Thursday, 16 June 2016

Culturally Responsive Practice - Reflections

I've been thinking heaps about how I interact with my students. 
Yesterday while on duty we were surveying the field and were watching one particular group of boys being haututu. When one of the boys (new arrival to WHHS) came up the hill to talk to the girls, I called him over. This was our interaction.
"Bub... hey bub! Can you come here for a bit?" I got his attention - not knowing his name. He walked over. 
"Kia ora," I said, hand outstretched to shake his. "I'm Miss Le Long. What's your name?"
"Eden ****," he said with a bit of a confused smile on his face. 
"Hi Eden. Hey, the stuff you guys were doing down there..." I gestured down to the field.
"What stuff?"
"The silly stuff. Trying to be all hard and getting other kids attention."
"Huh?" he said with a bit of defensive stance. 
"Oh, the," I repeated his actions of trying to step out some students and entice them over, "kind of stuff."
He looked up at me and said, "Oh yup."
"That's pretty dumb aye? We don't do that kind of silly behaviour here at Heights aye. Are you new to Heights?" I said, full well knowing he was new. 
"Yep."
"What school were you at?" I said with a smile on my face.
"Boys.."
"Ah," I said. "Well Eden, we don't do that at Heights - it's not really appropriate aye." 
"Yep. Algood Miss," he said with a smile and he walked off to talk to the girls. 

My colleague that I do duty with mentioned that she liked how I handled that. I just said that I talked to him like he was one of my brothers. Told her how I tell my brother off when he does something stupid on Facebook and how it's not appropriate, and nearly always bring our Grandmother into the conversation by asking whether she'd think it was appropriate too or how she might feel if she saw what he was doing.
I suppose that's why it hurts when things don't go so well in class because I put so much work into building the relationships up that I have with my students. It hurts because it feels like one of the family is being awful. But next day, everything is back to normal and we move on. 
It's interesting though - because I've always been like that with students. Relating to them. Trying to connect and making shared discussions so that there is understanding on both sides. But I guess it's more about the way I was taught - both the good and the bad. How it wasn't really okay to be Maori when I was growing up. The institutionalised racism permeating everything in our small town. Growing up with my Pakeha French family showed me what I didn't want to be like and what I loved too. Some of my high school teachers were awesome and made me feel proud to be who I was... others... not so much. 
That kind of mark that we leave on our students is absolutely critical and I'm always trying to find a way to get all my students on side. 
We just had a REALLY cool lesson in Social Studies with my Year 9s. We're learning about Parihaka and did a bit of information analysis yesterday - highlighting historical sources and today we listed the most important information about what we learnt. There were students teaching each other, students choosing their own learning spaces and different parts of the classroom to learn in. There were students helping each other, students discussing the issues in the texts we were reading and highlighting. Students involving me in their discussions about the Peace Walk towards Parihaka in Taranaki at the moment and students who were doing their own work, quietly, focussed and energised by the real world learning. One student asked if I could get in touch with the Taranaki mayor to discuss the issues more so we could hear about it from someone directly affected by the racism down there at the moment. He was super interested too because he's Ngati Ruanui, from Taranaki - so it's even more so important. 
Our shared learning about Parihaka has been incredibly powerful. Students came up with the key questions for inquiry and I've been finding information to help them answer the questions. A bit more scaffolding and they'll be able to explain by themselves the answers to their questions.