Te Kura Kaupapa o Māori Manawatu

Debbie Marshall-Lobb describes how they opened up dialogue on teaching and learning, leading to greater consensus and cohesion.


The motto at that time for us as a staff was "Me Mahi Tahi Tātou - Come One, Come All". That's indicative of where we felt we were heading in terms of trying to create the culture within the kura, that we were all on the same pathway.

Staff identified the fact that we were spending a lot of time in our staff meetings going over housekeeping bits and pieces rather than focusing on the core business of teaching and learning. And so I presented what quality learning circles (QLCs) were all about and why I thought that they would be useful in our kura.

The QLCs led to dialogue that was open and honest, and exposed a variety of perspectives on issues. This led to staff consensus on fundamental issues and to teachers going into one another's classrooms to see what was happening.

Staff wanted to improve not only themselves, but improve on what we were offering the children. We decided that each teacher would have their home class where they would teach te reo and numeracy, and then rotate around the school teaching their specialist subject.


Curriculum focus

From the QLC discussions it became evident that we really needed to do a self-review across the board, particularly with regards to curriculum development and the implementation of the curriculum.

We decided that we would do a little well, and, instead of teaching across the seven essential learning areas, we would concentrate on just three.

Māori pedagogies

One of the other things we thought about around about that same time – this was a few years ago – we had gone off to an NZEI hui where Wharehuia Hemara spoke about a book he’d written which was called Māori Pedagogies. There were things in there that were really pertinent, particularly about relationships.

So we thought, where do the Ngā Huringa, the rotations, stand with supporting the relationships that we have with our tamariki, our children? If it enhances the relationships that we have, then it's a goer. If it doesn't fit within our Māori framework, then we can't go there. Of course it was wonderful. It was very compatible to where we were heading.

So, there was more cohesion. People weren't being protective of just their own class. Suddenly there was the sense of I'm responsible for everyone. I'm caring for everyone. I want to see what the bigger picture is.

Empowering expert teachers

There were a lot of wonderful spin-offs for us. People were working on the curriculum area that they elected to take, so there was some sort of choice in there for them. From the teachers’ perspective, Ngā Huringa, or the rotations, has meant that they’ve actually got a real good handle of the curriculum areas they’re delivering and working on and they feel very confident as a result of that.

They have said that from the students’ point of view they’ve noticed that the students really enjoy someone coming in to their akomanga, when Whaea Peggy comes in for hangarau or Whaea Indiana comes in for putaiao. They recognise those pouako as being specialist or matatau, knowledgeable, within that area so they afford them that respect, which is interesting. I think before they thought, oh yeah the teacher’s a jack-of-all-trades.

Teachers have a better understanding of the curriculum and confidence in using it, and they’re doing pretty creative things and exploring it.

Sharing experiences

We had the good fortune about two years ago to have Professor Muiris O'Laoire, a language specialist in Ireland based in Tralee, come and visit us. It was great. And, it just so happened that three months later my husband and I had an opportunity to go over there. From that we developed a relationship with two of the schools to share information – indigneous children from this country sharing stories and narratives with indigenous children of another country.

He said why don’t we sent iMovies. That was in line with where we were heading with our ICT PD programme. The kids said they wanted to introduce themselves, where they go to kura, what they do during the day, and they recorded it all in te reo Māori. And what we thought was rather than have English subtitles, like you often see on TV and so forth, we wanted to use Irish subtitles.

Student success

We’ve made huge strides. In fact, if I look at putaiao for example, which is science, we weren’t performing very well at all four or five years ago and last year we had students who won the indigenous science award at the Genesis science fair. But over and above that, they came second overall in the material world for their presentation. They were up with English medium exhibits and got put forward to go to the national show. So we’re thinking, I don’t think that would have happened if we hadn’t had a teacher who was a specialist in that area.

Related links

Māori Pedagogies – NZCER website

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