Education Corner 4

by Richard Womack, Ed.D - 28 SEP 2015

Last KPress edition Education Corner suggested that when visiting the Pohnpei airport it would be worthwhile to take some time to look at pictures of our fallen veterans and think about their sacrifices. This was a homework exercise for Veterans Day November 11th. It is also a good exercise for a field trip for any school and any grade. However, all of you can see that a visit to the Wall of Honor is a different kind of learning. It's about learning about and even feeling pride. It's about having respect for our FSM Veterans and respect and pride for being an FSM Citizen. Should a teacher be teaching about respect and pride? We think most of us would answer "yes". We say it should be part of the school's curriculum. What does this mean?
This is easy. Teachers teach curriculum and they teach curriculum based on standards and benchmarks. In general, the curriculum is everything we teach. The "curriculum" is the formal subjects such as arithmetic/mathematics, the social studies (geography, history and even economics), the sciences (life sciences and physical sciences) and the all important language arts (reading, writing, listening and speaking). We usually call the school subjects, the "formal curriculum" as it is written down in the form of curriculum standards and approved by some education authority. In the FSM, it is the National Department of Education (NDOE) and in Pohnpei it is the the State Department of Education (PDOE) who approves the curriculum standards we use in our schools. The formal curriculum must be the guide for all teaching and learning in our schools.
However, curriculum also includes such matters as teaching and learning good citizenship; teaching and learning how to be good members of the traditional community; teaching and learning how to be healthy in Pohnpei and other topics not part of the formal curriculum. So teaching students to care for their books, keeping their educational environment (classroom and school grounds) clean, and being respectful to others are daily duties of a teacher. In one of the worst health environments on Earth teachers are especially obliged to try and change very unhealthy lifestyles habits we have adopted nowadays. This sort of teaching and learning can be called the informal curriculum and is an important part of teaching. But this informal curriculum is where the parents, the family and the community are far more important than the teachers. Here is an example.
Little Willie spends the year answering questions such as as: Choose the healthiest food a) Karat, b) Donut, c) Rice, d) Soda, or e) Bowl Ramen. Willie usually gets above 90% on these sorts of questions. Likewise Little Willie can memorize lists and reproduce them as lists of junk foods; local/healthy foods; vitamins and minerals; carbohydrates and fats and on and on. Little Willies does this memorizing and listing very well and again gets above 90%. So when Little Willies receives an A on his report card his parents are very proud. But what if Little Willie has a donut, some rice, a bowl of ramen and a grape soda every day for breakfast? Good habits must be taught and practiced in the home, with family and in the community and reinforced in the schools.
It is so gratifying to see real changes. The work done by our friends at the Island Food Community of Pohnpei first in Mand and then all around Pohnpei can be seen. The terrific research by the late Dr. Lois Englberger on the health values of local foods is recognized world-wide. But when we began to see church groups, community groups, schools and government offices say— "Let's have some bananas instead of donuts; some water instead of soda— local rather than imported"—we began making some progress with attitude change. You can see that Little Willie's A in health is not too important until his knowledge is reinforced and carried out at home and in his community. Good grades at school mean nothing without community support.
All of us expect teachers teaching and students to be learning good habits, attitudes, beliefs and values in our schools. Here we usually add Pohnpeian/ Micronesian to each of these. At the most recent Micronesian Teacher Education Conference a traditional leader brought up Pohnpeian values. For fifteen (15) minutes teachers, administrators, and community participants added to the importance of values. With all heads nodding there was no doubt everyone there wanted Pohnpeian values in the school curriculum. Readers are probably nodding too. That is fine but do be prepared for homework in the future when you are asked to define Pohnpeian values. There is very difficult homework ahead about making decision in a changing cultural environment. Remember we cannot stop change, we can only learn to manage it. It is our children who will be making decisions. These will be wise decisions—if we guide them today.

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Education Corner 3

by Richard Womack, Ed.D - 14 SEP 2015
TO: Community
FR: Education Corner
RE: Homework for Holidays
Last month Education Corner spoke about student and teacher attendance. The homework was mostly to observe your community and see if children are going to school on time. If they are not in school and on time they cannot learn. Likewise there was a little homework to begin watching teacher attendance. For sure our children cannot learn if teachers are not present to teach them. Also EC hopes teachers are putting the students first and don't spend a whole school day at a promised brother's third cousin's father-in-laws promised brother's funeral.
But today EC comments on holidays and those are the wonderful days when students, teachers and the principal do not have to attend school. Of course all public service employees love a holiday. It means "no work". Most of us never think about why the day is so important. After all, it is a paid holiday and tax payers are paying teachers not to go to work. The day must be important if we're being paid not to work.
Twenty five or so years ago I asked a group of college students, "What is the purpose of Pohnpei Liberation Day?" The answer was an overwhelming, "So we can play games". I would never have expected American students to say that Americans celebrate the 4th of July, "So we can shoot off fireworks and have parades". At once I recalled an old Professor's advice: "Never let the student have a day off without a lesson as to why. Every holiday deserves a social studies lesson." He said something about cause and effect in the social sciences.
Anyway, last Friday 9/11 was a holiday- Pohnpei Liberation Day. EC hopes the lessons were more about the present than the past. Yes it marked our end to World War II and Japanese Colonial occupation. At the same time it liberated us to run our own lives and have a democratic government. . Of course we cannot rewrite history and we are all friends today. Colonial times were harsh times for those being occupied and for some very harsh. But Liberation Day Micronesians were freed from Colonialism, a policy practiced by many powerful countries such as Spain and Germany here in the FSM. Our 9/11 means we were liberated to go toward something not just from something.
Today most of the world and the United Nations disapprove of strong nations taking over weaker places like our islands and using them for their own advantage. Colonial times were harsh times for those occupied and for sure education was not the same. While the Japanese did begin the first "Public Education" that education was for only three years and was designed to make Micronesians loyal parts of the Japanese Empire. It was never in the interest of Colonial Powers to provide too much education for the people—after all people might find out about being free and running their own lives. A little education was fine but just enough for the masses to communicate and understand who were in charge of their lives. Today countries such as the United States, China and Japan which were all enemies at one time join together to help the FSM to move toward a free and better life for the citizens. All of the countries now say "the more education the better". These former enemies are now our friends and big donors to FSM education. EC hopes the Liberation Day lessons were about being liberated to go TO something rather than liberated FROM something. Enough about Liberation Day! It was last Friday anyway.
Before Veterans Day (11/11) think about your family members who joined a branch of the U S Armed forces. EC is sure most of them have benefitted from their service and we can be thankful for those family members. But get some "extra credit" by visiting the "Honor wall" at the Pohnpei Airport where you can see the pictures of the young FSM men and FSM women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the United States. They sacrificed their lives and brought honor to their family, their village, their State and to their new nation. Take your children and point out these heroes. Have a short prayer or a moment of silent honor. When we pay tribute to our fallen heroes we are reminded that no price can be put on human life.
Today it is difficult for us to take the criticisms when our citizens migrate to Guam and Hawaii. We see figures of millions of dollars for health care, education, public safety and welfare at a cost to U S taxpayers. Indeed these are partially offset by many of our hardworking FSM citizens—paying taxes and contributing to their communities. But our migration and associated cost are real. When you look and think about our heroes remember there is no price for human life. These young men and women have paid something for all of us. Tell your children we accept help—but we have given much. We can all be proud for and with our Veterans on Veterans Day.

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Education Corner: Richard Womack, Ed.D

24 August 2015

When I asked Mr. Bill Jaynes, our editor for some space to do a little column called Education Corner he asked a typical and professional editor's question. I paraphrase but something like—What about education will the readers find hidden in this corner? I could only say the column would not be a "dark corner".
I told Editor Jaynes that I had written a column using the same header "Education Corner" (EC) years back but the old EC was written as a Professor of Education at COM-FSM. I related to Mr. Jaynes that I wrote at that time about issues such as improving our college student learning and specifically about matters about improving the learning of our future teachers. I admitted I had always written to the public by providing information about improvements we were making at COM-FSM or planning to make at the college. I also discussed certain problems or challenges our college was facing at that time. There was nothing wrong with that approach and EC presented the most accurate and best information available. After all, providing information is part of teaching and understanding information part of learning. We have all been through some formal education and the community understands this. I told Mr. Jaynes that this new EC would focus on one thing and one thing only— improving learning in Pohnpei Elementary Schools and that alone would cover many months of bi-weekly editions of Kaselehlie Press.
Also in the old EC the education issues were quite broad and EC did not ask for or solicit information or feedback from the reading audience. In fact, there was no way of even knowing if there was a reading audience. When I wrote EC I felt as if I was delivering a lecture or a speech or almost preaching to the community. There was no way to tell if the community was listening. In many ways the old EC went against something I say to teachers: "If you want to learn something, try talking with your students. Teaching and learning is not about talking and listening. Teaching is not about talking at or to your students and learning magically occurs by listening to the teacher. Teachers need to engage students and make them part of the learning. In the end you, the teacher, will be surprised what you too will learn". The old EC never left any homework for the community. This new EC will certainly speak about this idea in the months ahead and the community will always have a little homework.
So with that said I told Mr. Jaynes that this time around I wanted to do the EC in a different way. I told him that I was no longer with the college but with a group called Womack and Associates (2015). I proposed that EC could use the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. address and interact with the public in a more personal yet still professional manner. EC would still provide accurate information on education needs and areas in need of improvement to the community but this time around EC would involve the community and show the community how they may help. Helping Pohnpei students improve is everyone's job. Being sure teachers are improving so they better serve our students is everyone's business. Helping the school principal improve teachers so teachers can help improve student learning is everyone's concern. In short helping with improving education for Pohnpei elementary school students should be at the front of everyone's mind. It is the only issue on the collective mind of Womack and Associates (2015). It is why the Associates have joined together.
So to help with this improvement process EC will focus on written documents that demand community participation. The first sets of "paper" are FSM Accreditation reports on every school in Pohnpei. These outline very specific strength and weaknesses of each school and give each school an accreditation rating. When schools are showing the environment for learning has improved they may better the rating. But, and most importantly, the FSM Accreditation is really focused on increasing student learning. When a school shows student learning is improving that is the real key. A school's community need never worry about accreditation when student learning is improving. But know this dear community; this improvement means funding and lack of improvement means less funding. Improvement now and preparation for 2023 demands improvement now and it cannot occur with less money. And as readers will find out each issue: Improvement will not occur without community involvement and support
TO: Community
FR: Education Corner
RE: Attendance
HOMEWORK: First look at student attendance. Each school keeps data on Average Daily Attendance or ADA. It is an accreditation factor and improving this will help with ratings. This never means send a sick child to school. We must never do that, but look to see if there are school age children home playing on their property or the streets? Your homework this week is easy. Just look to see. The next EC will offer a few "pointers". If you see lots of school age students at play when they should be in school—there are things that can be done.
Finally next issue will be about the most important tool for improvement –The School Improvement Plan-the SIP. There will be a little homework too but on teacher attendance--
Dr. Richard Womack is the Senior Associate/ Budget Officer with Womack and Associates (2015) a local capacity building business whose purpose was described above and at present are searching for ways to provide Continuing Education for elementary teachers in the sciences and social studies. A further aim of the Associates is providing locally based curriculum and assuring that teachers and students have adequate textbooks and materials to improve learning in these areas.
Dr. Womack served the COM-FSM system for 29 years. Twenty years were spent training teachers-two of which were spent training principals. He has authored many papers on various education topics and has written several textbooks. He is most noted for An Introduction to Professional Teaching and Student Learning in Micronesia-the COM-FSM textbooks used in all FSM States in the ED210-Introduction to Professional Teaching, the first course taken for future teachers. He always claims his most valuable education came as a 5th-8th grade teacher in the elementary schools where he taught for seven (7) years.

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Education Corner 2

31 August 2015

Last issue the Education Corner (EC) left a little homework for everyone about student attendance. Quite simply, are children seen around neighborhoods playing when they should be in school? We should have added are there many students straggling along "on their way" long after school has begun. But the homework was a little unfair since school is just now beginning.
For now readers should know that some schools have very high Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and some schools are not quite as high. Why is this? That is really the homework question. It's a community matter. While we have no real research it seems that communities that make formal education a community priority have good attendance. But EC will continue to ask, "Why do some schools have high ADA and some not?" So let us know what you think at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or leave a comment on this article in the Kaselehlie Website at

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