On a wet and windy day I am off to the Kāpiti Coast to talk to three schools - Kapiti College staff tomorrow morning, and Te Ra Waldorf and Raphael House schools tomorrow evening - different schools, different philosophies, but all prepared to think differently about examining their practice to be more effective for Māori learners. Looking forward to the conversations!
It's always great to be back at Kia Aroha College and last week was no exception. On Monday I was working with amazing teachers, brushing up on our critical pedagogy planning for next term. I also had the chance for a brief meeting with a new group of Warrior-Researchers, students I will have the privilege of working and researching with over the next few months.
On Wednesday I was back talking to a group of visiting USA educators from the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont, and to welcome friends from Seattle, Washington. Appreciation to Tami Farber for the wonderful quote above from her post about her visit. That's very special!
On Thursday, the last day of the term, with the threat of a Cyclone Cook in the air, I had the honour of speaking to the co-principals and teachers from Samoa Primary School, and was delighted to find like-minds, and a school determined to work against those colonising White spaces in Samoa. I'm sure they found many connections in their visit to Kia Aroha's Samoan Bilingual unit later in the day.
A great start to the weekend was to find an email had arrived overnight from international filmmaker, Faolan Jones, who produces powerful films from around the world for Teach for All. The first piece of news from Faolan, a couple of days ago, was to tell me the the draft of the film he made some time ago now about Kia Aroha College is almost ready. This morning's email invited me to check out his most recent Blog post, Teaching kids in poverty to ‘play the game’ is not enough, which he says, "is very much inspired by what I've learnt from you and Jeff" (Jeff Duncan-Andrade).
It's gratifying to know you have inspired anything, or anyone, but to know you have made some small contribution to such powerful and truthful writing is wonderful feedback indeed! Thank you Faolan! All school leaders and teachers need to read this.
It was great to speak with Kathryn Ryan on National Radio's Nine to Noon show this morning, in spite of my trepidation that talking about our Whiteness is not always a popular topic! I appreciated Kathryn's insight and grasp of the issues facing our Māori and Pasifika learners in our education system. Although the show began with a focus on our teacher-training needing a 'shake-up', I hope I was able to get across that, although teacher training is certainly part of the problem, and our teacher training perpetuates White thinking in our practice as teachers and leaders, what we need is a fundamental rethink about how we educate our children.
Listen to the podcast here
As I begin to plan for 2017, I’ve been reflecting on what a milestone year 2016 was for me. I took my first (and last) sabbatical leave in 40 years of teaching and principalship. That time out led me to consider “retirement” from the role of school leadership – a major, soul-searching step which I achieved at the end of July. I was honoured by the Kia Aroha College whanau with an amazing farewell. I established my own education consulting business, developed its website, and had to learn fast about accounting, invoicing, and being self-employed. I wrote a book, and had it published in New York. I travelled to Samoa, Washington DC, and San Francisco. I developed ongoing partnerships with six awesome schools who are committed to authentic, critical, culturally responsive learning. I gave 12 keynote and guest speaker presentations, all over the country. I completed two research/writing contracts. The icing on my 2016 cake was the safe and healthy arrival of my 13th grandchild and my 4th great grandchild in December. All that – plus the resignations of both Hekia Parata and John Key! Joy all round on the whānau, professional, and political fronts! More please 2017! Happy New Year everyone!
I spent two days last week with Nelson principals at their annual conference. Innovative, hard-working leaders, interesting conversations, great venue, and wonderful food! The conference theme was, "adaptive, agentic, and authentic," and as I listened to fascinating future trends described by, Dr Cheryl Doig, I was reminded all over again about the tensions between looking forward to a very different future, and the need to hold on to who you are. Dei (2011) aligns this struggle to retain one’s identity and indigenous knowledge in a changing world, with resistance:
Today, Indigenous knowledge is about the struggle to retain one’s identity in the call for a global sameness. …Indigenous knowledge is about resistance, not in the romanticized sense, but resistance as struggle to navigate the tensions of today’s modernized, globalized world while seeking to disrupt its universalizing, hegemonic norms. (p. 168)
In the Middle Grades Review online journal earlier this year, I wrote about this dilemma ...
We live in the world of the intensely market-driven lower case “i”. Since the launch in 1998 of the “iMac”, Apple Inc. has spawned a plethora of lower-case “i” devices and programmes. Even “non-i” users, like me, cannot help but be surrounded by fervent disciples of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, IMovie and iTunes. And I am not altogether immune. The model of the car I drive is the i30. What do these mean? According to Steve Jobs (1998), the “i” signified “the marriage of the excitement of the internet, with the simplicity of Macintosh” (Jobs, 1998), so the “i” stands for internet then? Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Jobs suggested in the same speech it could also stand for individual, instruct, inform, and inspire. According to the vice president of Hyundai Europe, (Stein, 2007) the “i” in my i30, and their other “i” models, stands for inspiration and innovation. That is a lot to ask of one small letter!
Whatever the “i” signifies, which it seems can be anything you want it to be, there is no denying that it is pervasive. The small “i” is also insidious. It crept into our vocabulary, into our homes, our pockets and our handbags, and spun off into other products. The small “i” typifies many other takeovers, which marginalise or replace what we valued before, and become our new way of thinking. The question is, as these devices, and this language have become ubiquitous in our schools as essential tools to equip our children for the future, what has happened to the upper case “I”? Where am I – not only in our neoliberal market-driven education systems – but for students of colour, where am I in the omnipresent “white spaces” (Milne, 2013) which permeate our schools? Where is the crucially important “I” for Identity? Where is Indigineity?
Right up there, on a par with winning Lotto, is the news yesterday that Hekia Parata's days as Education Minister are numbered! The welcome, but unexpected, announcement that she will not stand for election in 2017, begs the question, did she jump, or was she pushed? No matter what reasons emerge for her abrupt departure there is no erasing of, or excuse for, her track record in the role over the last five years.
After 40+ years in education, 22 of those as principal of a decile one school focused on Maori and Pasifika learners, I have no reservation whatsoever, in finding her to be the worst Minister of Education I have ever encountered—and believe me, there have been some shockers in those four decades!
The neoliberal reforms, failed all over the world, which she has been hell-bent on driving through, in the face of massive opposition from educators who deeply understand learning and children, would be bad enough. Forcing New Zealand schools into that “race to the bottom” with such determination just demonstrates her refusal and inability to understand the damage she has caused. Her arrogant, supercilious attitude towards teachers and school leaders is another reason. Her blatant lying to suit her own ends, yet another.
However, those all pale into insignificance compared with the trait which puts her head and shoulders below any previous Education Minister—the sustained, vitriolic, and vengeful vendettas she orchestrated against highly qualified and respected school principals who had the courage and integrity to stand up and speak out for their children and communities against her bullying tactics. In Hekia's head, she is always right, even when she is completely and embarrassingly wrong, and she will go to any lengths to prove it! This is the smiling assassin at her worst.
I hope she was pushed. She certainly pushed great educators we could ill afford to lose out of our profession. Many more of us have been pushed out in different ways, often in despair at the assault on all we know to be best practice for our children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, the National market-driven bulldozer will push forward whether Hekia is smiling in the driver's seat or not. We can certainly expect more damage to our children to come, even when we think it couldn’t possibly get worse. If, as one rumour suggests, she jumped, in the face of further radical reform that even she couldn't stomach, then it's a bit late for her to develop a conscience as far as I'm concerned. The time for her to demonstrate concern for children and teachers is long past, and her report card, to use the very assessment she introduced, is well-below standard.
It's great to be able to return "home" to Kia Aroha College in a completely different capacity and to have the discussions that, as a busy principal, often get crowded out by all your other responsibilities and demands on your time. It's a bit like thoroughly enjoying time with your grandchildren, then handing them back to their parents to do the hard work day-to-day!
I have spent the last two days working with team leaders and senior leadership team members, developing action plans from the appraisal goals we have established together over the last couple of professional development visits. As always, the challenge is ensuring that teacher goals include critical, culturally responsive practice - not just literacy, but critical literacy, for example. How do you align the requirements of NCEA with critical pedagogy and culturally-centred practice? How, in the frantic end-of-year push to complete assessment requirements do you remember it's Maori, Samoan, and Tongan FIRST? How does the development of a strong secure cultural identity not become marginalised by those ever encroaching White spaces that dominate and determine what counts as knowledge and what is valued by the Ministry of Education?
The very cool thing is that I can pose all those challenging questions, and leave, completely confident in the principal and senior leadership team's passion and commitment to continue and extend the conversation into innovative critical practice.
Stuff article by Laura Dooney 10 July, 2016:
A new study is blaming teachers for low achievement amongst Maori students, saying their "unconscious bias" is causing Maori to fail.
The report Unconscious Bias in Education said teachers' low expectations of Maori children had led to decades of under-achievement.
A hierarchy was developing among teachers, so they expected the best results from Asian students, followed by Pakeha, Pasifika, then Maori, one of the study's authors Anton Blank said.
MY BOOK IS AT THE PRINTER in New York! Finally! I am expecting copies and marketing information to arrive shortly, in time to launch on 21 November at the NZARE Conference event in Wellington. I'll post update details as soon as I have them.
Congratulations to Manurewa High School who have made the development of cultural identity a key strategic goal in their Charter, and have taken up the challenge to strengthen and describe markers and indicators specific to their students and community.
I am really looking forward to our 18 month journey working together towards this goal! Great start with a focus group yesterday - looking forward to ongoing discussions!
How do we make principal and teacher appraisal and performance management as culturally relevant as we say culturally responsive practice is in the classroom - or don't principals' and teachers' cultures count?
I'm thoroughly enjoying exploring that question, and developing appraisal processes that fit the EDUCANZ requirements, but also align with the culturally responsive goals of a group of wonderful and innovative principals and senior leadership teams, who are determined to embed counter-hegemonic practice in every aspect of their schools:
It's always a privilege to engage with the Aka Tamaki group of Māori principals in Auckland schools. Today I spent the afternoon, following up a presentation I gave to the group last term on Auditing our White Spaces in our schools. Today's challenge was, once you have identified these spaces and practices in your school, what next? The workshop then was Acting on your White Spaces and we discussed some tough questions:
- If you are a Māori child, what images, symbols, practice, contexts, do you see most (or sometimes, or never!) in front of you every day, in all of the spaces you learn in, and in your regular classroom environment?
- How much of the practice we see, and perpetuate, in our classrooms is still colonial, assimilationist, pedagogy - how do we change this?
GREAT discussion and more challenges ahead. It's an ongoing korero.
I spent today engaged in workshops delivered by the NZ School Trustees' Association to "endorse" consultants involved in Principal Appraisal and Principal Appointment processes in our schools. Great people, both presenting and engaged in the learning, and some very useful information. However, I came away concerned about our always predominant 'one-size-fits-all' approach to all school processes, worried about the relevance of these processes for aspiring Māori and Pasifika principals, and even more disturbed by the fact that I know that processes like these have often prevented outstanding education leaders from securing principal positions.
Of course, I said so in the workshops!
Welcome to my blog for Ann Milne Education. My education consultancy business, is now up and running, and already I'm booked up to be very busy. The purpose of this blog is to keep everyone up to date with all the different activities I'm up to and to provide a forum for comment on issues impacting on the education experience of indigenous and minoritised learners - Māori and Pasifika learners in New Zealand schools, and children the world over who our education systems fail.
For more details on the work I am doing, and for more information on the services Ann Milne Education can offer, check out the different pages on this website - I look forward your involvement.