Being culturally responsive in my practice

Activity 4, Week 28, NZ Mind Lab, PRACTICE

I feel strongly that NZ is a country built upon it’s bicultural heritage, and, as educators, it is imperative that we are upholding the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (protection, partnership, & participation) in our classrooms and in our schools.

I remember fondly my experiences of the Māori culture growing up in a predominantly pakeha school. I valued these experiences so much that I have continued to learn te reo at various stages of my life; at high school, at University, and as a working teacher. As a teacher I have constantly endeavoured to incorporate te reo me nga tikanga into my classes, regardless of whether or not my students were Māori . I believe it is a part of NZ, and therefore, it is a part of all students.

I like to think that I am culturally responsive in my practice. I’m sure we all like to think that we are. It is not something I do incredibly consciously, although, I am beginning to do so more as I move into my new role where many of my students are Māori . As Russell Bishop said in his Edtalk (2012), these students have been underserved by colonialism (and the rest), and the economical, social and political effects of this need to be addressed. Sooner rather than later in my opinion. And education is at the heart of that.

The students I am now teaching have been victims of their (our) history to a large extent, and it is well overdue for the NZ school system to address the debt that Russell spoke of (2012). Many teachers and schools are doing this, but we only have to look at Māori achievement across the country to see that this varies widely. Inequity is rife and Māori students bear the brunt of it in many respects.

One place I feel I am responding appropriately to incorporating a culturally responsive view is through my choice of resources for use with my students, including those that are Māori. Recently I had to buy a lot of new picture books for reading with and reading to my students. I knew I had to be careful with my choices. They needed to engage students, and most certainly not exclude them by being completely unrelated to them.


I bought a lot of books by New Zealanders and I bought a lot of books with New Zealand stories in them. I was particularly keen on books that had stories about New Zealand’s history in them. One I am really looking forward to sharing with students is this:


If you haven’t read it, you should. It is about what happened in Parihaka and is written in a beautiful, haunting way. I didn’t really know the story well, so I can imagine my students won’t. A lovely student I have (of Māori descent) will enjoy it. He has spoken to me about his interest in Māori history, but he is not getting that as much as he would enjoy I believe – and benefit from. This piece from Māori television recently made me reflect more on this, a Gisborne school student fighting for the teaching of land wars history in her school. It doesn’t seem too much to ask and increasing engagement this way would only improve outcomes I believe.

The interesting thing with my book purchases, is that I had to buy some books that had African American characters, as there weren’t many with Māori characters of the sort I was looking for! I thought that at the very least the students would see that a person of non-pakeha descent could be a hero in a book. #weneeddiversebooks indeed!

I would like to develop some more effective working relationships with my students’ whanau. As Russell Bishop says, relationships are paramount, and the caring and learning relationships develop a culturally responsive pedagogy (2012). Currently I haven’t had time to develop these with my students’ parents, and I need to figure out how to do this positively and productively.


Bishop, R. Edtalks.(2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from

Being culturally responsive in my practice

One thought on “Being culturally responsive in my practice

  1. Lisa Bengtsson says:

    #weneeddiversebooks for sure! It’s so easy to think we have good coverage of different cultures until you go looking for resources. Well done in being deliberate with your choices of text and for thinking of your students. It shows you understand the importance of context and connections and how much you care that these students are successful. I would be really interested to hear both the students and your feedback on Remember that November in literacy, it sounds like a great book.


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