In this post I have been asked to consider indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy, both from my own perspective and how it looks within the context of my school. Within a New Zealand context, the impact of these on Māori learners and their whanau is a core focus, supported by such initiatives as Ka Hikitia; however, on a wider scale, it is also worth considering the implications when engaging with learners from other ethnicities, particularly in a school like mine where we have a very ethnically diverse student community.
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Having completed the survey using the Self Review Tool in Cultural Intelligence, it reinforced for me that in general I have developed a good understanding of different cultural beliefs and practices, and I make every effort to acknowledge different cultural perspectives within my classroom. I enjoy having opportunities to engage with and participate in different cultural practices, and take every opportunity to ask questions, try new things and grow my understanding of different cultures. Having completed my teacher training at the University of Waikato, and later on having the opportunity to teach in schools in both West Auckland and Levin, I have had many opportunities to explore the richness of Te Reo and Tikanga in particular, as well as Pasifika and Chinese cultures. According to the Ministry of Education document Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013 - 2017 Ako is a two way process where the teacher both teaches and learns from the student and the student is also both learner and teacher and during my 5 years in Levin in particular, I had regular opportunities to develop and refine my understanding of culturally responsive practices. One aspect that I identified on the survey tool as being an area of continued growth for me is that of the less visible hidden psychological features of culture, such as beliefs and values, among other aspects.
My School's Practice
Communication Methods: Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011) state that "New Zealand primary classes increasingly include students with diverse cultural, linguistic and experiential backgrounds.” (p2) This is certainly the case at our school, with some of our more dominant cultural groups being those of South African, Chinese and South Korean descent. In fact, Māori and Pasifika students make up less than 5% of our school population.
What we have done as a school to support communication is employing Mandarin speaking staff of Chinese decent on both our teaching and office staff, we also have a Korean teacher aide and a number of South African teachers (including some who speak Afrikans). This enables us to more easily facilitate home/school communication, and means we can translate signage and newsletters as appropriate. It also means we have staff available to act as interpreters for meetings between parents and teachers.
We also liaise closely with members of our Māori parent community, who share their expertise with us in matters of protocol and in supporting our Kapa Haka group. Children are able to share their learning with their parents in face to face meetings, but also through platforms such as blogging and SeeSaw where they can post various digital artefacts including video and audio recordings. Children are encouraged to use their home language to support their learning and understanding as well.
Learning Activities: Our principal has certainly been a driving force behind lifting the profile of Māori language and culture within our school, and ensuring that teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge to include them in our classroom programmes. An example of this being that all teachers are currently completing PD in Te Reo and Tikanga through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. The idea being that this is then taken through into our classroom programmes to upskill our learners, and acknowledge our Māori students. It is very much in it's early days and is happening with varying degrees of regularity across the school.
Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011).Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative.
Ministry of Education. (2013). Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017 Wellington, New Zealand: Author.