Monday, January 19, 2015

Random Thoughts - Personal and Educational

The weather is gorgeous today - it doesn't seem like winter weather, but hey, I'm not complaining! I'll be golfing later with my hubby, my sister, and a friend.  What a great way to spend a holiday!

On Friday, it was announced that my husband Randy was appointed by the Governor to be the next Public Utilities Commission Chairperson. Since being asked to take the position, Randy was torn between continuing a relaxing life of retirement or serving the people of Hawaii in this capacity. Service won out, and he is un-retiring from retirement.  There are some major issues coming before the commission, and the opportunity to have an impact on the decisions that will affect our State in the future won out.  Randy has hit the ground running and I know he will do his best for the people of Hawaii.

Of course, going back to work full-time will have its challenges especially the daily commute to Honolulu and back home. (I'm lucky; I travel in the other direction, and my trip is 10-15 minutes each way.) When Randy retired eight years ago, I bought him a membership to 24-Hour Fitness, and he's been going regularly since. On Saturday, when he went to the gym, we changed his membership so he can go to the any center including one near his new workplace.  At the same time, I signed up to join.  I was a member for a couple of years over a decade ago and quit when the work became all-consuming. Now I need to make time to workout and not make excuses.  It'll be hard at first, I'm sure, but I am committed.

On Saturday, our VEX IQ team had a competition at Island Pacific Academy, a private K-12 school in Kapolei. The Head of School, Gerald Teramae, took my husband and me on a personal tour of the school, and we were impressed!  IPA started ten years ago, and they are an International Baccalaureate school.  But that's not what impressed us . . . there are other Hawaii schools, including several public schools that are IB schools.  No, it is their personalization and their focus on the whole child that I loved most -- their Navigator music recording studio, the art work that was displayed literally everywhere, and a room for Robotics, CAD (computer-aided design), a makerspace, and much more for students to explore, discover, create, and share.  In one of the classes we passed by, I was intrigued by the set-up - a "throne" in the middle with desks and chairs lined up in two rows, facing each other.  It was a Humanities class set up for a Socratic discussion.  We chatted with the teacher (sorry, I forgot his name) who shared that the discussions in ninth grade are often "all over the place" but by the time students are seniors, the discussions and the questions are way beyond what we would expect from young people. One of the questions - Is it better to lead with fear or with love? That would be a great topic for any group of leaders (including principals) to discuss!
Our VEX IQ team at Island Pacific Academy (Henry, Brianna, Kenna, and Jamie). These kids love being in Robotics, and our goal is to involve more students from a younger age so they can experience the joy of collaborating to problem-solve and be successful in getting their robot to complete the required tasks. 

So how does this all relate to me as an educator and school leader? First, my husband's new job gives me an opportunity to learn more about the sustainability issues facing our island state.  We talk about the importance of being more self-sustainable, but we don't always walk the talk.  As an educator, I can make a difference by ensuring that our students have the opportunity to think and discuss issues like the high cost of electricity, what other energy sources could we be pursuing (solar? wind? wave? geothermal?), and what we can do to make a difference, not just in Hawaii, but in the world. We believe that our students need to think more deeply, and one way is to get them to ask the questions and to seek answers to their questions.  We know that when students are interested, they are more likely to be engaged. Let's engage them in topics that are relevant to them now and in the future.

As a school principal, I feel my greatest disappointment is in not providing students with rich experiences in the arts or STEM or foreign languages. The focus on academics and having programs to identify and work with struggling students is important so that is where our resources have been in the last few years. But students need a well-rounded education that includes art, music, drama, Robotics, languages, dance, etc. and it is up to us to figure out how to expose students to those experiences.  That will be my priority.

It's time to get to work!

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