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5 Things We Want You To Know: An Open Letter To Educators and Parents of Young Children

Submitted by genesisl on Aug 2, 2017

Dearest Educators and Parents of young children,

First, thank you. Thank you for the countless hours and energy nurturing and teaching your students and children. Thank you for showing them the way, through your example and care. They are watching, even if it may not seem like it at times. It may not always be sunshine and rainbows, but we find it amazing how you still find the bright spots in the darkest of days. Thank you for wiping away those tears, brushing off those skinned knees after a tumble, and putting on those superhero capes… and yes, doing these things for the youngsters in your life as well. Thank you for taking care of you so that you can take care care of the keiki. Make no doubt about it, you are miracle workers. You don’t only make a difference, you make The Difference. Every single day, you make magic happen. Every single day, you have the potential to change the world. We are so grateful for you!

The big picture (Hakalau)

The Hawaiʻi Positive Engagement Project’s (H-PEP) mission is to empower Native Hawaiian educators and parents to be their best selves so that they can help keiki to be their best selves. We foster adult well-being, skill building, and positive engagement that are essential to keiki’s well-being and academic achievement. Our specialty is early education and re-envisioning what professional development and training look like when they are focused on participants’ strengths and the power of mindset. Our project values of positive mindset, connection, responsibility, empowerment, and well-being keep us grounded and are at the heart of everything we do.

Responsibility, Well-being, Connection Plus Positive Mindset and Empowerment

H-PEP builds upon data and lessons learned from the our previous projects: First Step to Success (FSTS; 2008-2011) and the Hawaiʻi Preschool Positive Engagement Project (HPPEP; 2011-2014). Throughout the years, I have noticed that talking about our work in broad concepts instead of technical details has made all the difference. From this big perspective thinking, or Hakalau view, we can connect with more of you and that helps make the Positive Engagement Movement really move. Here are the five truths H-PEP is built on and the five things we want you to know as educators and parents:

#1 Our words and actions have POWER

They really do.

Everyone has a star in their heart. It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy, or young or old. It doesn’t matter what shape your eyes are, what color your skin is, or where you live in this great big world. We all have a star in our heart. When you say nice words and treat other people with kindness, it makes their stars shine brighter! Same thing is true when someone says kind words and treats us with respect; it makes our star shine brighter! - Excerpt from Brighter, Brighter Brighter!

In this connected world, what we do and what we say affect other people. In fact, we are always affecting each other. The question is, will you choose to affect others positively or not? Do you choose to lift others up or bring them down? I say “choose” because it is a choice. One that we make many times a day. When someone shows you kindness, do you make it a point to express gratitude? Or are you just “too busy” and will make sure to “do it later”? Our keiki are watching us. Do you see how they light up when you use positive, loving words? Let’s use our voices and actions in ways that help others as well as ourselves shine brightest.

#2 What you focus on EXPANDS

H-PEP’s vision is: What’s going right? Every person, every place, every time. In each and every situation, especially relating to the keiki in your lives, we challenge you to first find the positive spark and really focus on that. Sometimes this task will be easy, and other times it may be extremely hard to find the glimmer of hope, but trust us, there is always a positive to build upon. Like attracts like, so as we focus on what’s going right, more things that are going right start happening, causing an upward spiral of pure awesomeness. We also know that as we focus on and pick out the negative things, those too start growing and before we know it, it can appear all doom and gloom. Practice focusing on the things that are going well in your life. Write down three things everyday and watch the magic happen!

#3 Mindset is key. We need to be INTENTIONAL

What we tell ourselves repeatedly becomes our truth. When you come up upon something new, do you see it as exciting or terrifying? Are challenging situations about effort and drive or more about outcomes and achievement for you? Just as we need to be responsible for the energy we bring, we need to be intentional about the mindsets that we bring. The funny thing is that mindsets are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think we can or think you can’t, you are right! Mindsets can also be contagious. Our keiki often adopt our mindsets- when we tell them that they can do it, they believe us. If we tell them it is too hard, they will also probably believe us! For the next week or so, be mindful and intentional about your mindset and see what insights are revealed to you!

#4 Our PERSPECTIVE changes our world

Perspective is everything. They say seeing is believing, but more importantly, if you believe something, you will see it. Life can be challenging, we know. Are situations happening for you to learn valuable lessons or are they happening to you? Are you fixated only on the details of the weeds in the yard that need to be picked or can you also look up and align with a bigger perspective of the amazing fire-in-the-Hawaii-sky sunsets we have been blessed with lately? Duality and polarity are a part of life. Differences in perspectives are what make us unique and beautiful. What if you could try to focus on common ground instead of taking such rigid stances the moment you feel threatened by differences? What if you seek to listen and understand instead of defend ourselves all the time? There are always at least two sides to every story. The beauty is that we get to choose our perspective on any situation! Yasss!

#5 One small thing= ENORMOUS impact

As parents and educators of young keiki, we do what we do because we love it. Sometimes is is a thankless job. Other times, a simple smile, drawing, or a funny conversation are enough thanks to fill our day to the brim with sunshine. The truth is, we may never really get to see the long term impact we have on others. We have but this moment. Rest assured though, what you are doing makes a huge difference! Just like the ripples that form when a pebble is dropped in a pond, what you are doing as educators and parents is indeed causing a ripple effect for our keiki and future generations.You are making a difference. An exponential difference, at that! Next time you get overwhelmed with teaching or parenting, pause. Even if for just a few moments. Take some deep breaths, step into your mental time machine, and start envisioning the positive long term effects you desire.

H-PEP Truths

H-PEP Truths - Long Description

Calls to Action

H-PEP ends each workshop we do with a Calls to Action, or tangible steps to implement learning in everyday life. These are our Calls to Action to you after reading this. Do you feel called to connect with us? Are you interested in getting involved with our Positive Engagement Movement? We would love to have you! Here are some ways to become an H-PEP’er. Pre-registration on our website is required . All events are free to attend and include materials. How awesome is that! For more information email

  • Join our first ever Parent Cohort! October 1- November 4, 2017. Think “circle time for parents” where you will build community, learn, and share! In this 6-week group of parents passionate about parenting and learning, you will attend an in-person Open Retreat focused on YOU and your unique strengths, abilities, and visions for yourself and your family. For the next several weeks, you will join our exclusive Google+ Community Group, where short and interesting learning videos will be posted two times a week. In addition to learning the evidence-based homeBase curriculum that has been proven to teach parents school readiness skills for children ages 3-5 years old, you will have access to videos on building strengths, positive mindset, and more. The cohort experience will end with an in-person Closing Retreat to celebrate new learning and new friendships!

  • Make a personalized book with your keiki! Saturday, August 26, 2017. Parents of children 3-5 years old as well as interested early educators and community members are invited to our make and take bookmaking session! You will make ooey goey slime and document your positive engagement using the SHELLS bookmaking model. SHELLS stands for Storytelling for the Home Enrichment of Language and Literacy Skills, created by Dr. Lisa Boyce, who will be giving a short talk on the process before we start our activities. Morning and afternoon sessions available.

  • Make time for yourself during our Well-being Retreat! Saturday, September 9, 2017. Educators and parents of children 3-5 years old are invited to our day of self-care and wellness! We will explore the power of positive mindsets, visioning, and ongoing personal reflection. You will also learn the art of lomi for keiki and practice partner lomi during the retreat under the guidance of Lomi Master and kumu Enrick Ortiz, Jr. Leave feeling connected, refreshed, and renewed!

  • Experience the Circle of Security. Saturday, October 7, 2017. Educators and parents of children 3-5 years old are invited to this amazing training put on by visiting certified presenter and Early Interventionist, Dr. Susan Mrazek. Explore your children’s needs in relation to The Circle model, how to “be with” keiki on The Circle, how to help keiki feel more secure, and how to repair relationships when they “rupture.” This is a day of personal reflection and how to make do-able shifts in your everyday life.

Final thoughts

H-PEP believes positively engaged educators and parents will change the world! Imagine what we will do when we connect, align, and synergize! H-PEP is listening to your needs, and together we are re-envisioning what strengths- based, relevant, grounded, informative, and transformational professional development and training are in Hawaii. Thank you again for being our everyday heroes. Thank you for doing your part to make the Positive Engagement Movement move!

With deepest gratitude,


Photo: Naomi Rombaoa Tanaka

Naomi Rombaoa Tanaka, M.S. is a faculty member of the Center on Disability Studies at the College of Education, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where her work has focused on fostering the strengths of educators, families, and students through workshops and ongoing support. She is currently working on her PhD in Learning Design and Technology. Her area of study is how technology can be used to increase personal happiness, peace, and resilience.