"The Red Carpet"
Not long after my initial interview with Mr. Kila, any nervousness I may have had about teaching in Hawaii, disappeared. I felt I had it made!
Shoot....after being accepted by Mr. Kila - I was "in," right? Lay down the red carpet, here I am, I have arrived...Sheri is here to save the day! All my students would behave, learn, have fun, and love me. The staff at the school would cheer and say, "Thank God she is here."
"Staff, parents, and students of Kamaile Academy, please welcome - Ms. Sheri Rico (wasn't married when I first arrived)....she comes to us today from the far away state of Colorado, she is trained and ready to teach the young gems of Hawaii, " Mr. Kila said as I stepped out onto the red carpet, especially laid out for just me, of course. Beautiful Hawaiian girls were dancing and all the staff members placed a lei around my neck as I stepped into Kamaile Academy's cafeteria to give my acceptance speech.
"WAKE UP MOM, we are about to land!" My two oldest boys, Brian Jr. and Alec yelled as they shook me out of my dream. I looked out of the tiny plane window, and realized our 10 hour flight from Houston, TX (where I had been training with Teach for America over the summer) to Honolulu was certainly coming to an end. My 5 week teacher boot camp was behind me, and now the real work begins.
So what is the real story after my initial interview with Mr. Kila?
Well, I attended the formal Teach for America induction, where I met 60 or so of my fellow corps members. All members went through a mass interview process and were placed in teaching positions in schools across the state. An additional 20 teachers or so were also selected to teach at Kamaile Academy, by Mr. Glen Kila and Mr. Clarence De Lude. Ah, we just need a longer red carpet, and we will probably have to cut all acceptance speeches, but I am still special----right?
Needless to say, all 60 corps members are special, in their own right. I met incredibly driven individuals that impressed me from day one! All corps members were flown from Honolulu, HI to Houston, TX, where we proceeded to go through a very intense and grueling training. This included multiple classes and workshops, teaching students in summer school, observations and assessments, and well, the list goes on and on. Since I had already obtained my teaching degree through college, I can say that some pedagogy was repeat information for me. However, having said that, Teach for America introduced multiple assessment and teaching strategies that I had not learned in my traditional teaching program in college. Some of these teaching strategies I will forever use because there are methods that ACCELERATE learning effectively. (But teaching strategies I will touch on another time.)
With about 10 days before school was to begin for the 2008-09 year, Teach for America teachers whom were selected for Kamaile Academy teaching positions were also required to attend a special teacher induction presented by Waianae High and Kamaile Academy. The induction was a full week. Great. That left about 2 or 3 days to prepare for the 1st day of school.
I personally counted my blessings. I had come to Hawaii earlier in the summer with my parents to find and secure housing for myself and my kids, which I was now thankful for. Most TFA corps members were scrambling to find places to live, all the while attending the additional inductions and the required TFA meetings and trainings. Whew! When I think back on the daily stress, sometimes I am not sure how I got through it, much less some of my fellow corps members.
Reflecting on my experience and this story, the word "acceptance" becomes key. During the Kamaile Academy teacher induction, Mr. Glen Kila, along with Mr. Clarence De Lude (Assistant Principal at the time of induction in 2008), presented their own version of a "red carpet." While it didn't look anything like my dream from above, all teachers went through an acceptance ceremony that included crossing a bridge with sacred water source (rivers), and hiking and visiting sacred, Hawaiian spots on the island. These are the types of things that became important and meaningful for me...these things strengthened my own connection to the land and people of Hawaii.
"Whose REALLY in charge?"
Brandy Freitas & Lovelyn Ampeloquio....not necessarily in that order....are two women who immediately come to mind when I think of Kamaile Academy and of people who REALLY KNOW what goes on daily. While many other significant people were and still are part of Kamaile Academy, these two ladies made significant impressions on me personally.
Thinking back on everything, all I really had to do was take the time to read through the packet. Lovelyn and Brandy took the time to put together these wonderful packets...filled with forms from how to take leave, to maintence requests, to the emergency escape plans for the school. I mean, literally, everything with the exception of what to teach our kids. But then, this was what we were here for, right? Each teacher got a packet. I know for certain that when Brandy began her speech on what was included in the packet, she probably wished she had a remote control stun gun to use on any teacher who was not following along or for those pretending to follow along. And who could blame her? What was I thinking during this time?
(Pretend you see thought bubbles coming out of my head)....I am thinking if I have a choice between this woman loving me or hating me, I chose the former. Brandy's official title at the school really doesn't matter because she was in charge of so many things and so many different roles, it is a wonder how she handled it all. Brandy is a woman who has a commanding presence and clearly doesn't have patience for stupidity. She smiles when she is happy and frowns if she is sad, just like all of us. Her expectations of professional teachers are definately not unwarranted.
So why didn't we listen, then? Instead, my true nervousness about teaching and taking on the responsibility of 25 or so young 4th graders left me whispering nervously to my fellow grade level teachers. My own ego had me thinking about the units and lessons I would be teaching. Who has time for the small stuff, right? WRONG!
So what could I expect when I showed up at Brandy's door later that day looking for a list of teachers and their phone extensions and she looked at me with a bright smile (and a beautiful smile, I might add) and in a sing song, but firm, voice said, "It's all in your packet. If it is not in your packet, then find a teacher who has it and photocopy it. But, you will have to wait to photocopy anything because remember that you still need training, by me, to use the copier. However, I think if you look in your packet, you will find what you need. Now, is there anything else?"
I gulped, then thanked her and backed out of her office. I stood in the hallway and searched my packet. Well....what do you know? There was the list.
Just then, Mr. Kila rounded the corner with a frantic look on his face. "Is Brandy in there?" he asked me. "Yes, she is, but from the looks of it, she looks swamped." I said. He stood at Brandy's office door, debating on whether he would go in or not. He looked at me as if I should give him permission.
Mr. Kila then turned and said to a very pretty and lovely woman, "Lovelyn, let me know when Brandy comes out, I need to talk with her." Lovelyn smiled at Mr. Kila, said "Will do," and shooed him back into his office. As Mr. Kila disappeared into his office, I took in my surroundings again.
The main office was a mass ball of noise. Phones were ringing, teachers holding packets were walking in between the office desks and counters, looking frantic and asking questions. Parents stood at the counter very patiently. Boxes of uniform shirts lined the inside walls of the office. I think somewhere in the distance, I heard another teacher ask for the same list I came to ask Brandy about.
"It's in the packet." I piped up.
Suddenly, out of the mass of noise, Brandy came out of her office, handed a waiting teacher some keys and then another phone rang. Lovelyn, the pretty lady who had shooed Mr. Kila into his office just minutes earlier, looked up at Brandy and said, "Mr. Kila wants to see you," then she answered the phone, and from her desk threw a parent a uniform shirt. She didn't even look out of breath.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am still speechless with the memories of all that these two women do. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart....Brandy and Lovelyn.
To be continued...in 2 days!!