ku’ia ka hele a ka na’au ha’aha’a 1870 Hesitant walks the humble hearted

A humble person walks carefully so he will not hurt those about him

Pukui, Mary Kawena, (1983). ʻŌlelo Noʻeau


When Aunty Pilhi Paki taught Pono Shim about the deeper meaning behind haʻahaʻa, she told him that he needed to “go empty.” Often our minds are filled with memories, thoughts and judgements, frequently about ourselves. This is natural. We filter the world through our own eyes and experiences. However, if we are unable to “empty” our minds of ourselves, we can’t truly understand how others perceive the world. And when they behave differently from what we’d expect, we judge, asking,”Why did they do that? What were they thinking?” 

As an educator, it’s easy to fall into that trap. Most of us found success in school. We conformed to classroom expectations. The way our teachers instructed made sense to us. We understood how information was presented in textbooks. So when we encounter a student that thinks differently or has different needs, our first reaction, if we are not haʻahaʻa, is to judge the child. We refer them to the office. We give them failing grades. And in the worse case, we label the student which may shape how future closed-minded teachers perceive them.

But if we practice haʻahaʻa and “go empty,” we make room in our brains and our hearts for differences. We accept that everyone perceives the world through different lenses. We welcome new ideas and new methods that expand our repertoire as a teacher. We celebrate what makes every student unique. And as result, are better able to reach all of our students and find ways to help them attain success.

One of the greatest lessons I learned as a beginning teacher came from my students whose life was entirely different from my own. As a ninth grader, Kona could not sit still in class without saying something disrespectful. For him, every minute spent listening to a lecture was torture. Every written task I assigned was an unbearable burden. Eventually I snapped, chastising him and holding him afterschool for detention.

After what seemed to be a millennia of seething silence, I asked him, “Why? What’s wrong?” 

Kona replied sassily, “How long I gotta stay? My brother’s gonna be pissed because we missed our bus.”

Full of ignorance and judgement, I commented, “Well then your mom or dad can pick you up then I can talk to them.”

“Yea?!? Go try. My dadʻs in jail and I hardly ever see my mom.”

Given the combination of contempt and pain carved into his face, I knew he was telling the truth. My tone softened, “Who takes care of you? Your grandparents?” Kona dropped his eyes to the floor. “Look, I just want to help you. I know that you can learn this. I believe in you. I just want to know how I can help.”

After a while, Kona began sharing that his oldest brother, barely 18, took care of them in a deteriorating house owned by his father. But, for the most part, the brothers were on their own. For Kona, some days were harder to take care of himself. We then talked about we could change things around in class. It didn’t take away his pain nor did it keep him from talking back once in awhile, but it did help him learn and his behavior improved. Once I stopped seeing him as a troublemaker and instead as a 14 year old who was angry, frustrated, yet very capable, we connected. He knew that I sincerely cared about him and that he could count on me.

Years later, reflecting upon Aunty Pilahi and Pono’s teachings and how that might’ve applied to Kona, I understand that by going empty, we really are becoming open.


Inspired by Gholdy Muhammad

In honor of Women’s History Month, I will be featuring stories written by and featuring prominent women of history. 

Please watch The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin written Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley. Then with you child, answer the following:

  • IDENTITY: Talk with your kupuna about a time where you felt others (or even yourself) underestimated you or doubted your abilities. What happened? What did you do? 
  • SKILLS: What advice/help would you have given Temple if you were in the same class as her while she was being bullied?
  • INTELLECT: Watch a TED talk by Dr. Grandin and learn about different ways people think.
  • CRITICALITY: How could you use your talents and uniqueness to make the world better and kinder?
  • JOY:  Some people who feel a lot of anxiety find ways to calm themselves when there is too much going on. With your kupuna, make fidgit toys to play with when you feel anxious. Or make them and donate them to an organization that helps kids who have experienced trauma. (Idea from https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/girl-who-thought-pictures-literature-guide)


Recently a few students approached me, asking me to intervene with a classmate who they accused of cyberbullying them. I asked if this occurred in school and they replied that it occurred while they were all playing a game on-line the previous evening. Similarly, we also heard from students accusing others of saying hurtful things on social media as well as on group text threads that included students of all ages from other schools.

In all of these cases, I reminded students that they hold real power to put a stop this, one that I do not possess. 

  • They can block people being disrespectful from their games. 
  • They can “unfriend” hurtful people from social media. 
  • They can remove themselves and hide alerts from message threads that are toxic. 

In sharing this, my goal is to empower students with the kuleana and agency to defend themselves when online. They are not helpless victims. They are powerful and they are loved.

In addition to telling an adult when someone is being harmful, I believe in outfitting our students with resources and tools to shield themselves. Doing so trains them to be resilient, strong young adults. Please join me in teaching your children to be empowered to take positive action.



See Uncle Pono Shim explain the Noʻahuna, the esoteric meaning, of Aloha as taught to him by Aunty Pilahi, the Keeper of Secrets.


Join us in letting “that light, that divine inspiration that Aunty Pilahi Paki says is given to you at your very beginning, come through and let your ALOHA join with the ALOHA of the collective to bring about healing.” 


At the Daily Piko, we share thoughts on the Aloha value for the week which helps us become centered and ready to learn. We begin at 8 AM everyday except Wednesdays.


Wed, Mar 13, 20244:30 PM KES Wellness Meeting
Fri, Mar 15, 2024KES Fun Run
Mar 18 – 22, 2024Spring Break
Wed, Mar 27, 20245 PM KES School Community Council Meeting
6 PM KES Ohana Meeting – Join in-person at the Library or Online

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