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By In education, Hawaii

Getting the hang of distance learning

As I was leaving school last Friday – the final day of work before distance learning began – I asked the teacher in the classroom next to mine how she felt about classes starting on Monday.

“It’ll be a disaster!” she said through her mask, an audible smile in her voice.

I was heartened by her response. I felt the same kind of conflicted: somewhere between acceptance and resignation, excited to meet my students but still not quite sure if I was adequately prepared to teach in a purely digital setting…

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By In education, Hawaii

School Leaders Have Tough Decisions To Make. It’s Time To Quit Waffling

I do not envy Gov. David Ige or Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. They are faced with an immense decision that will ripple throughout the islands, from teachers and parents and students to their friends and families and beyond. It’s a tremendous responsibility, and there will always be backlash, no matter what the decision is. That’s leadership 101, though: you can never make everyone happy.

Yet it is precisely that understanding that makes the current ineptitude and indecision of our leaders so maddening.

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By In Hawaii

The problem with unaccountable pseudo-journalists

Over the weekend, popular local Instagram account hohungryhungryhawaiian posted a petition to “end mandatory masks in Hawaii” with the caption “DM me if you need the link. #endmaskwearing.”

The post was quickly deleted after the comment section erupted in arguments, but not before a large chunk of the account’s 217,000-plus followers saw what looked like an endorsement of America’s whiniest, most embarrassing response to a global pandemic that has killed 160,000 Americans and 700,000 people worldwide.

The next day, hohungryhungryhawaiian posted a picture – no caption – from Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center about why people should wear masks. “Too much backlash ah,” one commenter said, to which HHHH responded, “just posting all sides.”

Numerous similar comments were met with the same response: HHHH was just playing it down the middle, presenting both sides of a controversial issue.

Such a response, to be sure, is toweringly stupid, but also unfortunately commonplace…

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By In education, Hawaii

Turning Your Home Into A Classroom Is Not A Bad Thing

In a perfect, pandemic-less world, the most ideal educational setup is for students to be in a classroom with their teacher.

It allows for more active and engaging lessons to take place; physical space can be utilized more creatively; and important social and cooperative skills can be seamlessly baked into academic learning. Students can ask questions at the exact moment of confusion, and teachers can engage in a fluid back-and-forth with the class until clarity is reached.

The simple human acts of reading facial expressions and feeling classroom energy are powerful teaching tools, and that’s to say nothing of the obvious societal benefit of parents being able to work knowing where their children are and what they’re doing.

Distance learning, on the other hand, is rife with inequities regarding the number of computers per person in different households, discrepancies in internet connectivity and speed, and other home-related instability that gets equalized in a shared classroom.

Despite the growing chorus of sniveling Nostradamuses predicting YouTube will one day obviate traditional schooling, there are very real challenges to digital education that make a permanent pivot seem as impossibly distant as an electric car in every home, or the rail getting completed.

But we’re not in a perfect pandemic-less world, and we have to make do with the situation we’re actually in. This means distance learning will to some degree be a part of our lives, from elementary schools to universities…

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By In education, Hawaii

Why I’m Going Back To Teaching

If you Google “why I left teaching” you’ll get several pages of sad, frustrated former educators discussing the whirlwind forces that flung them from the classrooms they loved. Most of these articles offer a police lineup of the usual suspects: low pay, lack of support, personal and professional burnout. Virtually every teacher knows these characters well, whether they’ve left the profession or not. They’re familiar to me, too.

I worked in Hawaii public schools as a part-time teacher from 2010-2012, then became a full-time special education teacher from 2012-2014. I was an emergency hire – meaning I was enrolled in a teacher education program but hadn’t completed it – but by the time I was a fully licensed and qualified teacher, I’d had enough…

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