Tag Archives: aha

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

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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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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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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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Listen

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As an instructional coach, I often ask questions in order to reveal the thinking of the person across from me. I’m also asking questions because I am trained to believe that we have all the answers we need within ourself and someone just needs to help us tap into that inner voice of reason and experience, creativity and decision-making. I never really know if it will work, but I’ve seen it work enough times that I almost never have to go into a “consultation” mode. When I do go into a consultation, “have you thought about trying. . .” mode, it’s more because of my own time crunch or loss of patience than it is about the ability of the person across from me. 

Listening to your own inner navigator is a different experience when there is no coach or no second player to confirm if you’re tapping into something great or you’re just hearing voices from left field. But what I’m starting to believe in this dissertation journey, which is becoming a journey towards myself is that I must have followed a long line of women who survived and thrived through difficult times because of their ability to listen. I am aware now that I have a mo’oka’i – a lineage of generations of journeys that run through my ancestral memory, and when I am asked to listen, I am not the only navigator; I am not alone.  I am the beneficiary of lines and lines of navigators who understood the power of listening to their lines and lines of navigators. All I have to do is listen. Pa’a ka waha. 

Mo’owaiwai. 

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Challenges That Wake Me Up

Waking_up

I think it’s always best to record those things that just keep me up or wake me up from dream state. One of the challenges is the continuity piece.

The why of the continuity: I have found with writing project that when teachers do not show up for continuity, they are less likely to continue the good work they started in the summer institute. The challenge has always been on how to entice people to show up on a Saturday for something that will benefit them. The easy out is that people are very busy. Perhaps teachers are not used to putting themselves first.

But everybody suffers. When teachers are left on their own without a support group around them, they go back to what they are familiar with and as a trainer/developer, I lost ground.

The challenge is that it is voluntary, not mandatory. The work around is that it may come out in the interview that it is beneficial, not beneficial, unnecessary or valuable. That will make a difference on how I then write it up. Is it a crucial part of the mechanism that makes this PD or not. If not, then I report it as so.

So I guess through this writing, I come back to my methodology which in non-scientific terms is to prepare, then let it ride.

 

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I am the light at the end of the tunnel?!

Franklin Allaire, an ABD is back again talking about advice, tips for finishing up our dissertations. He is the one that is talking to native Hawaiian science people.

His big aha is that we are at the end of a 3 year program, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to understand that we are the light at the end of the tunnel. My take on that, we are the mana that fuels our own completion. I have full confidence that I WILL finish on time, only because I am stubborn and controlling and arrogant enough to trust my process, adjust my process, and make sure that I do not lose control.

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Passion

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Angela Maiers – she of passion and habitude and soft tofu once again did her hard sell for PASSION. I am not against passion. I think it’s easy to speak to the choir and get the amens if that’s what you need. But why would we be in education if we had no passion? Is it the lavish paychecks and the scrumptious benefits? Scowling, moody 13 year olds only charm for so long if we are not passionate about seeing beyond their facade and really creating a relationship with these sometimes foreign creatures who we will entrust with our future. I have not been in this business for over 20 years if I had no passion, so although I’m sure she is a powerful vessel for her cause, and pleasant to the eye, I always feel a little light headed when I hear her speak. Like someone served me strong Kool Aid and cotton candy when really I wanted a steak.

Rant aside, I’m on a mission to learn and use everything, so what can I take away and use?
1. WOW- the work I do with teachers, and therefore the work those teachers do with students needs to be WOW – worthy of the world.

2. Passion’s root is suffering, we need to see difficulty and challenge as a positive goal and not an obstacle (without going into victim mode, I assume).

3. Imagine audaciously

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Getting Through Graduate School by Using Everything

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What I have learned so far about how to survive graduate school while still working full time –

1. Spend time before hand to really know how you learn best – I am not an online learner, so University of Phoenix is totally out. I need face-to-face interaction and learn best with discussion and feedback.

2. What is your time and financial tolerance? Don’t expect to take shorter than 3 years, but some people take as long as 7 or 8 years. It’s cheaper to do it long, but I need short intense periods and I need to work full time, so the cohort model is how I did my master’s and now my doctorate.

3. Schedule down time and consistent working time. If you’re in a cohort, use your cohort as dinner/coffee buddies. Schedule family time that is sacred. I’m bad at this, but I continue to try despite failing.

4. Finally, use EVERYTHING – be open to learn because everything will start to connect to everything because your mind is open and receptive. Your dissertation and thesis should be a problem of practice – it should be relevant to you and the research should be one that you are passionate about and can use.  This week I’m in my cognitive coaching workshops and I’m already practicing the paraphrasing as a way to interview my teachers without my own researcher biases because I’m paraphrasing them and leaving out the autobiographical part.

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My Geneaology as a Researcher

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Who am I as a researcher? How will I set aside my values in order to see/hear my participants clearly?
I look at life through a poet’s eye, so heavy sensory description as well as metaphor making as a way to make meaning. That could be a problem. I need to turn off the interpretation part and just observe. Perhaps recording would be better for me. I like the thought of recording.
  • It allows me to capture voices
  • If I can video as well as record, I can capture mannerisms, which I like.
  • I can save interpretation, and just listen.
  • Look for places where I’m surprised. Concentrate on that and record it. The reveal will come later.
  • Based on Liezl’s questions before we looked at the T/E data, write down my presuppositions and predictions for my own data so that I can reveal my expectations ahead of time

How am I an insider and an outsider?

  • Coach, fellow teacher, person giving feedback – insider
  • Researcher, not participating in the work – outsider
  • The problem – the assessment part. How do I be course assessor as well as researcher – how do I get around that?
  1. Pass or fail, do or not
  2. Have them self-assess and self-reflect, offer feedback to peers
Other reminders
  • Need to have a plan, but the design must be sensitive to events/people in the field (allow them to choose the time and place for interview – go to them – ask to go to their classes on their terms, not as evaluator, just as observer)
  • Cannot be tightly prescribed (flexible, but not loose)
  • 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) – see my interview guide I attached to my IRB
  • Share my writing with participants for them to see if my sense-making interpretation is accurate to their own mana’o intentions – and let them call me on it if I’m putting my own wishes into it.
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