Monday, 24 October 2016

Changing the Heart of Teachers of Māori Learners

After all, it isn't Māori learners who need to change, it is us.

Teaching with cultural responsivness - I thought I was alright at this, but it just goes to show, that we are never done learning...learning about ourselves, learning about others.  This is my ako.

These last school holidays I was fortunate enough to go in the place of a colleague to a hui in Wellington about embedding Tātaiako into our school. I thought I would be over my head, but it turned out to be just the perfect PLD I needed, right now.  It was run by TRCC and was THE best conference I have ever been to.  A big claim, I know, but there it is.

It began at Te Herenga Waka Marae with powhiri and yummy kai.  We remained at the marae all morning, surrounded by its visual beauty, sheltered by it in the Wellington rain.  The first session after kai was Toku Ao, where we each shared a taonga and/or kōrero of cultural significance to us.  It was emotional and heartfelt.  People shared their hopes, whakapapa, fears and joys.  A lovely Kuia shared with us the locatedness of the marae, explaining its kōrero, the poupou, and tukutuku panels.  It brought the Wharenui to life and as each poupou represented a different iwi in Aotearoa, we all felt connected, settled, truely comfortable in our welcome.  It was here that the best gem of the conference was spoken,
"You must bring all of yourself to your teaching and share it with your students before you impose your kaupapa upon them.  To do this, you must first know your own culture before you can expect to accept the culture of others."
I left the marae feeling very relaxed and connected to everyone in our group that shared Toku Ao.  I left the marae knowing a lot more about myself.

The rest of the hui took place at a local hotel in downtown Wellington.  We heard a kōrero by Hana O'Regan and she dynamically confronted us with the stereotype of being Māori, created out of law changes and infuences out of their hands; shaped by products of their time and by people who were products of their time.  We must strive to find many, many positive stories about local Māori successes and share them, often, with many people to counter the negative media and popular beliefs of Māori.  Her wero (challenge) was that,
"You are products of your time, a different time, and so it is you who must change the view of Māori, don't perpetuate the values and thoughts of an old time."

This is our time, we are products of our time, and so we must make changes and not accept the products of earlier times.

The final overwhelming reflection from the conference was a reminder on the last day when some lovely primary, secondary, and tertiary rangatahi were brave enough to stand up and speak in front of 120 kaiako, and share their wisdom.  Their kōrero was about what makes them successful, what good teachers do, what schools do, what parents and whānau do, and what they do for themselves.  The students spoke of their own apsirations, and those of their parents and whānau. Their kōrero was full of hopes that all teachers would expect them to do their best all the time and push each student for their best every time.  They asked that teachers didn't try to help them because they were Māori, but help them because they asked for help...and never give up on them.  This reminded me that,

"Our ākonga never come to class alone or empty of knowledge.  They bring with them a wealth of their aspirations, dreams, experiences, knowledge, values, beliefs, and culture."

Believing that students need filling up or that they come with nothing is how deficit thinking can take hold of teachers.  Ako comes from the teacher honouring the wealth students bring with them and accepting that the student knows a lot about themselves and their world, and we teachers know a lot about learning.  Imagine what is possible and the heights all rangatahi would reach if we teachers combined our wealth with the wealth of each student in every class...think of the richness of learning.

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