Teaching with culture at the centre

Show video transcript

Title slide: Teaching with culture at the centre

Keshmin Reedy, Teacher, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera

I'm Keshmin Reedy from Manurewa High School. I’m teacher in charge of the Kiribati group. This is my first time doing Polyfest as the teacher in charge...

Students preparing for a performance

...and it has been challenging for me to be part of a group which I haven't known or don't know much about the culture and the values of the group, so, and the protocols, so I have learned through my journey towards Polyfest.

The Kiribati group did not have any tutor or teacher in charge for Polyfest so the children came and approached me and requested me if I could be their tutor. So I took the opportunity I should say to know the culture, to learn about the culture of these kids, and it was a great experience. The journey was really great and I am keen to learn more about them and I feel really humbled, or I feel really great that the children have confidence in me and they confide in me. Within the last four or five weeks if they have any problem they do come to me and say ‘Miss this has happened to me and how can this be solved?” so I try to lead them into the right direction.

It's not only the teaching part, it's always the teaching and learning part. I learn with the children, I have learnt a vast amount of information about Kiribati and the culture. The kids have taught me a lot as well and they have also come to know about me as well. So it's not only one way, it's like both ways that we do learn, and me stepping out of my comfort zone was another challenge that I just accepted it, and it was a fantastic journey. I learnt about the wider community, I met the parents, I made connections with the community, the parents as well. So that gave me like a really good start. That's the connection, that’s the best connection I could have ever made.

Students rehearsing for a performance

When I started taking part with the Kiribati group I found that the children were not comfortable with either of their languages. They thought that they must speak in English at all times and at the same time they wanted to use their language.

Keshmin Reedy, Teacher, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera

So I gave them the opportunity to use their language because, the Kiribati language, because it is part of their cultural identity and there's no way we want the children to lose that identity. They have to live with that and they have to embrace it with pride. So I encourage them to speak in their language because while they were teaching each other how to dance they couldn't express the movement or their moves in English.

So I said, “No, there's nothing to be ashamed of. You teach each other in your language. You'll understand each other better. So that's what we are here to promote; your culture, your identity and your language so be comfortable with that.”. And then they say, “Oh Miss, if we are not going to speak in English then we don't feel good.” Or they're really shy about it. So I said, “No, it doesn't matter. Wherever you go, if you can't speak another language, a second language, you can express yourself in your language, there’s always translators and there are many places in the world where English may not be recognised, people don’t understand English.

Teachers and children in Te Punanga o Te Reo Kuki Airani, Wellington

Bridget Kauraka, Te Punanga o Te Reo Kuki Airani, Wellington, facing camera

Because of our Pacific Islander’s faith in God we always, with our programme we always start with a pure or lotu in another language. Prayer to start off our day. And for that we are asking God for God's blessing, a continuous blessing to look after our children and ourselves during the day. And then that's also when we do our Cook Island language skills and the dancing, singing during mat time.

Some of the things that we bring into our mat time in the morning is to support the aim of the centre, the goals of the centre to teach the language and culture, is the singing, the Cook Island language, the basic Cook Island language skills...

Teachers and students singing and dancing

...dancing and other things that we incorporate into our programme during the day is making of ei’s. As you can see I'm wearing a beautiful one. And weaving, so we make all sorts of things that we bring that from home.

Bridget Kauraka, Te Punanga o Te Reo Kuki Airani, Wellington, facing camera

What we learn from home, we make balls out of the nikau, the coconut leaves and sunglasses and mats, hats, you name it. We incorporate all that into our daily programme. And we always bring the founder of the centre here to do all those with our tamariki. As Cook Island language week is approaching next week. So it's actually, we're looking forward to that simply because I'm proud that New Zealand has actually, recognised the importance of our Cook Island language and culture.

Teachers and students singing

This video is about teaching with culture at the center. Keshmin Reedy, teacher at Manurewa High School speaks about the challenges and opportunities of culturally responsive teaching, and how it has guided her to learn about and be part of Kiribati culture at school. Teaching with culture at the centre is about cultural relationships and reciprocal learning. Learning about different cultures is also learning about communities. Encouraging learners to speak their home language, rather than English, is part of their personal identity. Teaching with culture at the centre also goes hand-in-hand with spirituality. Prayer is important to many Pacific people and incorporating prayer into Pacific school activities is as deeply important to many Pacific learners as embracing their culture and language.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Cook Islands
  • Kiribati
Relevant turu
  • Turu 1
  • Turu 3

Reflections for individual teachers

As you watch the video think about ways that culture has impacted on your teaching and how you should anticipate culture shock.

  • How can you include interactions that acknowledge diverse cultures in your classroom? How can you adjust your teaching approach so that it appeals to your Pacific learners? Think of pedagogical approaches that require cultural intelligence.
  • Where and how can you seek out relevant information and advice to resourcefully adapt to the needs of Pacific learners? Share your own cultural assumptions.
  • Do you have a story to share about how you anticipate cultural differences and how will you address them before they become problems? In your story, describe the particular problem, how you intend to address it and share strategies to address situations similar to those in the video.

As a class activity, ask each learner to bring a dish from their culture, and explain what the dish represents and why it has become a part of their culture. They could also share about celebrations that include their dish at their home. Ask other learners what they know about the dish. Treat these dishes with respect, and consider using this activity as a lesson in cultural sharing.


Reflections for staff or departments

If you are watching this story as a staff member or member of a department team, think about classroom learning and cultural relationships.

  • How is your school supporting teachers to recognise the value of, and include cultural learning? Is your school equipping them with knowledge and skills through culturally relevant programmes?
  • How is your school preparing staff to be culturally responsive? How are you working collectively to lift achievement by responding to the learning styles and needs of Pacific learners?
  • How are you being encouraged to think critically about your programmes, learning experiences, and coursework to prepare you to work successfully with diverse students especially Pacific learners?