Valuing our Chuukese-ness

Last week I co-facilitated a Leadership Institute for the senior leadership in the Chuuk State Department of Education. While I learned a lot from my co-facilitators Fr. Arthur Leger, SJ, Ph.D., and Mr. Destin Penland,  I left Chuuk feeling like I gained much more than I gave the participants. I was very inspired by the  Chuukese leaders in the department who struggled to lead educational reform in the State within an old dysfunctional system. Listening to the leaders discuss their visions and struggles in education and leadership in the context of our Chuukese reality made me appreciate  our uniquely Chuukese way of doing things…our Chuukese-ness.

Throughout the week-long institute, we asked the participants to take 15 minutes each day in quiet reflection on a question related to the 3 R’s that were the focus of our conference; namely, Results, Responsibilities, and Relationships. I would like to share what I learned from the participants based on their reflections on the following questions: 1) What is your personal vision of an ideal Chuukese school? 2) What does it mean to be a Chuukese leader today?

Visions of an Ideal Chuukese School

  • A Chuukese school should educate the Chuukese child to be fully Chuukese, appreciative of his/her Chuukese values and cultures, and prepared to be a productive member of his local community and the world.
  • Cultural Education: Chuukese students should also be assessed on their knowledge of traditional / cultural skills in addition to reading, writing, math, science, etc.
  • Attitudes towards education & religion: Chuukese people should value the education of their kids as much as they value religion in Chuuk
  • Positive Environment: Where students are affirmed and find a positive learning environment
  • Quality Resources:  Textbooks for every child, competitive salary to attract more quality teachers
  • Clarity of Responsibility: Job descriptions
  • SIP: Self Improvement Plan
  • Strong Community Involvement
  • Communication: e.g. Chuukese translations of the Chuuk State Reform Plan so it is accessible to all Chuukese
  • Student Achievement: Students test scores are above passing
  • Fiscal Responsibility: Clean financial accounting
  • Lunch Program: Students learn on a full stomach
  • An Engaged Board of Education: Board members understand their roles and a good understanding of the school system
  • Outer island support: Consistent support for all schools including the outer islands
  • Joyfulness: A joyful school / community environment
  • Technical Assistance: Where local skills lacking, more technical assistance from overseas
  • Managing Change: Everyone in the school community are able to manage change
  • Care & Commitment in the community
  • Motivation & Migration
  • Service to the Community: Education to serve others
  • Vocation: Where teaching is a vocation and not just a paycheck

A Chuukese Leader Today

  • To become a great leader in Chuuk one must have the following:
    • Have understanding of people & culture
    • Responsible
    • Intelligent / knowledgeable
    • Loving and caring
    • Very humble
  • To ask the difficult questions!
  • A person who is willing to listen and care for his people
  • A person who is strong to say “NO” to what is wrong
  • A person who has the strong heart to communicate, teach with tipen mwaan. Tipen mwan is the heart of a Chuukese man.
  • A leader will lsten, lead and have the tipen mwan to communicate & teach
    • Ewe iik sengir – a fish for the chief
    • Kechiwer – Sacrifice his for all others
  • “A leader is like an island – the winds may blow – the waves may crash but he stands strong and provides strength for all who depend upon him (or her).”
  • A leader is a father of customs, not a slave to customs.
  • The clan leader is the leader of all the clan members. He inspires the people and leads them in collecting, and distributing food and other resource for the common goods of all his relatives. He has a clear vision for his people. A true Chuukese leader most valuable resource in people as highlighted in a famous Chuukese prophets “Aramas chok angang, aramas chok mongo, aramas chook pisek…”
  • One who integrates all responsibilities, care and love Chuuk, faithfully carry out duties and responsibilities of your position with care and love….accepting that you are not perfect. Eepeufichi seresin waach-we non ei matawen ange-chu, eki-chu, me tipe-chu.
  • I can be a trustworthy “leader” to lead the “people” of Chuuk. Erekisom (think of others over self)! Motisom!
  • Be a man!

“Io mwaan?” Emon mwaan…Epwe soupweng, Epwe mot:
-Pwengin lepuk
-Epwe pwengi
-Epwe pwengi: communicating conflict
-Epwe pwengi koutaan uut (new projects)

  • Tongei, tumunu nonomuch chon Chuuk, iei, nesor, fefeino chok. True leaders in Chuuk need to think beyond themselves, need to think for the betterment of the whole.
  • The adverse conditions we are experiencing has molded us into people, different from the traditional Chuukese. WE are losing sight of ourselves due to hardship and continued suffering.
  • A true leader must be prepared to be unpopular and hated, initially until his/her vision is realized. Despite our resistance, when we see that a leader is moving in a rightful directlon, we follow.
  • A Chuukese leader must teach by example! Saying one thing while doing another is self-defeating. He/she must be strong, overlook criticism, and lead with integrity! Move out of the comfort zone and take positive risks to move the Education system forward.
    • “Ekinakou ekis non ena anonon.”
  • “A Chuukese loving heart.”
    • That can carry out the tasks whether in rough times or good times.
    • That can endure the risks for the common of the children (people).
  • A leader gives like a mother hen
    • Gathers, Nourishes, provides Warmth
    • Lead
    • Follow
    • Protect
  • A Chuukese leader should have these rocks:
    • Foun Mongochun – to be heavy with knowledge
    • Foun Nionofou – not to easily react