He strives to improve the education system by fully integrating followers into core functions. He keeps saying, I’m not a teacher. I know the canoe. You know education. It’s a challenge for us. It’s not about planning curriculum for the worldwide voyage. It’s about transforming education for the world, and he doesn’t want togo until it’s done.

While reading the Santamaria case studies, I realize that getting grants and creating a PVS “school” for teachers is one thing, but acknowledgement must come first, not just by teachers, but also by those in power. Teaching is political, which means that it can also be an act of empowerment, advocacy, revolution, and liberation as long as we acknowledge that colonization is widespread in society (52). This is not just true in American society, but as we look at boat people around the world (not ship people, boat people in Vietnam, South Africa, Philipines, etc.), we can really see the impact of colonization. If we do not acknowledge that we are a colonized, marginalized people, we can’t move forward. There is only so much red dirt we can sweep under the rug. Ultimately, what I’m learning is that we, as native leaders in our own right, need to be a political participant. We need to latch onto a hihi’o, recognize our kupuna path, even if it’s in another’s vision, then put our being into that work in order to create social change. We are in this program because we occupy a liminal space that determines our political path. We are nothing but awake. We just thought we were asleep.



Santamaria, L.J. & Santamaria, A.P. (2012). Applied critical leadership in education:

 Choosing change. New York: Routledge.


[1] a dream or vision

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Twinkies and the Dillybars: Ascriptive and Subjective Identities

The Twinkies and the Dilly Bars

Poem in two voices on ascriptive and subjective identities

I. The realist looks like an essentialist behind closed doors

Self-portrait:                                                   Self portrait:

Hair: doodoo brown                                       Hair: doodoo brown

Eyes: doodoo brown                                       Eyes: doodoo brown

Nose: upepe                                                     Nose: upepe

Hips: wide enough to poop                             Hips: wide enough to poop plenty

plenty babies                                                   babies

Legs: daikon                                                    Legs: daikon

Lips: chocho                                                    Lips: chocho


II. “Identities are fundamental to the process of all knowledge production” (Moya 2006, 102)


“This is a poem by Hawaii poet

Lois Ann Yamanaka.

Cathy, do you think you could read it

for us?”

(Oh hell no, she never go there.

What, I get some kind sign on me?

Am I the token country Jap in here?

Just because I CAN read it no mean

I WANT to read it. I am surrounded by

whiteness, by Twinkies and Dilly Bars.

Why do these haole teachers

keep trying to teach us stuff

that they can’t even read?

Are they appeasing the natives?

Knock, knock, look around.

There are no natives here.

Please let me not be the token Jap, kanak,

pake, anything today. . .

frick, kill fight)

“Before time, every time my sister

like be the boss of the food. . .”



“Kumu, why do we read so many

books by minorities and women?”

Because I’m a minority and a woman.

Because if I cannot see myself,

if I cannot recognize

the voices that I am familiar with

in the literature,

then I have nothing

to offer you.

I am laying a papa for us,

a foundation to build upon.

We cannot understand someone else’s                                                                  story until we know our own story.

Everything we look at, we look at through

an indigenous lens.


He Hawai’i au mau a mau.  Mao popo?

III. Mobilizing identity in the classroom


Not every teacher can teach AP.

I should feel honored, proud of my

hard work

but when I look around 

I am shame

that this girl from Kalihi,

full scholarship

nā pua a Pauahi

could not even serve her own people

I look at my students’ faces

bright, eager, intelligent, bored, belligerent, apathetic


How do I know?

I asked.

And where are Pauahi’s children?

“They are at the short end of a

smaller and smaller

identity stick.” (Meyer 2001, p.124)

The path can go two ways


status quo/divergence


Do I want to work hard to

get these Hawaiian students to be more                                                                like them?

Why do we want to be

more like them?

We are not like those that colonized us.

Observation and then interpretation

Not interpretation based on ascriptive

identities labeled and categorized

by the colonizers to oppress and                                                                            marginalize.

I want them to be awake

Ho’āla hou

“You are nothing but awake,

you just thought you were asleep.”




Meyer, M. M. (2001). Our own liberation: Reflections on Hawaiian epistemology. The Contemporary Pacific, 13, 123-198.

Moya, P. M. L. (2006). What’s identity got to do with it? Mobilizing identities in the multicultural classroom.  In L.M Alcoff & M Hames-Garcia (Eds.), Identity Politics Reconsidered (pp. 96-117). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


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