Sunday, 1 July 2018

TML Wk 31: Indigenous Knowledge & Cultural Responsiveness

My post this week relates to indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness. In response to this I will consider as a school leader the systems and structures I promote to enable and enhance culturally responsive practice in relation to our community demographic. As there is a large field to consider within this area of practice I will focus on the school Vision & Values, along with our communication methods. I will discuss this considering what happened using Rolfe’s (2001) reflective model to unpack it. This takes the form of three simple questions, “what”, “so what” and “now what”.

Culturally responsive pedagogy is described by Gay (2001) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives as conduits for effective teaching” (p. 106). It is important to consider your own cultural intelligence and family values and how this impacts on your actions and interactions within a bi-cultural and multi-cultural society. As teachers, we are entrusted to be culturally responsive to meet the needs of our learners and communities in which we serve.

Our Vision statement contains six paragraphs that are aspiration to our school community to work towards achieving for our community. One paragraph states:
Sunnyhills has a diverse community. We are responsive to our learners and whanau through our recognition and respect of the many cultures, languages, identities and needs. A willingness to embrace differences is fostered, all the while promoting our special “Kiwi Culture”.

Our vision also states "Our curriculum is inclusive of all learners and all cultures".

While our vision statement is long, our 5 values reflect the essence of our school vision. Part of this that is reflective of culturally responsive practice is that we celebrate our differences, show kindness and respect, along with treating each other fairly. 

So What?
As a school leader while it is important to promote the unique bi-cultural partnership of the Maori culture first and foremost, it is important that we need to be responsive and reflective of our diverse school community. Sunnyhills School has the following ethnic demographic
in which a large proportion identify as Asian.

Currently, we are creating an Asian Awareness Strategy in response to the 46% of our school population identifying as Asian. Chinese form the largest demographic within the Asian community (32%) and I have worked hard over the last 3 years to engage with this community to understand more about their values and needs at our school. I have started a WeChat group to be responsive to their questions, as well as hold termly meeting that are well supported by a Board member that is able to interpret for us. I have also engaged the Asia New Zealand Foundation to hold a parent evening for all our whanau on why we need to understand the impact of Asia on New Zealand's changing multi-cultural landscape and had the opportunity to travel to both South Korea and Singapore on educational tours to understand cultural aspects of these communities and how they might impact at Sunnyhills.

As a school leader creating a new language of learning based on a school values and vision has been important work. Having a strong moral compass towards promoting the bi-cultural relationship and unique position of Maori in our community even though Maori only form a small demographic (5%), is a priority for me and a challenge. Our staff participate in daily karakia in their classrooms and try to incorporate tikanga and waiata to the best of their ability. We have a teacher supporting our Years 1-3 learners with te reo and Te Ao Maori, as well as a whanau member who has stepped forward to take our Kapa Haka group. More can be done and communicating via face to face hui with our Maori community is a vital next step. 

On a bi-cultural level, it is important that our foundation of teaching and learning philosophy incorporates Te Ao Maori principles. Our language of learning that has been developed over the last term is based on the concept of GEMS: Growth, Empathy, Mana and Self-belief. We have looked closely at how these GEMS principles first and fore-mostly link with culturally responsive pedagogy and principles from Tataiako (Cultural competencies for teachers) and the Key Competencies from both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Whariki (ECE curriculum) as pictured (below).

As yet, we have not shared widely with staff this new foundation of learning and teaching (it has arisen out of research that the leadership team have done towards reaching our school vision and values). Next week, our staff will come together with the Board of Trustees, to report back our research and investigations into practices that our school can do in order to achieve our school vision - this is a unique practice. It is agile and responsive, as a leader, I do not know what may surface and will have to consider how to implement the suggestions (based on research that come from our staff)... plus consider how to communicate this with our community and learners.

Now What?
Community consultation needs to occur as part of our next steps at Sunnyhills in relation to our vision and values, along with a communication plan. Our vision journey with the Schools That Deliver network needs to be communicated with all members of the community. While this has been done to a certain extent through our monthly newsletters and weekly emails, no face to face discussion and feedback has happened. A whole school consultation evening for communicating our vision needs to occur, as well as smaller ethnic group meetings for our Maori (5.6%) and Pasifika (1%) families, along with our smaller Asian minority groups that make up our demographic (of importance to note - Indian (5%) and Sri Lankan (3%).

Communication via WeChat needs to continue with our Chinese community (32%)
and further exploration into translating newsletters into Mandarin needs to be considered. I have been approached by different website providers that offer a translation feature, which might be of use. This would again need to be trialled to ensure the translation into different languages was accurate. I believe it is important to continue with my informal coffee chat opportunities that any community member can attend, so that all members of the community can have a voice and meet with the me (the principal) to discuss what is relevant and pertinent to them as a moment in
time with their on-going experiences of a whanau to be proactive in meeting the needs of our community.

Another next step for us, is to include visual symbols around our school to identify the unique bi-cultural heritage of New Zealand as well as incorporating symbols from our Asian community. We are currently looking at erecting a beautiful carved Maori structure at our entrance and paint cultural symbols and signs around our school environment too.

Gay,G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2),106-116.

Ministry of Education (2011). Tataiako: Cultural Competencies for teachers of Maori Learners. New Zealand Teachers Council

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sunnyhills School (2018). Ethnic Statistics. Internal School Data. Retireved on 1/7/18 from

Sunnyhills School (2018). GEMS: a foundation of learning. Internal School Document.

Sunnyhills School (2017). Vision & Values Statement. Retrieved from

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