Saturday, 28 March 2015

Wk 30 - MINDLAB - Socio-historical contexts

This post is part of an assessment for a paper on "Applied Practice in Context", part of the Postgraduate in Digital and Collaborative Learning programme offered by Mindlab and UNITEC.
This weeks post considers points of divergence and convergence in Aotearoa New Zealand and my own context ie. teaching at Albany Senior High School, in Auckland's North Shore. 

History shapes the direction of individuals cultures and relationships. The notion that Maori have a "warrior gene" is founded on historical lies and has no sound evidence (Moana Jackson). I grew up in Scotland another "warrior" nation.  Whilst here are similarities in the histories of Scotland and New Zealand; clans(Scotland) or tribes (New Zealand), issues regarding sovereignty with the same "Crown" and some of the "natives"  turning on their own people and siding with the "Crown" but supposedly sharing the same "warrior" gene is really stretching things.

Convergence: 1816:The first "school" in New Zealand is set up in Rangihoua, northern Bay of Islands by English missionary Thomas Kendall (Te Ara). The school was for Maori children and Kendall became fluent in Maori and developed the first New Zealand textbook. How did Maori students learn before the school was built? Is what went before part of mainstream established wisdom? i don't think so........

Convergence: Signing of the "Treaty of Waitangi" considered to be "New Zealand's founding document" making us a nation that is "bicultural in governance".

Divergence:  The English version of the Treaty of Waitangi is NOT a translation of the Maori version. They were written separately and additionally both parties had different understandings of concepts within the articles, particularly over ownership and sovereignty. The "Crown" or more precisely, representatives of the Crown, did not adhere to it.

Divergence: As a result of colonisation a loss of language, and with it culture, as te reo Maori is forbidden in schools through the Native Schools Act (1857). In 1930's 90% of Maori lived rurally yet by 1990 80% of Maori are urbanised and many have lost their connection to their ancestral land (Te Ara).

Convergence:  Treaty settlements consisting of both historical and contemporary claims are an attempt to seek redress whereby the "Crown" recognizes what has been lost, makes an apology to restore relationships and also assists with economic development through passing legislation for "full and final settlement". Many of these settlements have been used, in part, to fund education initiatives for young Maori. For example, local iwi, Ngati Whatua offer a range of educational grants for descendents of Ngati Whatua preparing them to be "rangitira e apopo" - leaders of tomorrow.

Divergence: If we had fully embraced biculturalism there would not be educational disparities based on ethnicity in New Zealand and the work of people such as Russell Bishop would not be necessary. "Te Kotahitanga" and "Kahikitia" are educational strategies developed to enhance Maori achievement, and in turn achievement of all students, within our education system. Currently Maori students are significantly underperforming and this has to change. Pondering this reminded me of a book by Angus Macfarlane (2003) that I read whilst training "Kia Hiwa Ra! Listen to culture - Maori students' plea to Educators". Time for a reread! 

Convergence at ASHS: Although not always described in te reo Maori terms there are many Maori concepts that run through the fabric of our school. Our focus on respectful relationships and care for our students can be likened to manaakitanga and our learning environments evoke whanaungatanga. The ASHS concept of "teachers as learners and learners as teachers" and being on the journey together is very much akin to ako. Every year starts with a formal powhiro for our new students and families although sadly we do not have a Kapa Haka group. However the staff sing waiata at every meeting.

Divergence at ASHS:  During a Head Student welcome speech at the start of 2015 it was highlighted that our student body consists of over 20 different nationalities which certainly makes ASHS a multicultural school where we can learn and share so much with each other. Out of our student body 8% identified as Maori on enrolment.  I wonder whether these students identify culturally as Maori? Could this "melting pot" marginalize Maori students even more? Does it make the need for being respectful to Maori culture and supporting our Maori students exploration of it (should they choose) MORE important? Yes!

Convergence (as a teacher): Russell Bishop suggests that an agentic teacher is the key to making a difference to Maori students and indeed all students. This requires a teacher to firstly understand themselves and be able to create a context for Maori to be themselves. Agentic teachers:-
  • reject deficit theorizing
  • work collaboratively and co-operatively
  • care for Maori and expect high performance from Maori students
  • provide feedback and feed-forward
  • co-construct with students and put learning in context for Maori students
and remembering that positive relationships are paramount to performance. This is what I try and emulate every day and I am fortunate that our school embraces many of these attributes, particularly our student-teacher relationships. It isn't easy but nevertheless I try......

So how did Maori learn before there was a school in Rangihoua? Perhaps this is answered in a modern context by  Maria Tibble "Your classroom isn't the four walls that make the classroom context. It is the four corners of the world you have as your global doorway to open to the students".

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