Language, identity and culture

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Title slide: Language, identity and culture

Teachers and children singing

Dr Jeanne Teisina, Centre Manager, Akoteu Kato Kakala, South Auckland

I think Tongan language is very important to our children, especially growing up here in Aotearoa, that is the sense of who they are. It's this sense of identity and it's so important to embrace their culture and their sense of identity and that includes the language because language and culture they go together.

Dr Jeanne Teisina, Centre Manager, Akoteu Kato Kakala, South Auckland, facing camera

And that's why we think you know embracing those values of who they are will definitely help them, in the long run, setting a great foundation for them.

It's very important to build an awareness and an understanding of the cultures of the Pacific learners and for us Tongan kids it's really important that those who are not Tongans understand our children because from that understanding they'll be able to approach them in you know with more understanding and not judge our kids based on their values and looking through a different lens to assess our kids. So it's really important that they understand the Tongan language and culture and also the other cultures, Pacific cultures, so that they can engage with them in a meaningful way.

It's important to be aware that the children bring a whole lot of, a whole lot of cultures and a whole lot of values with them to the centre because they may come as one but behind them is the collective lofainga. So it's really important to look at the child holistically and have and not look at just a certain value or certain aspects of their culture

Dr Ali Glasgow, Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington

I think that teachers can - if they develop a real understanding that this is an important part of their teaching, an important part of the curriculum, they will engage with the principles of family. What does family and aiga and whānau look like? You know we bring our curriculum from our wider worlds. We don't just build it from the classroom. We consult with our elders. We learn the language, we find out what is important and in our children's wider world what happens in their … you know going to White Sunday. You know all of those things that are important to our children need to be brought into the classroom and celebrated. And shown as important because otherwise our children are getting a message that what I am is deficit, if it's not brought into the classroom situation.

Dr Jeanne Teisina, Centre Manager, Akoteu Kato Kakala, South Auckland, facing camera

I think it's important that kaiako know that the Tongan learners are different even though they may be categorised as Pacific learners. Within the Tongan culture, everyone is different. They have their own way of their social upbringing, the values that they have even within the Tongan culture there's, you know a diverse range of values that are different in each child that they bring. So it's really important that the kaiako think one thing is to have an open mind you know, not to use that approach of one size fits all. So you will be able to tailor and customize your approaches to fit the child and what they bring. So it's really important for the kaiako to have an open mind, open heart, be able to embrace the differences you know, in our kids no matter if they are Samoan or Tongan or whatever cultures that they may bring.

Children involved in activities in the centre

Some people think that you have to do all these major things but it starts from the basics you know, starts from Malo e lelei you know, where do they come? Talking about the Mana of the child you know, which village are you from?

Dr Jeanne Teisina, Centre Manager, Akoteu Kato Kakala, South Auckland, facing camera

Getting to know who they are, not just getting to know the mum you know, the dad, you know the special things about their families. It's about starting from there. Getting to know them and starting and building, strengthening, as time goes you build that relationship with the family and also you know respecting their wishes.

Children involved in outside activities in the centre

Tongan success needs to be defined by Tongan people for Tongan people. It's not just one idea of being success, it’s a number of ideals put together to make success which is the, it's not just like what we talked about before, it's a holistic, it's not just being rich in money, it's not about that, it's more than that.

Dr Jeanne Teisina, Centre Manager, Akoteu Kato Kakala, South Auckland, facing camera

So it's a lot of the anga fakatonga, that you're rich in anga fakatonga, that you're rich in the va with your nofo ‘a kainga, that you’re also rich in terms of your fatongia and the obligations that you hold within nofo ‘a kainga and all the multiple layers, the complexities that comes with the Tongan language and culture. Put together makes success and for every child and for every family it can be different depending on their social upbringing. But I think it's really important to really understand, not to make assumptions about what makes success, what success looks like for Tongan kids and Tongan parents and Tongan communities.

This video is about the importance of recognising and building on the identity, language, and culture of Pacific learners. The video talks about the need for teachers to engage with their Pacific learners and find out about their families, values, and culture. Incorporating cultural events, values, and practices that are relevant to learners into the curriculum and learning environment is one way that teachers can enable students to be secure in their cultural identity.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Tonga
Relevant turu
  • Turu 1

Reflections for individual teachers

As you watch this video think about your role as a teacher working within a Pacific context. In groups discuss the following questions:

  • How well do you know your learners who have cultural knowledge, languages and experiences that are different to your own?
  • What do you already know about the languages, cultures, values, and practices of your Pacific learners?
  • Where are your gaps in knowledge and who can help you broaden your understanding?
  • What is one thing that you can do in your classroom or early learning service to recognise and build on the language, identity, and culture of one of your Pacific learners?

Decide on an immediate action that you will take to make your teaching and learning more responsive to your Pacific learners.


Reflections for staff or departments

If you watch this video as a staff member or member of a department team, think about effective leadership practices in Pacific cultures.

How does your school or early learning service support your staff and students to deepen their awareness of different Pacific identities, languages, and cultures?

Consider how you can draw on the cultural expertise of your Pacific learners and their families, elders, and community groups to develop your understandings.

You might choose to:

  • Work with your Pacific families to organise activities for the many Pacific language weeks that we celebrate in Aotearoa.
  • Invite elders from your Pacific community if they are willing to share their stories, values, customs and languages with your staff.
  • Take part in Pacific events and festivals in your community including art exhibitions and cultural celebrations.