It started with a conversation with a student in my class. He is currently 10 years old, with the reading age of 6.5years. He is a kind hearted and generous soul who has a very caring family. On culture day, he wore a korowai his mum handmade for him and a tiki necklace his aunty made for him.
He is also obsessed with tamoko and tattoo. Like, literally draws all up his arm.
I thought to myself - what is my purpose in life? In his life? To help students learn - but to learn what?
I said to this boy, "When I am an old nanny and I've learned te reo, I want to come find you and I want you to do my tamoko. Promise?" The look in his eyes was (cliche teacher moment) happiness. I felt that he'd probably been used to being told he is underachieving and leaving the room to work with teacher aides.
What is our purpose? Is it solely to get students to certain levels?
If I can help students become positive, contributing citizens... I will be happy.
If this boy, leaves school with a reading age of 10 or 12, but gets himself a tatooing kit, puts together a portfolio of drawings and gets an apprenticeship in a tattoo parlour and makes $300 per tattoo (per hour) and travels the world to tattoo conventions and blesses people with the taonga of tamoko...I'll be happy.
This doesn't mean I will stop teaching him how to read.
It just means that we'll talk about tattooing and I will let him draw when he finishes his work early and I will keep reminding him of his promise to me when I'm an old kuia.
Then our senior manager played this video at a staff meeting:
To be a child's champion is to help them build a positive vision of their future self. Unfortunately for some of our students, we don't have much time to do this because a negative future self has been so engrained in their mind sets.
What is school? Why are we here? What will the future hold?
My friend currently withdrew her child from traditional schooling and has decided to homeschool her child. The straw that broke the horses back was her son coming home describing how his teacher told him off for writing differently to others in the class. Instead of drawing the picture at the top of the page, then writing on the lines, he liked to write a sentence or so, then draw a little picture next to his words to illustrate what happened and then write some more and then draw another little picture etc. The teacher said that that is not how it's done.
Really? Is that what the most important thing is for us as teachers? How a child sets up their book? Never mind the data that repeatedly describes boys as underachieving in writing. This child is 6. This attitude would have probably shaped his approach to writing for the remaining years in this system. Luckily for him, not any more.
To be honest - I couldn't be more happy for her or my friend or her child. A completely child centred approach. With him, genuinely leading the way with his interests. As a teacher, I think my friend was unsure how I'd react, but I said, "If we could give every child that kind of programme that you will be able to give your son, we would. But we can't." ...can we?
Back to my tattoo obsessed student... I think I'm going to invite some of my tattoo artist friends, or, wouldn't it be cool to get a tattoo in front of the student? The artist could talk about hygiene protocols, the steps for accurate drawing, the tikanga of tamoko and meanings behind symbols...the students could ask them about the career pathway and take photos and respond to the experience in writing.
This is one student...but I have 22. So how can we provide this type of schooling for our students?
I feel that there is going to be a big shift in teaching and learning over the next 10 years - or at least I hope so. I think our students deserve the best and they deserve a champion who will help them discover and follow their passions. Teaching is about relationships. What relationships are we building, promoting, modelling, inspiring in our students?
You know what this post needs now....