Archive for the ‘education’ Category


ThanLetter to the Bee

Thank you, Sacramento Bee, for publishing my letter to the Editors. This is in response to a story they ran on education. They had hired a dolphin trainer who worked well with dolphins and children to teach in a poor school district.  I saw red when I saw this, having spent my whole career with our children. They deleted my line “Our children are not dolphins.”

For teachers and parents who work with children, please check out my book on how children learn best: Teacher, You Look Like a Horse. We certainly don’t feed them fish for every right answer.


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At the post office, an elderly man with a cane and I approached the door at the same time and I opened the door for him. He thanked me, put his back against the door and let me in first. I thanked him. Yes, ladies first.

Leaving the post office, a young man tried to enter as I was leaving. He  opened the door and entered, closing the door into my face.

Walking into the Alzheimer’s Office, I saw a caregiver and an elderly man with a cane coming out of the office. I opened the door and the caregiver walked out. The elderly man exchanged looks with me and I got his message. He held the door open for me, a bit unsteady on his feet,  and I walked in, thanking him. Yes, ladies first. I saw his caregiver waiting by her car.

After a business lunch in Hawaii, my host walked me to the car and opened the door for me. I told him,  “I can’t remember the last time someone opened a car door for me.”  When I was in high school, I asked one of the boys to open the door and he said, “What? You cripple?” But we forgive boys in high schools, don’t we?

We speak in fear of what the electronic world is doing to humanity and how invisible we are becoming.  Are these men I mention the last disappearing act?


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A former first grade student of 50 years ago, got in touch to thank me for teaching her how to read and for adding literature to her life. I sat stunned thinking, “I taught her to read. Imagine that.”

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My heart kept busting all over. Four of my Kindergarten students from Laupahoehoe School came to my book signings, all grown up. I was a green teacher at age 25, when I had the privilege of being their K teacher. I followed them up to first grade. Thank you, Harvey, Sandra, Doreen at my Hilo signing and Sandi, at my Honolulu signing. Harvey was quiet who looked at me with soulful eyes, Sandra W came into the classroom like thunder, Doreen sat like a lady with her long eyelashes. Sandi smiled shyly. ( Her dad remembers me as a quiet teacher).

It was from this class that I got the title of my book: Teacher, You Look Like a Horse. I had spent all morning fixing my hair in a French braid when one of them rushed into the classroom, looked at me and said, “Teacher, you look like a horse.”


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In today’s front page of our paper, a story of how kids from a public school here were called Asian racist names during a basketball game.
This is not the first time these girls were taunted with racial slurs…being yelled “Soy Sauce!” Go Back to Fiji!”, “Small Eyes!”, “You’re Ugly!”
A Japanese father who was there told the Bee on-line, how his grandfather was interned, his father was in the Army during WWII so their children wouldn’t
be treated with such indignities.  I wrote the following to the authors of this story. Whether they will publish or not is a ?.

Dear Ms. Locke and Mr. Lindelof
My gratitude to you for the story in the Bee this morning.

Would be you be able to direct this to Letters to the Editor?

Do you think unkindness and inhumane behavior that have been so carefully or so carelessly taught in these youngsters can be unlearned?
When I was in high school, these students drove us Japanese girls to use scotch tape to make our eyes look bigger for  that ” Caucasian  double eyes look” to avoid
taunts of “Jap”  and “Slant Eyes”. I am saddened and furious that these youngsters have not gone away and are still here in El Dorado Hills.

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Is there a Santa Claus


Wendy was a former third grade student who pushed me to teach her. “Teach me everything  you know,” she said, when she discovered I was keeping my curriculum geared to the 8 or 9 year olds. “I can’t do that, “ I told her. “Some things need to be learned when you’re older.”


A year later, a 4th grader then, she stood at my classroom door during recess with an entourage of students behind her. “Miss Kakugawa,” she began, “Is there a Santa Claus?” The look on her face, especially in her eyes, gave me my answer. The smirk on some of the children’s faces who stood behind her also gave me my answer.


During the holidays, grades K-6, I read The Polar Express to the class and gave each child a Christmas bell. During Halloween, I read Roald Dahl’s The Witches* and passed out candy.

In between the holidays, I read The Borrowers. I tried to bring magic into the curriculum through literature.


Is there a Santa Claus? I looked at Wendy and said,” I believe in Santa Claus so for me, there is a Santa Claus. When you believe in something, it becomes real.”


She turned around to the kids and said, with two hands on her hips, “See?”

Smirks disappeared and they all disbanded with Wendy walking  with  longer strides.

I tried to teach her everything I knew.


*Another student’s account of this is found in my Teacher, You Look Like a Horse.

Maybe I’ll post her reactions later if you’re interested. Let me know…



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To: 100 educators at the first National Connected Superintendent Summit to expand technology in the classroom at the White House summit.


Won’t you please pack the following poem in your head on your way to Washington? Remember, once we lose the humanity, we lose it all.


To Children of the 21st Century


How do you keep your fingers so free of dirt?

How do you come in from play without

Mud on your feet, your clothes, your cheeks?

How do you not even sweat?


How do you live without giving eye contact

To the person sitting in front of you?

How do you spend time with your friend

Without conversation?


Oh Children of the 21st Century,

Why is there silence in a room filled

With family on this holiday?

How did you become so mute?


Do you know how rain feels

Soaking your shirt to your skin?

The smell of sea salt in your hair

After a dip in the sea?


Have you watched a little seed

Pushing its first breath

Out of soil you’ve patted down

A few weeks ago?


Can you see a cardinal, a mynah,

A crow, with your eyes closed, listening

To their signature songs they sing out to you

In your own back yard?


Do you know the feel of your grandpa’s grip

Warm and strong in your hand?

The story behind that long scar that runs

The length of his arm?


Do you ever count clouds, lying

On soft green grass, laughing

Over silly stuff shared with a friend?

Do you ever cry over a child starving


In Africa or in your neighborhood?

Feel upset over trees being cut

For freeways and shopping malls,

Fancy sports arenas?


Have you ever used the eraser

At the end of a pencil,

Writing a poem, a song, a story.

A thank you note?


Do you know the feel of crisp

New pages of a book, as they unfold

Moving plots, faster than your impatient

Fingers can follow your eyes?


Oh, Children of the 21st Century,

Forgive us, for what we have done.


© Frances Kakugawa



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WW with notepad

The Suzume No Gakko Summer School in San Jose

invited me to speak to their students in grades 1 – 6,  on being an author. It was to captive audiences that I   shared stories on how my Wordsworth books were written. But when Wordsworth made a surprise visit, the stage became all his.

Wordsworth was pretty excited and it looks like he shaved off his whiskers that morning. One alert first grader brought it to his attention.

WW's tail

Wordsworth promised to dance the waltz with everyone at his next visit.


Ww with kids

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A Caregiver’s Workshop over Apple Martini


After spending all morning at the AARP conference, friend  Elaine and  I went to the Pineapple Room at Macy’s for lunch. Fortunately, as it turned out, there were no tables but the bar was open.


I love sitting on bar stools; it makes me feel wicked. I ordered an Apple Martini ( the best in town) and  a salad. Soon a man sat next to me. He noticed the leis around my shoulder and asked if I were celebrating a birthday. “No,” I explained, “I just gave a lecture at the AARP conference.”


And now the most unique “pick up” began, not by one but by two. Since I’m no longer 25, this is the best I can expect in this game of “pick up.”


Our conversation led to his story of his wife struggling with caring for her father with dementia.

I sensed all the loopholes so began a mini-workshop. A woman next to him leaned over and said, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I’m caring for my sister who has Alzheimer’s.”


So over my Apple Martini, I gave a condensed version of what I had covered earliar at the conference. They took my business card and hope to read my books on caregiving. The stranger said, as we left, “This was meant to happen. Thank you. ”  Yeah, but he didn’t pay for my drink.


Elaine said, “This is way better than sitting at a table in a restaurant. This would never have happened outside of a bar.” Elaine paid for my martini lunch.





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Jan Ken Po Craft Fair

I was at the annual fund raiser for the Jan Ken Po summer school for Japanese American children  in Sacramento today. This past summer, I was invited to teach haiku writing with my Wordsworth the Poet books,  so I’m familiar with their curriculum on preserving the Japanese culture in children. I was there today to sign my books for Heritage Source to help the fund raiser.

A young girl, about 7, recognized Wordsworth the Poet book, dashed over and held the book to her chest, saying, “Wordsworth! I want Wordsworth!”

Her father asked, “Isn’t this the book you heard in school?”

She said yes, but she wanted the book.

Father said,” Since you already heard this story, there’s no need to get this book. ”

The young girl began to weep as she put Wordsworth back on the table.

Father pointed to a book on the other table and said, “Here, I’ll buy this book. There’s no sense in getting a book you already read.”

He selected a book without looking at the content. Girl kept saying, “But I want Wordsworth the Poet.”

I was interrupted by a customer so I lost track of the little girl and when I turned, they were both gone.

I later walked the aisles, looking for the girl. I found her near my table again, alone. I told her I would get Wordsworth the Poet for her and would sign it. She shook her head and said no, it’s best to get the other book that her father chose. I knew I, too, had to uphold her father’s decision.

BUT: I ran an inner dialogue to her father:

Don’t you know that a book, like art and music and any of the arts, are to be appreciated over and over again?  Don’t you listen to a favorite song over and over again?  Don’t you read your favorite poem and even memorize a few lines? How about a work of art on your wall?  Your child is crying for a book and you don’t hear her? How can you purchase a book by title alone? Do you think a book is a book and one book is like any other, in this case,  Wordsworth the Poet?  How did you know your child had heard this story in school? Wordsworth musts have so impressed her that she told you about it. I wish you could have heard what your daughter had  said to me…so much wisdom, knowing she couldn’t make you lose face by accepting the book from me.

Ah Wordsworth, I’m glad you weren’t here today. You would have whipped your tail at the father. You would have screamed, “Fathers, listen to your children and learn from them.”

All in all, it was a very  wonderful  day for sales  and signing close to  100 books was a good kind of pain for my carpal tunnel hand. The other pain was hard to take.

First photo with Carolyn of Heritage Source—2nd photo with customer Yvonne Ishimoto

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