Knowing and sharing your own identity as a teacher

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Title slide: Knowing and sharing your own identity as a teacher

Sojung Yoon, Teacher, Kāhui Ako in School Lead, Farm Cove Intermediate, facing camera

My name is Sojung Yoon. I was born in Korea and I grew up in Mount Roskill. That's my hometown in New Zealand. We emigrated when I was eight years old and I was one of the few Asian kids at the school. Otherwise, it was all predominantly Pasifika there. So I really had an awesome childhood. I loved it, especially coming from Korea which was very strict at the time. 

I had a conversation with my mum about why some of my Pasifika friends weren't interested in university and I was very curious because some of them were really good at art, some of them were very good at science but they all said that they're not gonna finish Year 13, that they're going to go back and do training for something else and I just found that really confusing. But that's when I started to realise that there was some disenfranchisement across the society. So that's when I started to say to myself I really want to pay back this, this country that really welcomed me and allowed me to be who I am at that point, so I really wanted to devote myself to looking into that subject area. 

So that was my interest and I had no interest at all in teaching whatsoever but after I finished my degrees my professor asked me if I could speak Korean and I couldn't. So then he suggested why don’t you go back to Korea and live there for a bit and re-learn your culture, re-learn your language, so that was the plan. And so I went through the whole reverse immigration thing and the six-month plan became a three-year plan of staying there teaching there, but ultimately I really wanted to come back to New Zealand and that's how I became a teacher.

Schools tend to not have too many male teachers but to have ethnic male teachers is also quite rare. So even though I was ethnically Korean a lot of Chinese kids would come talk to me,  a lot of the Pasifika kids would come talk to me especially the boys for whatever reason they might have had. And once I told them I'm from Mt. Roskill they go ‘oh, oh yeah, you know that side of the neighbourhood’ and I'm like ‘yeah and I'm like I got friends who are like Tongan and I have friends who are like Samoan’.  I don't speak much of the languages but you know I know the culture and I think Asian cultures tend to be quite similar to Pasifika cultures where we uphold family values above all else and just being humble in general about what you do in public which includes the public school space. So it was really good for me to slowly realise that I was becoming a point of contact for some of these kids maybe not as a role model but just they knew that they could come talk to me about whatever issues they might have had.

I was never a sporty person and when I was growing up in Mt Roskill all my friends would try to get me to play sports but I was not a sporty person.

Luck of the draw was I had to take on the basketball team because one of the teachers had left and it was full of, half of it was Māori/Pasifika students, the other half was the Filipino community and I really started enjoying sort of the brotherly kind of attitude that the kids were having with each other and it was a really good place for me to realize that sports was - it's not just physical. It's actually about having a place for these kids to get together, develop their own identity. It was about honour and showing up to do your duty for the school. So I started to take it seriously. I think the kids were a little bit scared that they had a teacher who had no idea about basketball but I decided I'll learn, I'll learn for them because that's the least I can do.

So Kāhui Ako for this neighbourhood, we’re looking at the Māori Pasifika development of their data in the area and it's interesting because it's such a small minority group at our school with just 32 kids who are Pasifika. So I do a lot of talks with the kids first before I go into the meetings with the Kāhui Ako teachers just to get their view on what is it that you want from the school because I think that's the best way for me to make change happen.

In this video, Sojung Yoon discusses his own cultural identity and life experiences and reflects on how this impacts his practice as a teacher. Sojung talks about the importance of sport as a place for learners to value community and service. He also talks about his commitment to Pacific learners, recognising their potential and listening to what they want from their education. 

Relevant turu
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Reflections for individual teachers

As you watch this video, think about your role as a teacher working within a Pacific context.

“It is important that teachers understand their own distinctiveness, identity and culture in deep and meaningful ways in order to genuinely engage and respond to the distinctive identities, languages and cultures of others.” 

Tapasā (p.7)

In pairs:

  • Discuss the ways that Sojung Yoon brings this statement to life in his practice as a teacher.
  • Reflect on your own cultural identity and life experiences, and how these impact on your teaching practice and behaviours, especially in relation to your Pacific learners. 
  • Identify the ways that you reflect the distinctive identities, qualities, and cultures of your Pacific learners in your planning and teaching practice. 


Reflections for staff or departments

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

“Knowing yourself is not only about identity and self-reflection it is to also understand ones’ own biases, prejudices and actions of privileging.”

Tapasā (p.7)

  • Work with your staff to help them understand their own identities and cultures, and how they influence the way they think and behave as teachers. Encourage them to consider their own upbringing, their relationships with people from different cultures, the cultural stereotypes they have been exposed to, and the biases they have. 
  • As a staff or team, work collaboratively to identify a range of actions and practices you can use to create relationships for learning with learners who have cultural knowledge, languages, and experiences different to yours.