By In Social Media

This Is What It’s Like Training For How To Respond To A School Shooting

There was no morning bell when teachers and staff filled the cafeteria at 8 a.m. It was a waiver day, so there were no students on campus, only a lack of noise and friction in the hallways. 

But their absence was a good thing, since we adults were learning what to do in the case of an active threat – a school shooter – and there’s evidence to suggest active shooter drills have profound negative psychological impacts on kids.

Such drills may also inform would-be shooters about how their school would respond, potentially giving them insider knowledge on how to maximize their killing spree. 

Fun thoughts to start your morning, but these are the kinds of things we have to think about and prepare for now.

Welcome to teaching in 2023…

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By In Social Media

Why I Have A Pride Flag In My Classroom

I was in 7th grade when Eminem released “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

Within a week it sold nearly 2 million copies, making it the second fastest-selling album ever at the time. It was everywhere, including my portable CD player, where it remained in steady rotation for the rest of the year. 

To say it was a controversial album would be an understatement. Among the various groups that protested its release was the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which quite reasonably took issue with its frequent use of derogatory and anti-gay language, particularly the repeated use of the F-slur in lyrics like “hate f**s? The answer’s yes.” 

The album seeped into my habits, and like most boys of my generation, I used the F-slur relentlessly and called anything I didn’t like “gay,” regardless of the context. If I had to defend my use of those words — which I never did, because it was broadly accepted — I would have done so the same way Eminem did: I used them to describe people or things that I thought sucked; it had nothing to do with anyone’s sexual preference.

I didn’t hate gay people, I would’ve said, and besides I didn’t know any. Looking back now, I’m not sure that’s true. I probably did know some gay people, but based on how I talked and acted at the time, they had every reason to hide it from me. I would’ve mercilessly teased anyone who was openly gay, because they would’ve been an easy target.

I currently teach 7th grade, the same age I was when anti-gay sentiments and language became normalized for me. Though Eminem hasn’t been relevant for a long time, those ways of speaking and thinking about LGBTQ+ people are every bit as commonplace now as they were 20 years ago…

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By In Social Media

Artist At Play

Tucked into the back of Pālolo Valley, Mary Mitsuda’s home studio feels like a part of the landscape. Sunlight falls through the studio’s skylights like sediment settling on a riverbed, and when winds whip through the valley, passing clouds interrupt the beams and change the lighting inside the studio from one moment to the next.

“I like to see how the paintings look in different lights,” Mitsuda says. A pair of unfinished paintings hang on the wall, and she goes over to tinker with them sporadically while she talks. Part of the studio space is devoted to displaying finished works by Mitsuda and her husband, fellow artist Jesse Christensen: totems constructed from discarded computer parts, paintings of ti leaves in various stages of decay, woodblock portraits of fishermen. But perhaps the most interesting piece in the studio is the shell of a xenophora, which Mitsuda presents with an earnest eagerness reminiscent of elementary school show and tell. 

The xenophora is a deep-sea mollusk that moves across the seafloor, picking up small shells and stones and attaching them to its own shell as it grows. Atlas Obscura once declared the xenophora “the world’s most artistic mollusk,” a distinction that Mitsuda would likely appreciate—she keeps the xenophora shell around as a visual representation of her own artistic journey. “I didn’t plan to go into art,” Mitsuda says. “It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It sort of just emerged. This life absorbed me…”

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By In Social Media

New Contract Is A Much-Needed Win For Teachers But There’s More To Be Done

The latest teacher contract was a good start. Time to start thinking about the next one.

A few hours after voting commenced last week, a verdict had been reached. Teachers overwhelmingly supported the new contract that, among other things, will increase starting salaries for new teachers and guarantee pay increases for all teachers every year for the next four years, no strings attached. It will take effect starting July 1.

Although there was some pushback against the contract for not going far enough, the broad sentiment from the time it was announced was one of excitement.

It’s easy to understand why. Who would turn down a 14.5% raise over four years, especially when the last contract’s biggest accomplishment was avoiding pay cuts. 

This was a much-needed win for teachers, but also for the Hawaii State Teachers Association and its president Osa Tui Jr., who took over in 2021 a month after the previous contract was ratified. This was the first major hurdle under his tenure, and he cleared it with relative ease. 

But it’s important to maintain perspective. The new contract is a step in the right direction, but it’s also just that — a step…

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By In Social Media

Teachers Aren’t Burned Out, They’re Being Hung Out To Dry

Last month, the Hawaii Department of Education reported an alarming spike in teacher turnover.

Comparing the 2021-2022 school year to the 2017-2018 school year, turnover is up 12.3%, an increase largely driven by teachers leaving. Nearly three times as many teachers resigned than retired after last school year. 

For many, it came as a surprise to hear why teachers were leaving. Instead of pay, which has historically and notoriously been overmatched by Hawaii’s cost of living, the teachers who left cited work environment and student behavior.

Considered together, that sounds a lot like burnout. 

Hawaii’s teachers aren’t alone; a National Education Association survey last year found that 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned. Though we often think of burnout as the result of being perpetually overworked, that’s not the whole picture.

Burnout also means being confronted with challenges that seem insurmountable, immovable. It’s a concoction of helplessness and hopelessness, a belief that things are the way they are because of forces beyond your control, and there is nothing you can do to make it better. 

Both low salaries and burnout correspond to teacher shortage and turnover, the two biggest problems in education today. They are related issues — high turnover discourages people from entering the profession, and the shortage means there are fewer replacements for the teachers who leave — but they are separate issues, and their solutions are distinct.

It’s worth parsing them…

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