Friday, October 30, 2015

The "unveiling" of the philoSURFERS

Yesterday, Kailua High School held their annual Parent and Community day. The aim is to highlight the initiatives of school, as well as share data about their efforts with the wider community. Honestly, it is an amazing opportunity to ensure the school is really listening to the populations in which they serve. The reason I mention this is because I was asked to present the historical timeline of p4c at Kailua High. This post is not intended to summarize that presentation (I think I am saving that for an academic paper topic in the near future), but is aimed to highlight the brilliance of the philoSURFERS.

The students each got up on stage in front of hundreds in attendance, introduced themselves, spoke about their experiences being a philoSURFER, and then provided the details on the schools in which we work. As the details emerged, there was a murmur in the audience. People were turning to their neighbors in what seemed to be an attempt to do some quick math. What they ended up realizing was in just 13 weeks, the philoSURFERS reach has impacted four schools, twenty-two teachers, and roughly 560 students! This is incredible. If this is what we have done in just over a quarter, what is possible for the year? The next two years? Five years? A decade? This project is truly innovative and is an important aspect in revolutionizing our schools. I am so grateful to consider these three teens my colleagues and look forward to working with many of their peers in the future. This community will surely benefit from their energy, intellect, and efforts.

Friends, Growing Up, Real or Not Real

This week in Mr. Y's class, the topic was about friends. The initial question posed was "what does it mean to be a good and bad friend?" Some responses given were "they stick up for you," "that person is someone you can trust," and "they care about what you have in the inside." As for a bad friend, some responses given were "uses you and does not stick up for you," it is someone that you do not trust," "dislikes what you have," and "spreads your secrets." Another question we talked about was "is it true that the friends we have now will be our friends forever?" Answers like "yes because if you were friends with them for a long time, then you will still be friends later," and "yes because you will remember them for the rest of your life" were given. This discussion was something near to my heart because as someone who is going to be transitioning into college in less than a year, I need to remember and cherish the friends I have now or make new friends later.

The next day I went to Mr. M's class. Can I assume we are all afraid of growing up? This is the question that was voted on Mr. M's fourth grade class. Some may wonder how can fourth graders answer this question because they are still growing up, but let me tell you this discussion went great. Mikayla said life is full of challenges and growing up is hard to do. Jeff said they are afraid of the outcome. Trevor said I think were afraid because we never know what we are up against.  As students kept sharing, it made me wonder what does it mean to grow up? This was something I wondered because everyone has different definitions of "growing up." Logan said to grow up you take on responsibilities, Mikayla said when you turn another age, have children and get a job is when you grow up. Others shared experiences of them growing up or what they would like to do when they grow up. This class is improving on their sharing and listening, which is big plus for us!

In Mrs. L's third grade class, we did this is it real, not real or are we unsure activity. I gave them topics to help me organize them into a real, not real, or unsure category. But of course they would have to give a (R)eason. Things that we have discussed for now were ghost, love, and dreams. Heather said they were real because she played the charlie charlie game (example). Jay said he was unsure because although there are books about it, he has never really experienced it.  When we discussed about love some people said it was real and some were unsure. Penny said it is real because you can feel love in your heart when you love someone. Brenna said it is real because it if it was not then we would not love our parents. Brock said he was unsure because when you love someone you will know but there is a chance you might accidentally love them. Dreams was the last topic we talked about. Keoki said he was unsure because they may or may not come true. Beverly said they were real because her moms dreams came true. After hearing more about what other said, Mrs. L asked the class, "what do we mean by dreams?" Because dreams could be the ones we have at night or dreams could be the one we want to accomplish. As a class we concluded that ghost, love and dreams were real. 

Can I Assume We Are All Afraid Of Growing Up?

Two Weeks ago we visited Mr.M's fourth grade class at Maunawili Elementary school. Before we started our plain vanilla, we asked the students to introduce themselves and to say one thing they wondered about. After they introduced themselves, we made three questions based off of the top three things they all had in common with their wonderings. The question that got the most votes was "Can I assume we are all afraid of growing up?"

I wondered how they would respond to this question because they are only in fourth grade, but some of their responses were similar to the things I would say. Miley said "Yes, because I don't know what I'm gonna be..." This made me think, because as a senior we are forced to think about what field of work we want to go into or what we want to major in college. Maureen asked the question "What does it mean to grow up, and is there different ways of growing up?"

I thought that this question was great to ask because there are physical signs of growing up but how do you know internally that you are truly growing up. What does it truly mean to grow up? Austin said "Growing up is when you go to high school and get a job." Another student said "... it's when you are going to high school." The definition of growing up to them is different to me because their definition of grown up is me right now, I am in high school and I have a job, but I don't necessarily count myself as a grown up. After they shared, I asked the question " Do you think we are in a rush to grow up?"

After I asked this question, I told the students how I was so excited to become a teenager when I was younger because I thought that meant I would be able to do whatever I wanted. In high school, I feel like teachers make you think about your future so much that they tend to forget about what's happening right now. Kylie shared that her older brother pushes her to practice hard now in order to prepare for her future in sports. In my mind I was thinking whether it is a good or bad thing because Kylie is getting so much pressure from her brother to prepare for the future, it might be her main focus and she might forget to be a normal nine year old. I think that we are too busy focusing on our future, that we forget about now. When we ended the discussion, I left the class wondering why we are pushed to think about our future so much.

Looking forward to the future

This past week has been a very productive one. The fifth graders I work with in Mrs. M’s class have been on fire and our latest topic was on bullying and I was pleased they reacted was in a very mature and respectful manner. I first asked if any of them have been the bully and vise versa and everyone in the class has been the victim and the bully. I wanted them to share their past experiences in order for them to get a better understanding of how bullying comes in many shapes and forms. Macy, who is a very active participant in discussions, had a story where her friend would make up excuses to bully her. She stated, "just because they're your friends doesn't mean they can't bully you in a way to." And she was right; the whole class agreed and more examples came to surface and at first their understanding on what a bully was not what they originally thought. They just had to think about it and once they did, they realized that they were being the bully and the victim. I think this realization will go a long way in getting them to stop bullying, but only time can tell if what I did helped. 

The first graders, on the other hand, were good the first 20 minutes, but I guess the heat got to them and then problems started to occur. Besides that the discussion went very well and the starting question was "what makes a good friend?" They said things like truthful, honest, and protecting. Peter made a very good point that even if a friend hurts your feelings, you can always ask if they can have a second chance. I replied asking, "what if they did something  really bad would you still give them a second chance?" Of course, some said yes and no, but the reasons behind them got me thinking. Isaiah said that if it was his best friend then he would give him a second chance, but if it was someone like a newish friend he wouldn't think twice about it. And then I asked the class a question which was "if someone who hurt you is back in your life how do you know you can fully trust them?"

I'm most looking forward to the discussions in the future with Maunawili and being an alumni means so much being able to give back to school in a way that will help them later on in their life. The teachers are more than willing to understand the way we do things and I can't wait to experience P4C with the Menehunes.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Is it reasonable to infer...?

This week I visited Mrs. U’s freshmen physical science at Kailua High School, Mrs. G’s kindergarten class at Enchanted Lake Elementary, Ms. F’s kindergarten class and Mrs. T’s second grade class at Ka‘elepulu. Mrs. U’s class focused on the functions of a home which would tie into a “universal dwelling.” The students determined if the functions were essential or special features. In Mrs. G’s class, I had to create a lesson plan for kindergarteners and try to do a bit of inquiry with them. I told them about the “Ohana Ball” and its rules, played speedball; that way the students knew how to throw the ball properly, and a small discussion about with it means to be a good listener. In Ms. F’s class, they started with an all about me bag. During the share time, students did the shaka that meant something in their class, it meant you and me are the same. The class also did a “because” activity which dealt with a sheet. The sentence started with “this is not a blanket because it is a…” This activity helped with their reasoning and using the word because. In Mrs. T’s class, they talked about what responsibilities we have as students, then it went to responsibilities as a whole.
After experiencing different grade levels of inquiry from kindergarten to second grade to ninth grade, the discussion that stuck out to me the most was from Mrs. T’s class. As we talked about responsibilities as a student, then onto our own responsibilities outside of school. I began to wonder a few questions. Is it reasonable to infer that sometimes the responsibilities we have are because we have to have that responsibility rather than because we want to have that responsibility? This wonderment came about when people were describing some of their responsibilities in and out of school. Kayla said that her responsibilities were to watch over her younger siblings. Ken said his responsibilities were bathing and doing homework. As more students kept saying what their responsibilities were, it made me truly wonder do we have to have those responsibilities or do we want those responsibilities.
I think the responsibilities we have are things we know what we have to do rather than wanting to have it. Over time you kind of you know what you have to do and sometimes you don’t want to do it but it is responsibility of yours. For example, one of the responsibilities that I have is to be a role model for my younger brother. He is a junior and old enough to make his own decisions, but I feel like I have an influence on him since I am his only and oldest sister. There are times where I don’t want to have that responsibility because there are some things I do that he does not know of and I know he would think of me differently and not see me as a role model. However, I still have to take that responsibility and be the best sister that I can be. The responsibilities we have start to become a daily routine for us without even knowing. That’s why I can infer that the responsibilities we have are because we have to have it. Having responsibility is sort of human nature because it’s everywhere whether you know it or not. Like helping people you do not know. You are not obligated to help them but you help them anyways because you might feel like it’s a responsibility to help people right? For people who don’t want to have responsibilities but still have them anyways are people who might feel like their responsibilities are placed upon them to do. For example, now that I am a lot older I have to do laundry. I do my own because I know it is my responsibility, but then my mom tells me do theirs. Which makes no sense because I feel like it is not a responsibility of mines, but I have to do it anyways. When I think of having responsibilities, I think of it as things that not only help yourself, but things that helps others too. We’ve grown up with rules we have to live by and chores that we have to do. At some point of your life you are going to want to have some responsibility because no one is going to tell you what to do, when to do it, or how to do it, so you would have to do it yourself. That is why I do not think we have responsibilities because we want to have it, but more because we have to have responsibility.
Being a philoSURFER made me realize that I have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to teach these students about philosophy and its importance. This is a huge responsibility because I know what is at stake. I have eyes and ears open, watching and listening to me and I know how powerful philosophy can be. As I answered my own philosophical question, I came to a conclusion that I myself have responsibility because I know I have to have it not because I want to have it. I don't want to be responsible for everything but if I have to then I know I will take that responsibility. After experiencing being a philoSURFER for about two weeks it made me realize how great of  an impact I can be on students and like I’ve said before that’s a responsibility that I have. I wish we could get more students to participate but I know that we are the guinea pigs. But my hope is to get students to join this because I myself know what p4c can do and how powerful it can be and I want other students to help branching this out especially in elementary and intermediate schools, that way every bad thing or stereotypical thing they’ve heard in the past, they’ll forget, and they will become philosophical thinkers who can share their wonderments and thoughts without the fear of being judged.   

Can I assume that differences exist because we are all misunderstood?

In today's society we have created "classes" according to race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. I guess that is why we misunderstand each other because of our differences, but shouldn't our differences bring us together? Ray, in his ninth grade Ethnic Studies class created the question “Can I assume that differences exist because we are all misunderstood?” and this caused a bunch of thoughts to flow in my head.

The first thing that came to my mind was a quote created by H.L. Mencken which is “ The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear- fear of the unknown…..What he wants above everything else is safety.” I believe that we are all afraid of trying new things because we are afraid of what the outcome will be. For example, a girl might not want to tell her crush how she feels about them because she’s afraid that he might not feel the same way. Ray also brought up the point that everyone sees different as bad because everyone is born with a judgemental attitude. Why do we automatically see different as something bad? He spoke about having a P4C in class and they had a discussion about bullying and that was when he first met Sam. His first impression of him is that he was scary and looked really mean but once he heard Sam speak and shed a couple of tears he felt as if the differences he saw in him in the beginning had faded away because he started to understand him and felt a connection. No matter what clothes you wear, what you look like, or where you come from we are all human and the differences we have should bring us together instead of spreading us apart. 
Mr.P noticed that some of the students weren’t getting involved into the discussion. He said “ you don’t have to blow minds, just say whatever because this class is intellectually safe”. In my head that made me think of myself when I was a freshman who didn’t really want to share out my thoughts because it didn’t sound as deep as someone else’s or someone might think what I said was stupid. The fear of judgement holds us back from showing our true thoughts. Now that I’m a senior and I could care less about what someone has to say about me being “different” or not being the smartest. This caused me to realize that intellectual safety is really important to the growth of a person mentally because of the fact that I know now that I have a voice and that there’s only one me in this world. Everyone has to understand that they have that voice and they don’t have to be ashamed of it because when we don’t say certain things, it leads to regret.

This discussion left me wondering what it would be like if more schools had the opportunity to have P4C discussions as often as Kailua High School does because I know there would be a change in their community as well. This had made me realize the importance of what we are doing as philoSURFERS and I wish that we could reach out to more schools but at least it’s a start. Now I ask myself, how can I better understand others despite the fact that we are all different?

Who are the philoSURFERS?

Several years ago, Kailua High School made a commitment to creating a more mindful and philosophical schooling experience. As a result, philosophy for children (p4c) Hawai‘i has become a widely used teaching practice on campus. p4c Hawai‘i is an approach to teaching that aims to create intellectually safe classroom communities where students learn to think for themselves by engaging in philosophical inquiries with their peers and teachers concerning the questions that matter most to them. Since 2007, the University of Hawai‘i’s Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education has provided KHS a Philosopher in Residence whose primary duty was to assist teachers in bringing p4c and philosophical inquiry into their classes. 

Over the years, an increasing number of k-12 teachers have become interested in bringing p4c Hawai‘i and the philosopher's pedagogy into their classrooms. However, like with many innovative initiatives in education, there was not enough resources to adequately support these teachers efforts. The philoSURFER project is an extension of the successful Philosopher in Residence initiative and places high school juniors and seniors in the role of a Philosopher in Residence (Kailua High School's mascot is the Surfrider and they are affectionately known as the Surfers, hence the philoSURFERS).

This year serves as the "pilot" and introduced three philoSURFERS (Maureen, Logan, and Cindy) to the Kailua High School k-12 Complex. Essentially, the course the students have enrolled at the high school in is an "internship" placing them in kindergarten through ninth grade classrooms four times a week. Their primary duty is to aid teachers in engaging students in meaningful philosophical activity. Thus, the philoSURFERS participate alongside the students and teachers as they explore the questions that matter most and then reflect with the teacher afterwards in order to help make philosophy become a reliable educational option. 

The purpose of this blog is to spread the philoSURFERS' innovative work with p4c and philosophy to a wider audience. Our posts will offer a “field report” of the philosophy for children Hawai‘i movement (, provide space to extend (and reflect upon) the philosophical inquiries students are having in classrooms, include ideas on how to bring philosophy into the k-12 classroom, and engage others in living an examined life.