Towards the end of last term (Term 1, 2017), I was up early driving to Whanganui for our termly cluster meeting. This is always a nice opportunity to catch up with other RTLits and see how they’re going as, at times, this can be a bit of a lonely job.
The ever-lovely RTLit in Wanganui had organised a wonderful meeting today – so much to talk about and investigate that we ran well over. Exceptional catering too, so much so that there was no need for our usual lunch afterward. But still plenty of time for me to get to Savemart Whanganui for a bit of a rumble through.
The first session was a follow up on Te Tātaiako with Ngahina Transom from Taihape. This document is excellent and really sums up practical ways of working with Māori learners, which are also common sense approaches for all learners. My mind still boggles at the fact that many teachers and schools don’t even know this document exists, let alone use it in their planning and practice. The competencies are now integrated with my appraisal document and I refer to them to support my teaching practice.
As with almost everything in education, Tātaiako comes down mainly to teachers’ relationships and engagement with Māori learners and with their whānauand iwi. Getting to know your students, their backgrounds, their stories, their goals, and aspirations is vital for success in education today.
Today we reviewed the competencies and then reflected on how we are going with one of them in our current practice. Many of the competencies are common sense and good teaching practice (in my humble opinion anyway!), so I often find many of the things one does almost automatically. Obviously, however, there is a particular focus on the Māori learners we teach.
I looked at . Something I find so incredibly central to all effective education, but something that can actually be incredibly complex to put into practice in many cases. I find it a bit of a challenge not being in the classroom. As a resource teacher, it is that much harder to develop relationships – partly due to the time constraints and partly because it requires more effort to phone parents or meet parents. Getting to meet parents and whānau for me is not just an informal chat by the school gate or a parent-teacher interview, it is usually a formal meeting organised to discuss progress or strategies.
So first, on someone else’s suggestion, I realised that I should be first identifying my Maori learners. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they connected to their heritage? Showing this visually on my roll is the first step for me to establishing who could benefit most from engaging with their child’s learning and a relationship with myself as their “other teacher”. I have subsequently done this and discovered that around a quarter of my students identify as Māori.
In a horrifying admission, I have not managed to get in contact with any of my Māori students’ families yet (a big yet there!). I have worked hard to establish positive relationships with the students themselves, and feel that I know a lot about who they are and who is in their families at least. I think it is also important to know this from the student. I can chat with them about their brother who plays in a band, or their Dad who had an accident last year, and so on. Sometimes it can be hard to establish contact with the parents or whānau for a variety of reasons (no current phone number for example), so having those kinds of conversations with students can go a long way to whanaungatanga as well (again, in my humble opinion!).
Other RTlits suggested things they have done to establish contact with some success. Many have a meeting before taking a student on to share assessments and plans together. Many also use Google docs or email to send to parents as the intervention progresses. Many spoke of texting as being very successful for many parents. These are all things that I thought I could get underway fairly easily. As a teacher, and also as a parent, I find it really useful, and indeed, imperative to create a “positive bank” with whānau about a student. This helps with a student’s self-image, it helps when you might have to have those “difficult conversations”, and ultimately supports progress in their learning. I would like to try all of these things with all my learners, not just those identifying as Māori.
So, my goal for this term, Term 2 of the year, is to phone my learners’ families and hopefully set up a meeting with them to discuss what I am doing with their children in sessions and possibly ways they can support this at home. The meetings I have had like this have been successful and went a long way to setting up the home/school partnership. I have to say, I’m a wee bit nervous about this. I am of that generation that stopped using the phone and moved to texting quite quickly, so calling people up is never something I do with pleasure. But! I will bite the bullet and set aside some time on my Friday office day to do this, as I know it will benefit my learners, and probably make my job easier and more enjoyable in the long run.
I have added in here a more detailed photo of Whanaungatanga from Tātaiako:
Here is the cultural competencies Effective teaching profile that Ngahina shared with us. A useful document to have as part of appraisal I feel: Māori Learners
What aspect of Tātaiako are you working towards improving?