Yes, that word in the headline is an actual word. But before I tell you what funambulist means, let me share a scenario and see if you can figure out what it has to do with teaching.
Imagine that you are preparing for class when suddenly you are invited to a mandatory grade-level meeting. As you enter the video conference, you receive an email from a frantic haumāna who cannot complete their assignment that is due in 35 minutes because of internet connectivity issues. Just as you reply to their email, your computer freezes, forcing you to restart. All seven of your browser windows begin to load — each with 14 tabs open — as you answer a call from a parent who you have been desperately trying to reach. Feeling overwhelmed is an understatement.
We, as educators in 2021, are funambulists, or tight-rope walkers, trying to balance numerous responsibilities and roles. We are educators, but also counselors, administrators, mentors, peers, parents and individuals. We walk a tightrope daily. Too much to the left, we fall. Too much to the right, we fall.
Our haumāna are also funambulists, navigating the uncharted waters of distance learning. Asked to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer screen each day for classes is a new reality. As much as I love working with computers and the paperless distance learning environment, I also need some time away from technology. I expect that my haumāna feel the same. As a skilled tightrope walker, how do we help our haumāna achieve a balance between screen time and green time?
At the beginning of the pandemic, most haumāna and kumu were just getting acclimated to distance learning. One of the projects I designed moved my haumāna outdoors to apply mathematical concepts in the real world. This māla project challenged haumāna to demonstrate their knowledge of area and perimeter while creating a māla in their own backyard. If they already had one, they needed to map out the measurements of their existing māla.
I decided to take on the challenge with my students as well! Although my māla was small, the soybeans, green onions and squash were ʻono. My hope is to eventually include more native Hawaiian plants and to open this project up to school-wide participation.
No matter how grand or manini the project, it is essential to find balance in education. Too much screen time can lead to mental and physical fatigue. The same can be said for too much outdoor time (plus a bad case of sunburn if you are like me). It is our kuleana to educate haumāna by modeling balance as we learn together.
With a nod to Leor Danal, I am approaching the next tightrope with his words: “I am a champion of balance. I am a guardian of life. I am a Gray Jedi.”
Luca Barcenilla is a husband, father of two kolohe boys, Hawaii State Teacher Fellow and an 8th grade computer science teacher at Nānākuli High and Intermediate School with nearly a decade of experience teaching in the Nānākuli-Waiʻanae complex. Luca is passionate about creating new and engaging learning experiences by integrating technology with Hawaiian culture-based education.