Notes from ‘Culture Speaks’

As part of induction and mentoring at Kelston Girls’ College, BTs read and discussed sections from Mere A Berryman and Russell Bishop’s ‘Culture Speaks’. These are some notes from one session.

Engaged Māori students…

  • All highlighted cultural understanding as being paramount in schools
  • Prefer to explain their own culture rather than have teachers explain it poorly
  • Think teachers need to understand tikanga (especially P.E. teachers)
  • Think teachers don’t need reo to relate, but positive feelings towards Māori, and an attitude of curiosity
  • Are deeply offended and tired of mispronunciation
  • Worry that racism becomes deeply institutionalised when left unchecked
  • Have strong memories of having their behaviour totalised over any other memories of education
  • With browner skin have it tougher
  • “stick up for themselves”, so fight back, and this lands them in trouble
  • Respect teachers who respect students first
  • Need teachers to be friendly and have a laugh, while still keeping the class in line
    • Relate to them
    • Don’t be high and mighty
    • Be there for the kids
  • Think first impressions are important. Some teachers come across too strong or too light
  • Value honesty and consistence
  • Notice when teachers don’t know what’s going on in their classroom and just assume without evidence
  • Notice when teacher ego gets in way of teaching
  • Value voice & choice; student agency and humanism
  • With valid counter-arguments or an explanation for behaviour are often dismissed
  • Think that self-efficacy can be driven by teacher voice—especially when negative
    • i.e. teachers who think students can’t achieve decrease that student’s value of themselves
  • Think inclusion is something that the student body must create, not something for the teacher to enforce—the teacher can encourage students to notice exclusion, however
  • Need transparent and honest expectations (p. 92)
  • Think teachers need to relate everything to the real world
  • Express that there are complex inter-relationships (p. 101) that affect behaviour, and “teachers need to be careful about how they handle matters when a student wants to make a change for a better”
    • Narrative therapy approaches?
  • Think teacher acknowledgements in class in the form of certificates is babyish—others thought it showed the teacher notices
  • Disliked getting marks back solely quantitatively
  • Like feedforward
  • Think unmarked work means students don’t know where they’re at, so stop trying, because they think they may be going on a tangent
  • Still value regular marking
  • Feel that writing dominates most classes
  • Feel that most peer conversations in class are work-related, as long as the classroom environment is focussed and well-managed
  • Say “it’s not the rules we mind, but it’s how they use them, and also, they need to get their stories straight”

Disengaged Students

  • Feel the teachers don’t care about them and te ao
  • Are prone to punitive approaches to discipline without explanation
  • Feel as though they couldn’t trust their teachers, and their teachers didn’t trust them
  • Feel the teachers have low expectations of them
  • Need UDL
  • Feel the schools don’t make their whānau as important as the students feel they are
  • Are often disciplined for uniform, despite often not having the funds
  • Think the ideal teachers:
    • know them well,
    • take time to know about tikanga and te ao,
    • are flexible,
    • take time,
    • allow students to choose groups,
    • care for them,
    • know their culture and whānau,
    • push them to do better
  • “try to understand us and the way we learn—make it easier for us to learn”

Teachers

  • feel they can’t trust their students
  • feel like their Māori students don’t want to engage because they don’t want to be praised (whakama)
  • remark that when asking for volunteers, non-Māori tend to volunteer
  • (some) see it as an ethnicity-based issue, some not
  • Are not sure how to connect to Māori students (some, or why)
  • Think Māori students appreciate the personal link more than Pākeha students—especially personalised feedback and feedforward (easier in English language arts)