White Supremacy in our Classrooms

White Supremacy in our Classrooms

This week I will go out to give talks to a variety of groups—a school, principals, teachers, mana whenua, whānau, and a district health board, about the “white spaces” in our education system and our schools. The message is the same as the one I delivered in previous weeks, months, and years, with one major difference. This week we have been forced as a country, tragically, to face the evil of white supremacy.

 In the past 10 days, as we have come together to support and grieve with the Muslim community, other voices, far more powerful than mine,  have drawn the parallels in our history to counter the “this is not us” messages and to say emphatically, “this IS us”.

Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

Two news items have caught my attention this week as we consider our perspectives on Waitangi Day and the Treaty. Firstly, the call by the NZ History Teachers' Association (NZHTA) to have our colonial history taught in schools…

The second item that had me thinking is not so obviously relevant to schools and teachers. As I watched the exposé of Australia’s banks and financial industry on TVNZ News last night I couldn’t help thinking that if we substituted schools for banks, and education system for financial industry, how apt would the Australian Royal Commission’s wide-ranging recommendations be? Just imagine if we became as agitated over education’s damage as we are now over banking behaviour:

Our Words are our Weapons

Our Words are our Weapons

The Warrior-Researchers of Kia Aroha College have been in the news lately, as my previous two blog posts have shown. This post is my Christmas koha (gift). It shares the video of the Warrior-Researchers’ keynote presentation to the NZARE Conference recently (scroll to the end of the post for the link).

It also answers a question I am asked regularly, by providing some context for the use of the word, “Warrior” in the research group’s name, and in the goal of Kia Aroha College,  “to develop Warrior Scholars” which the school defines as:

Young people, secure in their own identity, competent and confident in all aspects of their cultural world, critical agents for justice, equity and social change, with all the academic qualifications and cultural knowledge they need to go out and change the world.

So, why Warrior? The name came from two sources.

Now I'M the Headline!

Now I'M the Headline!

Why do we create a system where external assessment is actually unnecessary, then lament its loss and go looking for alternatives? Is this parental expectation, and some sort of high-stakes status contest, masquerading as “accountability”? What is wrong with us that makes us think that if young people are successful at something, particularly if they are brown, we should get worried about the task’s rigour and its credibility? Don’t we actually want more of our children to achieve, or are we OK with this only being some of our children?

More than a Headline

More than a Headline

And, right there, on the Herald’s Facebook page, the fork in the up-until-now positive pathway appeared. Down one path, were those who were in total agreement with the students’ findings, congratulating them on their courage and honesty.

Down the other path the racist trolls came out to play, taking their usual route, happy to denigrate young people, condescendingly confident in their absolute ignorance of the issue, and their “Whiteousness” (my word for the “White is right” brigade) regardless of the facts, the significant research, or the truth.

The battle lines were drawn.

Listening to what young people tell us!

Listening to what young people tell us!

At a recent keynote at Waihi College, to a full assembly hall, I was honoured to be introduced by Mikaira Wells, the Head Girl of the college and one of the impressive students I had met with during the day. With Mikaira's permission, I want to share her speech because I think it clearly articulates what students know, and what we often don't hear. 

Racism in schools? How dare we be surprised!

Racism in schools? How dare we be surprised!

After the release of the report, Education matters to me: Key insights, the issue of racism in schools was all over the news last week. Media headlines read: “Study finds ‘disturbing’ racism in NZ schools” (Newshub), “Students tell of racism in study of how they view the education system,” (Stuff) and “Māori, Pasifika kids reveal racism in schools,” (RadioNZ). Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says that the children’s comments about the racism they encounter in schools were unsolicited, and were a surprise to interviewers.

Let's SEE this!

Congratulations Labour and our new coalition government! Finally, some hope for an end, or a complete relook, to the neoliberal agenda that has crippled education in New Zealand and continued to marginalise our Māori and Pasifika learners. Words are cheap. So LET'S SEE THIS …

Seeing your Words in Pictures!

How very cool is this! My thanks to Mary Brake at Reflection Graphics for the very clever interpretation of my uLearn17 Keynote - drawn live during the presentation! I love the fence! Is that pointy finger mine? I'm amazed at how much Mary has captured! Also check out the comprehensive live blog written by Aiono Manu Faaea-Semeatu. Thank you Manu! I consider myself very lucky to have you both interpreting this important message!


Whose knowledge counts?

Fascinating international discussion this morning as part of a panel at the "centre table" in Teach for All's Global Learning Lab Virtual Roundtable event - "Growing Students as Leaders of a Better Future." What are the most important education outcomes for our youth... Content Skills and Knowledge, Mindsets and Dispositions, Life and Professional Skills, or Values and Purpose?  

That was a struggle for me! Which category do culture and cultural identity fit into? Are they skills and knowledge, or a mindset, or what we need for life, or are they about values, or should the development of a secure cultural identity be a major purpose of our education system? I would say YES to all those questions, but my biggest question is why do we have to "find" a place in our existing monocultural, mostly White, frameworks for culture, cultural norms, and cultural identity? Why aren't they explicit and not left to chance? While there were areas where we panel "experts" found agreement, there were plenty of places where we disagreed, and I was left hoping that this won't be more of the same, where we raise the issues, then file them in the too hard basket!

Thanks Teach for All for the invitation and the opportunity to participate. Today's roundtable was about which outcomes. Tomorrow, (Thurs 20 July in NZ) I'm at the table again, with a different panel, this time discussing how we get to those outcomes. Join in - 8.00-10.00am (NZ time) via Zoom - join the meeting with this link  https://teachforall.zoom.us/j/975545305 and jump in to the Chat as we go! Some tautoko would be great!

Also, check out the Resource Exchange on the Virtual Roundtable link above, for some great videos and resources to use in your classes and schools.

Warrior Scholars: Decolonising Education

Two years ago, international film maker, Faolan Jones, came to visit Kia Aroha College to produce a video about the school. Everyone is delighted with the result, which we are now able to show widely. Faolan has captured the work of the school, and in particular, the voice of students, former students, and staff in a way that has not been done before! It's a wide-reaching, insightful documentary that I promise, is well worth the watch! Thank you Faolan from the Kia Aroha College whānau! 

Click HERE to view the film.

Click HERE to view the film and read Faolan's blog post about it.

Inspirational Leadership!

I was privileged to speak at The MOKO Foundation's Leadership Summit at Waitangi in the weekend, and to attend the dinner the previous evening to launch the 2017 Hawea Vercoe Leadership Programme. The young people who are the 2017 recipients of these scholarships, that partner them with amazing mentors, were impressive - as were the citations of their achievements already, and their aspirations! I was even more inspired however, by their probing questions of those of us who spoke at the Summit the next day! They certainly kept us on our toes, as they should.  

Congratulations to The MOKO Foundation and everyone involved - the mentees, the mentors, the MOKO team, particularly Dr Lance O'Sullivan and CEO, Deirdre Otene. I was inspired!

Where's the $40 million for Culturally Responsive Teachers?

Two new education initiatives have hit our Inboxes this week.

On Wednesday, the Education Minister announced a major change to shift education into a "digitally oriented system," advising that the Government will spend $40 million on raising teachers' skills to deliver the new curriculum, which will involve all pupils from years one to 10 taking part in digital technologies education. I think that was news to most teachers and principals!

Yesterday, we received notice from the Education Council of the final version of the new Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession to be implemented by 1 January 2018. The title, “Our Code Our Standards” implies a collective ownership, and Educanz talks of “more than a year of consultation with people from across the profession.” Let’s not forget however, that the Council is made up of members appointed exclusively by the Government, and not elected democratically by teachers, so “our” anything is a moot point!