Knowing the learner

Show video transcript

Title slide: Knowing the learner

Dr. Ali Glasgow, Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington, facing camera

There's a bit of a tension between one way of learning and what we see as important as well. That's why I keep coming back to that culturally located pedagogy, it links to as much of that cultural and language learning as possible, because we celebrate it. It's a special… it's so special.

Within the Pacific we all have, we hold on very closely to our own identities and our language, because that's what also is really important to us. And the term “Pacific” can be quite a homogenizing process. We’re all lumped together, it’s a bit like Māori who also have the iwi. “Iwi tanga” is far more important than the term “Māori”.

I mean there are common principles that we hold on to like the ones that we talked about like family and community and relationships and all of those things. But there are special things within each nation that are important to us as well. Like we talk about tivaivai and you know that’s sort of like a Cook Island thing and fa’a Samoa and the matai system and the hierarchy that sits very much within a Samoan context, and not so much with us. So that's where I think it's special to celebrate each of our own island nations in that way.

Georgia Harris, Junior Teacher, Hornby Primary School, Christchurch, facing camera

One of the things that helps me get to know the learners is being available after school – going out and standing outside the classroom, catching parents as they come in to pick their kids up, seeing how their day was. I have one parent that quite often just used to give me a wave and just by saying hello and even speaking their language a little bit and saying “Hi, how are you”, they have now become more comfortable to come up and approach me and talk to me, which is great. And yeah, just making myself available. Going to watch the kids’ sports, finding out when their games are.

At the start of the year when I'm getting to know my kids, I find that it's really important to find out what their home language is, not just to get to know the kids but to get to know their whānau. We're lucky enough with some of our Hornby community that we can ask around for support with translating, and it has definitely seen a great improvement with engagement of families that maybe wouldn't have engaged earlier on in the year.

One of the families in my class has an extended family member living with them that has stronger English, so I quite often communicate with him to make sure that the message is passed on to the parents.

Student Pacific Group performing

So there is a boy, a senior boy, in the school who I learnt was Tongan and I knew a wee bit of Tongan – “how are you?” And so everyday, every time I saw him “hi, how are you?” in Tongan –“Malo e lelei Fefe hake”.

I always got back “good”, like, I'm good or “hi” nothing more than that, none of his own language. He never felt confident enough to share his own language I think. He used to leave his backpack at the gate as Gary would say. But it's constantly every time I saw him I never changed back to English, I’d just always greet him in his home language. And one day he decided to greet me back in his home language and it was amazing and this carried through to our Pacific Group where he said, “I can't learn that because it's too fast and I can't speak it”. I'm like, “are you sure, I'll give you the words, take them home”.

Student Pacific Group singing

Then within a week he came back and he said, “oh my dad helped me and I've learnt this whole haka in our home language and I want to call it”. And so that's the confidence and he was just so proud he'd found his identity and was so happy to be able to share it.

Some advice that I'd give to other teachers would be to just give it a go. Don't be afraid to maybe make a fool of yourself. Make sure you invite the children to help you, help you with your pronunciation, help you learn a dance so that you can teach the other children. And another piece of advice is just to be visible, not just to come out of your classroom but to walk around the playground and find a parent that might be sitting at a picnic table, or pop out to the carpark so I can catch up with parents that maybe don't come into school all that often.

Christina Smith, (speaking), Learning Support Co-ordinator & HOD Samoan Unit and Sarah Yandall-Vaega;

Pacific Dean, Whānau Leader, Kelston Girls’ College, Auckland, facing camera

I don't think some faiaoga’s know how important this whole relationship building. And it's not about just, “What did you do in the weekend?” You know it's about, “oh ok, I see that in your work you wrote about your grandma’s funeral. Okay. So you took the whole week off. So what are the things?” “Oh we do this because ra-ra-ra and then the church came over.” “Oh okay, so you go to a church – is it a local church?” “Oh yeah.” So you know it's about connecting and going out of your way so that when you do plan, you're planning for your kids but not what fits us but what actually fits the kids.

It’s like, it’ll make our pedagogy much more stronger if we do. And people say, “Oh we don't have the time” and all this sort of stuff. Hey, you know, we all don't have the time but we make the time if we, if you, want to see change and you want to see that engagement and your lessons change, you go out of your way. Especially when it comes to our Pasifika kids.

Sarah Yandall-Vaega; Pacific Dean, Whānau Leader, Kelston Girls’ College, Auckland, facing camera

These relationships will get you to know the learners. So, to avoid all those you know negativity, you know, maybe “So and so just banging the desk”, then go, “Are you okay, how can I help?” And you'll get the story from the learner – “Oh I got told off this morning because I didn't tidy my bed”. And then just go and say, “Look, there’s time, you know just say ‘I'm so sorry Mum I’ll do it’ da-dada”. So just getting to know the learner is very important, you know. Consistency – have that ongoing. Not just one day when you feel that the student is all good, then the next day da-da-da, you know, it’s that consistency of support, getting to know the learner and all that. The learner is in the middle here.

And I keep telling the non-Pasifika teachers that “Teaching is not telling”. We just remind that it is advising and reminding them, you know, just put up with the ups and downs. But you're the teacher, you're the adult here, and we've got our… you know, we've got the tools to help the students here and find the balance. You know, treat everyone equally and it's the equity often that's coming in here just to apply it.

This video demonstrates different ways of knowing and understanding Pacific learners. Making connections to their cultural contexts, and extending those connections to their families and communities, helps strengthen relationships and support learning. A culturally located pedagogy helps establish reciprocal relationships and strengthen connections with Pacific learners. Knowing a Pacific learner includes understanding their Pacific world view and weaving that into your learning in genuine and meaningful ways to create a culturally responsive environment.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Cook Islands
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
Relevant turu
  • Turu 1
  • Turu 3

Reflections for individual teachers

This video highlights the key elements for knowing your learner.

  • Write down examples of culturally responsive strategies to meet the needs of your Pacific learners. Think about your teaching and learning and the ways you get to know your Pacific learners.
  • How well do you know your Pacific learners? Share examples of how you make connections to their experiences and contexts to support learning and strengthen relationships.
  • This exercise involves you asking your Pacific learners what they want to see in their classrooms or learning programmes. Ask them what makes a good teacher? Construct learning situations based on what is important to Pacific learners by linking learning to their interests and prior knowledge.
  • How do you build an effective curriculum and pedagogy in the different cultural contexts of your Pacific learners? How are you connecting and responding to the identities, languages, and cultures of each of your learners? How will you weave values such as respect, service, leadership, family, belonging, and relationships into your lesson?


Reflections for staff or departments

If you are watching this story as a staff member or member of a department team, think of different situations and how you will develop an understanding of the different perspectives and values held by your Pacific learners and their parents, families, and communities.

  • How can you work with your staff to deepen understanding of the different Pacific ethnicities and values to help your staff to engage with their Pacific learners and their parents? Explore different Pacific beliefs, values and expectations.
  • How are you promoting Tapasā as a resource for all teachers of Pacific learners to support them to become more culturally aware, confident and competent when engaging with Pacific learners and their parents, families and communities?
  • How does your school involve parents, whānau, and communities in the learning of their children and young people? Provide and share examples.
  • How is your school providing best practice for teaching Pacific learners?