Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Matariki reflections

Last week I had the absolute privilege to take 50 tamariki from our school Kapa Haka group to Te Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay, Wellington for a noho (stay overnight).  The purpose of this noho was to connect these children further with each other (whakawhanuangatanga) and to connect them further with Te Ao Māori (the Māori World), Tikanga Māori and Te Reo Māori (language and culture).

For the majority of these children this was their first time onto a Marae and their first time partaking in a pōwhiri.  It was a day of first for me too.  I needed to learn a karanga (call) to use as they called us on to the Marae and I also had to learn a speech (whaikōrero) in te reo to respond with during the formalities.  Luckily a good friend from the Māori Language Commission was able to help me with this but I spent a lot of time memorising these.  I found that understanding what each word meant helped me memorise what to say and in what order. So here was this blonde haired, blue eyed descendant of a NZ Māori taking a step outside of her comfort zone, but so filled with pride of my heritage, representing her kura, her whānau and her tupuna as we were welcomed on.

Those of you who may be unfamiliar with Te Tapu Te Ranga, the kaupapa of the marae is "Kaitiakitanga" - to care for Mother Earth, to be guardians, to think about being sustainable.  This kaupapa was reiterated to us by Bruce Stewart, the kaumatua and founder of this marae.  He spoke to the children about Matariki and how it was a chance for us to look to the past in order to work out what we must do in the future. How we must look after the land and not make the same mistakes.

For me I relished this opportunity to connect with my culture and to amp up my te reo.  When I worked in early childhood I spoke te reo all the time but I realised how much more I could be using it in my classroom environment.  I know that the little bit I do does rub off on my students but it made me sad when another student from another class asked me at dinner time "What does kai mean?".

So I am looking to my past in order to plan my future - I make a further commitment to integrate te reo Māori into my teaching practice. To weave both the values and the language in to my daily life.  For te reo is a living language and must be used in order to give it life.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Eduignite talk "Makerspace Mondays"

This is the Eduignite Talk that I presented in front of 50 connected educators in Wellington a few weeks ago. It was my first Eduignite talk and to be honest I wasn't as freaked out as I probably should have been. Why not you ask? Well a lot of it has to do with the fact that I was presenting to people that I respect and trust. Over the past 8 months I have grown my Professional Learning Network (PLN) here in Wellington as a member and organiser of WellyEd.  I have gotten to know my audience and have removed the fear of presenting my ideas and thoughts. It is ok if I am wrong - I like to take risks with my own learning.  I encourage my students to do this so of course I should be doing this myself!!

I really enjoyed the evening itself. I got to listen to other passionate educators presenting their ideas "igniting" new ideas for myself. However the highlight of my evening was the reflection of my "guests" for the evening (2 colleagues and a friend), none of which who had been to any connected events like this before.  All of them were blown away by a) the fact that there were these teachers out there talking about really cool stuff and b) at how safe it was to talk about your ideas.  Outcome = 3 more connected educators!!

So the whole "ignite" aspect of the evening has worked. I have some visitors coming in 2 weeks time to hang out during Makerspace time and the lovely Angelee has let her students loose with the creativity too!

Keep connecting people!

Culture Counts

I'm going to be honest and say that when presented with information about thinking about cultural diversity in my teaching practice, it isn't something I feel I need to address because it is embedded already in my values and in my teaching philosophy. My fundamental value is relationships. To be an effective teacher I must have good relationships with my students.

So why do so many teachers fail to recognise students culture and what they bring to the classroom?

I wonder if this is actually embedded in how we view children. Do we see them as competent and capable? Do we believe in the concept of ako - that we are both teachers and learners and so are our students? Who holds the power in our classroom?

To look outward one must also look inward. How are we evaluating resources and initiatives that address the needs of Māori and Pacifika students? They address these cultural needs within the context of there being more than 1 student who identifies as being of that culture. How do we address the fact that some of us work in predominantly european schools?

I ask these questions because I've heard the arguments and I've seen the excuses.

My solution would to be look at something similar to Te Kotahitanga  - that we use culturally responsive pedagogy to form our relationships in the classroom.  That we address power-relations, that we see each student as being culturally located and we think about our teaching strategies and how they meet the needs of the learner.  Most of all, that we actually build proper relationships with our students.

Culture isn't a separate entity, it is part of our students so by getting to know our students we will know more about what they have to bring to our classrooms whether that is "cultural" or not.