Sisters, teachers and transition-easers

Issue: Volume 97, Number 22

Posted: 6 December 2018
Reference #: 1H9pWu

Two Maungatapu teachers are working across educational institutes to ease the school transition.

Lynnette Hardaker is a teacher at Maungatapu Kindergarten. Her sister, Cathy Hardaker, teaches at Maungatapu Primary School. The sisters are using their relationship to create a smoother transition between learning spaces for students and whānau.

The school now runs a new entrant class incorporating Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mo ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early Childhood Curriculum, in which new entrants continue learning through play as part of their school day. The kindergarten children who will soon be ready to start school visit the class weekly and participate in the regular programme.

Maungatapu Kindergarten children transition to several schools in the area, but Maungatapu Primary School is the main one. Lynnette says the key to a smooth transition is building strong relationships.

“It’s relationships with parents, it’s relationships with children, with each other. It’s relationships between teachers and parents, it’s relationships between whānau and relationships with the school,” she says.

“When the children are ready to begin school they’ve got friends in the class already.”

Parents of kindergarten children are also invited to visit the school in the afternoons to meet Cathy, learn what to expect and allay any fears they might have.

“It’s so that parents are feeling really relaxed about the transition as well, because sometimes children get really nervous and worried when they pick up off the vibes of the parents.”

Junior students from Te Puwhāriki Rumaki, Maungatapu School’s total immersion te reo Māori unit, also make visits to the kindergarten. The children participate in a child-led whakatau, sing waiata, share kai and play together.

The focus is on personalised transitions, so children have as many visits as needed. A ‘school wall’ at the kindergarten shows photos of the teacher and children at the school.

Learning through play helps develop children’s learner identities, Lynnette says.

“It’s so age appropriate to learn through their passions and interests because you can learn everything through play, through your passions and interests. Say you were just a really keen sandpit person, you can do your maths, you can do writing in the sandpit, you can do measuring, you can learn relationships, you can learn risk taking, you can do all of those things in the area that you’re passionate in,” she says.

“When you’ve got yourself confident you can move into other areas, so that’s why we love this play based setting and that’s why the Rumaki class loves it too.”

Cathy says both teachers chose the same inquiry topic; how to effectively portray values and the learning that matters to children, parents and whānau.

“I realised the need to learn more about Te Whāriki, in order to gain a better understanding of the learning that takes place before the children start school,” she says.

“We chose this inquiry question based on conversations with whānau, both at kindergarten and school, as it became apparent to us that although families know about the learning that takes place, they are not fully aware of the values that underpin this learning and how we teach them.”

The school initially set up a play-based programme once a week, but saw such an improvement in children’s ability to learn the key competencies through play that they introduced a fully play-based environment in their new entrant class.

Te Whāriki is based upon relationships. The quality of relationship we are able to create has a direct impact on the child’s sense of safety and security. Upon reflection, we changed our practice using what we know about building strong relationships and connecting with whānau,” Cathy says.

“Parents of children with older siblings have told us that they prefer this process, as they have noticed their younger children have transitioned into school with greater ease and confidence.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:05 pm, 6 December 2018

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