Expat Wonderings…

The BeLchick and her family have recently enjoyed 5 weeks holidays in Germany. It has been more than 16 years since I left Germany and 12 years since my last visit. Many things have happened in my life over these years that have formed my opinion esp. in regards to education. Yet Germany appears remarkably unchanged. All of this could do with thorough research, but this was not the point of our visit, so I am just sharing with you my expat wonderings.

New Zealand has its faults. The NZ education system is by no means perfect. One example for me is “Tomorrow’s Schools”, well intended (I hope), giving communities a greater say in how their children are being taught. The current NZC gives greater flexibility to schools to individualise the curriculum they are delivering to their students.

Both these points can also be negative, for example I am not convinced that all our communities are equipped and / or prepared to manage the multi-million dollar enterprise our schools are. Equally a school could choose to teach a very narrow, specific type of curriculum to their students to the detriment of a broad curriculum under the guise of “localising” it. Nowadays many parents are choosing to send their child to a higher decile school which not necessarily is the better school. While all of my classroom teaching has been at low decile schools (4 , 2 and 1), I completely understand their reasoning that it is more likely to have time taken up with socialwork type issues rather than learning at low decile schools rather than at higher decile schools (well, the issues these students and therefore their teachers are facing are simply different). I am extremely happy with the rural decile 2 school my 2 younger sons attend, and my oldest attends a decile 8 school for the particular nature of the school, not the decile, though I have to admit that he would be likely to struggle at a school where student behaviour was of greater concern (due to socio-economic or other issues).

Yet, I believe that the general assumption of all Kiwi kids attending one type of school regardless of academic skill and parent income makes for a more harmonious society.

The German education system differs by federal state, so I will only talk about Bavaria, the state I grew up in and trained to be a teacher.

Children start school in September, generally at the age of 6 (there have been some minor changes since my times, I started at age 7). Children generally attend their local primary school for 4 years. at some stage during this formal grades are introduced (my nephew is in y3 and gets graded from 1 for very good to 6 for fail. I am obviously no longer fully up to date, but I understand there are only three ways to get assessed, unannounced verbal test, and unannounced and announced written tests. In higher years there are also essays and presentations students get graded on. School is from 8am to 1pm, less on some days for primary students, with daily homework which can take several hours in the higher classes.

By the beginning of y4 the pressure is truly on as the grades for maths, German and HSK (a mixture of science and social studies) in the midyear report will determine which of three secondary schools the child can enter: Gymnasium, the most academic type of school, will lead to Abitur (bursary) in historically 9, now 8 years (from a study I have read, approx. 50% of students enter Gymnasium after completing primary school). Realschule traditionally leads towards a white collar career in 6 years with the possibility of an additional two years to gain a restricted entrance qualification to tertiary study, and Hauptschule, leading toward apprenticeships in only 5 years (school leaving age in Germany is after having completed 9 years of schooling in total). It’s similar to streaming, but based on your y4 grades and with geographically isolating the strands from each other into completely different schools. The vast majority of German parents wants their child at Gymnasium, so after-school tuition from as young as 9y old is a booming business.

Just a word on special needs, students with SEN have long been separated from the general population. I understand that a Down Syndrome girl attended primary school with one of my nephews, accompanied by a trained social worker as her teacher aide, but regular schools don’t seem to easily accommodate students with SEN, starting with access as many are housed in multi-storey buildings etc. I have never in my childhood had any close contact with anyone with a special need, I always felt extremely uneasy about special needs – and yet I have worked intensively in this area here in New Zealand ūüôā

I went to Gymnasium and was reasonably successful – I couldn’t have entered teacher training otherwise. Most my childhood friends went to the same type of secondary school. We wouldn’t have been interested with socialising with children who went to the other schools, partly because we didn’t meet them, but also partly due to our arrogance. My husband went to Realschule and through him I made friends with others, even from Hauptschule. I feel the early separation of children by their academic skills creates quite a strong class divide from a young age, and now as as expat visiting it has become very obvious that this is continuing through most layers of society. Does this create a harmonious society that pulls together and supports one another?

As it was reporting writing time, teachers were busy. Just on the side, reports seem to still be handed out as piece of paper on the last day of school – none of the popular 3-way-conferences we enjoy in New Zealand! I am no longer close with any of my local friends who became teachers so I did not get the opportunity to visit a classroom which is a real shame. However, I have spoken with a lot of parents, also a retired principal as well as some current teachers. It is very interesting how most but not all parents did not seem concerned by the fact that teaching and learning still seems to be quite similar to when I went to school. A major change has been the reduction of 9ys schooling at Gymnasium down to 8 – but without significant reduction in content! Many secondary students, including my nephew, still learn Latin as a foreign language, which can be a pre-requisite for some university study. One parent dismissed the idea of these comparatively ‘young’ students starting university or internships due to their lack of knowledge and maturity – we are talking about 18/19y olds, when in the past many graduates would have been 19/20y, and the men often at least another year older due to the no longer existing Army Duty (the oldest chick in BeLchick’s family will be 17 1/2y by the time he finishes his y13).

When I talked with teachers about my work in e-learning, they proudly told me how they have just moved from chalk boards to white boards (seriously!!!). However, I have read about an iPad trial class in Augsburger Allgemeine from 23 July which apparently was very successful in one y10 class. However, as the other classes have not had the same technology available and could not possibly catch up (…), this will not be available to them in y11. At that school are now planning to have all Y10 students on parent funded iPads starting the next school year. A major concern according to the article was the lack of suitable resources.
I know I am jumping to conclusions, but I would think that by employing a 21C pedagogy where the students has moved from the consumer and regurgitator of knowledge and media and becomes the creator and critic of media, there is less need for content driven apps but more for creative and collaborative ones. But then I wouldn’t know if the quoted teachers have been given the opportunity, knowledge and the freedom to employ 21C pedagogy?
The gap I see is trying to be filled by private schools, something that was almost unheard of when I still lived in Germany. Friends are sending their son to a particular successful private school which offers all day tuition and offers individualised programmes for students who have struggled in the state system as their son has.

So what does this all mean for us?

In my humble opinion, the NZ education system is miles ahead of Germany:
– Our students have 6, some even 8 years together in a primary school. This allows many students a solid foundation in their relationship building with their peers and teachers.
– Most of them continue together within the same school grounds, regardless of academic ability. They get to experience working with people from varied backgrounds.
– Many of our primary school students and some of our secondary school students get to experience some form of 21C learning.
– Digital Technologies are high priority within the education profession and are actively supported by the Ministry of Education and the government.
– Our teachers can come from all walks of life.

There are a number of dangers:
– Are all our communities equipped and prepared to run our schools?
– Is it fair to expect that a teacher can cater for any child with any need within their class at any time?
– Is our flexible approach to curriculum monitored well enough? National Standards in Reading, Writing and Mathematics only cover a very narrow slice of the curriculum.
– I can see a tendency within NZ society to be very selective about schools for our children, too often referring to decile ratings for guidance. I am very selective about this with my own children also, but my choice of school is determined by my knowledge of pedagogy, curriculum and most importantly the school climate more so than what decile it is. What do parents have to go by when they don’t know what I know? Though sometimes it would be easier not to know too much…
– Is NZ society going ‘academic’? Are we – like Germany – starting to expect that only higher education is acceptable? Who will fix our houses and cars, grow and transport our produce? We all can see the demand for trades people created through the earth quakes in Christchurch…

Enough wonderings for today…

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Minecraft and the classroom

Minecraft In a household with three boys it is almost inevitable to come across the online game Minecraft. My boys are spoilt for choice really as the BeLchick aka Push-over-Mother has given in to the purchase of the Pocket Edition, the Pi Edition (that was free thank goodness), the Xbox Edition and now two copies of the Premium Edition for PC. Am I turning my children into hopeless, gaming addicted geeks???Steve

Of course I am worried about this, but I have come to appreciate the educational value of some gaming. My oldest DS (just about to turn 13) has the most amazing mind to solve logical problems. He is applying and further honing this skill by coming up with some amazing programming solutions in his various Minecraft worlds. He has now just started to teach his youngest brother, age 8, to play with him in the Premium Edition with the most amazing (and for him utter uncharacteristic) patience. There has been much discussion about gaming in education – is there a place for Minecraft in your classroom?

With the help of above oldest DS I introduced teachers at yesterday’s educamp Taitokerau to the basics of Minecraft. There are a number of different versions available as mentioned above plus Pocket Edition for android. Minecraft is a sand box = open world construction game. It has been likened to Lego due to its block structure, but it offers much, much more.

There are two main game modes, creative and survival plus some variations. In the school context, creative is the most desirable. Players use an avatar to place and destroy blocks, creative fantastic structures, gather resources etc. They can play in single-player or multiplayer worlds (LAN and wifi). Gamers have created various Mod Packs, modifications to the original game, including Minecraft EDU, a version created by teachers for the use with students which allows teachers to create worlds, set tasks etc. in line with their curriculum.

Why would you want to use Minecraft in your classroom? Provided the student is interested in the task, they are engaged, and we all know this tends to lead to achievement. I like to compare this to my time running sessions at Playcentre where some boys forever played in the sandpit, so we took the books, the paints etc. out to where they were and engaged them this way. Using Minecraft, the children needs to create, collaborate, solve problems. In order to be successful in a loose or tightly structured Minecraft task, they need to apply all of the NZC’s Key Competencies: Thinking, using language, symbols, and texts, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing.

Minecraft Buddies

In case you haven’t see Minecraft played before, here are two videos of two 8y olds playing in the PC Edition and in the Pocket Edition:

So how – beyond the ‘fun factor’ – could you use Minecraft in your classroom?

Minecraft is a game based on mathematics, all blocks are sqare and represent a 1m3 cube. World sizes, collections of resources in the inventory etc. are all based on multiples of two. Coordinates describe the location of avatars. This in itself is a useful tool in relation to teaching aspects of mathematics. You can also create visual such as a representation of a fraction, by using different coloured blocks. Create a 3D shape, and by mining you can check what number of blocks = volume it had contained. Droppers allow you to explore probability.

Recreate existing structures, e.g. as part of social sciences. Build new structures. Create a structure that needs to meet a particular brief, e.g. a kiwi bird habitat (there are no kiwi birds in Minecraft yet, so they might use chickens instead).

Create a stage and exchange dialogue with another / several other player avatars. Use an evant experienced in Minecraft as a hook into writing, or replay a story you have read.

What does the teacher need to know to get started?¬†To a certain degree this depends on you and your students. Some bloggers suggest teachers need to be very au fait with the uses and functions themselves before using it in class, others encouarge the teacher to learn from the students – and I agree with them. It pays to have a general idea of the game (as described in this post) and of it’s limitations. This this end I have collected relevant information in this Google folder which I hope you find useful and contribute to.

Would I use Minecraft in my class? Yes, I would but I have not had the opportunity yet (not having my own class this year). I would introduce it, let a student expert (with prior checking) take the lead and have all student get a taste. I would establish ground rules that fit with my school values – trust, honesty, caring etc. – then trial it for one or more set tasks for the class. In inquiry units it might be one of the tools for the students to choose from – with guidance so that students use a range of tools throught a year

Do you need to use Minecraft in your class? This is a choice only you can make, but to me it ticks many of the boxes of an effective 21C learning tool.

Keep calm and mine

To finish off, here are some amazing creations:

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Time flies when you are having fun!

This old saying is certainly true in my role, I can hardly believe it is week 5 and the start of June already! This post is all about my work as Blended e-learning facilitator in primary schools in the rural Far North of New Zealand and really more for my own benefit to record my thoughts ūüôā You’re welcome to navigate away from here or read on…

The start of term 2 has changed my focus in a number of my schools. In Term 1 it was all about getting to know each other, gathering the required data to establish our location and developing a shared vision to determine our destination. To keep on using this ‘Google Maps’ analogy, we now have a general idea of where we are heading and we have taken off on our journey. If you use a map app on your smartphone, you would have noted that you can often select from a number of routes or drag a route over to the one or other direction (maybe you want to avoid roadworks or go past a particular shop to pick something up on the way) – this is the same here in my role.

As with anything in life, people vary in their approaches: Some people will weigh up the one route or the other, even do extensive research (what is the traffic like at that particular time of the day etc. etc.) – a few might never even leave the home for all the thinking they are doing. On the other hand, some people would just jump in their car and take off and see where the road takes them. Both these extremes could be encountered in schools, of course, when looking at the introduction of blended learning [note: I am dropping the ‘e’ on purpose, I feel that e-learning, learning with e-tools / devices / whatever you want to call it simply is a matter of effective pedagogy as our NZC document states. What I want is for schools to first and foremost look at teaching and learning, with the help of e-tools, and at the tools to support this after]. I see my role as the person to gently push the reluctant and hold up the “STOP – THINK – ACT” sign for the overly eager.

There are many important questions to consider: Is the infrastructure ready? Do we have devices? What devices will be fit for the purpose? And most importantly: Are the teachers ready for the new pedagogy they will have to apply?

NZQA (the New Zealand Qualifications Authority) has recently announced that NCEA examinations will be available online, asynchronous, in the not too distant future. In my work I have found that while Primary Schools and to a certain degree Intermediate Schools are embracing 21C teaching and learning, once these independent deep thinking students enter secondary school, it’s often back to the 20th or even 19th century. Is this the gentle – or not so gentle? – push the secondary schools in NZ need to move into blended learning? What helps teachers to become 21C teachers and adopt a 21C pedagogy which includes the use of e-tools when appropriate?

I believe, a blended approach is required for this also. We need to model to our teachers what we want them to model in their teaching. We need to take their strengths and needs into account – just as we want them to take their students’ strengths and needs into account. We need to allow them to be learners, creators, collaborators. They need to have a say in their learning, in their assessment, in the evidence collected for the assessment – just as we want them to do with their students.

We are talking about more than just an individual change, we are talking about changes within a department or syndicate, within a school, a region, a country, the teaching force. These changes, while they might start at an individual level, will be less successful if there is no opportunity to collaborate, to direct your learning etc. within your department / syndicate, and then within the school, within the region etc. Ideally this would be extended to the top levels of education within a country where officials and those on the chalface of teaching work truly together. Why? Because we want to ensure that we can provide the best possible education for our current and for future students.

This sounds very high and mighty – where do we start? How do we affect such a change?

It’s back to the extremes of a person who doesn’t leave the house and the one just taking off without a plan. We need to find the right balance in between. No single person can make the decision, we all need to work together. Just like the school of sardine turns in an instant once a critical mass of sardines – which is as little as 15 – 20 % – have changed direction when there are enough committed educators around, the system will change (I have no idea how I just ended up at The Committed Sardine! :D).

So back to what we can do:

  • Gently push the reluctant
  • Hold up the “STOP-THINK-ACT” sign for the overly eager.

How do I as blended e-learning facilitator go about this: I stick by the Golden Circle of WHY – HOW – WHAT:

  • I share with them the why of 21C teaching and learning – will what we teach today prepare our students for 2020, 2030, 2040? I keep on coming back to this all the time, overtly and covertly e.g. in the way I set out my staff meetings, my modelling sessions in class.
  • With their permission¬†I show them how it can be done, in their class, with their students. I am not trying to say that all my modelling turns out perfect – I am just human of course and after all I have limited knowledge of their students etc. But if I as an outsider can come in and do this, they can do this and much much better.
  • I offer them targeted information in a way that I belief suits them – f2f or virtually or in print (paper or digital), one-on-one or in small or in large groups, connection with other educators etc.
  • Food is a powerful motivator – never underestimated the destructive power a hungry stomach can have on even the most well planned session!
  • But most of all I try to listen and put myself into their shoes. When I last returned into the classroom after 6 years in a related but separate environment, I was amazed and ashamed how quickly I fell back into old habits… So I try to do some of the things they wish they had time to do and share it with them – lists of e-tools they can use in their writing (I want to rearrange them as it puts too much emphasis on the WHAT when the tool is in the first column), cybersafety activities etc.

The long and the short of it is that we all are Sardines in the great big School of education – and if we and 15-20% of our colleagues change direction (presumably approximately in the same direction), the School should turn pretty much instantly. I’ll try my best to get the Sardines in my area of influence to turn with me…

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Long time no post…

Life has been busy, lots of time taken up with work (of course!) but there is life beyond work – right now consisting of the children being on school holidays. Coping with this is not an easy task in itself, even less so while working (no rest for the wicked BeLchick who will toddle off to Europe for 5 weeks in winter with BeLfamily). However, there is even life beyond the children (hear hear) which led one of my quilts “Frei” to be displayed as finalist in the Challenge at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne this month. A whirlwind visit over the weekend to Melbourne (which had especially for me turned their season from summer straight to winter – brrr).

On the work front I have put together a collation of e-tools (PC) for engaging reluctant writers here. I would like to acknowledge the incredible help I have received from NZ educators through the Virtual Learning Network and especially from Catriona Pene via her workshop at the recent Learning 2 School Roadshow.  Feel free to use, adapt, add :-). In the back of my head I am working on a proposal for a presentation at ULearn in Hamilton later this year Рto do with my hobby horse identity, culture, stereotyping and how teachers can connect with their learners in the reality of their busy days.

I leave you with one of currently favourite TED Talks, Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work? 

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Lehrers Kinder, Pfarrer’s Vieh, gedeihen selten oder nie!

This is an old German saying, roughly translates to:

A teacher’s children and a priest’s cattle will rarely turn out well if ever.

Does being an educator make a difference to raising our own children, does being a parent make a difference to our work as educators, and how?

Let’s imagine you are a wonderful teacher BC (= before children). Your first child arrives and as for all parents your world gets turned upside down by the needs of this little person. If you are working in the early weeks and months of your bundle’s arrival, you might have less time to prepare your lessons than BC, but you gain a different perspective of how little people grow and learn. You gain a different perspective of what is important in life – there is a life outside school!

As time goes by the little person grows bigger and a little less dependant but as my mother has always said ‘little children, little worries – big children, big worries!’. You learn to become better and better at multi-tasking, marking your recounts while you cook dinner with a pre-schooler throwing a tantrum etc. You get wiser, though maybe a bit disillusioned about the enthusiasm you used to put into your preparation and teaching BC and now no longer can fathom. There might be times when you regret a parental decision you made, the way you acted / spoke when your child wanted you while you just had to put the finishing touch on the preparation for your school trip etc. Being an educator and a parent today is hard work.

Being a parent with an educator background can be very challenging:

  • You know what to expect of a child at a certain age
  • You know what to expect of their school and their teacher
  • You know the limitations of what they are realistically able to provide for your child – especially so when we are friends with the teacher
  • Their school / teacher has certain expectations of your child and you.

One example is how my youngest son’s teacher who is a friend told me on Friday my son was the only one in his class who did not get 100% in his spelling (he got 90%) which for the son of a teacher was disappointing. She certainly did not mean to be mean and horrible, but I was struck by the stereo type included in her comment: Does a teacher’s child always need to do their homework (our life is very busy, and this teacher knows that we don’t always get around to do it)? Does a teacher’s child need to be as good (better?) than other children? Isn’t this stereotyping?

I am getting more and more intrigued by stereotyping. I thought of myself as free of stereotypes some time ago, and yet, I hold plenty of them! Where do they come from? Do they change over time and how? What clipart do you want to be represented by and why?

So how about you, how does being an educator influence your parenting, and how does being a parent influence your teaching? to be continued…

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[I am on another one of my little rants here – just very passionate about it ;-)]


extraordinary: Adjective, 1. Very unusual or remarkable. 2. Unusually great.

ordinary: Adjective, With no special or distinctive features; normal.

normal: Adjective, Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

What is normal, ordinary, what is extra-ordinary?

Yes, I am still on my search for my own (and my learners’) identity, and while this post was sparked by sth. entirely different, it fits right into it. In my barely existing private life I follow quilting blogs. One of my quilting friends shared how her son with a diagnosis of dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia had been treated by his new teacher. Her summary of the situation was that the teacher didn’t belief her son had any special needs but that he was lazy. Her son has since been moved to another teacher’s class.

This made me reflect on what it means to be normal, ordinary, and what it means to be extra-ordinary. From my faint memory of 8 years of Latin at Grammar School, I recall that “extra” mean outside of. So extra-ordinary should mean outside the ordinary, in the original sense of the word I would see as outside either side, so ‘better’ and/or ‘worse’ than ordinary. It is interesting how nowadays we understand its meaning only as ‘better’ than ordinary. And ordinary meaning¬†¬†‘with no special or distinctive features’ – how can that be, aren’t we all distinctively different?

So let’s go to normal then, ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected’. We could get into a long debate about New Zealand’s National Standards in Literacy and Numeracy for students in Y1 – 8 – but I will just park this debate right here. Usual, typical, or to be expected – so extraordinary would mean unusual, untypical, outside of what is to be expected.

My friend’s son sounds like this. His 3 ds explain why some of his learning is unusual, untypical, outside of what if to be expected. What implications does this have for teaching and learning?

Most of us and many of our students are ‘unusual’ in one kind or another. I wear glasses. Someone else wears a hearing aide. Others require an insulin to survive. Yet another uses a walking stick to support himself. So we are all not only unique but also unusual in some sense, and we many of us are using tools to compensate for this. The technology is available, so we wouldn’t deny the Type 1 Diabetic the insulin, we wouldn’t deny the short sighted their glasses which allow them to drive, the hearing aide for the person hard of hearing. What is different in the classroom?

Many of us have seen the comic strip about standardised testing / fair selection – I have not fully explored Creative Commons etc. so I will only share the link to the image here. Why do we find it so difficult to accept and cater for the extra-ordinary learner like above boy in our classrooms?

How we actually go about treating all our learners (or as many as possible) justly is a different matter…¬†In the case of above boy: If he had a different need it might be more obvious what tool could help him – you wear glasses if you have difficulty seeing, hearing aides if hard of hearing, use a walking stick if you have difficulty keeping your balance etc. What about the more hidden needs? It seems almost impossible some days for a teacher to cater to everyone of their students justly.

So what is doable? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Observe your learners.
  • Build a relationship with them and their family / whanau.
  • Speak with and listen to the experts –¬†¬†the learner,¬†the family / whanau, other educators, the outside experts etc. (in this order!)
  • Create a picture (in your mind, on paper,¬†electronically¬†etc.) of the student and their need and review this regularly.
  • When planning for your classes, keep these pictures in mind. What are you trying to achieve in your class, what is your goal, what will you asses? What within your planning is likely to work, what might prove challenging for particular learners? Do you need different goals for different learners, do they require different tools, different approaches etc.?
  • What tools can you use to help your students overcome these challenges? [above experts might be able to tell you, or you might need someone else in addition]
  • During and after the class, review what is¬†happening¬†or has happened. Use this to influence your next steps.

Long gone are the days when the student had to fit in with my class, when my motto used to be ‘One size fits all – and if it doesn’t fit you, don’t come to my class!’.¬†It’s a lot harder in¬†practise¬†than when writing it down of course, but I¬†believe¬†most good teachers¬†already¬†embed this or something similar into¬†their¬†pedagogy, the way they teach – otherwise they should carefully examine if they can really call themselves good teachers.

When justice has been accepted over¬†equality¬† we all and our extra-ordinary students might realise that they are truly “out of the ordinary”.

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Success and Potential

{Be warned, more questions here than answers. As in most my posts, this comes from the heart and from 15 years in the NZ education system – but I feel I never have enough time to truly get to the bottom of other people’s ideas and research that influence my thinking so I am thankful for anyone who can ‘put the record straight’ or help me answer some of my questions.}

In education in New Zealand there is a lot of talk about success and potential. Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success – is the MoE strategy for raising Maori students’ achievement. It includes a lot of positive approaches no doubt. Maori students, Pasifika students and students with special education needs are three of the four current priority groups for MoE. Ka Hikitia aims for “Maori enjoying education success as Maori”. This raises a few questions for me:
1. How do you define being Maori?
2. What is education success?
– What is education success as Maori – and how is this different to success as xyz?

1. As per my previous post on identity, I can’t see that there is an easy definition of what someone is. We just receive the NZ census forms, qu9 asks in which country you are born – that is straight forward, then in qu11 Which ethnic group do you belong to? I asked my 12y old, he straight away said NZ European. I have shared with you before about my taking on the NZ citizenship and giving up the German passport. Does this make me NZ European? I don’t think so, I think still that having been raised in Germany by German parents and educated in a German school systems makes me closer linked to Germany than NZ – though is ‘German’ truly an ethnic group? So if I tick German, can my children tick NZ European? Well, so far I always have ticked this box for them, but I would be interested in what others think. Should they rather tick NZ European and Other – German? What shade of grey are they?
So what about being Maori? Are we talking about the child of Maori parents, about someone who speaks te reo, about someone who knows tikanga, who lives tikanga or all of the above? What about someone who clearly looks Maori but does not want to know about it, are they not Maori? What about someone who is white on the outside but brown on the inside?
If we have difficulties defining the ethnicity, how can we decide who of our students are Maori? And what about my theory of your identity changing with time and place? (E.g. here I might be ‘the German’, when I visit Germany in winter they will see our family as ‘the New Zealanders‚Äô – I hope we’re going to be respectable representatives of NZ lol).

2. Educational success (=”to reach one’s potential”) for most of us would include the ability to read, write and have basic numeracy. For some of our students this level might be reached after only a few years at school, others might need longer. This in itself is not enough of course, so let’s weave the Key Competencies into it: thinking, using language, symbols and text, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing. Our basic baseline of reding, writing and numeracy actually only seems to come under ‘using language, symbols and text‚Äô but there is little doubt that the remaining key competencies need to be taught as well. However, MoE’s statements of intent also include “Maximise the contribution of education to the NZ economy” which includes increasing the proportion of learners successfully completing tertiary qualifications. To successfully complete a tertiary qualification, a very important prerequisite is the completion of secondary qualifications, in NZ mainly the NCEA Levels 1-3. To achieve this, students need content knowledge in a range of subjects – as well as work ethic, basic lit and num skills and the key competencies. There is a certain amount of choice in the process as someone who has ‘the potential’ say to achieve NCEA L3 and enrol in a law degree at university does not necessarily make this choice – or can make this choice if there are circumstances beyond their control (what about financial situation of the parents etc.).
So what exactly is educational success? Is it for every New Zealander to gain NCEA L3 to qualify for university study? What about a student who is clearly unable to achieve this, have they {been?} failed educationally (as the opposite of success)? My friend just told me the other day how her teachers were disappointed when she chose to leave school after Y12 and enrol in a polytechnic course, they thought she had ‘more potential’ but she was and still is happy with her choice. Has she failed educationally? We can take this into any level of education, primary, secondary, tertiary, the question remains how do we define educational success for a particular individual?
If I decided what a student’s potential is, does this not limit my students with this one path being ‘success’ and all others being not success (failure)? Who am I to so limit a child???

3. If we can’t define Maori and can’t define educational success, how can we say that a Maori student is achieving educational success as Maori? What does it mean to achieve “educational success as [insert your ethnicity]”? I understand the part of being who you are, being true to yourself, not having to twist yourself out of shape . Wouldn’t this also apply to say a vegan, a homosexual, a Christian etc. (please note these are in no particular order and certainly not exclusive of each other!)

So what now?
I am very aware of the difference in achievement between Maori and Pasifika and other ethnic groups in NZ. I am committed to doing my bit to help make a difference. I have a problem with blanket statements I am unable to understand and no one else has been able to explain to me in a way that I understand them.
How can I support Maori and Pasifika student to be successful? I believe I need to treat every stunt as an individual. Yes, I need to be aware of their background, the context they come from, the context they move into. I need to have a connection to my students and to their families, have an understanding of their communities. I need to support my students to become connected, life long learners no matter whether they’re Maori, Pasifika, Asian, European, boys or girls, young or old, gay or straight, religious or atheists etc.
Is it hard work? It is hard work at the beginning, but the benefits are priceless ūüôā

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