Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa. The Child – the Heart of the Matter

Carol Marks, Professional Learning Facilitator, Educational Leadership Project, New Zealand

Thursday 8 February 2018

Today when I visited a centre where children from mixed ages were able to play together I reflected on the joy of two brothers who were able to be together when they wanted to be and the teina had the emotional support of knowing his ‘big bro’ was there and the tuakana was happy to see his brother content. Good for the soul, for their wairua and mauri. Comforting for the whanau as well. I was reminded of my own grandchildren several years ago attending childcare. Their Mum who is Maori, and myself both wanted the same thing, to have all three siblings being able to be together, the youngest was a baby and the oldest would have been just over three years old. The distress that would have been felt by any one of these children if they had been apart was something we wouldn’t accept. We found a centre where children could mix from birth to school age and the values had been thought through deeply by Management and kaiako.

Fast forward several years and another grandchild, also with a Maori Mum, looking for key teaching so that the rhythms of her child would determine her care as opposed to the routines of the day that are often in place to meet the needs of the teaching staff. Needless to say she is back at the same centre where ERO has also recognised strong pedagogy and they have had a four year return.
It is up to each and every one of us to ensure Te Tiriti o Waitangi underpins our practice and this means that having a bicultural curriculum also means ensuring that values play an important role in our practice and our documentation. Te Whatu Pokeka, p,19 states; ‘The child is part of the whānau and the whānau is part of the child. One cannot be separated from the other. The child learns within the context of whānau, which is a real-life context. It is not a socially contrived environment such as the early childhood service. Learning occurs first in the whānau and it is the whānau that determines the learning that is valued’.

Keeping siblings together is an example of whanaungatanga or connectedness and Manaakitanga: Caring, sharing, displaying kindness, supporting others, ‘being a friend’ and reflect aroha in it’s true sense and as we weave Our Standards through our practice and our appraisal we can explore deeply and widely our assumptions and beliefs about practice. When we think about sociocultural practice where children learn within their families and community they are not separated so in centres where age groups are separated is there allowances made for when a child needs comfort from a sibling?
“Attitudes held by early childhood education teachers towards te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and the valuing of Mäori culture in their daily practices vary considerably (Ritchie, 2005). Attitudinal challenges driving implementation challenges stem from a combination of factors occurring at the individual educator level, including: a lack of knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Ritchie, 2002); hyper-sensitivity about levels of personal cultural competency (Ritchie, 2005); the reluctance to speak te reo Māori for fear of giving offence; and the entrenchment of outdated recolonising and universalist thinking about child development that fails to take account of sociocultural influences and the political nature of early childhood education (Education Review Office, 2010). This combination leads to a level of superficiality in the application of te reo Mäori me ōna tikanga and Māori pedagogies in the early childhood education sector and, in some cases, the rendering of Māori language and culture as invisible and irrelevant “(Rameka, 2003). Ngä taonga whakaako: Bicultural competence in early childhood education • November 2011 Pg 31

He whāriki hei whakamana i te mokopuna, hei kawe i ngā wawata 

A whāriki that empowers the child and carries our aspirations

Te Whāriki reminds us that weaving our whāriki takes time, skill and knowledge and a child is a whāriki as well ‘work in progress’. As we work in our teams with tamariki and whanau we will be questioning practice and understanding what our practices may be doing for tinana (body), hinengaro (mind), wairua (spirit) and whatumanawa (emotion). p, 9