The Magic School Bus

As the son of a 4th grade teacher, I spent a lot of time in school.  My mother had to be in school from 7 AM (school started at 7:55) until 2:15 PM, but often stayed as late as 3:30 or 4 in order to prepare for her students.  This “prep time” was the bane of my childhood.  While other students were playing in the neighborhood, I was stuck in my mom’s 4th grade classroom doing homework, reading a book, or watching PBS.  One of my least-hated shows on PBS was the Magic School Bus.


For those of use who weren’t raised by U.S. TV—or whose parents could afford the GOOD STATIONS during the formative years of your life—the Magic School Bus followed Ms. Friz’s class on adventures in science, history,and a myriad of other elementary school lessons.  It had episodes on how your body turns food into energy, or what happens to you when you get a cold.  It shows what the civil war was like, and how the water cycle works.


But one thing that the Magic School Bus never did was assign grades.


Grades had no place is Ms. Friz’s class.  Her teaching philosophy was “take chances, make mistakes!”  And she lead her class on the most exciting (well, exciting to a 2nd grader) adventures into the world we live in.  And, what’s more, it made the TV watching drones of students learn.


As a teacher, I want to create a place safe for my students to fail.  I want to build a classroom that is the academic equivalent of a bouncy castle: a place where things are fun and fast paced but safe.  In the “real world” you can’t run into a wall just to see what would happen, but I want my students to run into the walls they’ve been taught.  I want my students to feel safe to fail.

Brain Drain

I grew up in a small town called Kihei (Key-hey), Maui, Hawaii, as the son of a 4th grade school teacher and mid-level hotel manager.   As a child, I had friends who were Tongan, Samoan, Chukese a myriad of other Pacific Islanders, as well as Filipinos, Japanese, and Haoles (white Mainlanders.)  I had friends who were rich (they had the newest Power Rangers) and friends who were poor (we used to play with POG caps [from actual POG juice bottles] that we found in the school dumpster).  This diverse environment centers my understanding of race, and provides a lot of direction for my current research interests.

Free TimeWhen I was in 7th grade social sciences, I learned about “brain drain.”  Brain drain is the economical  trend that the best and brightest students leave the island to go to the Mainland (i.e. continental US) to live and work.  The result is that island populations are less educated, older, and worse off than if the “best and brightest” stayed home and helped the community.  That day in 7th grade, I vowed to never let it happen to me…I’d live in Hawaii my whole life and help my people.


As I write this post from my windowless cubicle in McBryde Hall, Blacksburg, VA, I feel like I’ve failed to keep my promise. I’m learning in one of the most advanced institutions in the world, writing on a computer that most people in Hawaii can’t afford, and all of this in reference to the fact that there are only 17 Pacific Islanders here at Virginia Tech.  You have to join the system to change the system.


I can’t help but wonder if my career will ever bring me back to Hawaii.  In academia, you go where the job is.  Period.  Right now, my job is to be a Graduate Student at Virignia Tech.  In five years, maby I’ll be an Assistant Professor in Alaska. Who knows?!


At least my research will benefit my people.  My research looks at Hawaiians living outside of Hawaii: people who were “brain drained.”  I look at these people and understand how they identify with Hawaii, if they’re depressed, who they marry (other displaced Hawaiians?), and what effect it has on their children.

If I can’t return home, at least I can help people from home.


Blogging Museums of Knowledge

Blogs should inspire people to learn.


One of my favorite, nay-my first, blog experience is with a photography blog entitled “Strobist.”  In his blog, David Hobby (a.k.a. the Strobist) introduces digital photographers to off-camera lighting.  Do you remember 2nd grade school photos?  The one where the middle-aged man with glasses sits in the cafeteria with two umbrellas that flash away all of your red-green vision rods?  Yeah, he’s like that but cooler.


Anyhow, Strobist takes this complex, 3D, technical aspect of photography and breaks it down to levels that any shooter (from student to pro) can use.  If you’ve ever tried to photograph Christmas lights and were only captured darkeness, there’s a app bog post on that.  If you’ve ever taken a picture and you can’t see a a person’s eyes due to glare from their spectacles, there’s an app blog post for that.  There’s even a post for lighting up a helicopter in flight, while chasing said helicopter in a convertible.

Through all of his blogs, passion is evident.  His passion for photography.  His passion for light.  His passion for “I’m going to get this shot and nothing is going to stop me” is contagious.

Technical lighting (which is what the Strobist does) is often guarded as a trade secret.  Traditional photography text write as if it’s something that is “too complex” for mere mortals to understand.  The Strobist uses blogging to challenge that myth. It makes me wonder what kind of science can be broken down in a similar “stick it to the man” fashion.

What if students could learn about hydrofoils without having access to a wind tunnel?  What if a professor’s passion was not bound by the Ivory Walls?  What if instead of ivory castles, we as academics built and maintained museums of knowledge?  Museums that were open to the public, with no admission fees, and where people with expert knowledge are docents and curators of knowledge?  Blogging allows this and we’re almost there…

Blogging for Minority Students

The purpose of blogging is to Narrate Curate, & Share , according to Dr. Gardner Campbell’s blog about using blogging as a teaching tool.

I like these goals. I, however, think about the importance of narration, curating, and dissemination for minority (racial, ethnic, sexual, height, etc.) college students.  Speaking from first hand experience (1 of 17 “Pacific Islanders” during my first year at VT), it is incredibly easy to feel like the the black sheep in the middle of the Drillfield.

Blogging is exciting because it allows minority students to feel like part of a community, even if it is a virtual community.  In specific, narrating, curating, and sharing are three ways that we, as minority students, can remind ourselves [and perhaps others] that we are not so alone…


As minority students, it is important for us to narrate our college experience.  The daily bullshit challenges that we go through (racist teachers and peers, history that destroys our sense of pride,  being “invisble,” people telling me to “speak American,” etc.) has the potential to makes us stronger, but only if we can critically (And healthily) reflect upon our stories.

Blogs can provide space for healthy reflection.  Although there is a chance that we will be further persecuted (see the CT’s open-commenting where someone posted “asains [sic] have done nothing but f stuff up at tech”) but “progress can not be deterred by the actions of the few on the lunatic fringe,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I like to think that, eventually, positive comments will overpower destructive comments and we (blog writers and blog readers) will benefit.  Nature tends towards equilibrium and, in the end, assholes are the reasons that saits exist.


Curating is one advantage that blogs have over journals: they allow us to organize our thoughts.  More on this to come…


The web has become a powerful sharing tool.  Some believe that Globalization is the folding of space and time (there was a time when post-cards were more than just collectable symbols of cultural capital) and this is not always a bad thing: just google Gaddafi and Social Media.

I like to think that we, the minority students, can band together online in order to provide the solidarity that our community so desperately needs.  I can’t help but think of the Corps Student who took his own life near the Duck Pond last semester: what if he had an online community that validated his experiences?

Time never forgets those who are first: Blogging gives us the agency to narrate and share our lives on our own terms. As pioneers, our narratives will soon become history…how will you be remembered?