A Tapasā journey

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Title slide: A Tapasā Journey

Kylie McDonnell, Curriculum Leader, Sydenham Community Preschool, Christchurch, facing camera

My career spans over 14 years. So I've been teaching both here and abroad. But it wasn't until I came to Sydenham nearly a year ago that my Pasifika learning journey really started.

My “aha” moment came through a Tapasā journey. It was through talking about the Pasifika compass, and we were challenged to think about what the compass meant to ourselves and our environments that we're in. So my colleague Chantelle and I, we both sat down and made our own compasses. For me it just really resonated with what we do here, with our own philosophy, and with what the compass represents for our Pacific learners. It just all came together. I don't know how to describe it but it was amazing and it just really empowered me to have that strength and the knowledge forth to communicate with the whānau coming in. Because I did use to hide, because I didn't know what to do and how to approach them. So that “aha” moment was – I can engage, I can contribute, and I can make this happen for those learners.

It’s through knowing that for our Pacific learners the children are at the centre. But it's knowing around them that community is so important and that really resonates with us here at Sydenham because community, it's what we do, it's how we are. So having those two things in place, I can put myself more in that community role and go, “This is how we can support your child and you as a family. But, also how you can support me as a learner because this is my journey beginning”.

The connections we're making, not just with our Pacific learners, but all our learners, is growing because you're seeking more, they’re giving more, the reciprocalness that's happening is just growing.

For the compass that I made I took the representations out of the Pasifika compass and then I took parts of our philosophy that really resonated and they worked in together. So then what I did was I really looked at it like a metaphor.

Images of Kylie McDonnell’s Pasifika compass

I picked symbols that I felt really worked together and really captured what I was trying to express through what I was thinking. And so I started with the child because the child is always at the centre. So I had this child at the centre and then I was like, the child needs to stand on a firm foundation. So I had these hands that came up in this firm foundation. And they are the hands that represented the growth and their family. And then around it was this tree but the tree was made of handprints. And the handprints were everybody in the community because it takes a village, you can never raise a child on your own.

So we have a part, the whānau have a part, the extended whānau, the school, everybody's involved and the child is involved. So the handprints were different sizes. Around that, you then came down to the roots and the roots were embedded in dirt, which was the ancestors.

Because we all grow from our ancestors, the stories they tell, our heritage, it's all really really important. And then off to the side I just couldn't, I couldn't leave out the love, the aroha, and the knowledge that gets poured in. So I had a watering can and the watering can was the knowledge base. But it feeds into the ancestors, which feeds up to the child, and that was just, that was how it came to be.

Kylie shares her personal understanding of the Pasifika Success Compass. She explains that children at Sydenham Community Preschool are central. They are surrounded by the community – teachers, parents, and family. Reciprocal relationships are important. Teachers support each child and their family, and families support her as a learner.

Relevant turu
  • Turu 2

Reflections for individual teachers

Kylie was challenged to think about what the Pasifika Success Compass compass meant to herself and her environment.

Look at the Pasifika Success Compass (Tapasā p. 4)

  • Identify the aspects of the compass Kylie found important for herself and her environment.
  • What does she see as key to building collaborative, respectful reciprocal relationships?

Consider your environment and your Pasifika learners, parents, families and communities.

  • Highlight the values, domains, and principles that are evident in your setting?
  • Draw your own diagram illustrating what is important for you in your setting.

Turu 2 focuses on building collaborative and respectful relationships.


“A fia vave oo lou va’a, alo na o ‘oe, ae a fia tuli mamao, le taunu’uga tatou ‘alo’alo faatasi.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Samoan proverb

Reflect on the relationships you have with your Pasifika parents and families. Consider the different phases in developing a relationship and building a community.


Reflections for staff or departments

Look at the Pasifika Success Compass (Tapasā p. 4)

  • How does your vision include and value Pasifika learners, their families, and community?
  • What practical steps can you take to build ongoing collaborative reciprocal relationships that enhance the wellbeing of Pacific learners? Identify how you can do this in an inclusive, culturally responsive way. For example, by using appropriate greetings, providing food, inviting the whole family so parents bring their children, listening and providing opportunities for parents and families to share their thoughts. Consider some of these contexts.
    • Identify a space with parents and families in your learning centre that parents can come to and spend time at school or the centre. This might be a space where parents meet to support each other or just come and talk. Think about what is needed to make it welcoming. Is there a jug, cups, tea and coffee, and somewhere to sit? Invite parents to make the space their own and bring things into the space.
    • Who are the cultural leaders in your local community? Plan a meeting with them or invite them to an appropriate school event. Think carefully about using greetings, when is a good time to meet, providing food etc.
    • Invite parents and families in to review your centre/school resources with you including Pacific language books, songs, and other artefacts. Ask them what they think is helpful, important, and what ideas/resources they may have to share.
    • What systems are needed to support parent understanding of the learning or assessments in your environment?
    • Is visiting parents at home, to explain how things work, viable?
    • Can you meet in their church or community centre?
    • What works for your community?