Category Archives: Notes

Writing in corners

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Austin Kleon talks about Bliss Station as perhaps both ideal place, but also ideal time to get the very independent work of doing done.

Even he believes this is the best solution in an ideal world and as I struggle to actually take advantage of my own carved out time on my calendar, and as I see deadlines start to pass me by for my “on the side writing,” I realize that I need to stop looking for my own bliss station and start writing in corners and in the car as I am sitting in traffic. Perhaps my ideal time that I carved out – Wednesdays, 7-10 am – really only works if I stop looking for the ideal chair, the perfect light, the best inspirational quote and I really just write.

So this is me, just writing after one whole month and a half of having my every Wednesday morning carved out for writing on my Google calendar as well as my paper calendar. This is me writing for the first Wednesday instead of wishing that I was writing or feeling guilty that I was not writing. I am not at home on my uncomfortable, cheap office chair, nor am I at the university in my comfy chair but always with the risk of a distractions from students, colleagues, email and fast wi fi.

I am sitting at a Honda service center on a little round table with plastic chairs waiting for my car to get looked at. I am here with a television blasting the morning news and a view of the men’s bathroom. Perhaps this is the bliss station because hey, at least I am writing.

I sat in on a student writing group the other day and one of my students was supposed to be reading his poem that he had just written as a way for me to model Elbow groups based on Peter Elbow’s work Writing Without Teachers. He is a science teacher candidate, not used to being forced to write poetry from a couple of mentor texts so in the 10 minutes I gave him to write, I gave him this technique: write “I don’t know what to write” until your pen is so used to moving that you will start to write with fluency.

When “J” shared his piece to our small Elbow group, he read “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I carry my father’s last name, but I wish I carried my mother’s. I don’t know what to write. . .”

The way he read it. The way after a series of the same sentence he would throw us some pearl of insight and then close up again was so powerful that as I think back to that now, I realize that I have absolutely no excuse for not having anything to write. I just have to build up my stamina for writing by writing.

What I need to/want to write about:

  • The cosmogenic relationship to Kuahuokalā (the dirt that smells like my grandfather’s yard and the dirt below the mango trees)
  • and how this relationship has created a hale that is my Room of Requirement (walk past three times with your intention in mind and the room, like magic, provides what is necessary)
  • Abstract for our work in community partnerships – pilina, pilina, pilina
  • The lessons of Hiʻiaka in Honouliuli and how that is the foundation of the secondary education program




What IS the process?!

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I am guilty of owning this bit of advice: trust the process. I say it all the time. Literally. For every situation where someone asks me why are we doing this? Where? What? How? My answer is always the same. Trust the process. It’s my own fault then that as a small group of us start trying to write about our work around professional learning communities, I am given the sub topic of trusting the process which forces me to then define, demystify, bullet point out, one two step the “process.” Darn. I like to do intentional things behind the curtain and then magic happens, but should I just explain that a lot of the process is guided by na’au (gut-level) decision making based on an awakening of my own Indigenous self?  That is somewhat wrong too. I have mentor ideas that I have connected to my own ideas, analyzed them at the gut check level and moved them forward or discarded them according to what feels pono for a specific situation. Not really useful to anyone else.

I am still at the thinking as I write stage. I call this my palu stage. The word palu in Hawai’i sometimes has a wrong connotation. For locals, to vomit is to palu, but in the Hawaiian language, that is not the right word. So in a sense I am not vomiting out my thoughts in some verbal diarrhea rant. That kind of explosive, volcanic vomit is luaʻiI am also not just quickly writing out train of thought squirrel observations. . .ooh shiny flow like water sentences. That kind of flowing, watery vomit is puaʻi. Palu is fish chum, usually made with fish heads and guts, mixed together for the purpose of baiting fish. Palu writing is my way of using both my guts and my head to start forming connections. The pieces are not always set, but I am trying to throw some palu out on the water to see what kind of interest it brings up.

Here are some of the materials I am trying to massage to create this palu writing that talks about process, not about what it is, but what the intention of the process for this professional learning community is first. Then we talk about the how.

Yarning Circle (Bennet-Mclean, 2000) encompassing both modern and historic communal gathering processes found amongst many Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Talking Circle introduced into the Reconciliation movement and adapted from Native American Cultures (Picou, 2000). Both derive from Indigenous Peoples’ methods recorded through the stories, songs and ceremonies as mechanisms for inclusion into the transfer of knowledge, participation in the decision-making process and identifying shared goals and desired outcomes for community. (Aseron, Wilde, Miller and Kelly, 2013).

Cultural Safety Circles (CSC’s) borne of the Indigenous experience and found within traditional ways and cultural practices. CSC’s are an acknowledgement of traditional methods for sharing, learning, and collective knowledge development and maintenance. The application of CSC’s can help provide a collective space where definitions for cultural and educational exchange take place and can also be identified. It it through this application that the inherent issue of cultural safety, specifically where it pertains to higher education participation, can then be explored to a deeper understanding. (Aseron, Greymorning, Miller, Wilde, 2013, p. 412)


Bennet-Mclean, D (2000). The yarning circle.

Picou, J.S. (2000). The “Talking Circle” as sociological practice: Cultural transformation of chronic disaster impacts. Journal of Clinical and Applied Sociology (2) 77-97.

Aseron, J. Wilde, S., Miller, A. & Kelly, S. (2013). Indigenous student participation in higher education: Emergent themes and linkages. Contemporary Issues in Education Research 6(4) 417-424.

Aseron, J., Greymorning, S.N., Miller, A. & Wilde, S. (2013). Cultural safety circles and indigenous people’s perspectives: Inclusive practices for participation in higher education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research 6(4) 409-416.


Reading Goals

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In my reading and writing across content (it really should be literacy across content but I did not name it), I need to make my reading goals clear. This is the one academic year where I offer this course every semester so I have a chance to test out, tweak, revise.

Here are my reading goals that I am trying out:

Students will be immersed in reading experiences where they have to

  • visualize ideas and situations in text (doodle notes)
  • make connections (bulletin board discussions, post it connections, yarn bridges)
  • ask questions (questions as feedback, positive presuppositions, question as paraphrase)
  • draw inferences
  • evaluate and determine what’s important (creating mini lessons to teach each other)
  • notice and analyze the author’s craft (reading circle, writing circle, model texts)
  • recall ideas (discussion, doodle notes, alaka’i)
  • self-monitor while reading (brain map)

I need more ideas on drawing inferences but it may not be a stand alone. More like a simile is a type of metaphor is a type of figurative language strategy but not necessarily true that a metaphor is a simile. Not sure if that makes sense but is is just on the edge of cognition and clarity.

CCSS mana’o

I’m not sure how to use this, or which hat of mine I would use it for, but I want to note it down for later thought.

CCSS is being adopted/adapted for KSH and I will begin some side work on creating curriculum aligned to CCSS and CBE. CCSS aligns with Danielson, and done proficiently, both lead teachers to distinguished based on a more constructivist pedagogy. As an instructional coach, I get that.

But put on my other hat, that of reading specialist, I worry about those students who are already so behind that the Matthew effect is in full effect and as they move forward in our system, they actually fall farther and farther behind, even despite our best efforts. I must look to the voices dominant in this realm – those people whose passion is the reaching of reluctant secondary readers.

Here’s an excerpt from Kylene Beers on some words of wisdom regarding CCSS as quoted in Professor Nana’s blog:

“My own CCSS (Critical Core School Standards) that might have a chance of creating students who are indeed college and career ready reads like this:

All administrators and teachers will work together to create in all students a passion for learning, a joy in discovering, a tolerance for risk, the stamina to try again, respect of others, and belief in oneself. Schools will be seen as communities of learning where at the end of the year children are saddened to leave, count days until the next year begins, and “I want to try it” is heard far more than ‘Is this for a grade?'”


So why is this quote, of everything I read today, so important?
I need to understand the students I am creating curriculum for.
As a former AP teacher who made sure that I flunked my students at least once in the year perhaps for my own cognitive dissonance moment, I have to remember that AP students have their own built in survival mechanisms that keep them from shutting down when the going gets tough. I cannot only write curriculum for those students who will learn regardless of who stands in front of them. I must write for those students, true, but also for the students who struggle and everyone in between.

I can only create rigor and bring out critical thinking if the why of the unit is connected to the students. I need an appropriate hook, but it needs to be more than a metal shiny thing that skims the water with no sustenance attached. And staying with that metaphor, I need valid intentions for why I am trying to hook them in the first place. It needs to be a win win for all, including the teacher and the nerd and the struggler, etc. They have to “want to try it.” The challenge with CCSS is that I am trying to prepare them for a college and career experience that may not even exist right now, so we must teach through culture. I cannot think of anything else that is solid enough to hold on to. I think for our students the passion and joy will come from the culture. I may be far off base, but I need to try it.

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Using What Moves Me


A friend went to the ASCD conference so I used her login to look into the virtual conference. What I found was the keynote by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

My notes:

ASCD 13 Keynote

From marching with MLK, Jr.

  • all things are possible
  • the way we think about ourselves, the language that we use, the way we interact with each other, the value we hold, become the most important thing

• Every generation was becoming better educated until recently. The 35-70 year old Americans are the second most educated generations in the world

• Not the same for the under 35

• 30% of Americans have college degrees

• 36% of whites

• 19% of blacks

• 14% of Hispanics

• 55% of Asian Americans

2/3 of Americans over 25 do NOT have college degrees

What do we have to do to increase those numbers?

How many believe there are many more Chinese and Indian children than American children?

  • 1.3 billion Chinese
  • 1.1 billion Indians
  • =2.4 billion people
  • 10% will be high achievers, so 10% of 2.4 billion is 240 million
  • there are only 310 million Americans
  • we are a small country. What gives us strength is our creativity, our innovation, our diversity – how do we harness the creativity and innovation to make a difference?
  • We especially need graduates in STEM, but it does not take away the importance of arts, humanities and social science. We need both. Our graduation rate for engineers = 6%. Europe = 12%, Asia = more
  • We math teachers can look at a kid and spot the kids that don’t get math right away.  The kids that can get it quickly, can also lose it quickly. We tend to think about speed as being smartness rather than depth and struggle as a way to learn
  • Our culture tends to do a one or the other talent search, either math/science or arts/language. Must it be that way?
  • Why are fewer than 2% of the PhDs in science going to minorities (blacks, hispanics, Hawaiians)
  • What does it really mean to expect that all students can succeed?
  • ask students to give feedback on how to help them succeed
  • in our system, do we see all people of all races achieving at the same level?
  • what works?
  • build community among students
  • help faculty rethink how they teach
  • pull students into the actual work
  • building trust among the students

ú  students will rarely say they need help (especially minority students)

ú  the tutoring labs need to be for those students that want to get an A, not just the ones that don’t want to get a C or lower

ú  when focus on specific groups and their particular problems, you can address things that can help everyone

ú  if they have never seen it, it’s challenging to believe that it can happen.

  • How do we use technology as a tool rather than having the tool rule our lives?
  • We must prepare students to use the technology, but also to control the technology – ethics, history, thinking through the big questions – one skill he wants every student coming to college to have beyond reading is to ask good questions
  • How do we create an environment where we ask students to take ownership of their own education.  How many students are bored in school? How do we take what we know about technology and learning to change the model?
  • Are we as innovative as we can be? We need to get away from the lecture model. People can’t listen for more than 20 minutes intently.
  • Flipped classroom from his perspective: in engineering/math – teacher assigns a 20 minute video explaining a concept. Students watch it. Teacher assigns the problem before class. They meet in groups, using blackboard and work on the problems. Based on what she sees in the problem solving, she can present another 15-20 minute lecture based on what they could and could not understand.
  • Expecting the students to see how much they can understand themselves first, and base the lecture piece on what they didn’t get. Teacher in class continues to monitor the groups.
  • In terms of the future, we learn together, not alone.  Asian countries you get fewer problems that require more thought and are worked on together
  • how do you make sure everyday that you are elevating people and not pushing them down?
  • watch your thoughts, they become your words, watch your words, they becme your actions, your actions become your character, your characer becomes your destiny
  • Every child needs A teacher to believe in them.

How can I use this in my own project?

What Dr. Hrabowski has done by concentrating on minority students is what I’m doing. He says by concentrating on the specific needs of one type of student, in my case Hawaiian students, I am creating information for all students. Good teaching is good teaching. Belief to action to destiny – the ho’ailona – the pandanus fruit is ripe – the time is now.

Qualitative Research with Dr. Joanne Cooper, Part 1

Defining qualitative research

  • Not in lab
  • Data collected in the field, sensitive to people and places
  • Does not involve sending out instruments, such as surveys
  • Gathers up-close information by talking directly to people or observing how they act in a chosen context

Researcher is the key instrument

  • Researcher collects the data
  • Highly dependent on the reflexivity of the researcher.
    • How do your values or experiences color your perceptions of this world and your participants?
    • How will you set aside these values in order to see/hear your participants clearly (look for places where you’re surprised – reveals your biasis) (journal)
    • How are you an insider and an outsider to this situation? (Journal)

Involves an emerging approach

  • Need to have a plan, but the design must be sensitive to events/people in the field
  • Cannot be tightly prescribed (flexible, but not loose)
  • Examples: questions may change, forms of data collection altered, participants or sites may change
  • Do need a guiding research question or questions (need to look at what assumptions are buried in question or what terms need to be defined)

Involves sense-making interpretation

  • examined meanings people bring to social or human problems
  • Brings forth voices of the participants (if in transcript, you’re doing most of the talking, wrong!)
  • How do they make sense of their world
  • Does not focus on the meanings that the researcher or the literature bring to the problem
  • Focuses on multiple perspectives, theme, should reflect multiple perspectives
(Journal topic – role of the researcher – my genealogy as a researcher)
Focuses on the voices of participants
  • Your job is to bring forth the voices of the participants
  • Often involves giving voice to those who have been silenced
  • Get your voice out of the way in order to HEAR them
  • Involves narratives or words, not numbers in order to represent their voices
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