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Cobden School, Greymouth

by Yvonne Feast, Te Kauhua facilitator

"Te Kauhua, te waka hei tautoko, hei whakapakari ā tātou tamariki"

Yvonne Feast.

Yvonne Feast

It has been a privilege to be a part of the Te Kauhua journey. The journey has been very exciting, challenging, and sometimes lonely. It has involved professional development, collecting data, professional readings, training hui, research and building positive relationships with all the stakeholders so we can become reflective 'agents of change'. The stakeholders include students, teachers, whānau, the wider community, and supporting teachers.

It has been a whole new learning curve for me and the knowledge that I have gained through participating in this project has been beyond my expectations. The support received from the Ministry of Education, through the training hui and professional development, has equipped us to better support our teachers in the school environment.

During the first year of Te Kauhua at Cobden School, our main achievements were building positive relationships with students and whānau and collecting data. To us building positive relationships with the students was the key to creating a positive learning environment and improving student responsiveness and engagement with learning.

Professor Russell Bishop attributes projects such as Te Kauhua and Te Kotahitanga to "teachers experiencing much greater job satisfaction through improving their relationship with their students". These projects also help raise the level of achievement both socially and academically for Māori students, which is the key objective of Te Kauhua. (Te Mana Kōrero, Issue 12, 2004).

Through kapahaka we were able to involve our whānau and build relationships with them. When I started kapahaka two years ago, approximately 40 students participated; now 120 students take part in kapahaka on a weekly basis. We are presently fundraising for uniforms. The parents have set up a kapahaka committee and they are totally committed to supporting their children. Our students have performed in public on many occasions, with excellent feedback.

Last year we held a community dinner to which parents and the wider community were invited. The purpose of the dinner was to inform people about Te Kauhua and to form relationships with the wider community. We also used it as a data collecting exercise to get feedback from the parents and community.

We asked the parents five questions:

  • What would make a difference for Māori students at Cobden School?
  • What makes a good classroom?
  • What makes a great school?
  • What makes a good teacher?
  • What makes a good principal?

Analysis of the data showed that for parents the key factor in dealing with these questions is the development of positive relationships. The evening was a great success, and will be followed by another this year to give feedback to the parents and community.

Māori underachievement in English-medium schools (where the majority of Māori students are) has been a concern for many years. There are no quick-fix solutions, but projects such as Te Kauhua will certainly help to close the gaps. Māori and non-Māori parents alike want their children to have high aspirations and to achieve. Research has shown that low expectations of Māori students by teachers, and lack of knowledge of tikanga Māori contribute to underachievement.

At Cobden School this is being addressed by:

  • professional development to increase teacher effectiveness and thus improve both academic and social outcomes for Māori students
  • support for teachers to enhance quality teaching and learning within the classroom.

The professional development needs to be focused and responsive to identified teacher needs if it is to result in meaningful changes in classroom practice.

Consequently, an action research approach to professional development is fundamental to Te Kauhua and this has been Cobden's main focus this year. It involves:

  • planning professional development in response to evidenced-based pedagogical knowledge or skill gaps
  • implementing specifically-focused professional development programmes
  • evaluating the effectiveness of such programmes
  • reflecting on subsequent stages of professional development.

Concurrent with this deep, focused pedagogical professional development is the need for socio-cultural inquiry that develops te reo Māori and tikanga Māori capability amongst staff and students. Teachers need a deeper understanding of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori so that they are able to fulfil the needs of Māori students.

As a facilitator it is important to know what you want and to keep focused firmly on the goal of raising Māori achievement both academically and socially by supporting teachers to become reflective agents of change. My role as the facilitator for Te Kauhua at Cobden School has opened up a whole new world for me and one that which is so worthwhile because I believe we all benefit from it.

My Te Kauhua Journey at Cobden School

by Noula Kazakos-Tomczyk, teacher

Noula Kazakos-Tomczyk.

Noula Kazakos-Tomczyk

When Te Kauhua began, I was excited about the journey we were about to embark on. I had been teaching overseas for ten years and my knowledge of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori was limited.

During my teaching career, I had always had a passion for strengthening relationships with my students and their whānau. This had stemmed from my work in New South Wales, Australia, where I had been part of a special project that involved building positive relationships between Aboriginal students and the community.

During the Te Kauhua journey our facilitator gave us a variety of professional readings. It was these readings that sparked a lot of professional dialogue amongst the teaching staff. I began reflecting in more depth about my teaching practice and asking if I was making a difference for my students. It was about this time that I tried new techniques in my classroom, to make my students feel valued. Power sharing was a strategy that I had read about and felt could work in my classroom. The students responded positively to this strategy and as a consequence, it became second nature in my classroom.

I shared the successes and stumbling blocks with our facilitator and Yvonne was always willing to listen and suggest other strategies to support the changes I was making in my classroom.

Our first cycle was based on relationships with our students and the second related to setting reading goals with our students. The community dinner was part of our first year. It was quite overwhelming to see the enormous support it received, with community and school personnel sitting around the same table talking about the factors that influence student achievement.

Action research was introduced to our teaching staff at the beginning of our second year. From conducting this action research I have a more in-depth understanding of pedagogy, and feel I have been empowered to become an agent of positive change.

This is a list of the professional reading recommended for schools participating in 'Te Kauhua' Phase 2.

Professional readings used during 'Te Kauhua' Phase 2

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