Sunday, 4 May 2014

Who I am and What I do...


Who I am and what I Do…

This question is a difficult one to answer merely for the fact that it encapsulates who I am absolutely.
While sitting in my grandfather’s chair from his and Nana’s lounge suite it’s hard to not think about him. My post I was attempting to write just before was erased as if by magic. A blinking green light on my phone was all I had staring me in the face while I tried to make my phone respond. For that reason alone… I will write this post a bit differently to how I began the last one.




There is still so much mystery surrounding my birth and early years – mainly because both of my parents seem to have opposing yet similar views. Despite my questions and those from my siblings on my dad’s side – it’s hard to get a full answer. My Gran assures me she has written a journal from before and after my birth until now that I can have when I’m ready. I’m still at a loss whether I ever will be.

I’m the oldest of 11 kids. I have seven sisters and three brothers. I’m the oldest of the immediate circle of cousins on my dad’s side of which there are 15 of us. I’m the third oldest in the circle of cousins on my Mum’s side – in which there are 9 cousins. Then of course there are the aunties, uncles, distant cousins that feel like they are really in our immediate cousin circle and then the friends who are so close who seem like sisters – and of course my sisters friends who seem like cousins as well. It’s all a bit confusing but I’m so glad and fortunate that life has allowed me this chance to be a part of such a dynamic yet often times crazy family.

I grew up with my mum as an only child – spending the majority of my time outside which was more like a fairy garden, where I searched for bugs and insects and the ever mischievious faries Mum promised was out there.


I grew up knowing I’d had an older brother who had passed away before he was born and that he was always looking out for me. I knew that I’d had a friend who also was watching over me as well and remember knowing he was around me, still playing hide and seek and having teddy bears picnics with me and my named teddies. I grew up with an innate knowledge of my surroundings and from a young age knew how to plant and harvest gardens, bake and sew, hunt for eels, ducks and rabbits, knew theoretically how to cast a fishing line -  not that Grandad ever let me do it for myself… except when I was 15 I think and it was deemed time to do it by myself finally… I failed. But at least I tried!

I knew about the planets and why the clouds were there and how calves and lambs were born. I watched chrysalis after chrysalis hatch with beautiful butterflies and inherently knew that my time would come too – to change from a relaxed and humble catapillar to a beautiful and graceful butterfly sent to grace the eyes and smiles of people around me. I knew somehow that I wasn’t the desired shape or size young girls should be. At five though I remember posing with no shame at all in an orange and black striped swimsuit – ‘togs’ we call them here in NZ.

I remember the constant reading sessions with my Nana every night I stayed at their house and credit my love for reading to her.



The Disney books still sit on our (mine and her) bookshelf - and I remember the beginning of my distrust and jealousy toward the love she and Grandad gave to their first grandson – my younger cousin. It began with her reading our books to him.

I remember sitting on my older cousin’s bed at my Aunties house reading a story to them – because they were my students. I had chalk and a chalkboard. I remember playing ‘school’…A LOT.

Teaching animals what I wanted to do was obviously the next step since my cousins grew bored of humouring their younger cousin.

My recurring love for Calf Club began. Curly, Celeste, Daisy, Angel and the other two who I’m sure were as well loved but have since forgotten their names. I wasn’t ever allowed a lamb or kid… though I remember thinking that those were for the rich kids for some reason…



Taking our dog Cody to Pet day was never a possibility because he had never been socialised and was ridiculously hard to hold onto to walk anywhere and basically ripped your arm out of its socket every time you tried. This was before I learnt about clicker training and operant conditioning last year when I got my very first puppy…. Many youtube videos showing our success are available for your perusal… haha He was a great friend – protective and supportive. So was my cat Missy. Our dog Cody passed away while I was on a university trip. I’m pretty sure my Nana ran over my cat. I could never ask her though. I was distraught. I remember a lot of crying that night.

My acceptance for death came from a young age… not that I’ve ever been okay with it – just that I could and can understand why. I spent a lot of time with my Nana and her mum my Great Nana at Great Nan’s sisters and brothers funerals, where I met lots of distant relatives and where they seemed to look first at my big bugs bunny buck teeth, secondly at my curly hair and then comment on the olive skin and how thick it was compared to their increasingly thinning skin. It’s interesting because a lot of these funerals were filled with Pakeha traditions… and as I grew up and learnt more about who I am - I became confused as to why we would leave our loved ones to lie by themselves in a funeral parlour.

The only time Grandad ever seemed proud of me being part Maori was when the Warriors Rugby League team was owned by my iwi (tribe). Other than that – nothing. At five I was in Kapa Haka and remember doing a fierce haka on his upturned dinghy – furious because girls weren’t allowed to do the haka – and was asserting my right to do so. Grandad was furious and told me to stop and get off his dinghy.

As I grew older, we talked a lot about our French ancestry too. Mainly because that became the whakapapa (genealogy) I clung to after an incident with a girl from high school... (see an earlier post - Te Kotahitanga). I always felt like I had to divide my time between loving my Grandad and hating the fact that he chose to spend more of his time with his grandson rather than me… who he had taught lots of ‘boy’ things to before he’d come along. Like how to spit out the window, and how to be quiet while fishing, and how to gaff the big fish as they came up onto the rocks. I always looked away when he knocked out my Pisces counterparts. I think he stopped taking me fishing with him once he saw I chucked a few of the fish from his growing pile back into the water…where they merely floated to the top and floated away… He would make the funniest jokes and in the end have us both in hysterics. For one of his last Christmases I bought him a joke book that had him crying most of the day - tears of laughter - so much so he couldn't get the joke out because he was laughing so much.

When he passed away I was 16. I was furious. Distraught. Unbelievably lonely. He had fought valiantly. Cancer took him but I blamed myself. If only I hadn’t encouraged him to listen to the nurse and doctors to get that biopsy done… if only this, if only that.. He was the only father figure I had up until that point. A loss that broke me. Completely and utterly. Sitting here in this chair is a small reminder… where his hands lay with the oily marks - when we watched the racing or the wrestling.

After Grandad died I stopped writing in my diary for the longest time. I was a daily if not weekly diary writer. It was about the time when I started a LiveJournal account.. and the same time when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out on film. I remember because my Nan held the funeral off for a day so I could go to the film with the rest of the class which had been in the pipelines for weeks – I felt guilty for a very long time. I remember trying to be quiet as I cried throughout Sirius’ introduction to Harry. Mainly because I’d read Order of the Phoenix and related Sirius to my Grandfather.
As you can tell – he’s had a huge impact on me.

Moe mai ra e Koro xxx

I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Perhaps even since I was five. But for certain from the age of 12 – I wanted to be an Early Childhood Teacher – but once I got to high school – I realised I couldn’t teach kindy kids about Stalin and Hitler. For a better insight into the teachers who inspired me to become a better person and my future career path -  there is a Blog post on www.evolutionandimagination.com where I talk about it and the importance of Te Kotahitanga.

At university I made life-long friends, and also friends that should never have been made. I learnt hard... and fast in the grand scheme of things. Life skills… More importantly how to deal with the important things like studying and achieving your degree and keeping in touch with friends and family when the rest of your life seems to be falling apart. I gained a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in History and English. I only have to write my dissertation (long overdue) to get my Honours in History. I did an entire year of teaching training to gain a Graduate Diploma in Teaching – where I can teach English, History and Social Studies.

Mum, Dad and I at my Graduation in 2011
Because of the Te Reo Maori (Maori Language) diploma  I have now and the levels gained throughout my studies at Uni at Te Wananga o Aotearoa – I could teach Te Reo up to Year 11 perhaps. There have been two times in my life where I felt fluent. When I was doing my second year of Reo Maori – where I was dreaming in Te Reo. And last year when I performed a play a friend and I had written for an aromatawai (assessment)  - and I actually knew every word and what it meant – not just the general gist of it. The problem with learning languages is that if you’re not using them effectively and often you tend to lose it.

I have a beautiful (though sick at the moment) cat called Zo. We thought he was a girl when I first got him because he was a fluffball. We had called him Zoe. Changed to Zohan very quickly. He has eight middle names because my friends helped me name him.

I have a very excitable yet beginning to mature – 1 year old Black Lab/ Blue Heeler x puppy. Her name is Mia-Isabella. Mia for short. Miiiiiiaaaaaaaaa! – when she is being told off for stealing. Socks are her favourite at the moment. She is currently undergoing a detection course – where she learns how to track and smell around a series of obstacles like they do with airport dogs for food and fruit… and eventually I’m guessing there will be a use where I can use her to our advantage to make sure any children I have keep up my rules about no illegal substances in the house. Haha.

Last year my beautiful Great Nana passed away.


I couldn't comprehend why we couldn't stay with her in the church while everyone else gathered outside... or why people left so suddenly afterwards. With her went her stories that I had planned on doing an oral history recording of… fair enough too I suppose. We can remember most of them. She lived a long, hard life. She passed away at age 98. I had accepted her passing well before she left us – so was more a feeling of relief than overwhelming sadness that it had been with Grandad. I still miss her too.

At the moment I’m trying to save because I have a life-long passion to travel to France. I want to meet my distant cousins still in the Channel Islands and feel guilty I haven’t gotten there yet. This year I hope. I’m currently the secretary for our Rotaract group here and have joined up with the Maori Women’s Welfare League and am looking forward to the coming year.

I am obsessed with Twitter at the moment. It used to just be Facebook. I’m currently building my PLN on Twitter. I’m happy with the results so far J There is a blog post on this too..

I’m really passionate about human rights – and in particular – or at least school related – teachers rights… I joined the PPTA as a student teacher and have never looked back. I’m now the Branch Representative for NETS (Network of Establishing Teachers) as well as for our Beautiful Region. I’ve learnt heaps since the beginning of the year when I was handpicked for the role.

I miss teaching History. My main focus in my degree was Maori and Iwi Histories, Medical Histories and Oral and Public Histories. It makes me sad not teaching it. Which is probably why I subject my English students to it at times in my soapbox moments.

What I do is so tied up in who I am – though as a teacher I feel the need to distance myself somewhat from my own self– if only to gain a stronger insight into how to help the students better. Though I tend to use my own experiences to try to awhi (help, support etc) the students who need an honest yet supportive ‘In my day…’ talk. I see myself as one student put it in my first year teaching - “the Maori version of the teacher from The Freedom Writers”.

A Crest I created at primary school -
'My Future' - book to teach, chalk, paintbrushes and pens
'A Childhood Memory' - a teacher I have yet to talk about as
a reason for why I'm teaching now :) Thanks Mrs D.


Every day I wake up with a renewed focus to try to change the world. If only a student at a time… or a moment in a student’s life – hopefully for the better. I want my students to see the effect they have on others and that their words have an impact on themselves and how they see themselves.

Each day I eat breakfast and have a Milo with my students at school and try to get more students to come to Breakfast club because there are still so many who won’t come because of the stigma. I know why they don’t come. It’s increasingly hard to not give up because it’s important. Despite my thoughts of our current govt, I do admire this Kickstart Breakfast Programme.

Every day I try to teach my students compassion, respect and accountability. To varying degrees of success. I try to teach my students to be intrinsically motivated – not helped by the now empty jellybean bucket under my desk taunting them. I try to teach them the power of finding out their own information and to learn to be a lifelong learner. I try to make my students into the people I would like to see in leadership roles in a few years’ time. Every student in my class has potential to succeed and I refuse to think otherwise. I try to inspire them to think about the world around them and their role within it. I have high expectations. I believe in Te Kotahitanga and Positive Behaviour for Learning wholeheartedly. I teach like this inherently but the PD has been… absolutely invaluable. I have learnt more about myself than ever before.

Every day I attempt to control the laughter – often my own – as one of my students says something to keep us entertained. If you ever meet one of my students - ask them about the yellow wall. I use humour and my relational way of teaching – where my students often compare me to an older sister, cousin, aunty etc – to maintain an appropriate behavioural management setting …most of the time. Of course every day I have to laugh – mainly at myself... and I find humour is the best way to defuse a difficult situation – when done the right way. Every day I have music coursing through my veins. In my head, through the speakers, in my class. It makes me happy. And it makes me happy to see my students in a relaxed yet focussed classroom environment. A happy classroom is a productive one in my opinion.

As a still young/beginning/novice teacher – perhaps I will always feel like this? – I have a constant struggle with myself  - trying to be the best and still finding better ways to do it. How to best your very best each day? I try to incorporate new modes of learning into my classroom, and into my school – again to varying degrees of success… I reflect. A lot.



 I love that we are now required to collate our own data for registration – because the multiple goodbye cards, thankyou letters and class photos will come in handy. I display them on the wall behind my desk in my classroom. I use my own student experiences to try and be the best teacher possible. I want to be the teacher I wish I could have had. 

The teacher my students need me to be -  to help them see the beauty in life, to help them remember there is a future for them that perhaps they never knew was possible. I try my hardest to keep myself out of the equation as much as possible – though tend to fail the majority of the time because I end up learning more from my students every year. It helps to modify my own teaching, the way I create resources and how I search for relevant topics to teach. I try to teach English in the most interesting way possible – and tend to teach it from a historical point of view in everything I do… Teach ‘The Sapphires’ to my Year 12s (ages 15-16/17) – teach historical context for at least two periods. Prepare and give out handouts so they get the deeper understanding from the get go and can actually have a chance of getting those Excellences they crave. J



I try to be as approachable as possible – and make sure that my students feel comfortable in our class. A lot of students come to me for advice. For the kids I would like to help but don’t have enough wisdom for… and even the kids I do have wisdom or life experience to help – I refer on to our amazing guidance counsellors. Sometimes I feel like a nuisance because of the amount of students I refer over – but I figure its good that the kids are still able to get their issues resolved – and still feel comfortable asking for help in the beginning. Eventually I want to do some sort of guidance counselling course – or at least careers guidance because I think I’d be good at both.

I do LOTS of extra-curricular activities. There is a post on that as well.

I’m interested in incorporating technology into everything we do at school (aka Blended Learning).. though I understand why this is freaky to a lot of other teachers who may be resistant to this style of teaching. I want to start Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) at my kura (school) and I want to re-energise my colleagues and remind them that they are life-long learners too. I would really like to see our schools as one of the first to be outfitted for N4L and Pond. I want to immerse myself in Professional Learning - this and every year. I want to be a role model to my siblings, family, cousins, students, colleagues and community.

And so... this is Who I am and What I do. A small part of my own journey but exceedingly long to read… Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride with me.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ariaporo22

Naku noa,

Alex

Age 26
3rd Year Teacher
New Zealand