Years in Education: 20+
Technology Integration Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: Hawaiʻi is a very multi-ethnic place where there are no "minorities." My Asian ethnicity is common, and is in common with many of our students.
Having been raised here, I also have cultural commonalities and share common values with many of our students and families. I also believe that we share similar interests, pastimes, music, and even foods. The local culture here is a blend of many immigrant cultures that came to Hawaiʻi to work in the sugar plantations. It is beautiful and has a unique charm.
I teach at a school for Hawaiian children. Although they are part-Hawaiian, they are a majority of other ethnicities. Still, I thought it was important to learn the culture and language. I have grown a love and passion for the Hawaiian culture! It has given me insight, empathy, and a place in the ʻohana and community.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: I believe that learning is very relational, and it is helpful when students can relate to a teacher or mentor. I believe that it is also important to have role models of similar race, economic status, and orientation. There is a hope and a power in making that kind of a connection. Because Hawaiʻi is such a tiny place, there's always been that "underdog" mentality. It is important to have local role models whom students can relate to.
I believe that transparency in the teaching/learning relationship (or in any relationship) is important. When students get to know you, something just might resonate and make all the difference in the world. When I was an elementary student a teacher would throw football with me during recess. That connection and relationship made a huge and lasting impact. The first time I brought my ukulele to class, I was finally able to connect with a student who often seemed disengaged.
And again, learning the culture(s) of your student population can lead to more connections and empathy. Sometimes even the use of a local slang can make an impact. "Shoots! All pau. Good job!" When you have things in common, you can start to break down barriers and build community.
Alan is a TED-Ed Innovative Educator. To find out how Alan is amplifying student voices in Hawaii through real-world community leadership follow him on Twitter @alantamayose.