It’s all about relationships

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Title slide: It’s all about relationships

Reverend Pennie Vaione Otto, Deputy Principal, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera

Thinking about success and some key factors for our Pacific learners here in this school is relationships. The relationships between certain students and teachers, especially their subject teachers, is always going to result in some sort of really positive outcome. Whether it's an academic outcome or a sporting outcome or even just a social/wellbeing outcome for our young people.

Anna Smythe, Acting Principal (speaking) and Rosaline Tavelia, Deputy Principal, Kingsford Primary, facing camera

For us, it's working on our own knowledge and our own understandings. I mean the way I think about it, just from a personal perspective, is first and foremost it’s around building those strong relationships and getting to know the kids. And I don't mean like, “what's your name”, but actually it's important that you can pronounce their name correctly. I mean it sounds so simple, but actually, it's so important.

Sara Tanielu-Seve, Centre Manager, Equippers Centre, Auckland, facing camera

A lot of it is actually knowing who your children are. Knowing their names. Knowing that she's just not Pasifika, she's Tongan, she's got a culture of her own. Just getting to know that part of it first, before putting that person into a bowl of brown people or white people or whatever.

Anna Smythe, Acting Principal, Kingsford Primary, Auckland, facing camera

The learning focus relationship. So looking at, is the relationship that I have with my students, you know, is that strengthening the learning... or is it, am I trying to control, to manage the behaviour?

Daniella Latoa-Levi, Principal, Onepoto Primary, Auckland, facing camera

Teachers really need to know their students – they need to know their place in their family, they need to know if they're speaking two languages. So that when we come together and we look at any data, teaching and learning, we can answer to that. And that's really important, especially for our Māori and Pacific students.

Students working in groups in the classroom

Also, our students just having the ability to feel safe and secure in their learning and building on their learning attitude so that they become engaged learners.

Anna Smythe, Acting Principal (speaking) and Rosaline Tavelia, Deputy Principal, Kingsford Primary, facing camera
These last few weeks we've sort of asked our teachers to make it a point of touching base with certain families. And it's interesting some of the reactions. So some of them are like, “oh what do I say?”. And it just struck me like “oh my goodness”... actually, we need to teach our teachers how to do this, like it, it's an assumption I guess that they know how to do it all because we do it and we’ve probably been doing it so long.

Reverend Pennie Vaione Otto, Deputy Principal, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera
We've got some really good teachers who have come on board, who are new to our school, who are not Pacific but have embraced our Pasifika cultures as if they are.

So last week we had the national athletics right, and four of our students that represented our school at those games were all Pasifika. They all came home with medals and I think two of them took out gold in the hammer throw for New Zealand under 20s. So some really interesting achievements in that space. And that's the relationship between them and their coach, who's also our property manager, who's South African. So he's not Pasifika, he has not been raised around Pacific people, but he's got a really good strength in relating to our young people by going on to the same level as them, making an effort to understand and appreciate their value.

Sara Tanielu-Seve, Centre Manager, Equippers Centre, Auckland, facing camera

Early learning centre students in classroom

Try and get into who they are. Learn a little bit about them and about where they come from. Some of them are from hard families and you know they don't have much but they’re still there.

And I think that just one little bit of caring goes a lot further, that we're not just being put in there as too hard of a basket and thinking, I'll come back to you tomorrow, because you've just sort of lost that moment or that person is just being able to... yeah. I think a lot of us need to be real, you know, whatever is not right you say it. You do your little bit to help each other out and be able to do it together.

This video is about the importance of strong, reciprocal, responsive, and collaborative relationships. It is about partnerships and engagement between teachers and their learners and taking the time to really get to know learners. Teachers need to use Pacific constructs to engage and collaborate with Pacific learners and their families to empower learners. In practice this involves pronouncing Pacific learners’ names correctly, knowing who they are and their place in their families and communities, and recognising where they come from.

Relevant turu
  • Turu 2

Reflections for individual teachers

The stories in the video illustrate what these teachers know about their learners. This can be achieved through reciprocal learning and power-sharing relationships; acknowledging and understanding what each learner brings to the classroom from their own surroundings.

As you watch this video, think about each learner in your class. On a piece of paper, write down the names of all the learners in your class. Beside each name, note what the meaning of their name sounds and feels like to you.

  • As a class activity, ask each of your learners to say their name out loud. Give them some time in advance to ask at home about who named them, who they might be named after, and if their names have a special meaning.
  • Write each name on the board and the meaning or significance beside it.
  • When everyone has had a turn, refer to your piece of paper and compare what you wrote initially with the meanings provided by your learners.
  • Repeat this exercise with your learners. This time ask your learners to provide their parents, grandparents, or their siblings' names and find out what their names mean. Use two names for this exercise. 
    • Each learner can write a story about each name and read their stories to the class. Then it is your turn to share.


Reflections for staff or departments

Schools need to recognise the importance of names by pronouncing them correctly. Do not shorten or translate names into similar or “sounds like” English names. This creates a safe space for learners to feel valued, supported, and special.

  • Think of a time when you created a connection with a Pacific learner that you feel was effective and meaningful. Reflect on how you maintained and built on that connection throughout their learning journey.
  • Explore your own thoughts and experiences of successful relationship building with your learners. List your ideas and also any reservations from your reflection. How can you put your ideas into practice?
  • Now reflect on the possibility of developing new ways of communicating and working with your learners. What kind of work can you do in yourself in order to become more engaged with your learners?