I remember being a fresh teacher candidate-turned-college-graduate straight out of undergrad from the College of Education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. I had no clue where to begin as a teacher, but I had a mission: to inspire and guide my students through the short year I have with them. My plan was to “Boy Meets World” all of my kids! I was going to be Mr. Feeny and a grown-up Cory Matthews, combined! Somewhere along the way, though, nine years after I stepped into my first classroom, I lost that initial fire and fell into the steady current of the school. I’m not sure when it happened, but the initial passion and optimism I felt had gone stale. Kind of like when you leave a can of soda open in the refrigerator and come back to it later to find it flat and boring. I was flat soda. Teaching the curriculum, giving grades, and attending meetings became focal points. What happened to just teaching?
The Ethnomathematics program has allowed me to rediscover the driving force behind why I teach and who I am to my students. In fact, my title of teacher is not the same as most people understand teachers to be. My kūleana is to find the mathematics from which my students come from. It is up to me to be the liaison between western views of mathematics and make things culturally relevant to my students. Mathematics is much more than memorizing an algorithm or catchy rhymes to help you remember the steps. It is place-based, project-based, and student-centered.
I honestly believe that Ethnomathematics has unearthed an awareness in me that was unconsciously developed over my nine years as an elementary school teacher. I didn’t become a teacher to read out of a manual that was developed by someone across the ocean. I didn’t become a teacher to passively accept the state of education as it is today. Ethnomathematics provides a way for us to realize our place in the world and for the world to recognize who we are. Moving forward, I intend wholeheartedly to seek ways to humanize mathematics and create meaningful experiences of which my students can make connections.