Malama Learning Facility

Early light at dawn, sunrise image with inscription: Malama Learning Facility

Malama                   Not Malama

care                      neglect 
encouragement             discouragement
love                      fear
kindness                  violence
trust                     deceit
play                      suffering
fun                       punishment
bood                      coercion
freedom                   guilt
fairness                  shame
my rights                 timeout
feeling                   narcissism 
sharing                   materialism
acceptance                criticism 
respect                   contempt
safety                    defensiveness
listening                 stonewalling
inventiveness             obedience
wonder                    ignorance
equality                  autocracy
cooperation               competition         

Welcome and Aloha from Hawaii!

The synonym for the Hawaiian word Malama is "care." I learned of the word while teaching Hawaiian, part-Hawaiian, Samoan, and Polynesian students. The Malama Learning Facility is currently an embryonic idea for using hypertext to teach academic disciplines, social skills and moral values holistically, with a constant awareness and attention to the meaning of malama.

The following exercise, can be used with students or adults of all ages. Write down on the blackboard, the headings for two columns of words: "Malama" and "Not Malama," as above. In addition, put a few words from the above list, to give a general idea of what the word "malama" means, which helps jump start the discussion. Then, ask your students (or yourself!) to brainstorm, by calling out words, either synonyms or other terms that fit the sense or feeling of the word malama, and jot these words on the blackboard under the heading "Malama." Essentially, I am using brainstorming techniques to do value clarification. The second list, adjacent to the first, having the heading "Not Malama," allows the use of synonyms and antonyms to facilitate the brainstorming process.

The objective is for the class to think of as many words to put on the lists. Use available time to clarify word meanings, since the objective is to establish an appropriate level of trust and understanding within the classroom. Remember, brainstorming techniques mean that no word can be rejected. Every word volunteered by a student is valued, and written on the board without judgement. I'm sure you will come up with words not on this list! The list can be extended adinfinitum! Since the list is generated by the students, the teacher, if unfamiliar, can learn the terminology of the local culture, for example, see a Hawaiian values list.

Next, I like to talk about what kind of atmosphere everyone would like to establish together in the classroom. I have never experienced a class which said they wanted what was in the "Not Malama" list, so I cross it out, saying it is not what we want. I then say that with their trust and cooperation, I will try to generate a comfortable as possible environment for everyone present in the classroom. Establishing an appropriate level of comfort always takes time, and learning by both parties.


Having established that an atmosphere imbued with "Malama" is what everyone desires, I explore next how to create this atmosphere using appropriate language. This also includes culturally appropriate body language, and modes of establishing contact. What I have been asking my students to do next, is discuss what kinds of encouraging words do they want to hear from the teacher. So brainstorm another list entitled language we want to hear by selecting some words from the following list, and ask the class for additional words. Similarly, a list of words we don't want to hear can also be established. Indeed, it may generate a livelier discussion, since with abused children or adults, such words may be more familiar. Don't worry. Having established this list, one can use the antonym-synonym methodogy to go back and forth, adding words to either list.
Want to hear!                            Don't want to hear

Wow!                                       Stupid!
Excellent!                                 Dumb!
Incredible!                                Lazy!
Fantastic                                  Crazy
Great job!                                 Mental
Clever!                                    Shut up!
Precious!                                  Hopeless
Encouraging Words Lists                    Discouraging Words List

Again, culture specific responses are elicited, and these can include foreign words. Again, I cross out the right hand list having the words we don't want to hear. The reason for putting up both lists side by side is for everyone to learn to recognize the words we don't want to hear. The next step would be for us to reprogram our minds so that these unwanted words don't come out so automatically, and to practice saying the more encouraging words. From here, there is much more that can be discussed regarding language issues. Some future links I will be establishing here include: Last updated 14 November 1999

Copyright © 1995-9 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.


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