Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners chalkboard welcome

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mindset means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mindset: Learners with a growth mindset believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Alakai O Kauai learners in boat on land

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 7 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

So here we are. We’ve explored six of the seven habits and why they’re important to us and our learners at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School, and hopefully by this point you feel more equipped and empowered to approach your own life and work with clearer focus and vision.

But how do we maintain that energy?

That’s where Habit 7 comes in — Sharpen the Saw. Incorporating the 7 Habits into your life is all about achieving balance. But living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation, or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything.

“Sharpen the Saw” means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting.
  • Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others.
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching.
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service, etc.

The point is, if we don’t take the time to recharge and renew ourselves regularly, we will burn out and find our efforts stale.

As Dr. Steven Covey said, “Renewal is the principle — and the process — that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.”

What that sharpening looks like will vary from person to person. For you, sharpening the saw might mean taking a 10-15-minute walk every day where you can decompress and not focus on day-to-day responsibilities. Or maybe it means better structuring your workweek so on weekends you can focus primarily on family time. Whatever your saw-sharpening looks like, find something that works for you.

As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To make the most of the 7 Habits in improving yourself, your life, and your work, it cannot be a piecemeal effort. Each enhances and strengthens the others. Step by step, find the balance of incorporating each habit — and don’t neglect yourself. Sharpen that saw so that you can truly be your best.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners chalkboard welcome

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 6 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

Whether in the classroom, the workplace, relationships, or life in general, learning to compromise can be an important and helpful tool. However, what if there were a way to even further enrich and strengthen our communication and interactions?

That’s what’s behind Habit #6: Synergize.

Synergy brings into focus the old adage that “two heads are better than one.” Instead of merely striking a compromise, synergy allows us to creatively collaborate with others and find new solutions to problems. The essence of synergy is to value and respect our differences, build on strengths, and compensate for weaknesses.

In Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School culture, when learners are incorporating this habit into their lives, they’re learning to work in groups and building and reinforcing a mind-set that says, “I get along well with others — even people who are different from me.” That lays the foundation to a long-lasting collaborative approach to life in a multicultural and interdependent world.

There are a couple of helpful steps to know if you’re in synergy:

  • You have a change of heart.
  • You feel new energy and excitement.
  • You see things in a new way.
  • You feel that the relationship has transformed.
  • You end up with an idea or a result that’s better than what either of you started with.

One of the most important keys to synergizing is learning to trust, and that trust is built through communication.

Take, for example, these three levels of communication and the associated levels of trust:

  • Defensive communication comes out of low-trust situations. It’s characterized by defensiveness, protectiveness, and legalistic language that prepares for the eventuality that things may go wrong, and that people may become resentful. Such communication isn’t effective and produces only win/lose or lose/lose outcomes.
  • Respectful communication is characterized by honesty, authenticity, and respect that produces a low form of win/win, a compromise where one plus one equals one-and-a-half.
  • Synergistic communication means that one plus one may equal 8, 16, or even 1,600. The situation produced is better than any originally proposed.

When we learn to see our individual differences as strengths instead of weaknesses, we are well on our way to learning to synergize.

Join us next week as we explore the seventh and final habit: Sharpen the Saw.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Monday Message Alakai O Kauai

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 5 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

They say communication is key, but if we lack understanding in our relationships and interactions, how can we ever hope to truly, clearly communicate?

This week, we’re examining Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

Many of us often seek first to be understood; we want to get our point across. But in doing so, it’s easy to ignore the other person completely, pretend that we’re listening, selectively hear certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. And so, what happens is that we filter everything through our life experiences and decide what someone means before they’ve even finished.

But is that the most effective communication?

Our listening tends to fall into four categories:

  1. Ignoring: We’re not listening at all.
  2. Pretending: We may say “uh-huh, right,” but we’re not really tuned in.
  3. Selective listening: We hear part of what the person says, but the rest of the time we’re distracted.
  4. Attentive listening: We’re actively listening, paying attention but not taking our listening to the ultimate level — empathetic listening.

Dr. Stephen Covey defined empathetic listening as listening with the intent to truly understand. To really understand, we need to get inside another person’s frame of reference, and see the world from their point of view. Our listening also needs to be driven by an authentic desire to understand the other person and to build trust with them.

As part of the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School educational model, we encourage learners to incorporate the following practices into their communication:

  • I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings.
  • I try to see things from their viewpoints.
  • I listen to others without interrupting.
  • I am confident in voicing my ideas.
  • I look people in the eyes when talking.

When we listen with the intent to understand others, instead of simply with the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship-building. Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness in our communication thrives in a balance of the two.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #6: Synergize.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners mosaic art ocean turtle

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alakai O Kauai Monday Message

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 4 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.”

— Dr. Stephen Covey

This week, we’re examining Habit #4: Think Win-Win. Someone with a win-win mind-set sees life as a cooperative arena, instead of a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions, and means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.

Why is this habit so vital to us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School? Because none of us lives in a vacuum. Every day, we interact with other people who have their own sets of passions, motivations, and priorities. So how do we successfully navigate the world as an individual among many other individuals?

Dr. Stephen Covey held that a person or organization approaching conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:

  • Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  • Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  • Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

Developing a win-win approach is also beneficial to our growth and maturity. As we seek to have win-win interactions and relationships, we develop our humility, better recognize the humanity of those around us, develop long-term perspectives, and also learn to become more assertive.

There are four steps that can help the win-win process be truly beneficial for all involved:

  • See the problem from others’ perspectives to understand their needs and concerns
  • Identify the key issues and concerns involved
  • Determine what results could make for a fully acceptable situation
  • Identify options for how to achieve those results.

Developing a win-win mind-set is an important step toward being a more collaborative individual, which is at the heart of what the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School learning model is all about. Win-win is certainly a balancing act, but when we strike that balance everyone benefits.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alakai O Kauai Embrace the 7 Habits

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners outside

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 3 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach. You can find more articles by clicking here.

This week, we look at Habit #3: Put First Things First. This habit, which all of us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i are working to put into practice, is about identifying and organizing one’s priorities. In essence, someone who puts first things first is saying, “I spend time on things that are most important. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow a plan. I’m disciplined and organized.”

Dr. Stephen Covey said that “first things” are basically all those things that you value most in your life. So, you should manage your schedule according to your priorities to get all essential things done on time.

Skills that can be learned by putting first things first include:

  • Time management
  • Cultivating a strong work ethic, flexibility, and adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-management
  • Being accountable and responsible for actions and results
  • Cultivating analytical skills

An effective way to implement Habit #3, according to Covey, is breaking down activities into four quadrants of urgency and importance:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent and important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and not important
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

Covey suggests you become more aware of your internal drive, values, and goals. This makes it easier to say “yes” to the actions that are based on these factors. This way, values and goals are less often overruled by (non-important) urgent matters. Remember that whenever you say “yes” to one thing, you will no longer have time for something else. Time is the most valuable and least replaceable of all resources. Things that appear urgent will most likely trigger a “yes” if you are asked to help out. It’s useful to understand that saying “no” is also a legitimate option.

By identifying what’s most important to you, and where your passions lie, you can more easily learn to put first things first.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #4: Think Win-Win.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Growth Mindset

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we believe when kids learn how to face challenges, they grow into leaders. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.

Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • My intelligence is something I can’t change very much.
  • I’m a certain kind of person, and there isn’t much I can do to change that.
  • I often get frustrated when I get feedback on my performance.
  • Trying new things is stressful, and I avoid it.

How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.

Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head-on, and be motivated to succeed.

Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:

  • A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”
  • A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”

 

  • A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”

 

The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered by them.

A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.

Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.

“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed” (emphasis ours).

Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents, but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities and to value their efforts. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what they may achieve.

Watch: On Growth Mindset

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners celebrate Na Kupu Lau

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 2 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach. You can find more articles by clicking here.

When was the last time you went on a trip to a new place without first looking up directions? Unless you have a superhuman sense of direction, you searched for how to get where you were going, whether on your phone or an old-school paper map. That’s what this week’s habit is all about.

Last week, we discussed the first of the 7 Habits: Be Proactive. A proactive person believes in taking responsibility for their lives and investing their time and energy on things within their control — and not losing sleep over the things they can’t control.

But how does one successfully lead a proactive life? Part of the answer lies in Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind. Starting a proactive journey is difficult if you don’t know where you are trying to go. Beginning with the end in mind is very much like consulting a road map.

In short, to begin with the end in mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of the desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing one’s proactive muscles to make things happen.

To reinforce a mind-set of beginning with the end in mind, Dr. Stephen Covey encouraged developing what he called a personal mission statement. It focuses on what you want to be and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus, and moves your ideas into the real world. Your mission statement makes you the leader of your own life.

So what does it look like for learners to embrace a Habit 2 mind-set and develop their personal mission statements? Helpful steps include reminding themselves of the following:

  • I plan ahead and set goals for myself.
  • I am prepared at all times.
  • I think about how the choices I make now will affect my future.
  • I think about the positive or negative consequences of my actions before I act.

Do you know why Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s focus on developing children who are free thinkers fits so well with the 7 Habits? Because, for instance, Habit 2 is based on imagination — the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. When children are empowered to imagine what can be, the results can be incredibly inspiring.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #3: Put First Things First.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 1 of the 7 Habits

Last week, we introduced a vital element of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s approach to education — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Learning and practicing the 7 Habits has been instrumental to our learners’ success living out the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School motto of “free to think, inspired to lead” — not to mention how it helps our staff thrive.

This week, we’re continuing to unpack the habits with Habit #1: Be Proactive. In short, being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control.

In general, most of us fall into one of two categories: Either we’re reactive to situations in life, affected by factors outside of ourselves and believing we have no control over situations — or we are proactive, realizing that we are “response-able” and that we have freedom to choose our responses. A proactive individual peppers their language with “I can” and “I will,” while a reactive person falls back on “I can’t” or “if only.”

In short, proactive people focus their efforts on what Dr. Stephen Covey calls their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about, like health or problems at work. On the flip side, reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern — things over which they have little or no control.

It has been amazing to see how understanding these concepts empowers Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School learners to take charge and command over both their education and their lives. We’ve seen time and again how it trickles down to every aspect of their lives, and that is at the heart of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School model: developing the whole child so that they are equipped to live with purpose and intent.

As Dr. Covey said, “The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct, and learn from it.” When children learn to apply this in an academic setting, it can only spread to every other area of life.

Next week, we’ll continue exploring what makes the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education so innovative, explaining Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: The 7 Habits

We’re happy to introduce a new series of articles in the Monday Message, aimed at unpacking some of the essentials of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School educational model.

Our educational model is driven by much more than simply making sure children are good students. Rather, it’s focused on equipping them to be lifelong learners who are fully developed and prepared to lead in the 21st century.

Whether you’ve been part of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School family for a while or are fairly new, you’ve most likely heard a lot of talk about “The 7 Habits” and how important they are to what we do. Stephen Covey’s best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been deeply influential in the shaping of our approach to project-based learning, as well as our staff development. We are constantly inspired by how we see our learners put the 7 Habits into action.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll expand on each of the habits, how they relate to learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, and even practical ways you can incorporate them into your daily life.

To get things started, though, we wanted to take today to introduce the 7 Habits.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control.
  • Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind: At the heart of this is beginning each day, task, or project with a clear vision of one’s desired direction and destination, and then continuing by flexing proactive muscles to make things happen.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: This is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment by moment, and deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. Habit 3 is about life management, as well — your purpose, values, roles, and priorities.
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win: This habit presents life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. A win-win approach means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood: This habit can help transform communication. Too often, many of us can listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. We can filter everything we hear through our life experiences and our frame of reference. Consequently, we decide prematurely what the other person means before they finish communicating.
  • Habit 6: Synergize: This is the habit of creative cooperation. It’s a process of teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. It thrives on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. To “sharpen the saw” means to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Coming up next week, we’ll dive into the first habit, Be Proactive, discussing what it looks like in practical terms and how you can make it part of your life.

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Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners mosaic art ocean turtle

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

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Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School learners and facilitator outdoor campus

Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 7 of the 7 Habits

So here we are. We’ve explored six of the seven habits and why they’re important to us and our learners at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School, and hopefully by this point you feel more equipped and empowered to approach your own life and work with clearer focus and vision.

But how do we maintain that energy?

That’s where Habit 7 comes in — Sharpen the Saw. Incorporating the 7 Habits into your life is all about achieving balance. But living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation, or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything.

“Sharpen the Saw” means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting.
  • Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others.
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching.
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service, etc.

The point is, if we don’t take the time to recharge and renew ourselves regularly, we will burn out and find our efforts stale.

As Dr. Steven Covey said, “Renewal is the principle — and the process — that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.”

What that sharpening looks like will vary from person to person. For you, sharpening the saw might mean taking a 10-15-minute walk every day where you can decompress and not focus on day-to-day responsibilities. Or maybe it means better structuring your workweek so on weekends you can focus primarily on family time. Whatever your saw-sharpening looks like, find something that works for you.

As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To make the most of the 7 Habits in improving yourself, your life, and your work, it cannot be a piecemeal effort. Each enhances and strengthens the others. Step by step, find the balance of incorporating each habit — and don’t neglect yourself. Sharpen that saw so that you can truly be your best.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 6 of the 7 Habits

Whether in the classroom, the workplace, relationships, or life in general, learning to compromise can be an important and helpful tool. However, what if there were a way to even further enrich and strengthen our communication and interactions?

That’s what’s behind Habit #6: Synergize.

Synergy brings into focus the old adage that “two heads are better than one.” Instead of merely striking a compromise, synergy allows us to creatively collaborate with others and find new solutions to problems. The essence of synergy is to value and respect our differences, build on strengths, and compensate for weaknesses.

In Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School culture, when learners are incorporating this habit into their lives, they’re learning to work in groups and building and reinforcing a mind-set that says, “I get along well with others — even people who are different from me.” That lays the foundation to a long-lasting collaborative approach to life in a multicultural and interdependent world.

There are a couple of helpful steps to know if you’re in synergy:

  • You have a change of heart.
  • You feel new energy and excitement.
  • You see things in a new way.
  • You feel that the relationship has transformed.
  • You end up with an idea or a result that’s better than what either of you started with.

One of the most important keys to synergizing is learning to trust, and that trust is built through communication.

Take, for example, these three levels of communication and the associated levels of trust:

  • Defensive communication comes out of low-trust situations. It’s characterized by defensiveness, protectiveness, and legalistic language that prepares for the eventuality that things may go wrong, and that people may become resentful. Such communication isn’t effective and produces only win/lose or lose/lose outcomes.
  • Respectful communication is characterized by honesty, authenticity, and respect that produces a low form of win/win, a compromise where one plus one equals one-and-a-half.
  • Synergistic communication means that one plus one may equal 8, 16, or even 1,600. The situation produced is better than any originally proposed.

When we learn to see our individual differences as strengths instead of weaknesses, we are well on our way to learning to synergize.

Join us next week as we explore the seventh and final habit: Sharpen the Saw.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 5 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

They say communication is key, but if we lack understanding in our relationships and interactions, how can we ever hope to truly, clearly communicate?

This week, we’re examining Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

Many of us often seek first to be understood; we want to get our point across. But in doing so, it’s easy to ignore the other person completely, pretend that we’re listening, selectively hear certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. And so, what happens is that we filter everything through our life experiences and decide what someone means before they’ve even finished.

But is that the most effective communication?

Our listening tends to fall into four categories:

  1. Ignoring: We’re not listening at all.
  2. Pretending: We may say “uh-huh, right,” but we’re not really tuned in.
  3. Selective listening: We hear part of what the person says, but the rest of the time we’re distracted.
  4. Attentive listening: We’re actively listening, paying attention but not taking our listening to the ultimate level — empathetic listening.

Dr. Stephen Covey defined empathetic listening as listening with the intent to truly understand. To really understand, we need to get inside another person’s frame of reference, and see the world from their point of view. Our listening also needs to be driven by an authentic desire to understand the other person and to build trust with them.

As part of the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School educational model, we encourage learners to incorporate the following practices into their communication:

  • I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings.
  • I try to see things from their viewpoints.
  • I listen to others without interrupting.
  • I am confident in voicing my ideas.
  • I look people in the eyes when talking.

When we listen with the intent to understand others, instead of simply with the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship-building. Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness in our communication thrives in a balance of the two.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #6: Synergize.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 4 of the 7 Habits

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.” — Dr. Stephen Covey

This week, we’re examining Habit #4: Think Win-Win. Someone with a win-win mind-set sees life as a cooperative arena, instead of a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions, and means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.

Why is this habit so vital to us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School? Because none of us lives in a vacuum. Every day, we interact with other people who have their own sets of passions, motivations, and priorities. So how do we successfully navigate the world as an individual among many other individuals?

Dr. Stephen Covey held that a person or organization approaching conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:

  • Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  • Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  • Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

Developing a win-win approach is also beneficial to our growth and maturity. As we seek to have win-win interactions and relationships, we develop our humility, better recognize the humanity of those around us, develop long-term perspectives, and also learn to become more assertive.

There are four steps that can help the win-win process be truly beneficial for all involved:

  • See the problem from others’ perspectives to understand their needs and concerns
  • Identify the key issues and concerns involved
  • Determine what results could make for a fully acceptable situation
  • Identify options for how to achieve those results.

Developing a win-win mind-set is an important step toward being a more collaborative individual, which is at the heart of what the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School learning model is all about. Win-win is certainly a balancing act, but when we strike that balance everyone benefits.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 3 of the 7 Habits

This week, we look at Habit #3: Put First Things First. This habit, which all of us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i are working to put into practice, is about identifying and organizing one’s priorities. In essence, someone who puts first things first is saying, “I spend time on things that are most important. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow a plan. I’m disciplined and organized.”

Dr. Stephen Covey said that “first things” are basically all those things that you value most in your life. So, you should manage your schedule according to your priorities to get all essential things done on time.

Skills that can be learned by putting first things first include:

  • Time management
  • Cultivating a strong work ethic, flexibility, and adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-management
  • Being accountable and responsible for actions and results
  • Cultivating analytical skills

An effective way to implement Habit #3, according to Covey, is breaking down activities into four quadrants of urgency and importance:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent and important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and not important
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

Covey suggests you become more aware of your internal drive, values, and goals. This makes it easier to say “yes” to the actions that are based on these factors. This way, values and goals are less often overruled by (non-important) urgent matters. Remember that whenever you say “yes” to one thing, you will no longer have time for something else. Time is the most valuable and least replaceable of all resources. Things that appear urgent will most likely trigger a “yes” if you are asked to help out. It’s useful to understand that saying “no” is also a legitimate option.

By identifying what’s most important to you, and where your passions lie, you can more easily learn to put first things first.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #4: Think Win-Win.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 2 of the 7 Habits

When was the last time you went on a trip to a new place without first looking up directions? Unless you have a superhuman sense of direction, you searched for how to get where you were going, whether on your phone or an old-school paper map. That’s what this week’s habit is all about.

Last week, we discussed the first of the 7 Habits: Be Proactive. A proactive person believes in taking responsibility for their lives and investing their time and energy on things within their control — and not losing sleep over the things they can’t control.

But how does one successfully lead a proactive life? Part of the answer lies in Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind. Starting a proactive journey is difficult if you don’t know where you are trying to go. Beginning with the end in mind is very much like consulting a road map.

In short, to begin with the end in mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of the desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing one’s proactive muscles to make things happen.

To reinforce a mind-set of beginning with the end in mind, Dr. Stephen Covey encouraged developing what he called a personal mission statement. It focuses on what you want to be and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus, and moves your ideas into the real world. Your mission statement makes you the leader of your own life.

So what does it look like for learners to embrace a Habit 2 mind-set and develop their personal mission statements? Helpful steps include reminding themselves of the following:

  • I plan ahead and set goals for myself.
  • I am prepared at all times.
  • I think about how the choices I make now will affect my future.
  • I think about the positive or negative consequences of my actions before I act.

Do you know why Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s focus on developing children who are free thinkers fits so well with the 7 Habits? Because, for instance, Habit 2 is based on imagination — the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. When children are empowered to imagine what can be, the results can be incredibly inspiring.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #3: Put First Things First.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School learners and facilitator outdoor campus

Exploring Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Habit 1 of the 7 Habits

Last week, we introduced a vital element of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s approach to education — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Learning and practicing the 7 Habits has been instrumental to our learners’ success living out the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School motto of “free to think, inspired to lead” — not to mention how it helps our staff thrive.

This week, we’re continuing to unpack the habits with Habit #1: Be Proactive. In short, being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control.

In general, most of us fall into one of two categories: Either we’re reactive to situations in life, affected by factors outside of ourselves and believing we have no control over situations — or we are proactive, realizing that we are “response-able” and that we have freedom to choose our responses. A proactive individual peppers their language with “I can” and “I will,” while a reactive person falls back on “I can’t” or “if only.”

In short, proactive people focus their efforts on what Dr. Stephen Covey calls their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about, like health or problems at work. On the flip side, reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern — things over which they have little or no control.

It has been amazing to see how understanding these concepts empowers Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School learners to take charge and command over both their education and their lives. We’ve seen time and again how it trickles down to every aspect of their lives, and that is at the heart of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School model: developing the whole child so that they are equipped to live with purpose and intent.

As Dr. Covey said, “The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct, and learn from it.” When children learn to apply this in an academic setting, it can only spread to every other area of life.

Next week, we’ll continue exploring what makes the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education so innovative, explaining Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School learners and facilitator outdoor campus

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: The 7 Habits

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, our educational model is driven by much more than simply making sure children are good students. Rather, it’s focused on equipping them to be lifelong learners who are fully developed and prepared to lead in the 21st century.

Whether you’ve been part of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School family for a while or are fairly new, you’ve most likely heard a lot of talk about “The 7 Habits” and how important they are to what we do. Stephen Covey’s best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been deeply influential in the shaping of our approach to project-based learning, as well as our staff development. We are constantly inspired by how we see our learners put the 7 Habits into action.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll expand on each of the habits, how they relate to learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, and even practical ways you can incorporate them into your daily life.

To get things started, though, we wanted to take today to introduce the 7 Habits.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control.
  • Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind: At the heart of this is beginning each day, task, or project with a clear vision of one’s desired direction and destination, and then continuing by flexing proactive muscles to make things happen.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: This is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment by moment, and deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. Habit 3 is about life management, as well — your purpose, values, roles, and priorities.
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win: This habit presents life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. A win-win approach means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood: This habit can help transform communication. Too often, many of us can listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. We can filter everything we hear through our life experiences and our frame of reference. Consequently, we decide prematurely what the other person means before they finish communicating.
  • Habit 6: Synergize: This is the habit of creative cooperation. It’s a process of teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. It thrives on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. To “sharpen the saw” means to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Coming up next week, we’ll dive into the first habit, Be Proactive, discussing what it looks like in practical terms and how you can make it part of your life.

Alakai O Kauai campus and learners

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Grit

What does it take to really succeed? Some might call it drive or determination. At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we like to call it grit, and it is a crucial component of social-emotional learning.

We define grit as “having courage and resolve, and strength of character.” Someone with grit works hard and passionately, sets goals, and follows through. Why is grit important? Because to truly accomplish goals and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. That is why we believe it is so valuable to instill an understanding of grit early on in kids.

But how does one assess “grittiness”? A simple way is to see if you identify with some of these statements:

  • I enjoy projects that take time to complete.
  • I am working toward a long-term goal.
  • What I do each day is connected to my deepest personal values.
  • There is at least one subject or activity I never get bored thinking about.
  • Setbacks don’t discourage me for long.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I finish whatever I begin.
  • I never stop working to improve.

Our approach to SEL has been deeply influenced by Angela Lee Duckworth, who has done extensive research in the area of grit. She suggests that one way to think about grit is to consider what it isn’t.

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. Further, grit means holding fast to that goal, no matter what.

There are many practical ways to foster grit in learners:

  • Help them see how their efforts can contribute to the well-being of others.
  • Nurture a growth mindset; a belief that the ability to learn is not fixed.
  • Ask them to set their own long-term goals.
  • Focus discussions on effort, tenacity, and learning from failures.

We believe as part of a curriculum that’s rich in project-based and social-emotional learning, when kids learn to model grit in their academic pursuits, their mindset will positively affect every area of their lives.

Watch This: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Growth Mindset

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we believe when kids learn how to face challenges, they grow into leaders. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.

Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • My intelligence is something I can’t change very much.
  • I’m a certain kind of person, and there isn’t much I can do to change that.
  • I often get frustrated when I get feedback on my performance.
  • Trying new things is stressful, and I avoid it.

How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.

Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head-on, and be motivated to succeed.

Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:

  • A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”
  • A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”

 

  • A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”

 

The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered by them.

A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.

Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.

“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed” (emphasis ours).

Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents, but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities and to value their efforts. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what they may achieve.

Watch: On Growth Mindset

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Celebrates Growth and Potential

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools

Now in its third year, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School — which translates to iLEAD Kauai — is still experiencing lots of new. The school, located at the beautiful Kahili Mountain Park and serving kindergarten through 6th grade, has a new director, new learners, new projects and renewed enthusiasm.

New Director

Alakai O Kauai Meet the TeamAbout his role at Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School, Director DJ Adams said, “It is refreshing to join a team of people with a shared vision of a high-quality, free public education infused with project-based learning. Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School has tremendous potential for continued positive growth, so it is exciting to be part of our journey ahead.”

Adams is impressed with so many things about Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi, whose staff have worked hard to safely accommodate face-to-face learning during the pandemic this school year. He said that Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi team members and families are grateful to live and work on a beautiful island that is almost COVID-free. But above all, Adams is inspired by the enthusiasm, engagement and attitudes of the learners.

“Our learners have been fantastic,” Adams said. “They have embraced the challenges and uniqueness to be on campus, and we are extremely proud of their efforts to keep everyone safe here at school and on our island.”

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi kindergarten facilitator Casey Zoppa said that, within a few weeks of Adams’ arrival as director, he’d learned the names of all the facilitators and learners and made his positive presence known.

“Talk about dedication to that job,” Zoppa said. “The man is always in sneakers because he is always on the run! And I love it!”

Outdoor Classrooms

Also new to Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi are outdoor classrooms, which have added to the instructional environment and culture of the school.

Adams said that the outdoor classrooms create great opportunities, including safe social distancing, physical education and lots of play-based learning.

“The outdoor classrooms here in beautiful Kahili Valley are somewhat surreal, as the learners are surrounded by green, lush plants framed by the mountains,” Adams said.

The outdoor classrooms have also enhanced the school’s creative projects and learner inquiry. For example, Zoppa and the kindergarten learners are currently focusing on sound design and the driving question “How do we make sound?”

“We’ll be making instruments, learning about Hawaiian culture and seeing how native Hawaiians made instruments,” Zoppa said. “Music connects us around the globe, and this is a perfect time for connecting.”

Play-Based Learning

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter SchoolIn addition to project-based learning, the idea of intentional and learner-led play has become a foundational instructional element of Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi.

Zoppa said that his kindergartners are learning school is not about sitting at desks but rather about being active and engaged in their environment.

“We have tremendous freedom here as facilitators, and we try to model that freedom for our learners,” Zoppa said. “We allow them to take chances, make mistakes and ultimately get messy. Authentic and deeper learning are messy.”

Adams said, “It’s so exciting to be part of new opportunities for our learners as they continue to be challenged in new ways by their amazing facilitators.”

Looking Ahead

Having achieved so much in only three years, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi is just getting started. The team and families are making plans to continue to engage the learners and the entire community.

According to Zoppa, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi is a special place with a strong foundation and exciting potential.

“We have come so far in just three years. I can’t imagine all the amazing things ahead for our learners, facilitators and community.”

Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School

Remembering with Tutu B: How Alaka`i O Kaua`i Became a School

Aloha, Alaka`i O Kaua`i `Ohana,

Time for a little mathematics! How long ago was the year 2013? How old were you? Do you remember where you were or what you were doing? Let’s find out why the year 2013 is important to the `Ohana of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School!

Ms. Moraes holds her certificate: “Thank you for your vision and insight to bring an iLEAD School to Kauai.”

In the year 2013, plans for iLEAD Kauai first began and our first application was submitted to the charter commission. Deena Fontana Moraes wrote the first series of applications with iLEAD cofounders, Amber Raskin and Dawn Evenson. Ms. Moraes now works as an administrator in the DOE as an educational consultant.

For the 2014-2015 application, Dr. B Blackwell (Tutu B — that’s me!) was added. A lot of volunteers supported this application and went out into the community to gather over 800 signatures in support of the school.

Nicola Sherrill, Tutu B, and Minna Freeman Prichard in 2015 at Kapaa Town Nite.

Three people who worked hard to gather signatures were Nicola Sherrill, Tutu B, and Minna Freeman Prichard, who also served as board members. Nicola had been part of the school effort since 2013 and still serves today as vice chairperson of the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Governing Board.

We held many community meetings, the first in May of 2014. The largest meeting was held January 8, 2015, at the All Saints’ gym in Kapa`a. Over 100 people attended, including the Mayor of Kauai, Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Superintendent of Kauai Schools Bill Arakaki!

Amber Raskin and Dawn Evenson,
cofounders of iLEAD Schools Development (now Maker Learning Network), our service provider.

In spite of the overwhelming community support, the charter commission denied iLEAD Kauai’s applications for both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

So how did the community triumph with their third and final effort, when we submitted the application (now as Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School) for the 2015-2016 year?

This poster says, “Please join us for some free food and entertainment and learn about this innovative new K-8 charter school, proposed for the island of Kauai – Fall 2016.”

New rules stated that no director or group of people could submit an application. Only a governing board with officers could submit an application and a director had to be selected through an advertised and vetting process. Many times there were challenges that I thought we couldn’t overcome.

I spent many hours looking at my computer screen, answering the Charter Commission’s questions.

What got me through the process?

On my computer screen were the photos of the governing board members’ children, our school’s keiki (see our featured photo above). I wanted them to benefit from the alternative educational program offered by iLEAD Schools Development (now Maker Learning Network).

On August 11, 2016, Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School was finally approved!

And did you know that the Hawaiian translation for Alaka`i O Kaua`i means iLEAD Kauai?

Here is our Kauai County Fair booth, designed by Indulekha Reeves with her keiki, Sylvan and Nimai and Minna Freeman-Prichard’s children, Anneli and Ipo.

Soon after we received the approval, we shared the news with Kauai through the Kauai County Fair. Our booth was designed by Indulekha Reeves, who was vice chairperson of our board at the time and is now the chairperson.

But wait! If our school was planned to be in Kapaa, then how did Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School end up in our beautiful Mount Kahili home? That story will be told in the next chapter of Remembering with Tutu B!

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Remembering with Tutu B: Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi’s Beginnings

Aloha, Alaka`i O Kaua`i `Ohana,

The pandemic has given us lots of time to clean our rooms (as you might have been told by your families). I was given some more time when, after 17 years as a professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), I retired on July 7, 2020. When I had a chance to clean out my office, I discovered many pictures and documents that had gotten buried under lots of other papers!

The photos reminded me to share the story of Alaka`i O Kaua`i with you.

Above is a picture of me during the very first day of school, August 29, 2018. I was outside the office to greet each and every learner (with their parents) to our new school. What an exciting day that was! Well, we were supposed to open on August 28, but Hurricane Lane made a river across the road to our school and we had to cancel the first day of school. Thankfully, we postponed our opening only by one day.

Before that day, many more people worked very hard to help bring you your school.

(L to R) Tutu B, Paul Zina, Felicia Cowden

A few people, working in what was called the Advisory Group, helped our Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Governing Board in several ways but especially with writing the application for charter school approval.

Paul Zina, who was principal of Ele`ele School and is now Kaua’i Complex Area Superintendent, served as the educational liaison. He showed great support for our school to the Charter Commission and gave valuable input for writing the application.

Felicia Cowden, who had operated her own homeschool and written a book about homeschooling, served as community liaison for the Governing Board and actively served on the Advisory Board. Felicia is now a Kauai County Council Member.

Steve Martin-Oldfield, owner of Kauai Pacific Real Estate, served as our business liaison. He helped look for locations for the school and met with all prospective candidates to share about the housing opportunities on Kauai.

Tutu B with Minna Freeman Prichard

Minna Freeman Prichard was previously a teacher at Koloa School but had taken some time off to have a baby. Minna opened a homeschool not only for her own children but for other children to join as well. She had a lot of experience with environmental education and envisioned what Alaka`i would be. After she had her baby, Minna joined the Advisory Board to continue helping when she could.

As chairperson of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Governing Board, I made certificates of appreciation for each of the people named here, but I found the certificates only while going through my office files! “Better late than never” is a good motto. So this past Wednesday, September 16, 2020, three out of the four Advisory Group members finally received their certificates of appreciation. Steve could not be seen, for he is dutifully serving quarantine time after visiting the mainland and will be given his certificate later.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Remembering with Tutu B. I look forward to sharing more of the story of your school, Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School, very soon!

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Classroom Alakai O Kauai

Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 7 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

So here we are. We’ve explored six of the seven habits and why they’re important to us and our learners at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School, and hopefully by this point you feel more equipped and empowered to approach your own life and work with clearer focus and vision.

But how do we maintain that energy?

That’s where Habit 7 comes in — Sharpen the Saw. Incorporating the 7 Habits into your life is all about achieving balance. But living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation, or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything.

“Sharpen the Saw” means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting.
  • Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others.
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching.
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service, etc.

The point is, if we don’t take the time to recharge and renew ourselves regularly, we will burn out and find our efforts stale.

As Dr. Steven Covey said, “Renewal is the principle — and the process — that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.”

What that sharpening looks like will vary from person to person. For you, sharpening the saw might mean taking a 10-15-minute walk every day where you can decompress and not focus on day-to-day responsibilities. Or maybe it means better structuring your workweek so on weekends you can focus primarily on family time. Whatever your saw-sharpening looks like, find something that works for you.

As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To make the most of the 7 Habits in improving yourself, your life, and your work, it cannot be a piecemeal effort. Each enhances and strengthens the others. Step by step, find the balance of incorporating each habit — and don’t neglect yourself. Sharpen that saw so that you can truly be your best.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 6 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

Whether in the classroom, the workplace, relationships, or life in general, learning to compromise can be an important and helpful tool. However, what if there were a way to even further enrich and strengthen our communication and interactions?

That’s what’s behind Habit #6: Synergize.

Synergy brings into focus the old adage that “two heads are better than one.” Instead of merely striking a compromise, synergy allows us to creatively collaborate with others and find new solutions to problems. The essence of synergy is to value and respect our differences, build on strengths, and compensate for weaknesses.

In Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School culture, when learners are incorporating this habit into their lives, they’re learning to work in groups and building and reinforcing a mind-set that says, “I get along well with others — even people who are different from me.” That lays the foundation to a long-lasting collaborative approach to life in a multicultural and interdependent world.

There are a couple of helpful steps to know if you’re in synergy:

  • You have a change of heart.
  • You feel new energy and excitement.
  • You see things in a new way.
  • You feel that the relationship has transformed.
  • You end up with an idea or a result that’s better than what either of you started with.

One of the most important keys to synergizing is learning to trust, and that trust is built through communication.

Take, for example, these three levels of communication and the associated levels of trust:

  • Defensive communication comes out of low-trust situations. It’s characterized by defensiveness, protectiveness, and legalistic language that prepares for the eventuality that things may go wrong, and that people may become resentful. Such communication isn’t effective and produces only win/lose or lose/lose outcomes.
  • Respectful communication is characterized by honesty, authenticity, and respect that produces a low form of win/win, a compromise where one plus one equals one-and-a-half.
  • Synergistic communication means that one plus one may equal 8, 16, or even 1,600. The situation produced is better than any originally proposed.

When we learn to see our individual differences as strengths instead of weaknesses, we are well on our way to learning to synergize.

Join us next week as we explore the seventh and final habit: Sharpen the Saw.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 5 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

They say communication is key, but if we lack understanding in our relationships and interactions, how can we ever hope to truly, clearly communicate?

This week, we’re examining Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

Many of us often seek first to be understood; we want to get our point across. But in doing so, it’s easy to ignore the other person completely, pretend that we’re listening, selectively hear certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. And so, what happens is that we filter everything through our life experiences and decide what someone means before they’ve even finished.

But is that the most effective communication?

Our listening tends to fall into four categories:

  1. Ignoring: We’re not listening at all.
  2. Pretending: We may say “uh-huh, right,” but we’re not really tuned in.
  3. Selective listening: We hear part of what the person says, but the rest of the time we’re distracted.
  4. Attentive listening: We’re actively listening, paying attention but not taking our listening to the ultimate level — empathetic listening.

Dr. Stephen Covey defined empathetic listening as listening with the intent to truly understand. To really understand, we need to get inside another person’s frame of reference, and see the world from their point of view. Our listening also needs to be driven by an authentic desire to understand the other person and to build trust with them.

As part of the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School educational model, we encourage learners to incorporate the following practices into their communication:

  • I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings.
  • I try to see things from their viewpoints.
  • I listen to others without interrupting.
  • I am confident in voicing my ideas.
  • I look people in the eyes when talking.

When we listen with the intent to understand others, instead of simply with the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship-building. Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness in our communication thrives in a balance of the two.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #6: Synergize.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 4 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach.

“In the long run, if it isn’t a win for both of us, we both lose. That’s why win-win is the only real alternative in interdependent realities.”

— Dr. Stephen Covey

This week, we’re examining Habit #4: Think Win-Win. Someone with a win-win mind-set sees life as a cooperative arena, instead of a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions, and means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.

Why is this habit so vital to us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School? Because none of us lives in a vacuum. Every day, we interact with other people who have their own sets of passions, motivations, and priorities. So how do we successfully navigate the world as an individual among many other individuals?

Dr. Stephen Covey held that a person or organization approaching conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:

  • Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  • Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  • Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

Developing a win-win approach is also beneficial to our growth and maturity. As we seek to have win-win interactions and relationships, we develop our humility, better recognize the humanity of those around us, develop long-term perspectives, and also learn to become more assertive.

There are four steps that can help the win-win process be truly beneficial for all involved:

  • See the problem from others’ perspectives to understand their needs and concerns
  • Identify the key issues and concerns involved
  • Determine what results could make for a fully acceptable situation
  • Identify options for how to achieve those results.

Developing a win-win mind-set is an important step toward being a more collaborative individual, which is at the heart of what the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School learning model is all about. Win-win is certainly a balancing act, but when we strike that balance everyone benefits.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 3 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach. You can find more articles by clicking here.

This week, we look at Habit #3: Put First Things First. This habit, which all of us at Alaka`i O Kaua`i are working to put into practice, is about identifying and organizing one’s priorities. In essence, someone who puts first things first is saying, “I spend time on things that are most important. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow a plan. I’m disciplined and organized.”

Dr. Stephen Covey said that “first things” are basically all those things that you value most in your life. So, you should manage your schedule according to your priorities to get all essential things done on time.

Skills that can be learned by putting first things first include:

  • Time management
  • Cultivating a strong work ethic, flexibility, and adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-management
  • Being accountable and responsible for actions and results
  • Cultivating analytical skills

An effective way to implement Habit #3, according to Covey, is breaking down activities into four quadrants of urgency and importance:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent and important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and not important
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

Covey suggests you become more aware of your internal drive, values, and goals. This makes it easier to say “yes” to the actions that are based on these factors. This way, values and goals are less often overruled by (non-important) urgent matters. Remember that whenever you say “yes” to one thing, you will no longer have time for something else. Time is the most valuable and least replaceable of all resources. Things that appear urgent will most likely trigger a “yes” if you are asked to help out. It’s useful to understand that saying “no” is also a legitimate option.

By identifying what’s most important to you, and where your passions lie, you can more easily learn to put first things first.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #4: Think Win-Win.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 2 of the 7 Habits

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles on the pillars of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s educational philosophy and approach. You can find more articles by clicking here.

When was the last time you went on a trip to a new place without first looking up directions? Unless you have a superhuman sense of direction, you searched for how to get where you were going, whether on your phone or an old-school paper map. That’s what this week’s habit is all about.

Last week, we discussed the first of the 7 Habits: Be Proactive. A proactive person believes in taking responsibility for their lives and investing their time and energy on things within their control — and not losing sleep over the things they can’t control.

But how does one successfully lead a proactive life? Part of the answer lies in Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind. Starting a proactive journey is difficult if you don’t know where you are trying to go. Beginning with the end in mind is very much like consulting a road map.

In short, to begin with the end in mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of the desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing one’s proactive muscles to make things happen.

To reinforce a mind-set of beginning with the end in mind, Dr. Stephen Covey encouraged developing what he called a personal mission statement. It focuses on what you want to be and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus, and moves your ideas into the real world. Your mission statement makes you the leader of your own life.

So what does it look like for learners to embrace a Habit 2 mind-set and develop their personal mission statements? Helpful steps include reminding themselves of the following:

  • I plan ahead and set goals for myself.
  • I am prepared at all times.
  • I think about how the choices I make now will affect my future.
  • I think about the positive or negative consequences of my actions before I act.

Do you know why Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s focus on developing children who are free thinkers fits so well with the 7 Habits? Because, for instance, Habit 2 is based on imagination — the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. When children are empowered to imagine what can be, the results can be incredibly inspiring.

Join us next week as we explore Habit #3: Put First Things First.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: Habit 1 of the 7 Habits

Last week, we introduced a vital element of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s approach to education — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Learning and practicing the 7 Habits has been instrumental to our learners’ success living out the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School motto of “free to think, inspired to lead” — not to mention how it helps our staff thrive.

This week, we’re continuing to unpack the habits with Habit #1: Be Proactive. In short, being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control.

In general, most of us fall into one of two categories: Either we’re reactive to situations in life, affected by factors outside of ourselves and believing we have no control over situations — or we are proactive, realizing that we are “response-able” and that we have freedom to choose our responses. A proactive individual peppers their language with “I can” and “I will,” while a reactive person falls back on “I can’t” or “if only.”

In short, proactive people focus their efforts on what Dr. Stephen Covey calls their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about, like health or problems at work. On the flip side, reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern — things over which they have little or no control.

It has been amazing to see how understanding these concepts empowers Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School learners to take charge and command over both their education and their lives. We’ve seen time and again how it trickles down to every aspect of their lives, and that is at the heart of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School model: developing the whole child so that they are equipped to live with purpose and intent.

As Dr. Covey said, “The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct, and learn from it.” When children learn to apply this in an academic setting, it can only spread to every other area of life.

Next week, we’ll continue exploring what makes the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education so innovative, explaining Habit #2: Begin With the End in Mind.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

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Exploring Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Culture: The 7 Habits

We’re happy to introduce a new series of articles in the Monday Message, aimed at unpacking some of the essentials of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School educational model.

Our educational model is driven by much more than simply making sure children are good students. Rather, it’s focused on equipping them to be lifelong learners who are fully developed and prepared to lead in the 21st century.

Whether you’ve been part of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School family for a while or are fairly new, you’ve most likely heard a lot of talk about “The 7 Habits” and how important they are to what we do. Stephen Covey’s best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been deeply influential in the shaping of our approach to project-based learning, as well as our staff development. We are constantly inspired by how we see our learners put the 7 Habits into action.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll expand on each of the habits, how they relate to learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, and even practical ways you can incorporate them into your daily life.

To get things started, though, we wanted to take today to introduce the 7 Habits.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. Proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control.
  • Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind: At the heart of this is beginning each day, task, or project with a clear vision of one’s desired direction and destination, and then continuing by flexing proactive muscles to make things happen.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: This is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment by moment, and deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. Habit 3 is about life management, as well — your purpose, values, roles, and priorities.
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win: This habit presents life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. A win-win approach means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying.
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood: This habit can help transform communication. Too often, many of us can listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. We can filter everything we hear through our life experiences and our frame of reference. Consequently, we decide prematurely what the other person means before they finish communicating.
  • Habit 6: Synergize: This is the habit of creative cooperation. It’s a process of teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. It thrives on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. To “sharpen the saw” means to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Coming up next week, we’ll dive into the first habit, Be Proactive, discussing what it looks like in practical terms and how you can make it part of your life.