Monday, May 18, 2015

Māori enjoying educational success as Māori

Ka Hikitia! Ka Hikitia!  The goal of Ka Hikitia to have Māori enjoying educational success as Māori is an admirable one. But one that does not happen overnight and not without a lot of time, effort and work.

When I think of what Māori enjoying educational success as Māori means to me, I think of the needs of Māori learners being met on every level.  Academically they are achieving to the best of their ability, socially they are connected and confident, their mana and wairua are strong and their potential is recognised and celebrated.  Their language, culture and identity is something to be proud of and the school celebrates and promotes this.  It should be cool to be Māori and our Māori kids know it, feel it and own it - our teaching and learning programmes are tailored to their strengths and interests and support is in place when and where needed.  Māori preferred learning styles are identified and teachers' practice strategies that engage Māori best.  What do you think it means?  Have you ever asked your staff and unpacked what it means to them, what is happening in your school currently and what you may need to improve on?  Have you ever asked whānau and iwi what this actually means to them?

Being a fully released Deputy Principal, I have several key responsibilities as part of my role.  Māori achievement is one I am passionate about.  When I interviewed for this position I had read the schools great ERO report and had noticed that one of their recommended steps for improvement was in this area, which appealed to me as I felt I could get my teeth stuck into that.  But where do you start?  This blog post is about documenting some of the things I have been able to get underway in what has and will be an amazing journey for our kura.

The school had identified meeting the needs of Māori as one of our key priorities this year, so we have dedicated the whole of Term 2 to this kaupapa.  One of the first places I wanted to start is with our key stakeholders and most importantly, our whānau and iwi. There had not been a whānau consultation hui at our school for several years.  This is where I wanted to start and being an intermediate, you cant afford to muck around, as we lose 50% of our student population every year.  So a whānau hui was planned to ask our whānau the following key questions and get their feedback, which was amazing.  We had a great turn out and here are some of my tips for ensuring a successful hui:

  1. Hold it in a neutral space, not a classroom 
  2. Provide a fantastic kai for your manuhiri, this shows them that you are good hosts who value manaakitanga and remember the mana of the school is at stake
  3. Follow Māori customs if possible. We opened with karakia & waiata from our kaumatua, our principal then spoke in Māori and English and then we did mihimihi - all parents and kids together.  After this we had a shared kai as a whole whānau
  4. After kai, the kids left and were supervised by a teacher while we held group discussions with the parents. Provide supervision for kids so parents can come & don't have to worry about a babysitter
  5. Most importantly, LISTEN and ensure you follow up afterwards.  Often relationships break down with whānau because they only hear from you regarding negative things and then after a hui they have shared all their hopes and aspirations but don't hear back from the school again about whether any of these are being addressed
All of the parents and teachers who attended our hui had a fantastic time and were really enthused about what we could be doing for our tamariki.  We have now developed a whānau advisory group with Māori parents and tamariki.  They will meet with me once a term to firstly design an action plan, and then implement it, a step by step plan of how we will bring their aspirations to life.

Also during this term, my principal and I met with a representative from the education branch of Ngāi Tūāhuriri.  Ngāi Tūāhuriri, of Ngāi Tahu descent, are our closest hapū, who have mana whenua of this takiwa.  Our school is very keen to build a reciprocal and close relationship to our local hapū and so meeting with them was our first step.  We are sending most of our staff to a professional development day in the school holidays at their marae Maahunui II, in Tuahiwi, to learn about Ngāi Tahu history and Ngāi Tūāhuriri tikanga and protocols. It is important to us that we uphold the tikanga of our hapū and that our Māori learners are connected to the history, people and land where their school and home is located first and foremost, whether they are of Ngāi Tahu descent or from other iwi.  We intend to progress and develop our ongoing relationship with Ngāi Tūāhuriri by implementing some of the following ideas if possible:
  1. Termly newsletters about 'Māori enjoying educational success as Māori' will be shared with all whānau, wider school community and Ngāi Tūāhuriri
  2. Staff attending all PD offered by Ngāi Tūāhuriri and internal staff PD around Te Kete o Aoraki
  3. Sharing of important school events and updates with Ngāi Tūāhuriri and also keeping informed of important events and updates from the hapū so we can support or attend any events that might be appropriate for our school to participate in
  4. Encouraging our whānau to enrol our tamariki in events Ngāi Tūāhuriri are providing e.g. Kia Kūrapa, Taiaha Wananga
  5. Sharing learning and achievements with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, especially those that are related to our Ngāi Tahu learners, Māōri students and any of cultural significance 
So with whānau and iwi relationships being developed, it was important to hear from staff and students at school.  This term, all staff PD has been planned around meeting the needs of our priority learners, in particularly Māori and as part of how we can best meet their needs, culturally responsive practice is also a main focus.  We began the term looking at what does the MoE mean by priority learners, who are our priority learners at school and what do we know about them.  We developed a google spreadsheet with all information and data collected about all of our priority learners right across the school.  This information includes national standards and OTJs but more importantly it includes information about home life, strengths, interests, iwi links, languages, support agencies, behaviour etc etc.  It is a holistic view of each child, shared with every member of the staff so at any time, all of us can read and add to the bigger picture of who this child really is.  This information is also used to support teacher inquiries into how we are meeting the needs of these learners.  The following week we were extremely fortunate to have Dr's Angus and Sonja MacFarlane present to our staff about cultural responsive practice and what this could look like in a school working with Māori learners and whānau.  This workshop was opened up to all schools and staff from our learning community cluster as it is such an important kaupapa and it was such an honour to have them work with us that it made sense to offer this opportunity to as many kaiako as possible!

Next I collected student voice to share back to our staff.  I wanted to hear from our Māori kids what it is really like being Māori at our school.  Some of their responses were insightful, informative and at times brutally honest.  I played the recordings back to our staff so we could hear what our kids thought and reflect on what things were working vs what things were not working.  We also broke into groups to work through a 'cultural audit' of things that we are dong well and gaps we think need addressing.  The senior leadership team will use all of this feedback, from staff, whānau and stduents to inform our action plan for what our next steps are.  We also have Dee Reid, a professional development facilitator coming to take a staff workshop on Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success and Tātaiako, in preparation for staff looking at how they can utilise the cultural competencies as part of their own goal setting and our appraisal process.  

And this is just the beginning!  The kaupapa doesn't end after Term 2.  We made this the sole focus for this term but just so we could get going and start things off right, with the time and space to really assess where we are at and what we need to do.  We have started daily karakia in all classes and model this as staff by also saying karakia together for staff hui and in assembly.  I hope that soon when you visit our school, we will have developed our own protocols around how we welcome manuhiri, in line with Ngāi Tūāhuriri tikanga for mihi whakatau.  All staff will be learning their mihi and karakia and waiata because we know that unless teacher proficency and confidence is developed, te reo me ōna tikanga Māori in the class will suffer.  The whānau advisory group and myself will ensure our action plan is in place and being implemented so we can all develop our practice to better meet the needs of our Māori learners - it will be a journey for us all. And I can't wait!

Mā whero mā pango ka oti ai te mahi!