Archive for the ‘Education’ category

Learning new things: two webinars and a video

May 5, 2020

If you’re like me, you’ve been signing up for a lot of webinars recently. Many organizations and leaders are providing free training about new legislation, leading in times of crisis, coping with stress, parenting, working remotely, and more.

Webinars are a good way to feel connected to other people, learn something useful, and add meaning to my day. Sometimes I need that reminder that we are all facing the same challenges.

I’ve found that learning something new, or re-learning something I’ve stopped practicing, is a good way to start the day. It makes me feel prepared for any challenges that might come up.

Here are two webinars and a video that I found particularly compelling:

Appealing to my business side, VitalSmarts hosted a series of five webinars about “Crucial Skills for Crucial Times” with Joseph Grenny, Justin Hale, and Emily Gregory. Three highlights:

  1. Be Safe/Feel Safe. Especially in these uncertain times, customers and employees need to be safe physically and feel safe mentally and emotionally.
  2. Have the right conversation. To have honest conversations, we need to make people feel safe by communicating mutual respect and mutual purpose. This struck me because I am witnessing a mediation at work, and I could see that we were having the wrong conversations.
  3. Regain control of your job. For every action, choose to DO, DECLINE, or RENEGOTIATE. Otherwise, you may end up being busy without being productive.


For times of stress and overwhelm, certified life coach Deborah Shannon offered a free webinar “Tame the Stress Beast: How to Inoculate Yourself Against Stress.” Three truths about stress:

  1. Stress is a natural reaction to a perceived threat. It’s a neurochemical response. Physiologically, we experience stress the same way as if we were escaping a lion on the savannah.
  2. Stress is a formula, which means you formulate it! Stress is when pressure exceeds resources. Most stress is self-generated.
  3. Stress is a tool and a weapon. It is an evolutionary survival mechanism, it’s part of a healthy sense of urgency, and it’s part of the creative process (creative tension).


And something particularly helpful when most of us are wearing face masks outside our homes, Vanessa Van Edwards has a 14-minute video, “How to Read Faces… Even When Everyone is Wearing a Mask.” She gives tips us and tricks for decoding microexpressions in other people’s eyebrows, eyelids, and upper checks (and made me think about my own microexpressions under the mask).

If you are working at home, how do you keep active – physically and mentally? Have you decided to learn a new skill or take up an old hobby? What webinars have motivated, compelled, or entertained you?

Success-oriented parenting with Dr. Rob Evans and Dr. Michael Thompson

February 25, 2020

Last week, I wrote about “Evidence-Based Parenting” with Dr. Leonard Sax. In the lecture, Dr. Sax identified four issues facing parents– broken bonds across the generations, a culture of disrespect, video games, and social media – and offered concrete actions that parents can take.

A companion lecture on “Rigor, Emotional Intelligence, and the Real Roots of Success” presented by Dr. Rob Evans and Dr. Michael Thompson, was more reflective. According to Dr. Evans and Dr. Thompson, the key dilemma that parents, teachers, and schools face is this: How do we best prepare children for success?

This is a dilemma and not a problem, they emphasize, because problems have solutions, while dilemmas are something you cope with.

Today, schools tend to focus on academic rigor. That means we expect more from children, even the very young. We expect children to know more at earlier ages. This has a side-effect: high performance leads to high stress, and there is a growing concern about our children’s mental health.

The “soft skills” – or “Emotional Intelligence” (EQ) – are equally important.

In the workplace, skills such as the ability to read a room, empathy, and the capacity to adapt and rebound are more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) or GPA (grade point average). In one study, when asked whether college graduates are prepared for the workplace, businesses revealed that they look for leadership experience, communication, and ethical decision-making in job candidates.

After college, there are two things that predict a person’s success and life satisfaction: a connection with a teacher and involvement in school activities. We all need a sense that someone knows us and cares about us.

Reflection: Did you have a life-changing teacher? If yes, how did they inspire you? Consider the idea that the people who motivate and inspire us are not necessarily the most rigorous.

Reflection: What was your most illuminating experience? Was it in a classroom? Consider the fact that not all important learning is school-based. Trust your child’s development and academic journey.

Reflection: What do you treasure about your child? Consider the idea that one of a parent’s jobs is to accept their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and help them to be their best selves.

Reflection: What have you done as a parent that you’re proud of? Consider that idea that parenting styles don’t matter as much as long as you have strong underlying values and are consistent. Consider leading by example, not by sermon.

Dr. Evans suggests that every once in a while, parents take a “grandparent pill” that lets us think and act like a grandparent for a day – one step removed from parenthood, able to see the best in your child, without being as invested in their actions and attitude.

Who inspired you when you were growing up? What lessons helped you to succeed – and did you learn them in school? If you are the parent or family member of a child, how do you envision their success?


Rob Evans and Michael Thompson are clinical psychologists, school consultants, and authors. Rob is the author of three books, including “Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope with The Crisis in Childrearing.” Michael is the author or coauthor of nine books, including “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys.”

Hawaii’s promises to students

September 24, 2019

In September 2019, the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) released a draft version of strategic plan for the next ten years, based on 83 community sessions across the islands. The HIDOE’s vision is “a Hawai‘i where students are educated, healthy, and joyful lifelong learners who contribute positively to our community and global society.”

The “2030 Promise Plan Phase 1 Report” answers three fundamental questions: What do we value in a PK-12 educational experience? How do we measure what we really value? How do we support each child to experience success?

The deadline to comment on the Plan has already passed, but I spent a Sunday afternoon reading through the five promises to students:

  1. Hawai‘i. Students will be educated within a public school system that is grounded in HĀ, powers a multilingual society, and honors Hawai‘i’s local and global contribution.
  2. Equity. Students will experience strong relationships and supports that mitigate disempowering differences to enable them to thrive academically, socially, and civically.
  3. School Design. Students will be immersed in excellent learning environments that are thoughtfully designed around a community’s power to contribute to a thriving, sustainable Hawai‘i.
  4. Empowerment. Students will develop their authentic voices as contributors to equity, excellence, and innovation by providing input on what, how, and where they learn.
  5. Innovation. Students will engage in rigorous, technology-rich, problem-solving learning that enables them to solve authentic community challenges and develop pathways to goals.

There were an overwhelming number of Action Opportunities to aspire to, and there’s work to be done to prioritize those opportunities.

In the next 1-2 years, the opportunity that I think has great value is to “Increase the presence of community members and kupuna on school campuses to serve as teachers and models in creating a climate of inclusivity, respect, and aloha” (Equity). It would strengthen relationships between communities and schools, as well as kupuna and keiki; and it wouldn’t cost a lot of money to implement.

In the next 3-5 years, the opportunity that I think would be really valuable for high school students is to “Develop internship or apprenticeship opportunities with local businesses for students to gain real-world experience” (Innovation). It would better prepare students for the job market and networking, while helping businesses identify and mentor talented youth.

If I could add one Action Opportunity, I would suggest creating a Leadership Institute for Parents and Guardians. The draft plan supports parents in three main ways: workshops, school selection, and communication/surveys. Parents are vital to PK-12 education – students spend just 18.5% of their time awake at school (6 hours of classroom time, 180 school days per year) and 81.5% of their time awake out of school, mainly with their families. Schools can become hubs for parenting support groups, leadership cohorts, and mentoring by kupuna.

Which Action Opportunities in the 2030 Promise Plan resonate with you? What one educational opportunity do you wish you had? How would it have made your school years more engaging and inspiring?

Coping with the stress of back to school

August 27, 2019

During the summer, many of us get a little spoiled by more sleep in the morning and a smoother commute to work.

During the fall, many of us wake up earlier – and wake up sleepy kids – to deal with more traffic, tricky school schedules, and homework (when we thought we were done with school).

Children and teenagers face their own stress about school – making new friends, finishing homework, studying for tests, getting good grades, and their own changing bodies.

Mental Health America has an “Are You Stressed Out?” handout that reminds us that stress is normal and can even help us by giving us more energy to handle tense situations. But it can become a bad thing when you feel it all the time.

The key thing to remember is that “You might not be able to change what is stressing you out, but you can control how you react and respond to stress.”

Here are three things we can all do to cope with stress:

Exercise. One of the best ways to handle built-up stress is to physically release it. My 12-year old son still tumbles on the bed and jumps around with a yardstick-turned-lightsaber when he needs a break. (Don’t tell him I said that).

Write down things we are grateful for. Showing gratitude can improve our mood and help us better handle adversity. In a similar way, I encourage my son to focus on positive things, such as the best part of his day. And before I go to sleep, I jot down some good things about each day.

Watch something funny. Laughter can reduce stress hormones, improve our mood, and make us feel more relaxed. One of my co-workers always has a joke to share. Sometimes, my son and I watch bad movies just so we can laugh at them.

We can also try to view the stress of back to school as opportunities to learn. The earlier wake-up time can teach us discipline. The longer commute can teach us patience. The longer work day can teach us to set boundaries between work, school, and home life.

How well do you handle stress at home and work? What stress-reduction methods work for you? What are you teaching your children or grandchildren about managing stress?

Looking back on seventh grade

July 9, 2019

Another school year has passed by so quickly, and my son finished seventh grade. In this second year of middle school, he settled into the new schedule and new commute, more familiar with the campus, his classmates, and the teachers.

In many ways, seventh grade was harder on us as parents than on the students.

Here are some reflections about our seventh grade experience:

Learning a new language (and that no one is good at everything). Seventh grade students were required to take a foreign language, and my son signed up for Mandarin. We thought it would be practical. We knew it would be challenging. But we didn’t take into account how fast-paced the class would be or consider that he doesn’t have family or friends to practice with. He spent many late nights and early mornings trying to keep up.

Letting him rebound from failure. It was hard for me to a step back and not check his homework planner or review every assignment unless he asked for my help (and he didn’t ask often). As much as possible, I tried to let him succeed or fail on his own. He needs chances to learn that there’s nothing wrong with failure, as long as you learn from it.

Asserting his independence. More than ever, he is asserting his independence – deciding how he spends his time, honing his debate skills (or arguing stubbornly, depending on your point of view), and stating his opinions, often forcefully. Sometimes he is so focused on preparing his next argument that he doesn’t listen to other people’s points of view.

Technology helps and hinders. Most of his assignments were available online. This meant he could view the project rubrics at any time, edit assignments at school or home, and keep his work organized and backed up. There are also technology blips, like times when he submitted an assignment and his teacher did not receive it, or times when he’s lost work because he’s spoiled by auto-save.

Many teachers. As a parent, it’s very hard to have a personal relationship with his teachers because there are different teachers for each subject. If things go well, we might meet them once at the “open house” and get to know them through email updates, but there are no parent-teacher conferences. We couldn’t pop into his classroom after school to say “hi,” and I missed that.

In his own words. “I’ve developed as a student to be more aware of the real world. This includes global issues and keeping up to date in current events.” When asked what someone else would say about him, he responded, “He has grown as a student in terms of writing, presenting, etc. Yet, he still has issues with negative feelings and seeing the light in situations.”

What do you remember most about seventh grade? Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a middle school student today?