This week I have been in Auckland attending the joint NZ and Australia Principals' conference, it has been a great week, I will be heading back with lots to ponder.
Hekia Parata - Minster of education always addresses this conference and the key message I took from her speech was that we must continue to be passionate and strive to ensure EVERY child receives the highest quality education, this is not a new message but what are we doing to make sure that this can be achieved.
Collaboration- we are great at doing this personally, with people we know and get on with well, are we doing it well enough professionally?
There were many strong themes around Maori learners, Hoana Pearson who is the national facilitator of the Maori Achievement Collaborative (MAC)
Are students culture, identity and language reflected in our classrooms?
We need to change the hearts and minds to change the actions of leaders to better meet the needs of Maori.
She spoke of "Pakeha paralysis" Many leaders wanting to make the change but unsure how to go about this.
"We have to be courageous"
"Feel the fear and do it anyway"
She made a good point that we try in all other curriculum areas, make mistakes and try again, why should it be different for Maori language and culture.
Hoana shared two sad and concerning examples of what is still happening in our very own NZ schools.
1) A teacher who had shortened a students name to Jane because it was too long and complicated to pronounce...shocking.
2) A graduate student was asked how she is being culturally responsive and her response was "I have koru's on my CV" it is sad to think that this is still happening in NZ.
I went to taster talks on "What works for Maori, works for all" What I have learnt and feel strongly about is that it is vital that a large number of things are put in place to reach this goal. Karakia, Waiata more regularly, teaching Reo, teaching tikanga, signage, incidentally spoken with staff, Hangi, whanau hui. It is the strength of all of these areas that will get us there, not simply doing in isolation. We are making some good progress with this.
Michael Henderson spoke about culture, he was fantastic. He works with huge organisations all over the world, including the All Blacks. He re visits every year because every year is new for that team, those players in that season, cyclic like school settings.
The real revelation here for me was he described culture as a verb not a noun, living and breathing.
It is peoples RESPONSE to the vision, the values, the beliefs that define your culture.
If language goes, culture follows, we have a vital role in ensuring that our Maori language is not lost.
Bill Martin and John Edwards who have written "schools that deliver" (which is on its way)
They spoke of Tuckman's work on the life cycle of a school - see diagram. Sadly most schools spend far too much time moving from Forming- Storming and reverting back to Forming. We need to spend as much time as possible in the performing stage. I think we have a great staff culture here and spend much more time working at the norming and performing stages. It takes work but if the right culture and environment is in place, this can succeed.
Cam Calkoen was the last speaker and he had a clear message. Despite being born with Cerebal Palsy, his determination and will to succeed has carried him throughout his life time. He had a message of being slow and steady. Dream big, achieve more!