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Spring 2010

A Culture of Giving Back
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Spring 2010 - Department | Headmaster’s Column

Headmaster’s Column

“Anthropologists seek out epiphanies through a sense of “Vuja De.” Everyone knows the feeling of déjà vu, a strong sense that you have seen or experienced something before, even if you never really have. Vuja De is the opposite-a sense of seeing something for the first time, even if you have actually witnessed it many times before.”
- The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley

Many of us have had the experience of going down a familiar street, noticing a construction site and wondering what was there before. We may order the same item off the menu, ignoring many other good choices. Maybe some of us have even gotten into an accident in our own driveway as we mindlessly reverse only to hit something that ordinarily would not be there. Do you remember what your spouse or colleague wore yesterday?

The regularity in many parts of our lives makes much of the detail unimportant, and sometimes, unnoticeable. We beat ourselves up for being forgetful or for not being sufficiently observant, alert or flexible. All of us, however, screen out those things in our lives that don’t seem immediately pertinent. The synapses in our brain form pathways, which when used frequently enough, are the physiological reason for habitual behavior. We often don’t think consciously about what we are seeing or doing. It is as natural as walking or blinking our eyes.

So it is too at work, and in school. The bell rings, we wait for teacher instructions, we listen, read, take notes, answer questions, have discussions, do homework, prepare for tests and complete projects. We earn our “A” and feel satisfied. We know that the information and skills learned are important and will serve us well in the months and years to come. The structure is helpful because it simplifies our lives; we know what to expect. We may forget the details over time, but if we learn our lessons well, we get into college, and find success.

The best classrooms, and most inspirational teachers, go one step further. They ask students to inquire, discover, problem solve and innovate. Classroom exercises make pupils think creatively. Discussions are open ended, with no one right answer or single solution. Different methodologies lead to the same answer. Projects require students to find solutions that were previously non-existent. It is fun to be in those classrooms. It is where “aha” moments occur, where epiphanies happen, where vuja de is practiced.

The best classrooms, and most inspirational teachers, go one step further. They ask students to inquire, discover, problem solve and innovate. Classroom exercises make pupils think creatively.
We see examples of these experiences outside the classroom as well.  Participation in our robotics program has mushroomed in three short years and teams at six different levels have achieved statewide recognition. The 2009 national champion Real World Challenge team has graduated, but their successors this year recently repeated as State Champions and now move on to compete at the national level. Our state champion Science Bowl team will soon travel to Washington, D.C. for the national competition and we are currently screening students to participate in the Super Science Fair in Kyoto, Japan.‘Iolani’s perennial state champion math league team is again earning top honors, as is our speech and debate team. The annual spring film festival that exhibits the artistic and technical creativity of our students packs the house. Our nationally renowned economics teams are again preparing for state, regional and national competition. One of our own graduates, MacArthur Genius Grant award winner Dr. Cheryl Hayashi ’85, recently encouraged students to take risks, ask questions and find fascinating careers such as her own as a spider silk biologist. 

We are fortunate at ‘Iolani to have teachers who give their all to provide the very best that education has to offer to our students. While learning bodies of knowledge and honing study skills are important, the educational experience at ‘Iolani includes much more. 

Vuja De!