Friday, February 12, 2016

Whanaungatanga in action!

A new year has arrived.  The summer holidays flew by as they always do for us teachers and before we know it we are back at work.  This time last year was my first day at a new job, at a new school and I remember clearly how awkward the first teacher only day was for us newbies.  The school did things quite differently to what I was used to and because of this and it's sheer size and therefore number of staff and students, it took me quite a long time to settle in and feel like I belonged.  This is not an easy thing to navigate, especially being Māori and coming from a previous job where tikanga Māori took pride of place.  Not having mihimihi meant I did not know who everyone was, where they came from and if we were perhaps connected somehow.  Not having karakia tīmatanga, waiata or karakia whakamutunga before and after hui was also jarring as it felt like we went in cold and separated to hui instead of combined as one and when we finished everyone just went their separate ways.  This is not a criticism of my school, merely pointing out that at this time, these elements of tikanga Māori were not in place, which no doubt was one of the reasons I was hired, and if you have read my earlier posts you will know that many of these things are now highly valued and implemented daily at our school.  But in response to that feeling of isolation from the start of last year, I planned a very different teacher only day this year.

Firstly, I changed the name from teacher only days to staff retreat and the emphasis for our retreat would be whanaungatanga and effective planning for 2016.  I asked the Principal and BoT to support this initiative with some funding, which they kindly did and I promptly went about booking accommodation and a conference venue in Hanmer Springs for 2 days in Jan. An agenda was created early in Term 4 where all staff could add their ideas to and volunteer to take certain sessions or workshops over the 2 days.  Some of the things we worked through was all the day to day running of the school issues like duty, curriculum update and responsibilities, sport/music/cultural responsibilities, planning and appraisal etc.  But excitingly, we also covered some awesome new ideas like collaboratively creating a M.A.T.E's  document (mutually agreed team expectations) for the way we as staff will work together and practiced a process for mihi whakatau for when we welcome manuhiri, in line with Ngāi Tūāhuriri tikanga as mana whenua. We also spent time talking about PB4L (positive behaviour for learning), Teaching as Inquiry and all of our LwDT (learning with digital technologies) initiatives planned for this year.  I might be showing how much of a geek I am but it was awesome stuff! Highly engaging, productive, collaborative and relevant for all staff.

One of the best outcomes for our staff retreat though was the obvious effect it had on building a sense of whānau for us all.  Staff were sharing rooms together, car pooling up to and back from Hanmer, having a drink together, going for walks together, having dinner together, working in groups throughout the 2 day hui and all the time, building a strong sense of whanaungatanga.  We got to know the person behind the teacher - what they liked or disliked eating, how tired they were because of waking babies at home,  that they snore loudly or that they can play the guitar.  We even started our first day playing a game called "Whanaungatanga".

One person stands and starts talking about themselves - where they are from, family members, interests...anything they want.  When someone else can connect to what they are saying, for example if I said I have 3 children and someone sitting down also has 3 children, they stand and yell out "whanaungatanga"!  Then they take over and start talking about themselves until the next person can buzz in with a 'whanaungatanga".  This game was great to hear more about each other, to demonstrate that although we might all lead different lives, we all can connect to each other in some way too and it also was awesome to hear the improved te reo Māori pronunciation!  And do you know what really blew my mind and made my heart sing...when I walked around our school on the first day back for our kids, several of the classes I walked into were playing "whanaungatanga" - ka mau te wehi!


  1. A fantastic way to start the year - connected and supportive of each other. Hopefully this will become an annual school event. 😀

    1. Yay - thanks for your support Nicky and I am stoked to hear our staff are advocating for this to be an annual event, it really shows just how worthwhile it was for us all!

  2. Absolutely, totally, completely loved reading of your journey Tamara. What an incredible start to the year. What richness in Whanaungatanga! Agh, can just see you buzzing as this has grown and unfolded. Thank you for making me aware all over again how privileged I am to be right where I am!
    So happy to hear the 'buzz' in this post!
    Happy Year to you!
    Anne K

    1. Ngā mihi e hoa - I am so pleased you felt the 'buzz' through the blogpost, that is the exact feeling I wanted to convey as it has made such a difference to the start of the year feeling/culture around the school and the strong, positive vibe or buzz our staff retreat created is such a great feeling to have at the beginning of another school year, especially with so many new staff!