Tūngia te Koingo and Reading Together in Taitoko / Levin: a snowball of positives

Issue: Volume 96, Number 22

Posted: 11 December 2017
Reference #: 1H9gmW

The Horowhenua iwi Muaūpoko continues to grow and strengthen connections with the wider community, whānau, schools and teachers through a joint effort to realign numeracy and literacy learning as something that everybody has fun with, contributes to, and takes pride in.

Di and the wider community shares how Reading Together fits within the Tūngia te Koingo programme and how both programmes supported their tamariki to achieve to their potential.

The Muaūpoko iwi, tangata whenua of Taitoko in the Horowhenua region, is an iwi that in the past has achieved its goals by forming strong community connections. That approach has really come to the fore recently through a partnership between Muaūpoko, the JR McKenzie Trust, Ministry of Education and Levin East Primary School. This partnership is currently achieving more than everyone involved could have hoped for in positively engaging tamariki, whānau, iwi, kaumātua, teachers, and community leaders.

The overarching collaboration between Muaūpoko and Levin East Primary is called Tūngia te Koingo: ‘Lighting the flames of yearning and learning’. With the support of the Ministry of Education, the programme focuses on accelerating achievement in literacy and numeracy for a group of Muaūpoko tamariki to support them to achieve to their potential. One of the initiatives under this collaboration is Reading Together, a literacy programme that brings whānau, parents, grandparents, iwi members and teachers together to inspire reading and learning at home.

CEO of the Muaūpoko Tribal Authority Di Rump says the Ministry of Education helped by providing access to the Reading Together resources but what’s most important is that there’s a true and equal partnership around the design and delivery of the programme. The programme puts the Ka Hikitia philosophy into practice by focusing everything on tamariki learning and achieving as Māori – with the emphasis being on the “as Māori” and they’ve gone a step further with a focus on their tamariki achieving as Muaūpoko.

“What we were invited to do was to make sure that Reading Together was a programme that our whānau and our tamariki would enjoy, as Māori, and especially as Muaūpoko.

“When we asked [our whānau and kaumātua], they expressed a desire to use and incorporate our own spaces and places. So we made the programme just a wee bit longer, and we started and finished it on Kawiu marae. We ran part of the programme in our community whare, surrounded by our artwork. We also used some other significant spaces and places throughout our rohe, and held our sessions in partnership with the school.

“It’s been amazing. What struck me recently, at our last session, was when I watched our whānau, teachers, our iwi leaders, the principal from Levin East School, the kids, parents and grandparents all together and it’s impossible to tell who was who. That’s how comfortable they’ve become working in this partnership together. That’s aside from the amazing feedback and results we’re getting, which have been really positive too.”

Giselle McCashin is a year 5 and 6 teacher at Levin East Primary School. She believes that running the programme outside the school gates has been one of the key innovations in the partnership.

“Having that first meeting on the marae made a huge difference. It was just so much more relaxed, as all the subsequent sessions have been. It hasn’t been a ‘them and us’ situation, it’s been very much everybody working together.”

Principal Rikki Sheterline says this collaboration was crucial to create a programme that everybody could take ownership of, and responsibility for.

“This was really different [from other Reading Together programmes I’ve been involved with]. The relationship we’ve been able to form with Di and Muaūpoko iwi has meant that our spaces become everybody’s spaces and vice versa. That’s huge for me.”

Giselle sees a big difference in the way whānau are engaged and enthusiastic about the collaboration.

“The parents, grandparents and wider whānau are just so on board. They’re comfortable asking questions and I don’t think they feel like they’re being preached at. That involvement’s gone wider than just Reading Together. And that of course means that the kids are more involved – even as they are making progress.

What’s huge is that their attitudes have changed because the attitude of their whānau has changed. There’s lots of research to back up the powerful impact on learning outcomes that has.

“The parents and grandparents are discovering that the important thing isn’t being able to ‘teach’ their tamariki. It’s about a relaxed situation – sitting down and having a conversation. They now understand and more importantly believe that they’re educators too and they’re the best people to do that with their kids.”

A different approach

Muaūpoko kaumātua Marokopa Wiremu-Matakatea and his wife Raukawa (Aunty Lizzie) have a granddaughter who has taken part in the Reading Together programme. They’ve both been surprised to find themselves become an invaluable resource for teachers. Uncle Marokopa says he’s now “flat out” providing cultural advice. Both Uncle and Aunty Lizzie are heavily involved in driving Tūngia te Koingo from a Muaūpoko perspective and say the learning that’s happening goes well beyond just the kids themselves, though the tamariki remain at the centre – always.

Whaea Raukawa says the collaborative approach to literacy really contrasts with the style of teaching that she experienced when she went to school. She thinks that the partnership approach fits seamlessly with Te Ao Māori as a way of learning.

“In our day, we’re told what we’re going to learn and just handed a book. This is so different. There’s so many different things to read. It’s not so formal. It’s witty, fun and sometimes serious. It isn’t done by someone telling everybody what to do and when to do it.

“It’s a whole big experience for everybody involved, which is what I really got out of it. I looked at my granddaughter and how much fun she was having, and I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to worry about’.”

Matua Marokopa says having closer connections with teachers and whānau helps the adults to understand what their tamariki with literacy challenges are going through.

“I think one of the main things for me was understanding what children go through when they can’t read and being able to know the signs. When you can read those signs, you’re better able to help with their reading.

“When I was at school, we were told ‘this is what you’re reading and if you don’t understand it, you’re dumb’. But children have different ways of learning to read so we let the children pick what they want [to read]. It could be a newspaper, a Donald Duck book or anything. It’s just important that they like it.”

A love for reading

Muaūpoko parent Crystal Hirini says the Reading Together programme has helped strengthen the love for reading in her family.

“I’ve been able to utilise the tools and techniques that I’ve been given. I’ve noticed a huge change in myself and my son. We find reading together fun instead of a task. It’s empowered me and my son to strive.

“My son is so much more confident in his reading. We find ourselves relaxing into it now and laughing a lot when we’re reading. I think that’s really important. We’ve learned that it’s okay to make mistakes and I think that alone has ensured that my son’s reading has really improved. Reading isn’t a chore anymore, it’s something we love doing.

“And it goes beyond me and my son. My daughter gets to reap the rewards as well because reading is something we all do together.”

Ricky Heihei and Dylan Kiriona are both teachers at Levin East. Their involvement with Tūngia te Koingo and Reading Together came about because of their role as teachers and their expertise in Te Ao Maori. In the case of Ricky – being Muaūpoko – his contribution was key as part of the initial design team.

“Being Māori, I suppose we have a different way of relating to students. We’re able to use that whakawhānaungatanga to bond with Māori students, find connections with them, and help them to feel natural and comfortable with being themselves, with being Māori.

“The biggest impact from the partnership with Muaūpoko Tribal Authority is that it’s helping the wider whānau feel more at ease. Some people have barriers or concerns, which may have inhibited them from actively engaging in their children’s learning. So having that iwi partnership gives them a sense of ease because their iwi is involved and events are taking place on the marae for example.”

Everyone involved describes the theme of Tūngia te Koingo as a ‘catalyst’ because they’ve gained more than just numeracy and literacy strategies from the collaborative effort. They said that the connection with identity and re-engagement among Muaūpoko with their culture have been a very powerful catalyst for shifting and supporting extraordinary levels of engagement in education at all levels.

Muaūpoko teachers from other kura and schools in the rohe have also supported the school holiday wānanga as part of Tūngia te Koingo. Dylan says, “Our first workshop was at the marae. For some of our people, that’s a positive thing because they go back to their marae all the time. For others, it’s not so positive. So something like what we’re trying to achieve here can help bring people back to their culture. Reconnecting with their marae was quite a huge experience for some tamariki and whānau.

“For the kids, doing something like this helps to put them at the forefront. There are often lots of traditional protocols on the marae that are really roles for the older generation, so the kids might be sitting on the side watching. Doing something like this helps them to be comfortable and at the forefront of the work, enabling them to have hugely positive interactions at and with their marae.”

A sense of pride

Ricky says, “We were able to tag-team with our whānau who are teachers in other schools and kura. I would take an hour-long session, then someone else would step up. Everything ran like clockwork, it was just awesome. But the most important thing for me was that the kids, including my moko (grandson), absolutely loved it.”

Roni Sayer is another Levin East teacher who played a particularly strong role in constructing the partnership and the Reading Together programme from the school’s end. Roni tells a story that for her sums up the snowball that Tūngia te Koingo and Reading Together have set rolling in their community.

“I was speaking to one of my year 4 boys the other day who attended the programme. I knew that he’d just moved house so I asked him, ‘How is it down on ‘macko-macko’ (Mako Mako) road?’, obviously pronouncing it wrong. He turned around and said to me seriously ‘Now Miss, it’s ‘mark-or mark-or’ road you know’. I said, ‘Oh! Well, thanks for helping me!’ He said, ‘That’s okay. I really like it when I come out of my house in the morning or when the sun goes down, and I can see my maunga, Tararua, my roto (lake), Punahau and I know my awa is over there too. I feel okay Miss and I’m so proud.’

Roni says, “It’s so hard to put into words just what a transformation that represents for a lot of the kids. It’s huge for their pride and spirit, and their sense of what’s possible. I think that’s so positive. This partnership with Muaūpoko has been the catalyst for that connection and learning.

“This little boy has learnt about who he is and where he’s from, and you can just really see his confidence change and his eyes shine at what the future holds – with his place well and truly in it.”

Di says, “We just don’t have the space to tell you about so many wonderful people from across the community and the Ministry who have been willingly drawn into this project – and we have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. It’s been, and continues to be, amazing. Without Ministry and iwi leadership and insight, this literally would never have happened.”

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

Posted: 9:00 AM, 11 December 2017

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