The Paradigm Shift of Education

In every corner of the Earth there are paramount changes occurring. Systems in place that govern our lives are being turned inside out and upside down, as humanity gains awareness in the ways we have been indoctrinated by false idols as to what is normal, what is forbidden, what is accepted, what is truth. We are no longer accepting a “that is just the way it is” defeat—blurred lines between peace, and complacency. Every unspoken and age-old written rule stating “you must” is rebutted with a strong and sincerely posed question of “why?”. Why do we need to operate like this? Not only do we ask others these questions–we are asking ourselves why we have maneuvered, within each of our intricate roles, in the ways we have been maneuvering–contouring ourselves for the comfortability, easy digestion and consumption for a machine we can barely name for all it has infected, for far too long. Why are our priorities, priorities at all?

Education is no exception in our quest of why, in fact it is an integral component of this shift, for education has nothing to do with institution.

In recent years in every educational setting I have been a part of, there is an incessant complaint of teachers concerned with students “always on their phones”, and I have always found the demonizing of cellphones in classrooms to be a missed mark. As a millennial teacher, with social media accounts filled with connections in various parts of the world, of all ages, paths, and backgrounds, it is clear to me that there is a vast gap between awareness of our connection to The Whole, and the linear perspective only reaching so far as what our Facebook feed and local news can deliver. From a single Tweet, Instagram post, and TikTok, we are exposed to the beliefs and experiences of people in the state next-door, country above us, camp below us. We see into the living rooms of leaders, of the privileged, of poverty. Hidden cameras and leaked screenshots reveal and expose. Heroes have become human. Protests in our country have been broadcasted on livestreams of the accounts of “ordinary” people, coinciding with the telling of the very same events from the local newscaster, both stories on the same night contrasting in severity, tone, bias, honesty. Livestreams depicting unwarranted and severe police brutality, organized and peaceful protest are depicted by news channels as being “riots”, placing authority on pedestals, aghast at such unruly behavior by “deranged” citizens. If we already had little to no trust in our systems in place, the contrast in the telling of events between people and paid organizations has only affirmed our disbelief.

As we move into the school year of 2020-2021 gaining knowledge and experience of available virtual learning tools, we add more to our ability to access and reach our students. As I dissect every impulse within me to hang on to the ways in which face-to-face instruction is better in any way compared to virtual instruction, I am left with the simple truth that given a student has a device they can connect to WiFi, they are able to take ownership of, and expand upon their learning like never before. As educators we have the opportunity to enrich and inspire, reaching far beyond the restrictions of campus protocols border-lining on unnecessary policing. The driving force remains the same–are we filled with the intention to prepare students for a world as it is, and as the limitless and versatile world it is becoming? Or for systems of rigidity and rules we don’t believe in–a world that doesn’t exist, that is hanging on by the fragments of operations long since proven ineffective?

The neuroplasticity and patterns of thought of our students will always differ from our own, just as much as generations after them will differ from their own. As I piece material together, create videos, insert links that reference information, add a gif, play with html, I am able to control the steps in which information will be received, and on the student’s end they can move at a pace comfortable for themselves. There are opportunities to expand upon information, then options for deviation from the lessons in order to practice a skill, or gain more awareness of prerequisite information not yet learned.

I feel challenged, yes. But I also feel empowered, more passionate than ever, and ready to connect with and reach students in a time where connection and the ability to discern fact from fiction, is crucial. I have never taken my role as “teacher” lightly, and consider it an honor and tremendous responsibility. After recently overcoming many internal doubts I had of myself, as an educator in the school I am at, during this virtual era, I am realizing that everything I have experienced up until this point has, as usual, prepared me for where I am, with the team and students I am with. For every complaint or frustration a teacher has about teaching virtually, I have a dose of a silver lining for them, and I don’t hold back in my delivery.

In the future I foresee teaching to be an “independent contractor” type of role, as more and more parents opt for homeschooling, and students themselves seek answers, truth, sincerity and authentic instruction. I am willing and able to adapt, grow, and serve my students, connect with people and enrich the lives I come into contact with, whether I am under a blanket of an institution or not. Because education has never been about the building, or the system, or the mandated assessments. Education happens to all of us whether we enroll in a course or take a year off to live and work on a farm. What cannot be bought or given a certificate for is the passion for truth, for uplifting–the driving force of an educator, then the reverence and sacredness of the relationship between teacher and student. And perhaps this shift moving us to adapt, to re-frame, to scaffold, to put ourselves in the shoes of our “clientele” will remind us all of what education, truly is.

Authenticity & Identity Lesson

In my ELL classes we have been talking about words nationality and culture, exploring what they mean to us, having discussions in and outside of class, interweaving stories and perceptions from other people around the world by way of clips, Ted Talks, and reading about perspectives outside of Hawaii. Today’s discussions were exceptionally meaningful. Maybe because we have already been discussing these matters, so the kids have been warming up? I have been learning to ease into projects, and expose them to as much as possible before dropping the project rubric on them.  We watched Ted Talk by Hetain Patel entitled Who am I? Think Again. In his talk he has dancer Yuyu Rau translate for him until he finally joins her in speaking something other than the repeated Mandarin paragraph he “learned by heart” during his visit to China He proceeds by using various accents, emphasizing his many experiences and suits of culture he has tried on for himself, bringing him closer to his own authenticity. Throughout the lesson we looked at the transcript, discussing words like assume, assumption, authentic and authenticity. Other words were gone over and of course each class was differentiated in our explorations, according to who was in class and what questions they had. (I had little to no input in discussions). Here are the highlights:

  • One boy, who is Vietnamese, said he is assumed to be Chinese when he goes to Chinatown with his aunty, and sometimes he will be spoken to in Chinese. He also said in a different part of class that he thinks more people in younger generations have a harder time answering questions about where they’re from or what their culture is.
  • One girl expressed how she wishes she did know more about her culture, often feeling left out in one group, then not completely a part of any single group. Springing from this we talked about what it feels like to not belong, and how there must be so many people in the world who feel this way.
  • In all classes, speaking about the word “assume” surprisingly brought on discussions about what we assume when we meet people, and why we construct those assumptions. The classes came up with clothes, skin color and then of course accent and language being main causes for our assumptions. We started to then go into why these assumptions are made and why they are different for each of us.

I split the class into groups of 3, having one person as recorder, one artist, and one leader. They had a blank white sheet of paper, a computer, and markers. Going through the transcript on the Ted Talk, (which also can be translated, and which was helpful for my Chinese, Korean and Japanese students) they had to record and illustrate all of the things they found that make Hetain who he is, authentically. Collections of visuals, quotes and words were written and drawn on the sheet such as “Born and Raised in England” “Bruce Lee philosophy” and “Indian clothes not COOL” and they each had to share their creations with the class.

Overall this was an interactive way to explore components of culture and discuss ways we’re authentic because of experiences, as well as the small and large pieces that make up our culture and identity.

hetain patel

Did You Know You Are an Angel?

The melody of their voices in unison, as they sing their song to perform, mixed up in sporadic giggling outbursts, will come into my mind when I am in traffic or having a particularly chaotic day. Young women tied together by culture and also a bond of understanding something essential to this world. They have no idea they are angels and I want them to see themselves in this light. As they practiced their performances, speaking in their mother’s cadences, and braiding coconut leaves for wrists and ankles, I let the sweet sounds surround me in awe. In my eyes they are proud, sweet, fierce and gentle. Their smiles and spit-fire genuine laughter and attitudes of ultimate sass bring me so much happiness. I wish to plant the seed into their minds and hearts of confidence and knowing they are capable of the highest and most incomprehensible dreams. The things they are angry about, and the issues that bring them sadness are meant to be used as fuel for teaching love and fighting for justice. They are crucial to the upward spiral we are on as a humanity. I wish to plant impenetrable seeds of pride in their language, culture, and origins, so they spread it and broadcast it for endless civilizations to learn from. From the delicate and bold steps they take, to the light in their eyes when they speak to one another, they demonstrate how to glow. I want to sprinkle tiny seeds of the strongest trees that grow fruits of independence and goddesses demanding respect, humility and divine love from any man asking for their hands in marriage.  I pray their hearts are upheld in glory, and they treat their bodies like the sacred and stunning temples they are. It is my intention to enhance their understanding in learning that they are capable of their wildest dreams, and then beyond even those.

Trajectory of a Firework

“Make ’em go AH AH AH, You’re gonna leave ’em all in AWE AWE AWE!!!”

The lyrics of this song naturally bring light to many questions for English Language Learners. Not to mention poetic devices galore!! Like yesterday, the spirit of class soared as we began, but it did not start exactly like I had hoped.

I had to improvise when a) I had a new student nervous and very anxious due to the full class, chatter, and simply being that it was his first day, in a new school, of a new and unfamiliar language, in an entirely new country. b) The class was all over the place. Nobody had their journals ready, as my other, smaller classes always do. A few people were not present and leisurely walked into the door. Earphones were in, and I stood with my hand up as a mere 5-8 students waited ready. I got their attention by saying loudly and sternly, “Everybody FREEZE.” I gave a few who were moving and speaking my “Ms. L is angry” stare (curious to know what that even looks like, but it is rather effective) and once I paused and had everyone’s attention I spoke in a low and calm voice. “When the second bell rings, everyone should be in your seat, (exaggerated pause) with your journal open, (exaggerated pause #2) no phones in sight, and binders next to you. (LONG pause again). Now, we are going to all walk back outside, and try again. It worked. They respectfully walked in, sat in their seats and were quietly ready.

Once it all worked out, I raised my joyous energy and spoke sweetly, telling them to find their purple pages with the printed Katy Perry lyrics of “Firework” where we proceeded to read line by line, stopping to explain a word or phrase. I inserted drama where it was necessary to demonstrate the meanings and concepts, and appropriate emotions provoked by the metaphors. It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized my loud and dramatic opera-singing attitude would serve me so well. It’s a good thing I never subdued myself into a shell of conformity despite a lot of resistance to my “singing in the rain” demeanor.

Then, I surprised them and without hesitation said “Everyone stand.” I pointed to a word written in the agenda for the day and asked them to read it to me. “Participation” they said in unison. “How do we get an A for today?!” I exclaim. Again they say in unison, “Participation!” I pressed play. I weaved in and around the groups as they smiled and read from their lyrics. I turned down the volume during AH AH AH or AWE AWE AWE to hear their angelic sweet voices as they smiled back at me, and we did it once more before the bell ring where it was even more enthusiastic of a sound. We went over their new vocabulary, stopping for sentences and examples as I tallied points for groups who made use of their minutes when directed to tell their partners a sentence with the word. Class was smoooooth and exciting. They were alert, and supportive. I was prepared and had many visuals for them at the appropriate times for different meanings, examples and explanations. I sneaked in affirmations that they had to say out loud as well. Shneaky shneaky muahahahaha. The new student beamed, and he was welcomed. Everyone learned something. I am a very pleased teacher.