Whanaungatanga is a Māori value. It means:
- relationship, kinship, sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.
At the start of the year I decided to make the whanaungatanga principle a part of my teaching. It was hard to get my head around how I would implement it. I decided to make contact with the 9 Māori families in my class as soon as possible. Parents were very surprised to receive a friendly phone call from their child's teacher. I did not realise the value of these ongoing phone calls until recently. Two wonderful things happened:
1. A Māori student in the E-Z class had serious behavior issues in the past. He often ran out of the class if things didn't go his way. His dad wasn't very supportive either. It didn't take long for us to realise this boys potential. If we could only get him to stay in class long enough to learn something. Well, I made my positive phone calls home and told his dad how smart his boy is. At our recent parent evening, I was surprised that he made an appointed. I was even more surprised when they actually came as last year's teacher told us how hard it was for her to meet with his dad. The best part was when the dad told me that he actually forgot about the appointment, but his son walked to the place where he was attending a course to remind him about the parents evening. Need I say more...
2. Another Māori student in our class, who has learning and behavior needs received the same positive phone calls throughout the year. Every time I call, her mother says:"What has she done this time." Only to find out that her daughter is working very hard at school and is making progress. In this week, she had a bad moment with another teacher at play time and was sent home for unacceptable behaviour. When I asked our secretary to call her parents to organise a meeting, she said: "you know they won't come, don't you?" Because they never came before for any of these meetings. Well, big was my surprise when I arrived at school the very next morning to find both parents waiting for me in the office. They couldn't thank me enough for helping their daughter this year.
What have I learned? If you build a positive relationship with your students' whanau (family), it makes it so much easier to talk to them about those not-so-good moments.
What will I do next year? Make more positive calls next year to ALL the students in my class.