Pacific values

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Title slide: Pacific values

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

Pacific Deans, Whānau Leaders, Kelston Girls’ College, Auckland, facing camera

We strongly believe that it's already in them from home. And there's a Sāmoan saying that “Le loa le tene Sāmoa o le ana tu o le Savali’i tautala”, even the North. So disciplining, everything, cultural values and everything, it's in them. But the application of it coming here, we’re just reminding them and then, but it's already in them. And the main important thing for a Sāmoan girl is the “va”, just watch this space you know. Le va oi melei. And then looking at the environments – Ona, Lotu – what is the other one? Home, Church, School. So we believe that they've been out there just bringing that knowledge, cultural knowledge, in here and then share it with other girls around here and that's it.

Images of Pasifika women

And then we don't have to start again but the “va” is the major, it's very sacred, it’s the mana of every individual. And as a Pasifika and for me, before I da-da-da…

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

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

...sit back, le va, va mokosina (my colleague), va with the principal, they are all different. Va Pasifika, very strong, it has to be the same with va of non-Pasifika.

And so for our non-Pasifika teachers, if you have that respect you will go out of your way to say, “Hey, you know, why does this person do this?”. Yet, I like, you know, you can become so confrontational but it's like hold on, if I respect them then I'll just go ask, “Hey why did you do what you had done. And you know you're not supposed to?”. Because it's against what I, you know, and it's just really unpacking the respect and what it looks like in a Pasifika setting.

When we talk about Pasifika as well, you know we have to, sometimes, we have to itemise because Sāmoan fa’aloaloa may well look different in the Fijian or a Tongan setting. And so it's a lot of work, yes. But in order to engage that respect we have to be willing to go, you know, us teachers we are the ones that are gonna, if we want to see change then we have to go out of our way to make the change happen and that requires a lot of work. But hey, no-one said it was gonna be easy.

This video is about a process of reflection and recognising Pacific values. It explores the Samoan concept of 'le va' (the space in between) in relationship and relatedness. It provides grounds for a more nuanced discussion of relationships by addressing the breadth and transformational power of the application of le va. An awareness of 'va' has its place in the school, the classroom and in teacher-learner relationships. Appreciating the va deepens cultural understanding and appreciation.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Samoa
Relevant turu
  • Turu 2

Le va

The va/va'a/vaha is a pan-Pacific notion that describes the spatial and relational context within which secular and spiritual relationships unfold. Social, spiritual, and relational contexts allow for personal and collective well-being and growth through knowledge generation, social action, and cultural transformation. In Teu Le Va, relationships are given space and valued so that all involved may benefit (Anae, 2007).

In learning settings, le va is about giving space and time to prioritise and value relationships with students, families and colleagues – nurturing physical and relational spaces. Teu le Vā (nurture the relationship) is a common expression because it shows how relationships define us. Le va is also about how we are within the space; encompassing principles such as reciprocity, balance, respect, and mutual trust.


Reflections for individual teachers

You can now reflect on how you can use the idea of 'le va' in relation to your learners. One of the key values of va/space is the value of proximity. As you watch this video, think of the quality of relationships that have been identified as a significant factor for Pacific learners through movement and the closing of space.

  • How does the identification of 'le va' translate in the way you configure, and the scale of space, in your classroom?
  • How can you communicate to your learners the value of asking questions, and acknowledging challenging subjects, areas of ignorance, and confusion so they do not emerge as a hurdle (especially in front of the class)?
  • What is your approach for encouraging Pacific learners to share their understanding of the va and its significance in social environments and/or spiritual settings?

The emotions evoked by the va act as a learning hurdle.

  • What pedagogical tactic will you use to avoid exposing Pacific learners to shame and embarrassment in class?
  • How do you make space for your learners to ensure balanced reciprocity of giving and taking?
  • Take time to reflect on how you will develop a positive connection in the va between your Pacific learners and their learning. The actions here involve time and care. Also, reflect on your interactions with learners outside of the classroom and how you communicate and build connections with their parent/s and families.


Reflections for staff or departments

If you are watching this story as a staff member or as a member of a departmental team, reflect on va as the relational space between people.

  • How can you nurture the va, and maintain sacred space, harmony and balance in your relationships with your Pacific learners, and their parent/s, families and communities?
  • In what ways do you protect and preserve sacred space for Pacific learners in your school environment?
  • What programmes and initiatives are offered in your school to ensure teachers learn how to teu le va in different stages of relationships by understanding va disciplinary, personal space, and practicing mutual care?
  • Reflect on how your school supports an understanding of va as recognising the quality of relationships, and how your learners see their relationship with a learning area.