Thoughts from a NZ science teacher and digital learning fanboy.
Sunday, 2 October 2016
MindLab 4 - Indigenous knowedge and cultural responsiveness
The school I work at has a large percentage of Māori students, although Europeans / Pākehā make up the majority of the students. (Stats taken from the ERO website, last inspection May 2016).
In a video about Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Professor Russell Bishop discusses 6 factors that agentic teachers, those who reject the deficit theory (defining Māori students by their weaknesses rather than their strengths) use regularly in their classrooms. For brevity, these are not going to be specifically discussed here, but are mentioned in the video. However, I can honestly say that these have pointed out areas for my personal improvement in my interactions with Māori students, especially around the co-construction of the learning and use of Māori concepts in teaching and learning. Sometimews we all get so bogged down in the stuff we have to teach (yes, even to the extent of making sure students pass the test...) that we forget to make the real connections that have the best outcomes. One thing I have learned personally, is that the relationship with the students is THE most important thing to achieve. I use humour, eye contact and am non-judgemental about ability based on race, but still could be doing more for my Māori ākonga. Something to focus on in 2017 more.
Vision, mission and core values
Our mission is about creating outstanding young women, who will leave the school well prepared for the next step of their lives as positive contributors to the NZ society. Our motto is "Whakamana ngā wāhine o apōpō - Empowering Tomorrow's Women".
We have vowed to embrace the unique position of our Māori culture, value NZ's cultural diversity, and focus on realising the potential of Māori and other priority learners.
Our values are put together in the Fideliter Code: Mahi tahi (working together), Kia kaha, kia toa (giving our best), Tika me te pono (having integrity) and Manaakitangata (showing respect).
From my perspective as a teacher who has only recently arrived at the school, we appear to be doing quite well at these aspects and this is echoed by the favourable ERO report in 2016. The school is on a path of becoming more culturally repsonsive, working with the Māori leaders to undersatand our biculturality better. Our learners asked us to do this, as they saw their peers leaving school early and dropping by the wayside. The shift towards inclusivity and a Cuturally Reflective Pedagogy has 'snowballed' this year, with initiatives being instigated to really connect with our Māori ākonga and encourage their development, so they feel included and valued.
One of our goals as a school is about changing outcomes for our Māori ākonga, including improving retention of Māori students across all levels, improving their achievement at all levels and making stronger relationships with whānau to support the achievement of individual students and identified groups.
As with all goals, this is a work in progress, but we are making progress. That said, there is never room for complacency, so this goal continues into next year and beyond. There is a move to strengthen the relationships between school and whānau, and support is growing for us in working with the ākonga. Personally, as mentioned above, I need to use more of the experiential learning that comes with each student and feel that this may be the case among some of my peers. Also, specifically within the Science department (I cannot speak for others) there is only latterly a move towards more cultural inclusion in the senior Science areas. The junior curriculum has some aspects of Māori culture (Mataraiki, for example), but this does not extend as well into the senior school. Clearly to help retain our Māori students, we need to be addressing the shortfall in this area. The school goals filter down to department level, and we acknowledge things could be better, but change is happening, and for the right reasons - Empowering Tomorrow's Women.