Monday, August 24, 2015

Memories of Waianae Elementary School

Go Sea Horses!

It's hard to believe, but the fifth grade students I taught in 1969 at Waianae Elementary School are now around 56 years old. Soon to be Senior Citizens with children and grandchildren of their own. How is this possible? Thanks to mental instant replay, I can travel back in time and see myself as I once was, forever twenty-three years old.

I'm living in a furnished teacher's cottage. Just a quick stroll across the playground, and I'm in my classroom, or vice versa. No rush hour traffic jams for me! My rent is $12.00 a month which includes water. Gas or electric for heat is not necessary. My three roommates are from California and life-long friendships are being formed.

The campus of Waianae Elementary School occupies fifteen acres of land with 1,350 students from grades K-6 (six sections per grade). Every two grade levels share a two story building. It reminds me of a collection of motels. I'm on the upper level of the 4th/5th grade building. Every classroom door on campus opens to the outside with decks running the length of the upper levels. Open the classroom door and windows, and you are rewarded with cooling tropical breezes.

The office, cafeteria and library are also in separate buildings. The whole playground area is the gym. The ocean, which is two blocks away, is the "pool." My favorite assignment is helping the physical education teacher teach two weeks of swimming in the pool. We walk to the ocean every day, swim for one period, eat lunch on the beach for one period and walk back to school for a few afternoon classes.

Teachers have no free periods, but who cares? We all teach in a self-contained classroom, including Art and Music, and are free to take the students outside to play whenever the students or teachers need a fun break. Laughter is mandatory. Please use your outside voices!

Instruction is still rigorous and data driven. Administrators hold workshops to implement IOTA (Instrument Observation Teaching Activities). For my Pittsburgh Public School District teacher friends, think RISE without the illegal steroids! IOTA has six areas of teacher competence: Director of Learning, Counselor and Guidance Worker, Mediator of the Culture, Link with the Community, Member of the School Staff and Member of the Profession. Imagine doing your job to the best of your ability and being praised for it. What a concept!

My twenty-four students are poster children for cultural diversity: Hawaiian, part Hawaiian, Oriental, Caucasian, Filipino, Hispanic, African American, etc. The economic character of the community is largely low income and rural. Many speak Pidgin English. They say "junk" to everything they don't like, but have the kindest hearts. I am the grateful recipient of countless leis and mangoes.

Every morning the whole school population meets at the outdoor flag pole for opening exercises: The Pledge of Allegiance, singing, announcements, etc.

Every afternoon, the students are dismissed at 2:00. "Plenty time for teacha" to head back to the beach for some R&R. Also plenty naval officers on stand-by. Just sayin'.

So many memories. I'm thinking about the time I did a kaleidoscope art project with my students. The assignment was to look through a kaleidoscope and draw the multiple images. The girls later told me the boys were viewing my legs!

I'm thinking about the time Brent decorated his Open House folder with swear words. When asked for an explanation, he said his Japanese mother can't read English.

I'm thinking about the time we went on a "scursion" (aka excursion, aka field trip) to Iolani Palace, The Capitol Building, Ala Moana Shopping Center and lunch in a park. The students said the highlight of the trip was riding escalators for the first time in their lives (a rather stressful experience for me since some students were afraid to get on, and others were circling around for second and third trips!) and also it was "good fun" watching two love birds kissing in the park - "plenty sex going on!"

I'm thinking about the etiquette class taught at school to introduce the students to dining in a restaurant. Ordering from a menu, seating the girls, using crystal glasses and china dishes and removal of baseball caps all added to the elegance of enjoying a meal in style. Of course this was before every person alive had an electronic device attached to some body part, but I'm thinking this class is even more relevant today.

I'm thinking about the May Day celebration consisting of singing contests, lei making contests, field day competitions between classes, guest performances by the visiting Navajo Nation and an actual Maypole dance by the children weaving over and under colorful ribbons.

I'm thinking, dear Hawaii, "to your arms someday I'll return to stay." In the meantime "I'll Remember You" fondly.

Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

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