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

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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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Taking Advantage of FREE

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Manuwahi (free of charge) is always a welcome perk and I always feel like knowledge freely given is even more precious and must be passed on.

From now until December 15, the Kamehameha Schools Distance Learning program is offering two free online courses for adults. Register here to sign up for one or both of these courses by setting up your account and adding the courses to your cart.

First, set sail with us in Nā ‘Imi Loa: The Explorers and trace the history and craft of Hawaiian ocean voyaging, from its origins and earliest traditions, to the contemporary, worldwide voyage of Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia through interactive tutorials, documentaries and activities designed for the whole family!

Course runs January 11 – 29.
Watch the video » | Register by December 15 »

Then, plant your feet firmly on land with Mālama ʻĀina and discover traditional ways Hawaiians lived to allow for preservation and sustainability. Learn why Hawaiians revere the ʻāina and be inspired to apply the knowledge and concepts from the course to your own everyday life just in time for Earth Day!

Course runs April 11 – 29.
Watch the video » | Register by March 15 »

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Finding My Way

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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

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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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Hōkūleʻa by Vernice Weenera

 

Hōkūleʻa

 

We have all watched

with some misgiving

the ocean of possibilities

beyond our doors,

wondering, in our complacency,

whether we had courage enough

to chart a course

to farther islands.

No one of us

can yet walk on water,

and so few ever try,

knowing the fragility

of the sea’s soft skin

and the hook of fear we feel

within our very human lives.

So it is with some rationalisation

that we watched your proud sails

turn toward Tahiti.

We were not with you

for a multitude of reasons,

yet we watched, fascinated,

and something deep within us

stirred with pride

and we put aside

the mundane happenings

of our comfortable lives

to watch the Star of Gladness

tack across the sky.

We watched.

we saw the rain we had not seen

for many balmy weeks

come slanting off the ocean,

its arrival appreciated as always

for the promise of sustenance

it brings to these islands,

and no less of its blessing

on a launching of Hōkūleʻa.

We watched

as an ocean

whipped suddenly to spray that stung

the salt-caked flesh of men

leaning against waves

steep as the Koʻolaus

risen abruptly from deep green valleys

and safe, placid fields,

muscles roped across their backs.

Āe, we watched.

And watching, felt at once

the poignancy of guilt,

the shattering of smugness

in lives that now know triumph

born of pride in Hōkūleʻa.

(1982)

 

Vernice Wineera

PD Opportunity: Hawaii Conservation Conference

The 23rd annual Hawaii Conservation Conference takes place at UH Hilo from Monday, August 3 – Thursday, August 6. If you are not working and you are around for the whole thing, they have a pretty interesting line up, including huaka’i sessions on the 4th. However, if you are at work, you can still take advantage of the FREE and open to the public sessions on Wednesday, August 5 from 3:30  8 pm. Check the schedule on the link above. There will be food provided by @musubman of Honolulu and music by Paula Fuga and Hilo’s own Kainani Kahaunaele.

You just never know what you can learn if you don’t go. Remember, you get what you’re supposed to get.

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Poetry as Note Taking – He Manawa Whenua

The He Manawa Whenua Indignous Education Conference was my first experience in participating in a conference with translation. I think it’s a really interesting concept and I noticed that my notes looked more like poetry as a way to make sense of translations that were then re-translated, ear to brain to hand.

One of the keynotes, Professor Pon Teinara spoke only in Maori and he shared his mo’olelo of growing up in the bush. I found him to be so profound,  and I wish I could have understood him in his own language. Lost in translation.

hale He showed us a picture of his parents, beautiful, young rebels who set out to live a different lifestyle. To move away from the city and live out in the bush. This is not them. This is a hale from the Bishop Museum, but it gets the point across.

Wisdom is the daughter of experience (Da Vinci)

The house is telling us stories

of the old world.

Some may think it’s a picture of poverty

Of lack

and want

but it is a search for knowledge

in a world of silence

not noise.

We went to the bush to be free

How free do you wish to be?

What are you willing to do for this freedom?

What can you give up?

Do not ask senseless questions.

Sometimes the academic mind can trouble you.

I will give you everything I know

but the world waits for you

there is new knowledge out there

come out of the mist

come into the light

do not stay in the past

great knowledge has come from there

but you cannot stay

create new knowledge

to live in the world of now.

 

Who will fill your shoes?

Why would I want to wear someone’s old shoes?

You get the knowledge

but you may also inherit the unpleasant smells

Let us not sit in the shadows of our teachers.

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Fake it Until. . .

I am a simple girl: single-parent-teenager-raised, food stamp-raised, free medical-raised, pidgen speaker-raised, grandparents-raised, plantation-raised, tita-raised. . .

The fact that I have my doctorate in education. . .

The fact that after 22 years in public and private education as a teacher, a coach, an administrator, I am now an assistant professor at a university. . . itʻs surreal and itʻs proof that self-assurance has taken me to places that I was not dreaming of when I was a little girl living in the servantʻs quarters in Manoa, or even in an apartment in the garage on Houghtailling Street.

I am not an academic, but I am living in an academic world. I have simple stories to tell and I have to fake it to drop words like Indigenous, epistemology, hegemony, crit theory. . .

I am trying to submit an article to a journal, trying to finish an abstract and trying to figure out what these people who are inviting me to be on their panel are actually talking about. In local Hawaiian Japanese, the word is shibai (she buy). It is to put up a false front. Fake it until I make it. And in the meantime, looks like a personal dictionary and thesaurus are in order.

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