PS: Whatever you do, don't read half of this post. Read the whole thing.
Learning Hubs at Hobsonville Point Secondary School forms an important part of our curriculum. They use an advisory model to take pastoral care to the next level. In term 3, our learning in these advisories centred around the concept of manaakitanga.
I was very aware that building the term's learning around manaakitanga came with some challenges. Firstly, in New Zealand, we are often guilty of pretending to be culturally responsive by slapping a te Reo Māori name on anything. Calling a Community of Learning a Kāhui Ako is not what makes it culturally responsive, the same way that giving the unit, theme or topic that we are studying a te Reo Māori name would not make it culturally responsive either. This lands us in the treacherous territory of tokenism.
A second risk I identified was around cultural misappropriation. This can be described as when "one culture, most often one that has a historical record of oppressing other cultures, engages in the unauthorised taking of some aspects of another, most often a minority culture" (Metcalfe, 2012). Our schools are saturated in Eurocentric thinking, systems and bias, and as a result, I can't help but wonder if our dominant culture has 'taken' this concept, potentially without authority.
And finally, my biggest concern, without understanding of the genealogy of the concept we were studying, its cultural meaning, and significance, was I at risk of misrepresenting this culturally significant term to my students? In particular, it seemed to me that by misrepresenting the meaning of manaakitanga through my own Eurocentric bias and unintentional ignorance, I could surreptitiously be erasing the cultural significance and supplanting it with covert Eurocentric cultural ideas instead.
So what did I do? Well, the only thing that seemed appropriate to do. Don't represent my view of manaakitanga, but instead seek out ways to represent the Māori view of manaakitanga. Inspired by the work of famous writer and psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and great NZ educators like Heemi McDonald, I looked to stories for help.
I stared by reading students a story of Te Pura, the guardian taniwha of Wairoa as told in Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers. I then asked each of my students to look for a story connected to their family, culture, heritage or identity that somehow represented manaakitanga. I encouraged my students to speak to their parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and more to help locate an appropriate story. I hoped that by encouraging students to seek out their own stories, that this might provide an opportunity for students to build their own cultural capital while ensuring that I don't just accidentally teach my own version of manaakitanga. Finally, we also watched a movie, selected by the students for its portrayal of ideas related to manaakitanga. After examining these three stories, we then discussed what the shared attributes or themes were of the stories that in most cases, spanned multiple shared cultures.
|Student's sketchnotes of manaakitanga stories.|
Of course, it is early days in my journey towards culturally sustaining pedagogy and there is a lot about the approach above that needs improvement. Although the above shows an example of me 'trying', it is simply not enough that we try. If we are to truly restore the harm that has been done by two hundred years of colonisation and its effects, it is essential that we try, and then evaluate, learn more, iterate, seek feedback, repeat. Our efforts towards culturally sustaining pedagogy are like taking a step in the wrong way on a travellator. We need to take enough steps, and take them in fast enough succession if we hope to overcome the direction that history's travellator is sending us in.