Where do I start? Start where you are

Issue: Volume 101, Number 5

Posted: 27 April 2022
Reference #: 1HATpk

Introducing the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā curriculum content means building on what you are doing and opening the conversation for deep discussion, say kaiako who have trialled it at Fergusson Intermediate School and St Catherine’s College.

Buddies Ishanbir, Fletcher and Zalayed are proud and happy that the school pulled together to support Zalayed and his family.

Buddies Ishanbir, Fletcher and Zalayed are proud and happy that the school pulled together to support Zalayed and his family.

Kaiako and ākonga at Fergusson Intermediate School in Upper Hutt were eager to trial the draft Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content last year.

“I had to limit it to eight teachers,” laughs Fergusson Intermediate School principal Simon Kenny.

“There is a real appetite from our staff and students for local stories. Exploring and learning about your own backyard is exciting and highly engaging. It has snowballed from some very shallow questions about the names of places in our area into some critical and challenging questions around the care, protection and distribution of our resources, equity, power, culture, perspective, communication, and manipulation.

“We loved the ‘Understand, Know, Do’ model. It ties very closely with our school’s RISE values of Resilience/Manawaroa, Integrity/Ngākau pono, Sense of self/Mana ahua ake and Empathy/Aroha, and our New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), especially character, citizenship, and critical thinking.”

Simon says the content also supports the school’s commitment to Pūtātara, to develop learning opportunities that are place-based, inquiry-led, and focused on participation for change.

Keeping it current

“We are keen for our students to look at current events, globally such as the Ukraine situation and locally like the Wellington protests, and to think critically about these, to recognise perspectives and use lessons or examples from the past to try to make sense of an ever-increasingly complex world,” says Simon.

“We have had examples of intolerance and ignorance across the country, and within our own community, and for us it is so important that our young people are given the opportunity to explore complex issues in a safe, inclusive environment that encourages diversity, and celebrates our differences. Our teachers are incredibly skilled at creating these environments and Year 7 and 8 is such a special age where our rangatahi are testing boundaries, discovering themselves and managing adolescence while trying to make sense of the world around them and find their place in it.”

Creating a safe haven

A distressing incident in the school community unfolded as a stark challenge to push this learning into deeper territory.

“One of our students from the Muslim community had his bike stolen and pulled to pieces, his father was assaulted and there were Nazi signs spray painted on our walls.

“We rallied around that. We looked at, ‘This is us’ and realised we were getting the same messages as wider society. So, we did a fundraiser for that student, we had a Diversity Day where everyone dressed up to celebrate their culture and we managed to get him a new bike. We did a big haka, and we made a video for the community about who we are. We said, ‘Look, this incident is not acceptable in our community, New Zealand is for everybody’.”

Simon recalls a light bulb moment. “I was walking back from the gate when I saw the swastikas on the walls and the students had their phones out filming. My first instinct was to rush over and tell them to put their phones away because I didn’t want people to know about it. Then I thought, ‘Why would I do that?’ So, I got back in, took photos myself and posted them onto our Facebook page to let everyone know what had happened and that it was not OK. It was a real shift from trying to cover it up and worrying what people might think to front-footing it and saying, ‘This is happening in our community, and we don’t like it.’

“We called for support and boy did we get it; it blew me away.

 “And we talked about how many of the themes that were in that curriculum were around us. Yes, there is tangata whenua, and there is also partnership between Māori and everyone else so what does that look like? Who is welcome and how do we treat them to make sure they are safe? It’s beyond learning about events and places.”

Simon says ākonga have the questions to spark the learning.

“We just get on with it and use what’s happening in the world that is relevant to the students. It might be anything from Minecraft to Black Lives Matter, then we use our context in Aotearoa New Zealand to look at things that are similar, to look back at the past to see if we have seen this before and whether it is something from which we can learn. So, we start with the students’ interests then use this document to explore that.”

Team leader Atama Cassidy says the new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content is about nurturing partnerships.

Team leader Atama Cassidy says the new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories content is about nurturing partnerships.

Building relationships

It’s also about nurturing partnerships, says team leader Atama Cassidy. “It’s about partnerships in the school community, partnerships with your colleagues, and those with the experts, the local librarian, for example. Don’t just sit there and wait for this information to come, foster the relationships because it’s a continual journey and it means that our students, whichever school they go to in this community, will be able to draw on those partnerships and that makes a huge difference.”

The school has been working with Claire Mepham who delivers cultural learning opportunities through the local arts centre, Whirinaki Whare Taonga.

All kaiako joined a car rally led by Claire to explore local places of significance and Simon says teachers now feel empowered to take tamariki to those places and pass on the knowledge.

“Something else that I’ve really noticed here is how tamariki look after our high needs students,” says Simon. “We have quite a high number of students who are quite obviously different, and our students just wrap around them like you wouldn’t believe. They are always there for them and would protect them fiercely against anything. If we could get that for all the kids, for society, it would be incredible. Taking this back to the ANZH document, the power is in having conversations. ‘How were people with differences treated in the past? How were they treated in schools?’

“Ākonga are learning about the significance of Māori as tangata whenua and the impact of colonisation explored in a way that is not about guilt or blame but based on facts and a recognition of a range of perspectives in relation to events that have shaped our country to what it is today.

“Our teachers are incredible. They are the facilitators, and very good listeners. They notice when things need to be pushed a bit further and when they need to be pulled back. And when your students are in that zone and they’re safe and they’re having these conversations, it’s incredible, very empowering.”

Exploring the world of new migrants

At St Catherine’s College in Wellington, Bryony Wood’s students have also been engaged in deep conversation about social issues.

“One of the units I taught was on the history of immigration to New Zealand which was inspired by the Radio New Zealand podcasts, Conversations With My Immigrant Parents,” says Bryony, a social studies teacher.

“I had mentioned them to students, and they were keen to make their own podcasts so I looked at the draft curriculum for the big ideas. I looked at the material around identity and migration, who is in as a New Zealander and who is out, and the power relations there. But it was mainly around the language and the big learning objectives.

“The girls did a lot of independent and individual research into different immigrant groups, then conducted interviews with their family members or neighbours and recorded those.

“It was cool to see them have that opportunity to purposefully explore their families’ stories, and even to hear the conversations between the students. In one class there was an Ethiopian student sharing with her friend about the racism that she and her mum had experienced, and her friend had no idea. Those conversations were very important.

“We looked at what has changed over time or what has stayed the same, whose voices are silenced and whose are not, and how attitudes have changed over time. We also looked at the impact of immigration, of the amazing things we have in society now, things like the
Tu Tangata Festival and Polyfest, incredible events that we wouldn’t have had without immigration.”

Relatable content

Bryony says students light up at being able to see themselves in the content, when they can relate to the stories.

“The majority of my students are keen, even if they’re not Māori, to learn about indigenous histories and indigenous views of historical events. And although they may not word it like this, they understand that stories are told from multiple perspectives.

“I’ve had a couple of requests from Year 10 Pacific Island students wanting to learn about the Dawn Raids. And our Filipino students are so excited that we are incorporating a bit of history of the Philippines into a unit on human rights, to see themselves, which is cool. And it is exciting for the rest of us because we get to learn about our classmates.

“We have a big Filipino community here so for me, that’s a new development in my own learning. To see the excitement on their faces is lovely and it makes me think, ‘Yes, OK, I’m doing a good job’.”

Bryony says the different progress outcomes are fantastic.

“I loved being able to see where we would be at by, say, the end of Year 10. And you can embed them into your own teaching. That gave me a very clear view of the key learnings that we want our students to have, of the scaffolding to factor in. I think that’s useful for teachers.” 

Fergusson Intermediate kaiako Lisa Webster, Jess Nelson, Atama Cassidy and Vai Pilitati are excited about the new histories curriculum content.

Fergusson Intermediate kaiako Lisa Webster, Jess Nelson, Atama Cassidy and Vai Pilitati are excited about the new histories curriculum content.

In terms 1 and 2 the Ministry is focusing on providing school leaders and kaiako with supports and resources to help them engage with the new curriculum content.

Work is underway on a range of resources and supports to be released later in the year, to help guide schools and kura to develop their local curriculum | marau ā-kura with parents, whānau and local communities, to include local critical histories.

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

Posted: 1:45 PM, 27 April 2022

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