Home Education Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation
The studies referred to in this chapter (Ritchie et al., 2010; Ritchie & Rau, 2006, 2008) utilized protocols and processes that resonate with kaupapa Maori (Bishop, 2005; Smith, 1999/2012), critical indigenous (Denzin, Lincoln, & Smith, 2008), and narrative (Clandinin, 2007) methodologies. Educators were positioned as co-researchers alongside project codirectors from within the academy. There was a strong methodological intention to gather voices of both parents and children through a variety of methods that included center pedagogical documentation and policy documents; educator reflections; transcripts of interviews with teachers, families, and children; photographs and video; and children’s art and narratives. Please go to the original full reports of each study for detailed explanations of the respective methodological processes.
In the study Whakawhanaungatanga: Partnerships in bicultural development in early childhood education (Ritchie & Rau, 2006), we worked closely with a number of research partners, one of which was an iwi (tribal) education initiative, the Hei Ara Kokiri Tuwharetoa Education Initiative. In our ongoing consultations with representatives of this initiative, we were frequently, gently reminded to widen our lens to proactively ensure the inclusion of whanau (families) in our research design, data gathering, analysis, and theorizing. Our languaging was quite often called in to question, when, for example, we used the word “teacher” rather than the more inclusive term “educator.” We tried to be ever mindful that our use of particular terminologies reflects Foucaultian hidden power flows, subtly conveying either a disconnection or degrees of connectedness, which, from a Maori perspective is prioritized through values of whanaungatanga (family relatedness), manaakitanga (caring, hospitality, generosity), and wairuatanga (spiritual interconnectedness). These relational expectations resonate within the domain of affect, requiring the upholding of the mana (integrity, authority) of each individual as a representative of their whakapapa (genealogical connectedness), the “committed sapiential circles” that enfold each member of the collective within its embrace (Mead, 1978, p. xixii).
The data drawn from the collaboration with the Hei Ara Kokiri Tuwaretoa Education Initiative provided deep insight into the vision and aspirations of whanau Maori (Maori families). Their data confirmed previous findings (Else, 1997; Newell, 2000) that examined reasons for the lower participation of Maori children and whanau in formal ECCE settings. The concerns that were re-iterated were the prohibitive cost of many services; the monolingualism (English—only spoken); the lack of fluency of teachers in te reo Maori (the Maori language); and the fact that Maori children who did attend these services were receiving very minimal exposure to their language (Ritchie & Rau, 2006). Despite the de/re-territorializing encroachment of colonization/Western globalized discourses, many whanau Maori (Maori families) remained and remain resolute in their desire for their children to have access to their language, and that this re-assertion is mandated by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Whariki to be included in “mainstream”/“whitestream” (alongside Maori-immersion specific) government-funded ECCE provision (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2013; Ritchie, 2008).
The “aspiration statement” from Te Whariki is viewed by many as foundational to the curriculum (Alvestad, Duncan, & Berge, 2009; Lee, Carr, Soutar, & Mitchell, 2013). Yet the statement could be critiqued as being rather individualistic, and contextually deficient in its view that children should be supported “to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society” (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 9). A respondent in the data contributed by the Hei Ara Kokiri Thwharetoa Education Initiative provided this alternative iteration of an aspiration for all children in Aotearoa: “I would like to see our tamariki [children] being bilingual and being completely comfortable in either Maori or Pakeha settings—having an understanding of the protocols or expected behaviour in these, i.e., bicultural” (as cited in Ritchie & Rau, 2006, p. 24). This upholds a desire for the honouring of Maori language, culture, and people as might have been expected if the assurances articulated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi had not been dismantled by layers of colonization (Ritchie, 2013).
In the next study “Te Puawaitanga—Partnerships with tamariki and whanau in bicultural early childhood care and education” (Ritchie & Rau, 2008), the teachers of Richard Hudson Kindergarten in Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand, provided in-depth data including interviews with parents of some of their children. Here is an excerpt from their data:
Our reflections to support the data for Kiyana
Kiyana is a four-and-a-half-year-old girl who attends morning sessions at Richard Hudson Kindergarten. She has a natural inclination to things Maori, and is a very able child. We believe that commitment and daily practice of integrating te reo and tikanga Maori [Maori language and culture] is very visible and supports our kaupapa [philosophy]—through Kiyana’s keen response to new kupu [Maori words] when she is excited to transfer this to home—this is the principle whanau tangata [Family and Community Principle from Te Whariki] in action, it also shows the tuakana-teina [older sibling/child supporting younger] strategy where she is the competent person sharing new info with others and helping them to this competency. We also celebrate the concept ako [learning/teaching], where the role of teaching and learning is reciprocal, Kiyana is the teacher with the new kupu [words].
Kiyana constantly seeks new contextual kupu [words] to stretch and challenge her learning. This, we view as self-assessment and is key to intrinsic motivation, building on her competence and confidence, knowing that she is a learner capable of adding to the knowledge she has, and knowing that she is constantly learning more. She is keen to ask for a new kupu, and if the adult she asks doesn’t know, she is learning how that adult may seek answers from another adult or look it up in the dictionary. We believe that this reflects that Kiyana feels valued with her learning, we take her seriously and she knows this. When we don’t know an answer, we are honest and say “I don’t know” and together go off to find out. We see the glee in her eye when she asks us questions we don’t know the answers to—authenticity is alive in our practice.
We know that she is proud of these accomplishments and know that the principle of whakamana [Te Whariki Principle of Empowerment] is also enacted in our daily practice for her to demonstrate this. Seeing Kiyana with this thirst for challenge and extension is like “life blood” to teachers who are also keen to keep passionate about delivering on a treaty-based curriculum [referring to Te Tiriti o Waitangi aspirations].
This further supports the information originally sent about the interview with Kiyana’s parents (Kelly and Warren May 25th) where Warren is feeling affirmed as a generation who missed the opportunity to live and learn his native tongue, his excitement and celebration of Kiyana’s new learning is welcomed and implemented into their family context. We see him as proud and willing to learn alongside his daughter, who is actively participating in reo in the kindergarten context. We believe this is non-threatening for Warren because we as teachers are non-Maori but supported by Maori resource teachers, so again the community of learners is embraced and practiced without anyone feeling whakama [shy/embarrassed]. We also believe that the [Te Whariki] principle nga hononga/relationships has been a key to this success as we have a relaxed and friendly relationship with this family which has enabled a non-threatening approach to building on reo together. (as cited in Ritchie & Rau, 2008, pp. 108-111)
In this excerpt of narrative data provided by the teachers of Richard Hudson Kindergarten, the teachers’ philosophy, guided by the early childhood curriculum Te Whariki, means that they are consciously visi- bilizing Maori language and cultural practices, enacted through deeply engaged relationships with children and their families. This conscious, deliberate process of revisibilizing te ao Maori destratifies the rigidity of monocultural discourses, creating an affordance for Kiyana whereby she feels a strong desire to access kupu Maori. This line of flight is enhanced for Kiyana through the synergy that she experiences between home and center. Meanwhile, her father Warren, who was denied access to his language and culture in the formerly striated monocultural education system, celebrates his daughter’s passion for their language. Kiyana has found her kindergarten to be a space that welcomes her discovery of her ancestral knowledges. She is able to unfold her “relations with the world” as the kindergarten program unfurls “the categories of identity and habit” that enable access to widened possibilities for identity posi- tionings (Hickey-Moody & Malins, 2007, p. 12). Kiyana is embarked upon a line of flight enabling “change and metamorphosis” (Woodward, 2007) for herself and her family. Such lines of flight are “instantiations of desire, the primal force upon which society is built. As such, they form a productive, affirmative, and positive dynamism pointing to the nexus of change” (Albrecht-Crane & Daryl Slack, 2007, p. 102).
In the same study (Ritchie & Rau, 2008), the teachers of Maungatapu kindergarten in the North Island city of Tauranga also interviewed several parents for the project, including Josie, a Maori parent, who had a long-standing involvement with their center:
Teacher: It would be valuable to hear your thoughts on how things look and feel in this environment since our last discussion. Have you noticed any changes? JosiE: I have noticed that with the teachers’ use of Te Reo it is being used more regularly, I am hearing it more through conversation. You have become more comfortable and it’s at a point now where it’s just a part of you. The children understand the language and their understanding is clearer. They aren’t threatened by it, it is normal, a normal part of the kindy. With the mirimiri [Maori therapeutic massage], I noticed with the children and even with the teachers ... Maori have a holistic point of view of touch and the children were at first unsure of it but I noticed that they became more and more comfortable. Some of them said, “No I don’t want to do that but they ended up participating because they realized that they were going to massage themselves. They understand they are responsible for their body, their tinana. I also noticed that this environment is non-threatening. I noticed even this morning how quickly the children picked up the actions when we were singing and they were really enjoying it so incorporating that as well and singing is part of the Maori way of life, music and dance and they love it. It actually blows me away because I have seen big changes but it has been very gently introduced, the changes haven’t been forced they have just become ... integrated.
Teacher: The children have naturally taken it on board and I find they have naturally just accepted it and run with and are enjoying being a part of this environment. It has become a part of the culture of the kindergarten.
Josie: And that’s what Maori is. It’s just a lifestyle and it’s about being aware of body, mind, spirit, soul, emotion and children go away with the confidence of knowing who they are and it doesn’t have to be tied to one culture.
Teacher: I think the children are using more Te Reo. Have you heard them using the language during your work here?
Josie: They are and they are more aware of it. It’s not just in the way they speak it’s in their actions as well and it’s very, very clear.
Teacher: In what way. What are you seeing?
Josie: Well even in their interactions with each other like at mat time and it’s like an awareness ... The whole environment of the kindy and what’s happening has become very normal.
Teacher: What changes have you seen since Danielle left to go to school? Our last conversation was just before she went to school and you talked a lot about the feeling of the place.
Josie: Yeah the feeling ...
Teacher: Has that changed for you or is it the same?
Josie: Well my perspective has changed as I was a parent but coming in and working alongside the children and for me the feeling is one of oneness. There is a feeling of oneness and belonging and regardless of whether Danielle is at school or not the feeling of belonging is there and that’s wonderful. You can pat yourselves on the back because I guess in your own ways you have changed—you have all been open to this growth.
Teacher: Well I guess it has been so interesting for us as we love learning about different cultures and different languages. I think we are lucky that we can integrate different cultures into our kindergarten. The children all come on board and we have learnt together.
Josie: Children I think take things on board. As adults we often put things in the too hard basket but children they just want to do it.
Teacher: I’ve really enjoyed learning the weaving, the massage and the benefits of it and having the wharenui [meeting house] and learning some of the terminologies surrounding it such as the tukutuku [woven] panels, the whakapapa [genealogy] panels in there and it’s interesting learning alongside the children.
Josie: And ... with the children ... their perception of yourselves Marion, Debbie and Jude that’s fantastic ... The privilege that knowing that because ... you are the kaiako [teachers], because of you ... that they can do what they do. The wharenui represents who you are. It’s a place of learning and you have incorporated so many things in this place of learning and children can evolve or go off to school and then they are like Danielle and want to come back, which is understandable. It’s such a different environment for them and I guess they realise the freedom of expression and being able to do things at their pace, in their time and learn to their abilities changes when they go to school.
Josie, a Maori mother, has felt comfortable and included within the kindergarten program, where the teachers are predominately Pakeha (of European ancestry). Furthermore, she has observed the teachers becoming more comfortable themselves, in their increasing, inclusive delivery of te reo and te ao Maori (Maori language and worldview). Josie encourages the teachers to celebrate their growth, as demonstrated by the “wonderful feeling of oneness and belonging” that she senses in the kindergarten. Josie highlights how, from her te ao Maori perspective, “body, mind, spirit, soul, and emotion” are integrated within education (and other) enactment, and furthermore, that this is a source of emotional and spiritual well-being that upholds the mana (integrity, esteem) of both tamariki Maori (Maori children) and the wider collective of all members (teachers, children, family members) of the kindergarten community. In addition to the more common inclusion of Maori songs and action dances, mirimiri (traditional Maori massage) has become an accepted part of the kindergarten program, the therapeutic benefits of touch a multi-sensorial, embodied source of well-being enhancement. The skill of these teachers as cultural workers is evident, as changes to strengthen the te ao Maori content have been introduced gently and respectfully over time to the point that te ao Maori now resonates within the everyday enactment of children. Josie recognizes the proactive modelling of these Pakeha “kaiako” (teachers of European ancestry) as leading this transformative process. She affirms the symbolic value of the wharenui (Maori meeting house) that has been collaboratively created at the kindergarten, seeing it as representing the strength of the teachers’ commitment to te ao Maori. The respectful dynamics evident in this interview are representative of a pedagogical enactment of Tiriti o Waitangi founded praxis. The sense of whanaungatanga (relationships) established within this kindergarten is profound and enduring.
Later in the project Marion Dekker, the Head Kindergarten teacher at Maungatapu Kindergarten, offered the following reflection:
An interesting comment that one of our Pakeha mothers through the interview was saying how wonderful and warm and welcoming and inclusive the place was and she said, “Tell me is that because you are trying really strongly to deliver a bicultural programme here in this kindergarten, or is that because it’s you guys?” And we found it interesting to stop and think—“Okay, now is this about our personalities? Is this who we are?” and after lots of discussion I was excited and kind of encouraged to be able to say to the team, “Yes there’s an openness there and that openness people recognise as an embracing and that actually we want to know who you are, we want to share who you are and this is who we are.” Yes it’s kind of a dovetailing of a person who’s growing and is open and is understanding and is inclusive, but it’s also that person has embraced an understanding and is trying to represent that in a way that is visible not only on the walls, but is visible in life. Actually it’s not about who I am, it’s because I’m committed to delivering that, and so I will behave like this to do that and I will reflect like this to do that and that’s what the spin-off has been in our team is that when we’re looking at self-review on any aspect of the programme or the routines or the happenings or what’s happening in the kindergarten and all aspects of it, it is now a question that’s always asked: “How will this impact on Maori? How will this impact on how we will deliver this? What will we need to say about that?” And I’m not saying that we’re good at that yet, but I’m excited to say that actually now my team think about that and so I think that’s been a shift for us, and I have seen growth in the way the team welcome new Maori families that come into kindergarten, and so that’s really encouraging for me to see, because they are growing. (as cited in Ritchie & Rau, 2008, p. 65)
At Maungatapu Kindergarten, the collective of teachers, under the leadership of Head Teacher Marion, are also modelling a shift away from striated spaces. A sense of “nomadic subjectivity” enables these teachers “to move across conventional categories and move against ‘settled’ concepts and theories,” offering incitement to shift beyond their previous boundaries and comfort zones (Sellers & Gough, 2010, p. 598). The unfoldings described in the Maungatapu data above demonstrate the “intensive potentiality which is embedded (or enfolded) within any body or space: a propensity—or virtual intensity—generated by the folding in of matter which, given the right conditions, has the capacity to unfold” (Malins, 2007, p. 158). As Maori ways of “knowing, being, and doing” (Martin, 2007; New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2009) become re-normalized (Smith, 1999/2012) within their program, it seems that these teachers’ openness to and insight regarding the nomadic posi- tionings of both themselves and of whanau Maori (Maori families) has invited the collective of teachers, parents, and children of their center “to see the ordinary extra-ordinarily and to see-think-write-picture differently” (Sellers & Gough, 2010, p. 598).
The third study, “Titiro Whakamuri, Hoki Whakamua. We are the future, the present and the past: caring for self, others and the environment in early years’ teaching and learning” (Ritchie et al., 2010) extended on the previous two projects (Ritchie & Rau, 2006, 2008). The focus of this particular project again drew upon kaupapa Maori (Maori philosophy), applying it this time more specifically, to “caring for ourselves, each other and the environment.” A pedagogy of affect was thus applied to caring for Papatuanuku (Earth Mother and Ranginui (Sky Father) through the sharing of Maori cosmologies that enabled children (and families) to re-connect with the source of our sustenance and well-being. Being and working with(in) the more-than-human world (Abram, 1996; Plumwood, 2002) through ongoing regular activities such as gardening, caring for ECCE center pets, and beach clean-up walks became a strong focus within the participating settings, kaupapa Maori (Maori philosophy) understandings deepening the sense of connectedness, as seen in these examples:
Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father) look after all of us. The sun, wind, rain and air look after the plants that look after us. We are nurturing our tamariki [children] to look after their environment. In caring for our natural environment, the tamariki are developing respectful relationships with nature whilst nurturing their health, wellbeing and wairua (spir- ituality/soul) within. The children freely interact with our garden to express their inner thoughts and emotions. Sadly, we lost our pet rabbit, Misty. The children miss our pet rabbit and often pick flowers from our garden or theirs and lay them on the ground by Misty. [Hawera Kindergarten].
Our little pot plants had finished flowering so we recycled them by transplanting succulents in the pots. First we had karakia [prayer, blessing] to acknowledge Tane Mahuta [departmental god, spiritual guardian of forests, plants, insects and birds], then broke off pieces of the succulent plants, sat them in the pots and watered them. The children carried river stones from the gravel pit and poured them into the planter boxes. We talked about gardening, looking after the plants, where the stones came from and experienced the mauri (life force) in the plants and stones. It was a good team effort. When we had finished, the children admired their work. When one works with Papatuanuku, one can find it relaxing and peaceful. It teaches patience and nurtures the soul. [Hawera Kindergarten]
If we hadn’t had the challenge of bringing in a Maori component to the project, it just would never have had the depth, the emotion, the identity and the wholeness that weaving te Ao Maori [the Maori world] has accorded. [Richard Hudson Kindergarten]
These excerpts portray the sense of wairuatanga, spiritual interconnectedness, underpinning the work by these teachers and children, and recognition of interdependence with(in) and reliance upon the more-than-human world. This recognition is not necessarily articulated verbally, but comes through embodied, sensory engagement in the regular daily work of kai- tiakitanga (active guardianship, stewardship, and care-taking).
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