Gilberthorpe school

Gilberthorpe school

Monday, 6 June 2016

Trans Tasman Principals' conference

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.

They also talked about the Learning Pit, which emphasises the need for ALL learners to spend time in the pit before real learning can occur.  It made me think - Do we take learners into the pit?  Do they know that this is ok and normal?  Did we ensure that we take learners out of the pit?  This could be a great things for senior school students to reflect on.  We need to be very careful that we don't assume that everyone understood the message as we are all aware of the different rates at which students progress, therefore move in and out of the pit at very different times.

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!


  1. "What works for Maori, works for all"
    I really like this statement, We have heard this for a while now. It is time that we start realising the importance of it.

  2. I think that bring more Maori culture into schools benefits everyone, even if there is not a strong Maori presence within a school. I find it shocking to read the examples you have written about just general lack of understanding of Maori culture. From experience at Waimairi school where there is a strong focus on culture and language throughout the school I felt that it was great to be a part of. It is always best when it becomes part of somewhere and not just this is Maori culture and language time.

    As well as developing our use of Te Reo language I would love to bring some acknowledgement and use of tikanga into the Junior hub. It's something that easily fits into existing values and is a great way to take Maori culture through all curriculum areas and just make it more of a 'normal' thing. I am always interested in finding new ways to input culture into the classroom.

    Also I find this learning pit really cool I've never heard of it before but it's an awesome way to describe the learning process and normalise the struggles we all have when learning something new.

  3. I really like your ideas Nicole and look forward to working with you to bring this into the Junior Hub, even the whole school!
    I also agree with you completely Rebecca!

    I am still struggling to understand and comprehend these two example you gave Andrew....
    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 personally feel it is so important to get students names right as I personally get offended when people pronounce my name incorrectly...It doesn't take long at all to this this right you just need to take the time to get to know the child and get them to help you.

    The learning pit is new to me but I want to find out more about this. I think it is really important for children to know that, to be able to succeed and see their learning they need/will have time in there. (I feel our children need to know about this). I can relate this to my own personal learning and I can see that I am in the learning pit in regards to technology ...But i know I am moving out of this :D

    I liked the last part of this post the quote 'dream big achieve more! 'it goes with a saying i saw over the weekend and have been moved by...Children who read are adults who think!

  4. Tēnā koe Andrew. Ngā mihi nui ki a koe mo tēnei pānui.
    Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to hearing about some of the things you have shared here in more detail. I am particularly interested in how language and culture are represented in classrooms. The part about culture being a verb and not a noun is great. Culture is a living, changing and evolving of life.

  5. Thankyou for Sharing Andrew, It is great to be able to read what you have brought back for this and will work on to bring into our school.
    I must say though that the shortening of the name is not just for Maori students, this happens regularly in schools (ours included) to a number of students that I have witnessed myself. Yes working on the pronunciation of any student with a foreign name is important, and it makes the student feel more valued that everyone can pronounce their name correctly, but it is also important to not shorten others names aswell.
    The learning pit will be helpful for seniors students to reflect on, the more they are choosing how they learn and to manage their learning, the more they will see themselves moving out of the pit. Some interesting and intriguing times ahead.

  6. lots to take in here!
    Nicole, you have written that well - it would be easy to integrate the traditions into our already working values. I feel like we are making some good steps to getting here.
    I love the part about culture being a verb! This is so true - in language and in traditions.
    The learning pit is something I have heard of, but do not know a lot about. It would be good to look into this more as a senior hub. I think we need to make our learners more aware of where they are and what they need to do to move forward.