Public school starts today — are you ready?

Last week I focused on the academic side of learning, and how you can look up your grade level Hawaii Common Core Standards at the Hawaii Department of Educations.

The other area of education that fulfills education’s goal of preparing our young for the future is socialization via the development of positive character traits, and also what behavior is expected of them in society.

There are some basic character traits that if they were learned by everyone, would create a much kinder society. Many people come to the Hawaiian Islands because they have heard about the spirit of aloha that is here.

Auntie Mary Kawena Pukui defined aloha as, “love, mercy, compassion, pity; greeting; loved one; to love; and to greet.” It is also used as a form of goodbye. But the indefinable part of “aloha” goes beyond the words. There is a spirit of aloha, a sense of the interconnectedness of all life.

“Ha” means to breathe, or breath of life. Life is sacred. “Ola” means presence, or to share. Hawaiians actually share breath with each other in their traditional greeting. They are literally sharing the understanding of each other’s sacredness. One acts with love, mercy, compassion, respect, etc. to each other because of who we truly are.

The Aloha Spirit is a part of the Hawaii State Law. Here is the law as recorded there:

Definition of Aloha Spirit State Law

[§5-7.5] “Aloha Spirit.” (a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha,” the following unuhi laula loa (broad public interpretation) may be used:

“Akahai,” meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;

“Lokahi,” meaning unity,to be expressed with harmony;

“Oluolu,” meaning agreeable,to be expressed with pleasantness;

“Haahaa,” meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

“Ahonui,” meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.

“Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

“Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

“Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.

“Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

(b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit.” [L 1986, c 202, §1]”

Historically, the spirit of aloha was the law. People were raised up in it, learning it from elders who demonstrated it to them with their loving presence to others. If people are living from this loving aloha spirit, they will not hurt or steal from their family, neighbors or anyone. They will listen to each other, and seek peace when differences in perception arise.

For people who are helped by having more structure in how to behave, the Hawaii DOE came up with “good character traits” some years ago. Here they are;

Respect: “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements; due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others.” Even if others appear not to deserve respect, they are still capable of turning their lives around at any time. They still share the sacred breath of life.

Responsibility: Being accountable for something, “owning” the mistake. We all make them, and need to do our best to make them right. It also means doing the tasks assigned to us whether in school, home or on the job.

Compassion: “The humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.” Many children have this naturally, and it can be encouraged to grow and express. This will need backup from home.

Cooperation: “Working together to get something done.” It takes skill and practice to work with others, but it’s essential for happiness in the home, community and workplace. Being on a sports team teaches this to kids, but they also have to learn how to give a group report, or do a science project together. If one fails, they all go down a notch.

Friendly: “Being kind, pleasant, helpful, supportive, and not hostile.” It means going up to the new kid and introducing yourself. It means helping the child who fell down and whose books went everywhere. It could mean something as simple as smiling at someone. A smile puts people at ease. It makes us feel better, too.

Self-discipline: “The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses,” and also “the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” Or perhaps peer pressure to do something you know you shouldn’t. We must learn to control our anger. It’s OK to feel it. It means that you didn’t get your way. We live with others. They also want their way. It’s not OK to hurt ourselves or others verbally or physically when we get angry. Find ways to calm and soothe yourself until you are thinking clearly. Then use your best thinking to figure out your next step.

Perseverance: sticking with something until it is done, even if it gets hard, or you get bored. It’s OK to take breaks, and in fact, some people give directions to their minds to work on it even while the body might be having a meal, or sleeping. It’s OK to get help if you’re stuck. But finish your task, or go to your teacher, and discuss the “hard place.”

Honesty: being sincere, trustworthy, truthful, honorable, fair, and genuine. We have so many qualities expressing it because it is so very important. We need to be able to trust each other. It’s why penalties are so severe for students who are caught cheating on tests. It’s also the backbone of relationships. We have to be able to trust our significant others. People can take things away from you, but if you are honest, they can never take away your integrity or your good reputation. They can falsely accuse you, but in time the truth will prevail.

I couldn’t find the character traits on the DOE website. They are still essential to learn, and some are reflected in the General Learner outcomes, which are more academic. From the DOE website:

“For many years, through changes in leadership, assessments and curricula, the General Learner Outcomes have been there. These are the over-arching goals of standards-based learning for all students in all grade levels. Our teachers rely upon rubrics built upon these to inform their assessment of students — going beyond academic achievement to ensure students become engaged, lifelong learners. They are:

– Self-directed Learner (The ability to be responsible for one’s own learning)

– Community Contributor (The understanding that it is essential for human beings to work together)

– Complex Thinker (The ability to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving)

– Quality Producer (The ability to recognize and produce quality performance and quality products)

– Effective Communicator (The ability to communicate effectively)

– Effective and Ethical User of Technology (The ability to use a variety of technologies effectively and ethically)”

I say we’ve got to educate the whole child in as loving and peaceful an environment as possible. Happy new year teachers and students. I know that you will do your best. Learn all the technology and thinking and producing skills, and remember to listen to your’s, and each others’ hearts as well. Aloha oe, may you be and feel loved.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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