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ImageJEAN TOYAMA'S BLOG

Morning at Kanuikapono Charter School, Anahole, Kauai

Posted by JEAN TOYAMA
Monday, March 02, 2015 5:15 PM


Our morning at Kanuikapono Charter School in Anahole, Kauai

Going to Kauai is like going home. Both my mother and father were born there. So beyond the new buildings and the traffic lights the landscape is familiar. The school was a new experience.

Friday morning Christy picked me up promptly at 4:25 am. Why so early? We caught the morning flight (6:01) to Lihue. With only a few hours sleep I was bleary eyed. Juliet and Ann were already there!! That's why it is so great to work with these women, you can count on them. We were on Kauai to read "Ku'u Home" and do a writing workshop at Kanuikapono Charter School (http://kanuikapono.org).

We were welcomed by the students with a chicken-skin oli. Their sound resonated in the halau, where we made our presentation. The students sat on the floor and looked up on the wall to see our power point. I saw them reading the words and listening to us. At first when we asked questions, they hesitated like most kids. But with a few prompts the ball started rolling. They were engaged. After Ku'u Home, we did two links from No Choice But to Follow. We read January, and 4 students read March. I was amazed to hear our own words coming out of someone else and one student even memorized a poem!!

The fifty-five students then broke up into 4 groups and we had a writing exercise.

I must admit that at first I felt I was not reaching them. It has been so long since I taught younger students. I felt inadequate. Then I would see a sly smile, hear a muffled laugh. When I came home and read their work (a few are found below), I was surprised at how much they were able to accomplish in such a short time. These students connected with their feelings and their imagination and came up with remarkable lines. I was happy. (They also inspired me to make better prompts.)
I was also happy after the session when several of the youngsters gave me a hug and a smile. Hugs and smiles from kids are sweet.

MAHALO NUI LOA, Kanuikapono teachers and students you've given me a memorable experience.

—I am like a turtle soaring through the glassy blue waters,
like a shark roaming the distant blue waters
I am 4 feet 10 inches, standing tall as my highest dream
I may not have a brain but
I have a soul
I am crazy like my mom
funny like my dad.

—You'll have no choice
their voices will echo
in your mind but
there will be no sound
the silence will strike
you like a bullet

—Night Fall
The wind is blowing, the dog's out
howling, the peace people know [what]
can change your way of life
If you sleep bad the next day will
be rough if you sleep well you
will be calm, okay
the next day.

—School is a place I despise,
School is a place where young
people are forced to sit for
7 hours and they say this
is good for us? those kids are
wanting to be free, to travel and
see new things
in the world. Should
we sit in prison (school) watching
the clock? or should we go surfing
in Bali?

—don't tell them I
told you, they'll see.
You'll be sent
away into a place of
crazy beginnings.
You'll smell blood,
and then you'll see
the world

—The Beach
Bright yellow sun, shines so bright
salty air lingers as the cool breeze blows
A part of home
Children play and make sand castles
while aunties and uncles sit and look
beyond the sea

—they won't tell you
they'll come all at once
without warning
the tears rolling off my
face will blur the visions of you.
they come, they destroy,
they corrupt, they won't tell you
you'll see them rolling in
on monsters like you've
never seen . . .


I gave them a prompt from one of the poems which was: "You could get shot . . ." Here are a few examples:

—My soul was hurt feeling like you got shot
but you kept running
but it still hurts
your soul, so you stop and sit for a while
waiting for a new soul

—You could get shot
when you do dumb things with
the law and when you act disrespectfully

—You could get
shot for running
and running or hiding
from the police you could
get shot for many things, but I wouldn't
want to be shot.

Let me end with a happy one:

—My Home
The sun goes down drifting towards the earth
my heart grows through me and blooms in my mind
At my home the experience I have with the
warm air/cold air, when I walk through my hallway
to get my meal, my hope, my dreams
the confidence I build up
my life is strong in my home and this is
what I love to experience.

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