Posted on September 6, 2010
The cheering during the games, disco music, and animated conversations among parents created a lively soundstage for the Welcome BBQ this past Saturday. Everywhere on campus was a picture-perfect frame of fun, fun and more fun. As I chatted with parents, faculty, grandparents, and children, there was a pervasive sense of community, from the clusters of families eating on the lanai tables to the excited children waiting their turn at a relay. One of my favorite memories will be the tug-of-war between mothers and children -- mothers digging their feet into the grass, like centipede legs. And on the other side of the rope, children of all sizes pulling with all their strength -- and two fathers assisting at the end of the rope. Oh, that pained look of struggle stretched across their faces! (The winner of the tug-of-war is revealed at the end of this letter.) Kudos to chairperson Leslie Kobayashi and the fifth grade parents who set up, cleaned up, donated bottled water, helped in the dining room, and organized the games. What a great way to celebrate our community!
September is already upon us. If you read the teachers' blogs (I strongly encourage you to read blogs other than your child's classroom teacher), you'll develop a clearer sense of what really goes on in our school. There are many examples currently underway of our inquiry-based curriculum in every classroom, which teachers may have described in their blogs. This week, other teachers have explained the instructional approach in mathematics or in reading workshop. Now entering my 35th year as an educator, I have experienced and observed the variety of instructional initiatives statewide and across the nation and right here at Mid-Pacific Institute, and I am fully committed to and supportive of the work we are doing with our students.
In the Open House introductions, I didn't explain my own educational background.
My undergraduate work (two bachelor degrees, English and secondary education) was completed at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, of which one year was at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. My graduate work in composition and rhetoric was completed at UH-Manoa. In the mid-70s, I began teaching 5th grade in an elementary private school, and then ended up teaching all grade levels from kindergarten through eighth grade! My professional journey took me to an independent high school where I taught for eight years in the English department, followed by two years at another independent middle school/high school where I taught literature and writing. I served as an adjunct instructor in the UH College of Education for seven years teaching secondary language arts (reading and writing) instructional methods to teacher candidates. From the mid-80s I was very active in the Hawaii Writing Project, serving as a co-director of invitational summer institutes for teachers and as a consultant to many schools in the public and private sectors. I'm honored to have been part of the group of educators who developed Hawaii's first writing assessment system, which is currently in place statewide. I have also assumed leadership roles in other professional organizations focused on literacy instruction. I became head of Epiphany School in 1997 and played a significant role in Epiphany's merge with Mid-Pacific Institute, where I now begin my 7th year as principal.
I provide this sweep of background information to assure you that my work with the faculty is deeply anchored in many years of experience with other talented, bright, progressive colleagues -- including the faculty with whom I am privileged to work. The work we engage in is hardly a passing fad. Our work with your children is rooted in the educational theories the likes of Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, Piaget, and Dewey and successfully implemented in the classrooms of Calkins, Atwell, Fletcher, Reggio Emilia, and so many others well known in the professional community. The teaching methods improve over time as they should, supported by the research that validates our approaches.
In about a week, the teachers and I will resume meeting during lunch in study groups, or in "professional learning communities." We began these weekly meetings last year and have decided to institutionalize these small group sessions because it is where we do our best collegial work -- analyzing student work, discussing teaching strategies, critiquing professional reading, and giving each other feedback on our teaching. We'll continue to look carefully at inquiry approaches (our own and our students'), investigate project-based learning, and develop the framework for students' digital portfolios and a fifth grade capstone project. In the preschool, the faculty is definitely engaged in cutting-edge early childhood teaching as progressive as I had observed in Italy. Are we busy? You bet! I'll keep you posted via these weekly letters (blogs) about our work, and you can do the same by reading the teachers' blogs.
Finally, we open our classrooms this week to several teacher candidates from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, UH-West O`ahu, and Chaminade University. These student teachers are either working in their undergraduate or graduate programs. You'll be hearing more about our newest colleagues.
Footnote: The children won the tug-of-war! (ok . . . with the help of a few strategically placed dads).
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey