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Ruth’s story – Ako

Duration: 03:05

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Key Content:

Comments are provided by a maths teacher, who is also a Te Kotahitanga facilitator, her students, Mere Berryman and Russell Bishop about the importance of developing self belief in students through bringing the concept of ako into the classroom. This includes comments about:

  • the teacher’s own experiences of school as a Māori student
  • the need to develop students’ confidence as learners
  • the foundation of Te Kotahitanga from a Māori world view
  • what ako looks and feels like for learners in the classroom.

“These kids would stay in class if every time they walked out of a class they believed they were a learner, they believed in themselves.” (Teacher)

“Te Kotahitanga is based on Kaupapa Māori. It’s a Māori response; a Māori solution ... the solution has come from te ao Māori, from a Māori world view.” (Mere Berryman)

“She just respects us for who we are ... and people don’t think we are just Māoris and think we’re not good enough.” (Student)

“We learn from each other and not just the teacher or out of books.” (Student)

Things to think about:

Question Focus - Those new to Te Kotahitanga:
  • In what ways do you believe/understand your own experience of education has informed your approach to teaching?
  • If asked to articulate what you would hope students leaving your classroom felt each day, what would your response be?
  • How do you/might you facilitate learning contexts in which ako is a feature within your classroom?
Question Focus - Participants in the Te Kotahitanga Professional Development Programme:
  • Ruth is very clear about her reasons for wanting to make a difference for Māori students. How might you respond if asked about your reasons?
  • What do you understand the connection between ako and culturally responsive and appropriate contexts for learning to be?
  • As Mere Berryman explains “Te Kotahitanga is based on Kaupapa Māori.” What is your understanding of the significance of this?
Question Focus - In-school Facilitators and Senior Leadership Team Members:
  • In what ways is ako a feature of your school beyond the classroom? For example, how is it incorporated in your school wide professional development? How is it a part of the conversations between teachers and whānau?
  • Ruth explains that, as a student, she felt she had to leave her culture ‘at the door’. How are Māori students being welcomed and validated within your school, as ‘culturally located individuals’?
  • What sense do you make of the need to welcome and validate whānau and the Māori community as ‘culturally located individuals’? How does/might your school do this?



Rangitohau Ruth Hills (Teacher): “I was a Māori child in this school, and I experienced having to leave my culture at the door. A lot of my friends left, they just couldn't cope, they couldn't cope with the negative messages they kept getting from everyone.

“My goal is to provide the type of learning experiences I would love to have been provided. And when I look at these kids I see me, and I see my friends. And I don't want them to leave.

“You know these kids would stay in class if every time they walked out of a class they believed they were a learner, they believed in themselves.”

Mere Berryman (Poutama Pounamu Research Centre): “Te Kotahitanga is based on kaupapa Māori, it’s a Māori response, a Māori solution. So, in saying that, the solution has come from Te Ao Māori, from a Māori world view. The whole concept of ako, that we can learn from each other, that we can teach each other, is a really important principle that underpins Te Kotahitanga.”

Ruth: “If they can walk out of my class believing, ‘I achieved something today.’ If they walk out every day, they’re going to want to run back into that place.”

Student: “She just respects us for who we are and not for what we can be and stuff, and what, and like people don't think we’re like just Māoris, and think we’re not good, good enough. And yeah, she just puts us through the good stuff.”

Ruth: “All that they want to talk about is their learning, and um, and they know very clearly that if they help somebody else it reinforces them, deepens their understanding.”

Students: “We like, can learn from each other and not just from teacher or like, out of books. We can see other people struggling in class so we help them.”

“If we get it wrong it’s all sweet, we can like, help each other to get better. And like if you know it and other people in your group don't, you can like teach them and they will like get better and then become more confident.”

Russell Bishop (Project Director): “What we’ve found is that when you engage all the learners in the classroom, and that is where the teacher can create a context for all the brains in the classroom, engaged, where some people are, are helping each other, learning from each other, um, supporting each other, using that concept of ako, we find that the learning of everybody in the classroom increases dramatically."


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