Category Archives: Journal

What Happened to Reading?

Yiadom

 

I don’t know what happened to the endless hours of reading under the shade of a tree on a beach or splayed out on the couch, cocooned in bed, in the muggy heat of the laundromat, the corner of the library under the armadillo. . .

I try to get up early, do my must do items that come with being an adult, then sit on my not so comfy but cheap office chair, stare at my computer and read. It does not last long and I barely get through one long article when my heel starts hurting, my hip aches, my neck stiffens.

What happened to reading without pain? What happened to the ability to quiet the outside world and immerse into the worlds of Pearl Buck or Amy Tan. How come I do not hear the authors speaking in my ear?

I have become a skimmer, sadly. Here is what I am skimming now. “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Imaginary Portraits” by Zadie Smith, New Yorker June 19, 2017.

This is what kept me skimming:

This red has the effect of bringing a diverse selection of souls together, framing and containing them, much like a novel contains its people, which is to say, only partially. For Yiadom-Boakye’s people push themselves forward, into the imagination—as literary characters do—surely, in part, because these are not really portraits. They have no models, no sitters. They are character studies of people who don’t exist.

I want to be able to immerse myself into character studies of people who do not exist. I want to read that way again.

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Manu Notes for EDUC210

More notes on scrap paper for the Hawaiian Ways of Knowing in education course from meeting with Manu:

For the main project:

What is the purpose of this exercise?

Will it serve my family?

Will it benefit my community?

(Is it moʻo worthy)

How does it extend the quality of our lives?

How is it sustainable?

“Knowledge that holds function at its center moves our students into action & a better understanding of the roles of history and intention” (57).

We will heal and we will be educated by ʻāina. This is key. We will, once again, be “fed” by the tides, rains, stories of place & people made buoyant because this is how culture survives. Let us shape our school lessons by this ideal and let us shape our lives accordingly.

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#Teachinyourcommunity notes

It is summer and I am trying to put some ideas down and get rid of scraps of paper at the same time. These are notes for block 2 practicum and a way to get students to embrace the idea of teaching in your own community.

Presentation – community

History of your school

What services are provided in your community?

Talk to your mentor teacher in what ways does the community impact your school, your classroom, your students?

How does your mentor or school use the community to enhance the education of your community?

Implications – what does this mean

Describe mentor teacherʻs perspective of their community

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Transformation through art

I am at the AERA conference but decided to use my time learning at the Holocaust Museum and making my way through some of the Smithsonian galleries that I have not visited before until I got to the Native American museum for a late lunch.  At the Sackler Museum of Asian art, there was an instillation called Turquoise Mountain about transforming Murad Khani in Afghanistan (transformation of place and people through art). You were encouraged to touch the woodwork, but I was most drawn to the text and what I could learn from these artists.

I need to do more research around art as methodology but also art as catharsis for cultural trauma.

I donʻt know how I am going to use it, but on entering, there was a video playing and it is about how they were taught to build with concrete, but after the war, the concrete was destroyed; it did not hold up as well as their traditional methods of building with mud and wood. The concrete was poorly made, it was ugly.

Hedayatullah Ahmadzai, head of engineering at Turquoise Mountain says,

When I was a refugee in Pakistan I got a job working on the conservation of historic buildings. It was there that I received my first experience of traditional building design and building techniques. On returning to Afghanistan, I worked in many areas of the country, where people still built their homes using these traditional techniques.

These experiences made me realize what mud and timber can teach us. The people of this land built in mud and timber for thousands of years. The buildings are cool in summer, warm in winter. They are cheaper to build, easy to look after, and beautiful. Why are we forgetting the lessons of our ancestors?

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Kōkua Aku Kōkua Mai

girl and dog

When I am up against deadlines, I find that I constantly learn something about myself as a worker, as a researcher, as a writer, as a person. I was re-reading a Peter Elbow article to prepare for a writing workshop with my student teachers when I came upon one section in Writing Without Teachers where he talks about his process of writing for 45 minutes straight, putting it aside, and the next day writing again. It is a way to let the center of gravity of what you are trying to say bubble up on its own. I decided to try writing for 45 minutes on my article and just see what I was grappling with. Like he said, it was definitely a stream of consciousness mishmash of mostly questions that would hopefully lead me to some kind of direction.

However, instead of sitting on it, I decided at 10:30 at night to send it to a few critical friends who I knew were fast skimmers. What I asked them for was just to point out something poignant, something that piqued their interest as feedback for me and a little more direction from people who had no idea what I was trying to say or not say.

The results this morning were fabulous. The perspectives were different, but I have confirmation of my own thinking and I am challenged to go where I really did not want to go… but now I have to go based on my feedback. I will need to add this to my repertoire of writing process tricks. I will call it kōkua aku, kōkua mai and the trick is really to have handy a few critical friends who are willing to enter into this mutualistic relationship with me.

In Hawaiian, kōkua is to assist. The aku and mai are directional markers, so aku is away from the speaker and mai is toward the speaker. It is a mutualistic relationship because when help is asked for, give it, and when help is needed, ask. It forces me to set ego and vulnerability aside, but also to jump when the same is asked of me. If that is how the world always worked, we would have a really great world.

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Why I Will Sit at the Bar

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I hate going to conferences because I am by nature an introvert, however, I love going to conferences because learning is life sustaining. I am also a teacher, and if you have any experience with teachers, they are pack beings. Unless I am bringing teachers to a conference, which means that I am responsible for them, I prefer to be a loner. I find that I tend to meet the people who are most interesting to me by being untethered to a group.

My preferred dinner dining when I am alone, then, is to sit at the bar to eat, so tonight I crossed the hotel’s sky bridge to sit at the bar of a dim sum establishment. A young Caribbean woman, Clara, sat down at the same time and we sat next to each other. It was the most intimate conversation I have ever had with a stranger, and it was stress free, we shared food, and it was nice. She is soon to be a single parent of a fabulous 9 year old daughter. She is studying for her pharmacy boards and has been in Washington for 4 years. We both are patient when our plans go awry because we have the big picture view that life happens for the best when it happens in its own time.

I sometimes would rather write on my computer than venture out into the world alone, but tonight’s dinner really brought home the fact that I need to sit at the bar more often.

Finding the Discipline to Read

OnceUponATime

I had the chancellor of our university talk to my introduction to teaching class this week and one of the things that she did when she was preparing for her doctoral exams was she read a textbook a day and although she felt like nothing was going in, when she took her exams (with her IBM selectric borrowed typewriter with a bottle of whiteout), suddenly all that reading came together. She says now she can read an article once and things start to click and she can quickly come up with questions and comments.

I am a horrendously slow reader and my vocabulary does not belie my degree or the fact that I am a 23 year veteran English language arts teacher with a BA in English literature and three years experience teaching advanced placement language and rhetoric. As an example, I know that hegemony is a word that I need to own because of where I place my research work, however, I have to keep asking Google to pronounce it. So no, I do not own hegemony. I use the words Hawaiian ways of knowing so I do not have to use the word epistemology.

But I want to/need to be smarter, not because I am trying to be more western in research and thought, but just because I need to be smarter. This is day 2 of my reading a professional article. I have to admit that yesterday my article took what felt like all morning. I decided I needed to get up earlier, so this morning I woke up at 4:30 but who wants to read a professional article at 4:30 in the morning?

The organization of the article is key. Where do I put it and what do I do with it. Today’s article was a possible article for my literature review course I am teaching this summer. I decided not to use it as a reading, but to share the key points in a PPT instead. When it is as simple as that, I decided to put the article already highlighted, plus my little note about how I am using it into my Evernote. Yesterday’s article was more related to my possible paper for AERA so I have it on my Google Drive research resources sheet, plus the original and the highlighted versions are on my Evernote.

I am not the most intuitive organizer, but that is what I am trying so far.

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Finding My Way

google map

My knowledge of schools around Oʻahu island continues to grow as I Google Map my way to my education students so that I can watch their 15-60 minute “mini lessons” with their students. I am continually amazed at what passion and a desire to be with children can do for all of us. I hope that passion and amazement stays with my students for the rest of their careers.

Parker Palmer (1997) in his piece “The Heart of Teaching” talks about how we can lose heart when teaching. He says, “teaching is always done at the dangerous intersection of personal and public life” (p.6). To reduce or alleviate that vulnerability, then, we disengage from our students, from our subject area, and even from ourselves. What is his solution for finding our way back to ourselves and finding our way back to the heart of teaching?

In some ways it is about the ability to stop searching for the one answer. As teachers, we often think the one answer is the foolproof technique, the amazing lesson plan, the awesome unit plan, the Pinterest idea that will turn our teaching around.  Palmer says no, it is again about finding yourself and understanding that you have all the answers. So it is not about finding the “proper technique”:

. . .as we learn more about who we are, we can learn techniques that reveal rather than conceal the personhood from which good teaching comes. We no longer need to use technique to mask the subjective self, as the culture of professionalism encourages us to do. Now we can use technique to manifest more fully the gift of self from which our best teaching comes (p. 11).

At $700 for a weekend retreat with Parker Palmer, this perspective seems like a lot of fantasy and smoke to me. Seriously, find your inner teacher? But his message is an old one, connecting to my own understandings of Indigenous epistemology and Hawaiian ways of knowing. Palmer (p. 16) looks at two truths as argument for his perspective.

  1. What we teach will never stick unless it connects with the inward, living core of studentsʻ lives, with our studentsʻ inward teachers.
  2. We can speak to the teacher within our students only when we are on speaking terms with the teacher within ourselves.

These truths connect to the Hawaiian concept of aʻo aku aʻo mai. It is the acknowledgement that teaching and learning are done by all, and that within the process of teaching, both the kumu and nā haumāna share the kuleana of teaching and learning. Aʻo is to teach, advise, counsel, coach. Aku and mai are directional markers with aku being away from the speaker and mai being towards the speaker. Like Paulo Friereʻs (2008) argument against the banking concept in education, aʻo aku aʻo mai reveals a two-directional give and take of conscious beings: the teacher and the students as the student and the teachers. In this approach the roles of students and teachers become less structured, and both engage in acts of dialogic enrichment to effectively hoʻonaʻauao (educate).

So seriously, what is the “technique” for finding our way back to the heart of our own inner teacher? Palmer does not offer a technique. Dialogue with yourself. Find a place that allows you to be a reflective being. Have meaningful conversations with others (save money to go to his yearly retreats).

For my students, I hope they will reflect back to the eager teachers that they are right now in this moment. When the act of teaching full time starts to get overwhelming and they feel like they are losing the authority to create because of time, demands, initiatives, I hope that they remember this time of their life when they had more breathing room to be creative, conscious, reflective beings who had a whole semester to pour their passion into one 30 minute lesson. In every lesson that I have seen so far, I realize that the mentor teachers and I laughed – not out of meanness or ridicule, but because for veteran teachers who are seeing this process, it brings us back to the joy of flying. There is a joy that comes after all the worry; it is the joy of standing in front of the students with all of the work of planning behind. I call this the joy of just jumping off the ledge. It is an adrenaline rush because no matter how much we over plan, when our plan interacts with the conscious beings that are our students, only the inner map of our own fortitude, what Parker calls the heart of a teacher, will guide us.

Watching my students teach is like watching my kids on a roller coaster from the ground. Itʻs that kind of pure joy and so we laugh and sometimes remember our own first solo jumps. Being in the process keeps my teacher identity grounded. What helps you?


References

Freire, Paulo. “The “Banking” Concept of Education.” Ways of Reading. 8th ed. Bartholomae, David and Anthony            Petrosky. Boston: Bedford- St. Martin’s, 2008. 242-254. Print.

Parker, P. (1997). The heart of a teacher: Identity and integrity in teaching. Change: The Magazine of Higher                    Learning, 29(6), 14-21.

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The Joy of Teaching

When I realized that unless I wanted to get into administration, I had nowhere up to go and only out, I decided that teaching pre-service teachers or teacher candidates was the way to do something mo’o worthy. It took 3 years to get my Ed.D. and 1 year to find the job, but now that I am in it, I feel like this is definitely the mo’olelo that I want to tell.

I just spent the day observing two of my beginning students at two different schools. I was trying to get to three of them but their lessons would have overlapped and their schools are all about 10 or more miles apart. Still, these three women showed so much promise and the kids really adored them. One student at Makakilo Elementary in pre-K did a color lesson with the Mixed Up Chameleon and celery sticks as paint brushes. The other student in a 5th grade class at Pearlridge Elementary did a lesson on finding volume with volumetric cubes and bases.

I am a realist. At the end of class when one of my students was sharing a negative experience that they were dealing with in their school, I said teaching will break your heart. Teach anyway.

These teacher candidates today taught like this was the most important job. And it is. And I am so proud of them.

Here are some pictures from the student that I could not get to. She is doing a lesson on understanding an author’s point of view and students choose props that represent important details/ideas and put it on a story apron that she is wearing. This was a third grade classroom at August Ahrens Elementary. According to my department, all the teacher candidates really had to do was read a book. I just knew that they could do so much more, and they did.

My heart is full now.

Juli with her apronthe apron

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Another Reason for Culture-Based Education

Learning

I have said this before, I will say it until I die. . .ho’olohe – listen – pay attention to the signs. If you hear some things that resonate with your na’au, it is likely your kūpuna trying to teach you something, even if the deliverer of the learning is not even addressing your specific situation. If it makes sense, if what is being said jives with what you were thinking or wondering, then the learning, your learning came because you were in the right mind to receive it and you needed to learn it.

Sometimes it takes me months to go through my conference notes and then I will find something written down that resonated with me at the time, and resonates with me even more to my current situation  so it needed to sit on my notepad for a while until my future self caught up with it and then voila, it was waiting patiently for me all this time because I need it right now.

The quote may not mean anything on first look, but as I am planning my new courses for the fall, I needed to find this quote and I need to question my content, my motives, and the space that I create for my students because now I have been reminded. This is from He Manawa Whenua Indigenous Research Conference in Waikato. Professor Bob Jones was one of the keynote speakers and he is an Aboriginal scholar from Australia.

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Eurocentric education, as distinct from culturally based and responsive education, is a form of mental abuse.

I may be Kanaka ʻŌiwi, Native Hawaiian, but I am also part settler/colonizer – I acknowledge that I can be both, so I cannot be complacent and silent. Silence is the mother of injustice.

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