Never mind the naysayers, kōrero Reo Māori mai!

I wasn’t going to wade into the debate around Te Reo Māori in schools. The argument shouldn’t even exist. But then I saw this video, and decided to write a note of support for those who understand the value, the necessity, the rich taonga that is Te Reo Māori.

The video has been shared 11,942 times and ‘liked’ 14,000 times in this facebook post alone. That’s a lot of  enthusiastic loving.

Te Hātea Kapahaka group from Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) stand in a Sicilian Church in Italy and sing their hearts out. It made my heart explode. I have no idea when they sung it, but that is beside the point.

It comes as no surprise to me that someone has carefully and beautifully translated this Leonard Cohen classic (Hareruia aka’Halleluah’) into Te Reo. If you can understand Māori, you’ll hear how well it is done. The arrangement is breath-taking.

And there is more to this waiata than beautiful words and a clever harmonies. They stand and sing to pay their respects to the Sicilian people, to the different cultures around them, to the church they are in and to their own people. They stand in acknowledgement and awe of the religion they are interacting with, and they do it all in Te Reo. It is hard to explain just how intricately linked Te Reo and tikanga are (put simply – the correct way/s of doing things). You cannot have one without the other. They could not have done this in English.

When people whine about why they shouldn’t have to learn Te Reo. I mostly ignore them. Because their standpoints are not worth the time it would take to have a really frustrating and dead-end conversation. But inside, it hurts.

It hurts because Māori is beautiful. It is powerful. It is central to Māori culture. Just like all languages are. Cultures simply cannot operate without their own languages. Whether it is New Zealand English (yes, there is more than one kind of English, including ‘street English’…languages grow and evolve –  youse people gotta understand this’), NZ Sign Language or computer programming speak. All systems of knowing and being, express themselves differently. Concepts are not universal. Only so much can be translated.

It also hurts because my partner and I go to great lengths to ensure that Te Reo Māori is our kids first language. It is hard work. There are only so many schools that offer bilingual education, and a few Kura Kaupapa in each main centre. Building your networks of Reo Māori speaking people takes time and effort. But it is worth it. We wish it wasn’t so hard.

But the crux of the matter is understanding each other. Even if our ‘collect-nationwide bunch-of-beautiful-kids’ don’t all go on to speak fluent Te Reo, and to have daily interactions with it, they will learn about Te Ao Māori – about tikanga Māori.

To understand each other, to afford each other the respect we all need, we have to know how different cultures are constructed, and this is done though language.

Those who harp on about the ‘racism’ of forcing 5 year olds to learn Māori, appear oblivious to the fact that the Te Reo is a national language, and no one cries foul that all our children are FORCED to speak English. The double standards go on and on.

I can’t be bothered arguing with old stuck in their ways bigots. It’s too late for them. Better to put our energies into the people who are going to change the way this country talks.

Leave it up to the educationalists, the neurologists, the linguists, the people who give a shit about other people. But for goodness sake, leave the decisions about how it rolls out up to Māori (because it IS going to happen). Give the power back. Once you start to learn, you come to know just what a formidible bunch Te Reo Māori teachers are. They are among the most effective, motivated and passionate teachers in existance!

And heck  – if you can speak English and want to speak English only, good on you – knock your self out. If you are a grown person, no one is suggesting you must also learn Māori. Don’t sweat it.

Kids however, love learning anything new. And they do so with ease. They’ll learn as many languages as you can consistently speak to them. Happily.

Singtome.jpeg

I am a New Entrant teacher, and yesterday I taught my little 5 year olds three new waiata, and by the end of the day (their first day at school), they could name all their fingers and toes in Te Reo. Many adults struggle to do this in English.

Kōnui, kōroa, māpere, mānawa, kōiti – ko ēnei ngā matimati!

Mauri ora.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Learning happens in relationships. How Hekia’s new plans are an attack on inter-personal connections.

Three days a week I head to work at several early childhood centers. I love my job. I take my toddler with me on two of these days. For many parents the work and childcare balance is a weekly struggle. A juggle to meet everyone’s needs. Taking my youngest to work with me creates peace in our lives and provides stability for our children.

I have an older kid too. She’s not under my wing as much as I’d like, but that is what happens as kids get older. She is however, under the protective watch and guidance of trusted adults each day. They are all at once her teachers, our friends, our partners in politics and also part of a wider group of people who have collective philosophies and aspirations for our children. This school is small, and it  meets the needs of its children as best as it possibly can. It is a real community.

These places, my work and our school, are absolute community hubs. Every other week someone new arrives, a new whānau is taken into the fold. They are eagerly welcomed with open arms. They are accepted and absorbed….whether they see it coming or not! Education centres are crucial meeting places. They bring people together, at a time when new little lives are coming into fruition. At their best, places of education should be equalizers, and they should be there for everyone. No matter what your needs are. And for the most part, schools are these things.

I say all this, because there have been two pieces of news in two days this week that have worried me greatly. As a teacher with a background in special education, with a child who requires extra learning support, I feel under-valued as a teacher, fearful for my child’s future educational possibilities and fiercely protective of her rights as a citizen and learner in this world. And I feel worried for everyone actually, for our communities who strive each day for the betterment of children.

Hekia Parata,you have stung twice. And it really hurts.

7764155.jpg

First you say that youth aged 18-21 years will get less funding, which will be reallocated to pre-schoolers. My first thought straight off the bat is that I just don’t believe you. I doubt this will happen. Well, I don’t doubt you’ll authorise funding to be taken away from those who need it, but I can’t see it going anywhere else productive. Here are the reason this makes me furious:

  1. Kids aged 18-21 in the education system are at a critical turning point in their lives – they are being supported so they can live as independently as possible. To live lives that are fulfilling. You know, the kind of stuff we all want and expect at the end of our schooling. These young people can be painfully aware that their peers have moved off into work or further training and education, and that they are still at school – this is hard. However, staying on may make them happier too.
  2. The whole idea that youth with extra learning needs can stay at school until they are 21 is because they need MORE, not less – hence the extra three years. Is this not blindingly obvious? More. Not less. Yes, littlies need early intervention too, but not at our youths’ expense.
  3. For many families it takes a long time to establish that their children need extra learning support – not from lack of trying either. For some families this isn’t clear until their children actually start school. So these kids could miss that early intervention and the support in the last stages. Sure, extra funding for ECE may catch more children who might otherwise fall through the gaps. But if you take my kid as an example – a child who started ECE, and then on to Kōhanga from age 2.5yrs, with a specialist teacher for ORS children as a mother, it still took us 4.5yrs to diagnose her needs-  it is not always simple.
  4. Finally, why does it have to be one or the other? Are all children not worthy, regardless of age or stage?

Hekia is trying to make this move under the guise of a more inclusive education system in which she says there needs to be more “clear accountabilities” and “at the moment we mostly focus on and measure inputs”.

To quote Stuff – ‘This would mean schools would need to show students receiving funding had made progress in their academic achievement, which would be measured through their National Standards and NCEA results.’

Thank goodness my kid’s school refuses to drag our children through the time-consuming, unhelpful and ultimately humiliating process that is National Standards. If they did, my daughter would be WELL BELOW, all the time. Well, she ain’t below anything Hekia.

Again, a few pointers:

  1. National Standards compare children against each other. How fair is it for a kid with a developmental delay, or a sensory processing disorder to be pitted against a child who glides through academic learning? What does that achieve, and for whom?
  2. When you measure kids who don’t fit the mould with NS, they bring down the whole school’s score – by which I mean, the final NS results for a school appear lower, which puts pressure on the teachers who are already doing their best. NS are not reflective of what the teachers DO do and how individual kids progress themselves, from their own starting points. This is what matters, not how they compare to others.
  3. NS only measures some areas of learning, and disregards the arts, much of technology and science, and critically – social learning. Yes, these things are all inseparable from each other, but NS sure knows how to drill down to the fine points to compartmentalise learning. Some kids won’t necessarily thrive in academic subjects but that may not matter, depending on how everything else goes for them. Again. My kid would look like a failure on paper to Hekia, but she’s never seen her in centre stage.

I’m glad Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins chimed in with some sense. ‘using those measures was “utterly uninclusive” and “bizarre”. Kids are receiving ORS funding because they have a serious impairment or physical disability. To suggest National Standards or NCEA as a way to assess their success and the quality of their education is ridiculous.’ I couldn’t agree more.

And the second sting from the Hekia machine…

She is suggesting that some children could learn entirely online from providers who are ‘COOL’. That is, a ‘Community of online Learning’. This proposed change is part of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament this week.

COOL Providers could be schools, tertiary providers or *shudder*, private industries. The former is not too far-fetched. I can imagine some schools setting up online learning for children who may do better at home, or who have a mix of on and off site learning. Tertiary education providers delivering entirely online is nothing new. But private industries?! Here are my points:

  1. Private industries have no place in schooling. They are out for a profit, nothing else. They may say otherwise, but they are not primarily for the benefit of children. End of story. No one can convince me otherwise.
  2. Hekia sells this as an effort to appease digital companies who have made it clear to the government that there are not enough school leavers entering the work force with the skills required for working in technology. Saying that technology can just teach the kids technology is like whacking kids over the head with a maths text book, or expecting children to learn to play instruments by simply watching a band play all day, or sitting in a room full of instruments. Kids need support and direction from people.
  3. Social connections and relationships are the most important factors in any learning. We need more people not less. More skilled teachers for all students to meet ALL needs, whether they need extra support or not. Better teacher to child ratios.

Going back to my first statements about how wonderfully immersed my family is in our children’s educations, and how important these sites of education are for us each day. They are not just places our kids go to learn. They are places for all of us.  There we meet other families whose children may be on a similar path to ours. We swap notes and support each other. We up skill ourselves. Our children know there are many adults who have their backs. They know they belong somewhere, that they are a part of something that matters. That they matter. Critically, they see their parents interacting positively and meaningfully with their teachers. There are no barriers. We are teams, for the benefit of our families.

Hekia, please do not remove the funding that so many young people rely on in their final years, within the safety of their schools. It is crucial for that big step they take into the world , a world which is ultimately not made for them, that is hard enough. The more knowledge and resources they take out there with them the better, for them and for society as a whole.

Hekia, please stop side lining us teachers. We understand kids, we know about teaching and learning. It is what we do. We are professionals, we are experts. We are telling you that relationships are what matter. That connection is what supports children. It gives them confidence, courage, and companionship. These things are invaluable and National Standards doesn’t measure them. Computers can’t teach them. But communities do. Parents know who has their kids backs and who doesn’t. Don’t pull the rug out from beneath us. Make the foundations stronger instead.

Lastly, Hekia – watch this, because every kid does need a champion. Educationalist Rita Pierson breaks down the importance of relationships in learning, and life. I have lost count of how many times I have watched this and it still makes me laugh, and cry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the children play. Don’t let yucky adult comments get in the way.

‘What a handsome boy, you must have lots of girlfriends…’

‘Gosh, those eyelashes are wasted on him, aren’t they!…’

‘You’ll have to get yourself a shot-gun when she gets older…’

‘He is always flirting with the blondes…’

‘I can just see them walking down the aisle now…’

We’ve all heard comments like these before. Kids are cute for sure, but before we get all weird on their beauty, there is something us adults need to talk about.

It is something that many of us do at a much higher frequency than we’d like to admit. Something we must all become vigilant in identifying and expert in addressing.

It is the imposition of adult romantic and sexual thoughts and behaviours on babies and young children. At all times completely unnecessary, entirely inappropriate and plain old yuck town.

Unfortunately we are almost all a bit guilty of it. If we don’t do it ourselves, we may laugh along with it, or we quietly and awkwardly ignore odd comments. Or, worse still, we simply don’t notice them at all, so deeply rooted are our sexualised, sexist bias’. They are hardened, internalised and ingrained.

Our silence or lack of intervention is our complicity in the ongoing sexist and often misogynistic socialisation of children. This may seem fairly broad sweeping, and could be applied to any number of shitty things adults do that limit and curb the development and opportunities of children, however, to keep our self-flagellation manageable, I’m just going to focus on what I’ll call ‘Yucky Adult Comments’ for now. The acronym is YAC. Like ew yac! That is yac! Did you just hear that yac over there…. and so on.

kids-kissing-picture1

There are some things we should never say about or to children. When analysed, even just a tiny bit yacs don’t look too good at all. By definition all yacs are unseemly, at a minimum they are sexist, and in the extreme – they can be soft pornish. This is not an exaggeration, you’ll read what I mean later.

And yet, yacs just seems to roll off our well oiled, hetero-socialised, hyper sexualised and gender oppressed tongues. All. The. Time.

Saying or tolerating yacs is to essentially participate in the narrowing of our children’s own expressions of self, of their burgeoning identities and the intensely personal, yet very public exploration of their own genders, orientations and sexualities.

Here are some examples I have collected from a diverse group of concerned parents. They demonstrate the absurdity and grossness in all the ‘oh no you didn’t just yac did you’ glory.

‘Oh my goodness, they are just SO cute. Can’t you just see them on their first date?’ – said of any old 3-year-old girl and boy playing blocks with each other, or drawing at a table.

‘What a little tease’ – a toddler who isn’t interested in giving another child or adult a kiss or a cuddle.

‘That is how he shows he likes her’ – excusing a small boy who just hurt a small girl.

‘His eyes are a stunning blue, such a ladies man’ – yet the mother from whom these eyes are inherited is not labeled a ladies man.

‘That’s right, roll over and go straight to sleep like a good man’ – said within earshot of 9-year-old boy, who was snuggling by the fire with his 6-year-old female cousin.

‘Oh look, she’s trying to hold your hand, always hold a pretty girl’s hand when she offers’ – 1-year-olds learning to hold hands.

‘My grandson would be the perfect match for this little bubba’ – a random white middle-aged male wants to marry a 6 week old baby off to his grandson.

‘Are you wearing perfume? Is that for your boyfriend? You should be wearing lipstick so you can leave kisses on him’ – said an uncle to his 6-year-old niece. Who then teases the niece about boyfriends for weeks on end.

‘He’ll be a ladykiller one day’ – an astute observation of a beautiful boy

‘He’s a boobie man’ and ‘He knows where the action is at’ – a breastfeeding baby boy

‘Lock up your daughters!!’ a father leaves a comment below a picture of preschool aged friends (boy and girl) on a childcare website.

‘wow she is waxing down there already’ – 1 month old girl during a nappy change.WTF

‘you’ve pulled mate!’ – A father cheering on his boy toddler who has made friends with a similar aged girl in a hospital waiting room.
men-laughing.jpg
So, perhaps some of us are feeling a bit grossed out by ourselves now or worried about some things we’ve said or smiled at during playgroup this morning.  Maybe your mum said it, your brother, a boss or someone in a shop, or maybe you said it! Yacs made by people we know and love, and people we’ve don’t know from a bar of soap. Yacs made by ourselves. Yac.
But why do we do it? We don’t mean to be creepy. We love kids!
Here is my postulation. We want to tell other people how we feel about babies and kids. We want to show our friends how much we love their children. Or we want to make friends with another parent at the park, and commenting on your children playing together seems like a good way in.
I totally get it, we love them, they are incredible. Somehow us people are able to create beings much more than the sum of our own parts. We are so excited for them. We are hopeful about their futures. About the parts of our own lives that will move forward with them. It can be hard not to get ahead of ourselves, of themselves. Imagining, planning and plotting even – the next day, the following month, their first day at college, their first love.
But, we need to stop interfering with how their selves develop, how their personal identities form. And we certainly don’t need to get involved in how their romantic and sexual interests in other people develop as they grow. This is not our business.

The overlaying of adult assumptions of gender, or what we might think of as cute throw away remarks, or some kind of compliment in the form of yacs – have massive impacts, because children copy adults. They hear and see it all. The good and the not so good.

Children listen to what we say. They believe us. We weld a power over children greater than we know. They are extremely impressionable and they desperately want to please us. For the most part, they will do what they think we want them to do, they may even strive to be who we see them to be. They desperately want to be approved of. More specifically, they want to fit in – so they actively seek clues of how they should behave. How a boy should act, what a girl should do. What a girl or boy is. So what are the boxes we are constructing for them to live in?

This is what children understand when we yac at them.

  • Gender is fixed and society defines it for you.
  • Boys are active agents, girls are passive eye candy.
  • Boys pursue girls and they have to put up with the attention.
  • Boys and men are predators
  • Boys are a ‘good bloke’ or ‘great little man’
  • Girls will always be girls, small, little, ineffectual
  • Heteronormativity – the assumption that boys will eventually be attracted to girls and vice versa
  • Normalisation of and the acceptance of the pressure to perform, or provide physical services for others, such as hugs and kisses.
  • Gender power dynamics, whereby boys just can’t control themselves when it comes to girls and helping themselves to more than their share (boys will be boys) and are naturally stronger and bolder etc. And that girls have no power so have nothing to control.
  • That girls ambitions in life should be limited to looking nice, pleasing others and getting married and having babies.
  • That boys purpose in life is to provide and protect (while simultaneously perusing and attacking girls – an oxymoron I’ve never understood)
  • and the list goes on…..

Ok, so now we can read between the lines a bit better. But what do to when we hear these remarks and aren’t sure what to say – when it is socially awkward, which it usually is.

Try these:

– ‘Oh give them a break, they are only 5 years old, plenty of time for them to make their own decisions

-‘How do you know? She might want a handsome bride when she grows up’

– ‘They don’t even know what genders they are yet, they are infants!’

– ‘No, I really don’t want to imagine that, my kid is only 18 months old, I’m happy for them to be a toddler just now’

– ‘She may well want to achieve more in life than just marriage’

– ‘Long eyelashes are for everyone’

Or just call it as it is:

– ‘Ewww, they are 3, not 18’

– ‘Don’t ever combine soft porn images with a nappy change routine’

– ‘So you really want your son to be a women beating polygamist when he grows up do you?’

Instead of all this – make it clear to our children that they don’t have to put up with unwanted attention or discrimination in any form, or anything at all that makes them feel yuck. This includes crude yacs from adults.

Let us make sure that we show our children them we love them unreservedly. Ensure that they will be accepted as whoever they are. And that whomever they love will also be cherished.

Lastly, should you feel a yac coming on, bin it and simply acknowledge whatever it is that the kids are doing, and even throw in some praise and encouragement.

‘Nice one you two, you are walking so nicely inside together while holding hands’

Adoption_74973c.jpg