Take time out to upskill with a Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award

Issue: Volume 94, Number 12

Posted: 13 July 2015
Reference #: 1H9crZ

Are you a teacher or principal looking to improve your proficiency in te reo Māori or hone your skills as a bilingual or immersion teacher?

Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Awards offer teachers and principals the opportunity to take time away from their teaching to complete a postgraduate level qualification in Māori-medium teaching.

There are two kinds of Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Awards available, depending on whether or not you want to use the Award to pursue a postgraduate qualification.

Education Gazette asked two recipients of last year’s Awards why they chose to step away from their teaching to spend a year studying, how receiving one of these Awards has changed their overall approach to teaching, and what advice they’d offer fellow teachers or principals who are thinking of taking time out to study.

Leonie McEwan

Postgraduate Diploma of Education
(Poutāhū Whakaakoranga)

Teaches at: Te Wharekura o Arowhenua, Invercargill

Studied at: Te Wānanga o Raukawa

Recognising that the possibilities in her field had expanded greatly in the 23 years since she qualified as a teacher, Wairoa-born Leonie McEwan decided to take a break from teaching at Invercargill’s Te Wharekura o Arowhenua kura kaupapa and apply for a Study Award to complete a Postgraduate Diploma of Education (Poutāhū Whakaakoranga).

“It was about where I was at in my teaching,” she explains.

“After teaching in the mainstream for so many years, I felt I needed to have a bit more substance to my understanding of mātauranga Māori – Māori knowledge.”

A friend who had received a Study Award the previous year told her about the scheme, and she had heard about the programme offered by Te Wānanga o Raukawa, which has a particular focus on teaching in a second language.

Her decision to apply was based both on her own life stage, and on the opportunity Te Wharekura o Arowhenua was able to provide for relief teaching. “I felt I was able to do it because my kids are grown up and are off to tertiary education themselves,” she says, but also notes that having a relief teacher who could step in was also a deciding factor: “Working in Māori-medium, it’s hard to find relievers – so to be able to have someone who could reliably take my role over for a year was a godsend.”

Leonie studied at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki, where her course focused on teaching skills, advanced iwi and hapū research and te whakatupu i te reo Māori. It’s a course tailored to growing leaders in both managerial and delivery roles relating to kaupapa Māori learning environments.

“All of the learnings I engaged in at Raukawa were delivered by leaders in their fields – leaders who had ‘walked the talk’ and who had seen, over time, the changing face of te reo in education,” Leonie says, adding that the course has “given me the confidence to be able to plan and deliver the curriculum of my kura, knowing that the knowledge is relevant and enriching for the students.”

The course also made valuable resources available to Leonie: “The resources that the teacher is able to access improve the quality of learning for students, as they are hapū and iwi-specific. With the research skills I gained through doing the course, I was able to collate information using a Māori knowledge base and arrange it specifically for learning and teaching.”

Leonie’s studies also allowed her to expand her network, creating connections she looks forward to drawing on throughout her teaching career.

“I was able to make strong friendships with others who work in my field of teaching, each with their own experiences, and each with their own expertise,” Leonie explains.

“We have developed a learning community that has outlasted the Raukawa course.”

Leonie says that in addition to ensuring that her skills are as up to date as possible, her studies have also brought a new dimension to her teaching practice: “I feel more empowered, more knowledgeable,” she says.

“I have a deeper understanding of the things that I need to be teaching to the tamariki.”

Key to Leonie’s ability to manage her study award was the sense of connection she maintained with her school.

“I felt a bit homesick – I missed the school, missed the children,” she says.

“To alleviate that, I went back and visited the school every month.”

Leonie was able to maintain this connection to the point where her absence wasn’t an issue: “They even say now that I really wasn’t away!”

Leonie suggests that other teachers or principals thinking about applying for a Study Award do their research before applying. “Start by looking at the course descriptions from the year before,” she suggests, and she also recommends finding someone who has already attended the course as first-hand information can be very helpful during the decision process. She also suggests that you discuss the possibility of a Study Award with your principal or other school representatives early, so that plans can be put in place.

But even though taking time away from a teaching job is a big decision, Leonie feels it’s important for teachers to stay up to date with the latest knowledge in their fields.

“It’s something that does need to be done, because … it’s really good to keep yourself current with up-to-date theory about things. It’s like the education sector language thing – I had done a paper at Massey 17 years ago, but there’s so much more now – so much more knowledge for us to be able to teach Māori better.”

Adam Whauwhau

Postgraduate Diploma of Education
(Poutāhū Whakaakoranga)

Teaches at: Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, Hamilton

Studied at: The University of Waikato

Deciding to take 36 weeks away from his position as te reo Māori teacher at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu correspondence school in Hamilton was, for Adam Whauwhau, a matter of making the most of a great opportunity.

When a friend who had recently received a Study Award suggested that he apply, he dived straight in. After teaching for 17 years, “it was a perfect opportunity to do something different and go off and do some more studying”.

Adam saw the ability to upskill via further study as key to furthering the goal of raising Māori achievement levels.

“The key factors, and one of the philosophies we have throughout New Zealand, is trying to raise our Māori achievement within our kura. We were able to go off and complete our course, and to see what we could take to the kids in the classroom, once we’d finished our studies.”

Working at a correspondence school, Adam was able to focus his outtake on how to create a better online learning environment for students with whom he rarely has direct contact: “We teach from a distance, so we don’t get much face-to-face contact with our students. It was about bettering the achievement rates of Māori students through an online learning environment – so even though we’re not engaging face-to-face, there were things that I was able to bring back to work and share with my colleagues around improving and increasing Māori achievement.”

Adam used his Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award to take four courses at the University of Waikato. These included Mātauranga Reo Māori, which takes theories of first and second language acquisition and applies them to the teaching of te reo Māori, Tirohanga Whakahaere, which places social, cultural, and political factors in the context of leadership, and Kaupapa Māori research, in which students research several areas including representation, legitimation, and accountability within a Māori context.

Like Leonie McEwan, Adam found the networking opportunities afforded by his studies to be invaluable in informing his own teaching.

“I gained a lot of insight and ideas from other people who were also enrolled in the course,” Adam says. “A lot of the people were from Hamilton, but there were others that were from outside the region. So I was able to network and see what others do within their schools and within their environments, especially with the iwi and the tikanga and the cultural differences that they teach.”

Adam was able to explore some of the cultural differences and diverse approaches between iwi and use them to inform his own teaching. Adam says that starting with their own tikanga, they were able to share experiences with representatives from other iwi who were also on the course.

“We have close links with Tainui, and they have education strategies and goals that they’re working towards. So we were able to sit together and network, to look at strategies that we do within our iwi to see how we might be able to change things for our students. It’s good to actually sit down and listen to other people and look at strategies that they’re actually doing.”

Planning well in advance and knowing that he had good relief teachers in place was key to Adam’s peace of mind when planning his study award.

“I knew about all the relievers and what was going to happen in my department in terms of filling my position. So it wasn’t a very hard decision – because we had planned and organised this prior to departing.”

Adam says he would recommend that anyone considering applying for a Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award takes the opportunity to do so.

“It’s a chance to step away from the classroom – to look at what you’ve been doing and re-evaluate. It helps to revitalise the thinking,” Adam says.

“You’re able to discuss, in a professional forum, ways forward to best affect your personal strategies.”

Adam also says that his studies have given him new insight into how to change learning patterns for students, with a focus on increased achievement and setting educational goals.

It was “a year to reflect and take on initiatives and advice from both lecturers and teachers. We are all confronted with the same issues when teaching our Māori students – no matter where the student is from.”

Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Award: Quick facts

2016 Māori Medium Bilingual Education Study Awards open in late July and close 7 September 2015.

How many awards are available?

For 2016, there are 42 Māori Medium Bilingual Education and 18* Māori Medium Bilingual Education II Study Awards (*Full Time Teacher Equivalent) available to teachers and principals in early childhood, primary or secondary education.

What do these awards provide?

The teacher or principal receives their normal salary from the school or ECE centre while on study leave. Their study award funds relief costs to the school or ECE centre for the duration of leave.

In addition their award funds:

  • up to $2,000 towards core compulsory tuition fees
  • a contribution towards travel, accommodation or relocation expenses (subject to meeting the eligibility criteria outlined in the application form).

For more information, including eligibility criteria, visit the TeachNZ/studyawards(external link) page.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 7:09 pm, 13 July 2015

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