Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Fish for Breakfast

Tuesday morning saw us out on the street very early again awaiting our host for the day, Phyllis Unebasami, Managing Director, Ho`olaukoa Educational Systems and Strategies for Kamehameha Schools. Phyllis arranged for us to meet over breakfast with Holoua Stender, Executive Vice President of Education for Kamehameha Schools.

Phyllis drove us to a place we would never have found as tourists, Nico’s fish market
I had the most amazing fish omelette in lovely waterside surroundings, albeit a working fish market.

Our common interest that brought us together was working with Michael Fullan, and so the conversation over breakfast centered around his most recent work with communities and his input into Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii.

We also learnt more about the Kamehameha Schools and that while this enterprise runs three beautiful K - 12 Campuses, and many pre-schools, it’s the name of the Enterprise that holds the land, investments and and businesses that Princess Pauahi left in trust for 5 trustees to administer. In 2016 this is an $11 Billion enterprise.

“Kamehameha Schools’ endowment exists to support our educational mission to fulfill Pauahi’s desire of creating educational opportunities in perpetuity to improve the capability and well-being of people of Hawaiian ancestry.”

After breakfast we were headed to the main campus to learn more….

Monday, 25 April 2016

Tāku Reo Rangatira

At midday it was a pleasure to be taken to a school that felt like home!  We were welcomed with food, with conversation, with singing and got to spend time in the classrooms. This is a school where the community has to work hard to accelerate learning outcomes as the learners have challenging life circumstances and varied entry points into schooling.

As we arrived during lunchtime we were taken into a workroom and school parents brought us each a plate of home-made food, some of it straight out of an umu. While we ate together we talked about the journey the school and principal Lisa Ann Higa were on. I took photos of the vision planning and PLD that was on the walls and shared them in the embedded slide show at the foot of this post.

Nānākuli Elementary School services the Hawaiian Homesteads of Nānākuli Valley and Princess Kahanu Estates. In addition to instruction in English, a Hawaiian Language Immersion strand provides instruction in the Hawaiian language. We visited the immersion unit and were greeted beautifully. 

The teacher, Kai Mana, loves his kids and they love him (and said so).

There  was some excitement here because these kids had been involved in the Google Hang-Outs around the Mālama Honua Landing at Pt England beach. They were using their MacBook Airs to create logos for the school values in Google Draw and the children were keen to show us and to talk about their learning with us - in English!

With the adults the conversation inevitably turned to their language and the pride the school and learners feel in being able to contribute to the strengthening of their native language which had been in danger of being lost. I was reminded of the song we sing about this, Tāku Reo Rangatira.

Before we left we had a time together under the trees (no aircon blasting out in this school!) where we sang to each other.

Learning Innovation

Our second visit was a bonus as it was not on our original itinerary. We went down the road to Mililani Waena Elementary School and the management team, in the absence of the principal Dale Castro, at very short notice put together an amazing learning experience for us.  We spent time with Sean Takashima , Catherine Upton and Barron Iwamura  - the VPs - who shared with us the school Vision, Mission and Beliefs about learning.

Mililani Waena is a Character Counts school. They promote the 6 Pillars of Character -- Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. We have seen this in action at Pt England school when Michelle George introduced it to her class.

Despite the cultural, socio economic and geographic differences, there was an instant connection with the learning and teaching happening in this school. These children all have a MacBook Air as their personal learning device (they received a $1 million grant to purchase technology!) and the school has a strategic approach to implementing digital learning environments. We greatly appreciated their open invitation to walk into classrooms and talk to children about their learning. This turned out to be one of the few occasions this happened during the week. Teachers were co-teaching and had created modern learning environments out of traditional learning spaces. This slide will look very familiar to Manaiakalani teachers.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about the specialist position they have created titled “Learning Innovation Specialist”. It sounded very similar to roles I have occupied.  While it clearly involves leading technical innovation, the role is better defined and empowered by using “learning” rather than “digital” terms.

It was testing week in Hawaiian schools, including OECD tests for PISA, so everywhere we went during the week we encountered quiet areas where children were sitting in rows writing exams. Mililani Waena has a set of scooters for testing week that children can use to let off steam after taking an exam!

Cross posted here

Germ-Free Waste

To be fair, this post could have been shared in 140 characters, but I share it here to add to my collection of amusing photos from dunnies around the world.  

“Not quite sure how the coating against germs works - I’m thinking it provides more protection for the metal underneath than for the hands that touch it? Regardless, I used the trusty foot technique to flush!”

(that was 214 characters)

From USS Arizons Memorial

Where Eagles Soar

Our first school visit in Hawaii was to Hale Kula Elementary School (soon to be officially known as Daniel Inouye Elementary School) on the Schofield Barracks Army Installation and began bright and early with a 6:00 am pickup by our wonderful tour guide Brendan Brennan.  We had quite an eventful start to the day, but more about that later!
We were warmly greeted and hosted at the school by Principal Jan Iwase and her leadership team.

A highlight of the school was seeing Learn, Create, Share in action through the eyes of a group of children who were keen to share their Project Based Learning with us.

Nyla had been working on a way to build a better product and chose the disposable coffee pods that have become ubiquitous in American homes. She was designing a reusable, biodegradable filter that could be used instead of the plastic environmentally unfriendly items in current use. We saw the prototypes she had created and the movie she made at home while she tested it out on the family.

 This movie was shared on the school’s YouTube channel.

Teachers will be interested to see how this project template was designed by the teacher in a shared Google Doc to support the learning, including colour-coded staging points for when each step of the process was due to be complete.

This school is high decile but has an interesting point in common with us. The children move in and out of the school at a significant rate.  Most of the 970 students are dependents of military personnel assigned to Hawaii and so move around a lot, making transition and deployment issues unique challenges for the school. From our own experience of transience we understand that this means the school has a short space of time to transition learners into the school community and to accelerate learning before they move on.

The circumstances of our visit did tempt me to title this post “Foreign Nationals”, but I didn’t want to detract from the quality learning experience we had at this school.  We had been pre-warned to carry our passports as we would be entering a military base, but this was not sufficient.  Brendan had obtained clearance in advance but it was only satisfactory for him as a US citizen.  We were given a very curt dismissal at the gate and told that as “Foreign Nationals” we were denied access.  This was disconcerting to say the least, compounded by the soldier on duty radioing all the other gates as we backed out to warn them to be on guard for Foreign Nationals attempting to enter by another gate!

Brendan drove us a block away and then contacted the school to let them know what had happened.  Fast forward half an hour of anxious conversation... the school located a staff member who was military personal.  She drove out to meet us down the road. We both got in her car and she drove us through an entrance gate without a problem. Not so for Brendan.  He drove back through, carrying the correct paper work for his own entry and was delayed while his vehicle was given a thorough search. Apparently they even looked for the Foreign Nationals under the car bonnet - which is quite flattering really!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

About Time

The must have accessory for this trip is the Apple Watch.  I had been looking forward to visiting an Apple Store in the USA and buying it at half the price we get ripped off for purchasing one in New Zealand. And a trip to an Apple Store is always a tourist attraction in its own right.

So it was a surprise to discover that the Waikiki Apple store considers it quite a privilege to allow you to take one of their items home - even if you offer to pay!  Inducing them to consider selling something to us was hard enough, but we pretty much had to force them to open their cupboards and admit they had a variety of styles and options available in the store. We did persist, and after quite some time were able to convince them that I was worthy of their product (actually not sure that I ever did that!) and walked out the happy possessor of a watch that has become the regulator of every step I take and bite I eat.

Oh, and it tells the time in as many time zones as I care to programme in.

Life's Interruptions

On Sunday morning we looked for a church service to attend. As we were slow starters our options were narrowed, but Google kindly found a service within walking distance that was at a time we could make.

Waikiki Baptist Church was warm and welcoming and as the service got underway we realised that nearly everyone in the congregation was a tourist.  Only the pastor and the band, plus a few people making coffee and minding the creche, were locals.  It turns out that the locals attend an earlier service in the day and they held this later one for visitors in the area - they understand that tourists are not likely to be early risers!

It is never by chance when the message at a service we attend is on point, and the pastor chose for his text Mark 11:27 through to Mark 12:12 with the title “Life’s Interruptions”.  He expanded on the text talking about how God sometimes steps into our lives and interrupts the flow (maybe the groove, or the rut) we are in.

Coming in the first week of this wonderful journey of learning and RnR that we are on, this sermon was a timely reminder that the unexpected gift of the travelling fellowship has a hand in it far larger than the generous people who selected us .

We are grateful for this interruption and look forward to what comes from it over the next three months.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A different lens

On Saturday we caught a bus out to Pearl Harbor Historic Sites (USS Arizona). Pearl Harbour is something we have learnt about at school, seen in movies, and heard about all our lives from others who have been there, but never visited ourselves. Whenever we have travelled to other places we have never been disappointed by visiting the actual site where events we have heard or read about actually occurred. And this was no exception.

Our years spent living in Papua New Guinea, a key battlefield in World War 2, opened our eyes to the horror and tragedy of war first hand. We were surrounded by artifacts of both the American and Japanese occupation and knew a lot about it from our time in Rabaul and Alotau.

This visit to the USS Arizona memorial provided a fresh lens and understanding of the way America was catapulted into the war. Their subsequent actions towards Japan, which as time passes and it all becomes distant history, have become increasingly hard to connect with in the light of 21st century values. But standing in the centre of the drama, admittedly with an audio track in one ear influencing one’s perception, the actions of the people involved at the time are a lot easier to understand and relate to than when I wrote that School C history assignment on the consequences of American involvement in the Pacific Theatre in WW2.

I highly recommend taking time out from lying on the beach to do this visit.

Friday, 22 April 2016


Best part of heading north on holiday is gaining a day, so for us it meant a three day weekend.  This is the first time we have stayed in Waikiki - an apartment we found on Trip Advisor - back from the beach about 5 minutes walk. The owner left all the necessary beach toys and tools, so we headed for the beach on Friday.

Waikiki will probably be a one-off for us. An enjoyable experience and a beautiful beach, but the crowds in the water and on the sand reflect this. A fascinating people watching activity and great to be swimming in warm water again, but not first choice beach experience.

Interesting side note of Waikiki is the noise - endless construction beginning early in the morning and going into the night, and inescapable. You need to be a good sleeper or have some great pills with you! One friend told us she sold her apartment and moved out of Waikiki area because of the construction noise.

The Fellowship

In October last year my husband was surprised, and delighted, to receive an unexpected letter in the mail which began….

"Message From the Woolf Fisher Trustees

The Woolf Fisher Trust is pleased to offer you a Woolf Fisher Fellowship for a 10 week study visit to North America, the UK and some countries in Europe in 2016.

Your trip will include a week long course at the Harvard Principals’ Centre in Boston…"

This precipitated a lot of excitement investigating what the Fellowship was about,  what this study visit could entail, and whether the logistics could be managed at the home end.

And the big surprise for me was that the terms of the Fellowship included me to tag along, if I was so inclined (or invited)!

Fast forward to April and this post sees us packed and ready to head to the airport, squishing clothes for Summer and Winter, work and play into one suitcase and hopefully have room for some shopping.

First stop, Hawaii.

Farewell from friends

The wonderful Anne Sinclair sent us on our way with this blessing:...

Dorothy and Russell
Farewell, adieu we wish you bon voyage
A flight and then Hawaiian massage
Poolside Maitais to quench the thirst
Relax then onto the States you burst
Where work awaits you but of course
You will be ready to talk of the source
Learn Create Share and Class OnAir
MDTA, affordances and cool Digital fare

But out and about to see the sights
Dinner and wine and and lots of late nights
Back on a plane and off for a cruise
Turn off your phone and soak up the views
Forget everything and be a touriste
Make the most of a veritable feast
Of Paris and London a Sicily villa
Ancient castles and the odd Roman pillar

Don’t think about us, we will work really hard
Keep your lid closed and and be on your guard
For fabulous shops with bags shoes and boots
Nightclubs and theatre and celebs in kahoots!
Enjoy yourself Dorothy come back refreshed
But not too excited with ideas increased!!
Have a great break you deserve this treat
A walk on the wildside and cool people to meet.
Go Well Have Fun!
Arrivederci, Aloha, adiós, adieu, addio, adeus, Ciao, auf Wiedersehen, au revoir, shalom

Thanks to Anne and all the MDTA teachers for your blessings and send off.  I will miss you all, but I plan to be back :)