Mana ōrite: Critical curriculum contexts for accelerating and promoting mauri ora
Dr. Mere Berryman shares critical contexts for change where the curriculum can both accelerate and promote contexts for Mauri ora.
Berryman is Associate Professor, Director of Poutama pounamu, University of Waikato. She aims to challenge the pervasive and historical discourses that perpetuate educational disparities for Māori students and disrupt these through school leadership and reform initiatives.
This talk was a part of Taking the Lead - Celebrating the Curricula in Wellington on 9, March, 2018
As you watch the presentations, think about these questions:
- How do we get this right for our children?
- How will we enable all children to be ‘confident, connected, actively involved’ lifelong learners?
- How will we uphold the values and principles of a world leading curriculum, in the best interests of our children and our society?
- How will this start, from today?
You can also download these questions as a discussion sheet to use as a group. (Word doc, 0.15MB)
Mere Berryman: E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā maunga, e ngā awa awa, e ngā pātaka o ngā taonga tuku iho. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
Thirty minutes… to sum up my experiences in education and somebody has done it much more eloquently than I and it’s in the painting there.
Berryman indicates to an image on the screen depicting a young Māori woman holding a white mask next to her face.
That was my experience in education as a student. It became my experience as a teacher I have to say. The problems in the classroom of other teachers who were not Māori became my problem and that amazing painting still does it for me. It’s a woman. It’s a female, and that’s because ladies, we were far more malleable, we were prepared to leave our culture at the school gate, but my brothers didn’t. And there was a time when I was working as a special needs advisor when three out of five Māori boys were stood down or expelled from the education system.
I’m the mother of three sons. If you’re a Māori male you’re part of the endangered species. I’m not sure that we’re doing much better now so you will forgive me, but that is my focus, and my focus is also, I’ve been really privileged to have been a teacher for over twenty years and now a researcher for over twenty years and I’ve done a lot of learning about that space, and that’s a privilege, absolute privilege.
What it’s allowing me to do now is look at a new gap, or a new space in education that’s beginning to emerge for our students of poor Pākehā families and also our recent immigrants and refugees. And so I go back to the Treaty of Waitangi and I go back to the promises that were absolutely explicit in that treaty. The promises of partnership, protection and full participation in all the benefits that the crown has to offer. When we think about that word ‘partnership’, what does it mean? Well, for Māori it means that: yes, we will work in partnership with you, we hold the resource, we will tell you what to do. Well, that’s been our experience.
I really like that first metaphor, that first concept – mana ōrite. Mana is a word that we use all the time I think, in New Zealand. It’s a piece of rhetoric that we bandy around - mana enhancing ways – as though we had the power to enhance somebody’s mana, I don’t know. Mana ōrite. You see, the number of students that I’ve talked to who’ve said to me - in terms of our relationship with children – students have told me: we want teachers to treat us like they want to be treated themselves. That’s about having the same level of mana, or the same level of power and not a partnership necessarily. Where the one with the most resource tells the other person how they will engage. So, mana ōrite - I’m going to be talking a lot more I think about the second word. Yes, that notion of criticality, and when I use the term ‘criticality’, when I use the term ‘critical’ I go back to Paulo Freire who happens to be one of my heroes - pedagogy of the oppressed, pedagogy of hope, pedagogy of love – I go back to his critical question of what is happening to our marginalised students and so that’s the group that I’m talking about. For twenty years I’ve had the privilege of learning about what’s happening for Māori - the 20% of students in our education system that education is still not working for. I think the fact that we’ve got 80% is a reflection of people like you; I know that. But it’s the 20% that I’m… I’m really still concerned about.
And what I want to do today is really, put the focus on practical ways of celebrating this curriculum but to do so in a way that – going forward – might make more meaningful sense. And mana ōrite I think is really important, it’s that relationship where we treat each other in ways that we would hope they will treat us. And I really think that if I look back on education and what I’ve learned from education it is about education opening up identities where Māori students can be Māori, and it’s safe to be Māori. But the student from Kenya who, you may have read NZ STAs report with the Children’s Commissioner, the young student who said I don’t like being called ‘Baa baa Black sheep or something to that effect. um… this pervasiveness of unconscious bias, racism call it what you will. We’ve got to get on top of that and I believe as a nation we can.
I remember when the national curriculum first began to be developed in a different way. I was teaching where, when Te Reo Māori was introduced we took the English curriculum document and thought that we had to you know, bring the two together somehow – we’ve learnt a lot since then which is wonderful. So I thought: Right, if I’m talking at a conference which is about celebrating the curricula, what can I say?
The video displays six bullet points about the National Curricula. Bullet point four states “Unlike any other curriculum that I have seen internationally.”
Well, I can say some of the things that I know are fact, but I want to pick up on bullet point four, that this curriculum that we have in New Zealand is like no other curriculum that I have seen in the world. And we must celebrate that fact. People from overseas are looking at us. The fact that we still go overseas and bring their people over here to tell us what to do, I find a little bit worrying… But it is I believe potentially a foundation for being truly responsive, not only to various iwi, but to the other groups that I was talking about – the 20% - I believe that now that we’ve moved, and this is my last bullet point.
The video displays six bullet points about the National Curricula. The last bullet point states “Exciting time, opening up the curriculum rather than narrowing it.”
I believe it’s a very exciting time because we are, rather than narrowing it, it’s being opened up. I remember, last year, my mokopuna, she was four then, and she came home from the day care that she attended and she said very proudly to me: “Nanny, I’m in the Transformers,” and Nanny said: “You’re what?!” “I’m in the Transformers.” And I said: “And what do the Transformers do?” She said: “Well, we know our letters and we know our numbers. And we’re learning reading and stuff.”
So you know, I’m pleased now, she will be still learning reading and stuff but hopefully she will be enjoying as a five year old, the opening of the curriculum in the Primary School that she attends and life will become not the little bag of blackline masters and words in isolation, but absolutely words in context, and contexts which open the door not only to her whole world but to the world of others. So I am celebrating that fact and I hope… I’m sure you’re celebrating it with me.
The point I want to go to though, is this point from Mason Durie. Because we often talk about having children in the centre, Te tamaiti, te putake o te ao. Well, I think about my brothers and I think about this amazing painting by Don Ratana and I think about the boys who look just like that.
The video displays a painting by Don Ratana depicting the faces of two boys.
That look in the eyes of our students which says: I feel alienated by a system that was set up to support me. Mason calls that ‘Mauri noho’. He suggests that we all have a Mauri whether we’re a Māori person or a whatever, we all have a Mauri – we have that inner essence. I was fascinated when he said: but we don’t all have mana. It was what I was thinking, but he said it because he can say these things. Mauri: he talks about us as having mauri that can be languishing; mauri noho. Or we could have mauri that is ‘mauri ora’, our mauri is well, it’s vital, it’s energised.
And I guess our job is as educators, whatever it becomes, whatever it is, as professionals, our job is moving students from positions of mauri noho to mauri ora. And I think with the opening up of the curriculum we are well poised to do that.
I’m going to talk about a model that’s come out of the last twenty years of research.
The video displays an image of the ‘ako critical contexts for change’ model.
First off in this model is mauri ora. It’s right in the centre. That’s our essence, that’s why we’re here as educators. It’s to create context for learning where students’ mauri is alive and well. Thanks to a group of students from Kaitaia down to the Bluff we’ve got the simultaneous success trajectories. Because when I said to them: what does success as Māori mean? They said: “Well, we want to leave school with qualifications to do what’s next.” So that probably means when my mokopuna leaves primary school she wants to be able to read and write and do all of those things, that’s important, but we don’t want to have compromised who we are in order to get those qualifications. So that, Linda Smith would tell us, is a decolonising stance. It’s a stance that says: we want – and probably Hekia would say: it’s an and-and stance – we want to get the achievement but we also want to not have to leave our culture at the school gates. And might I suggest that that’s what different iwi believe – children of iwi descent, but it’s also what I would suggest that Kenyan student wants as well. Yet, what are we doing? Well. It sounds like the word “assimilation”… soon as we teach them all to speak English and we fit them in to our schools, they’ll be fine. Well, no.
Down the bottom there’s this notion of equity and excellence.
The video displays an image of the ‘ako critical contexts for change’ model.
Well yes of course we would all aspire to an education system that was about equity and excellence, but one of the questions that I’m asking you is: yeah, but are we forcing students to fit in? And if students don’t feel they belong in our setting is that equity and excellence. I’d suggest it might not be. So we have to think about belonging. How do we create contexts for learning where children really belong?
Well one of the ways from the research, thank you Professor John Hattie and others, who have showed us that effective teachers who know how to use the curriculum, who know how to use policy, who know…. Effective teachers make the biggest difference. That is really important and I would suggest that that is probably making a difference for 80% of our students. It’s what we’re good at. It was what we were trained for. And what is the profession we practise on a daily basis? But what do we need in terms of context for learning for our 20%?
Well this is probably one of the most over-used pieces of rhetoric in education today:
“Cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy.” Because what I found was that everybody’s an expert. Everybody’s an expert in culturally responsive pedagogy and everybody knows it’s all about relationships. But what does that actually look like as a practitioner? What does that look like when I walk into the classroom in the morning?
Well, Māori students told me it looks like this. This notion of whānau. Teachers who treat their children as though they were their own. I remember doing this as a very young teacher in a Year 1 & 2 classroom. Where I was hauled over the coals by the principal because I did what I thought I would want my teacher of my child to be doing for him. Well, I’m a slow learner. I’m still doing those sorts of things I’m afraid.
So this notion of whānau is important. And students have told me for the last twenty years. One of the good things about getting old is you’ve got less to lose so you can say what you really think rather than what you think people want to hear. Huh!
This notion of treating people like whānau means that you know who they are. Who their parents are, where they come from, what they believe in, and more importantly – and here’s the power-sharing – they know about you. Sometimes more things than anybody else knows about you. And that’s ok.
The last bit is teachers who are on the same agenda, in the same waka, share the same kaupapa, share the same beliefs and values and understand what is important for you.
So those are the things about cultural relationships, that students have told me again and again in a number of projects, are important.
But then, what about this responsive pedagogy? Is it about putting kowhaiwhai patterns up or Māori All Blacks around the room so that children feel like they belong in the classrooms? Well it might be that but if that’s all you do then it’s not! It’s far more requiring us to treat our students in the way that they want us to treat them.
And this is where the opening up of the curricula is going to be potentially so exciting. Because we are not travelling down a prescribed black line master. It means that children’s experiences can come into the classroom and be used in real and practical ways. It means that their families’ experiences can do that as well. And if we’re not doing it then we haven’t gone as far as we need to go for the 20%.
The final part of the model is the research that we saw in the last leadership BES - Chapter 7 – The notion of working in collaborative ways with whānau.
The video displays an image of the ‘ako critical contexts for change’ model.
And this is the piece that can really accelerate the shifts. What John Hattie showed us, and I think I’m right, there’s lots of academics in the room, it was about 30% that an average teacher got in terms of effect sizes. Excellent teachers doubled that. Yeah. The research shows that when we are much more responsive and relational to Māori students, or anybody else for that matter, then we can actually increase that yet again. We can accelerate the shifts.
However, the exciting thing that’s in Chapter 7 of the BES is that we can accelerate the shifts over a shorter period of time. So we can triple them. I can remember when Stuart McNaughton first said to me: If you really want to triple the effect that you’re doing as a researcher or as a classroom teacher, then bring whānau into the secret and share what you’re doing with them and let them do it at home at the same time. And that’s what Chapter 7 of the BES is about.
But you have to be careful because Chapter 7 also shows that some of the things we do with whānau can have a negative effect, and we must remember that. We must sort out the difference. So, that’s what the model looks like and you’ll see that on the website and we call it the Ako: critical contexts for change. Now if you can bring that into your school at multiple levels then you’ll reach your 20% and you’ll accelerate the learning for all. We call it ‘Ako’ because it is about everybody being a teacher and a learner, a learner and a leader. And it requires all of those voices alongside effective use of a wide, diverse and rich curricula. I’m celebrating that.
Is it ‘forced fit or belonging as Māori’ Or Kenyan, or Korean or whatever?
This is what the students told us. And ok, this is not new. When Russell and I collected the voices in ‘Culture speaks’ that was the pervasive discourse. In 2015 when we did it with a different group of students, there it is, NZ STA, Children’s Commissioner, it’s there still. We’re not doing that, we’ve got to get our head around it.
Here’s a third one, and this is the notion that Jerome Brunner calls ‘our cultural toolkit’. Our prior knowledge and experiences. We need to be able to build on our own experiences and when we are also able to build on the experiences of others, then we can learn more.
‘Having Māori culture and values celebrated at school by Māori and non-Māori’. So not just the kapa haka for the Māori students or Te Reo for the Māori students for the third time in their schooling you know, it’s for everyone.
This one, ‘Experiencing the power of whānautanga/whanaungatanga’ and this use of the term ‘whānautanga’ – it means birth, to give birth – whānautanga. You see that’s that notion of treating the children as we would want our own children to be treated, our own mokopuna to be treated; whānautanga. Whanaungatanga is more about establishing those networks and making those connections. Both are important. Both I would say are essential for the 20%. And actually, it doesn’t feel too bad for the 80% I have to say.
That notion of working together, not as partners, not in collaboration because I say we’re going to collaborate with whānau, but in ways that are mana ōrite.
‘Developing and maintaining emotional and spiritual strength’. Mauri. Mauri ora rather than mauri noho.
Here’s another one that really connects to that notion of whānau. Students want people that they can call on and whenever they need explicit help it will be there.
Understanding. I mean when you think about the history and what’s been happening for many Māori students in education. This notion of understanding that actually we can succeed. The number of Māori students who are the first in their families to go to university or to sit UE or sit Level 2, I mean, that’s my story. That’s my story. I can remember when I was celebrating my Doctorate, my brother said to me: “So Mere, does that mean that you know, you can get a prescription for us or what?” I said: “No. No, sorry I’m not that sort of doctor”… “Well what’s the use then?” But, that notion that success is part of who we are.
And finally, ‘Being able to contribute to the success of others’, and there’s that notion of ako.
So just to tie us up to where we are, this whakatauki to take you back. ‘Ma te huruhuru, ka rere te manu…’ When you look at feathers each one is uniquely different and yet when we put them all together it’s the feathers that allow the birds to take flight. And that’s the unique metaphor I think as teachers thinking about our students.
Here you are. There’s the team of amazing people I work with, and there’s the website.
The video displays a photograph of the Poutama Pounamu team and a link to the website.
Thank you very much.
More from this series
How do we take the opportunity to uphold the values and principles of our world-leading curricula, in the best interests of our children and our society? Curricula experts share their expertise in working with all the New Zealand curricula in Taking the Lead - Celebrating our Curricula.