The interplay between a school and its community is complex and rich with potential – for personal connection, professional support and building capability. A range of schools throughout the country illustrate the myriad ways – and reasons why – school communities come together.
The importance of whānau and community doesn’t lessen just because a child starts school, but it can be hard for educators to maintain these strong connections once a child leaves early childhood education. Jane Blaikie and Jane Arthur talk to educators across the country about the challenges they face when trying to build bridges between the child and their community.
Kia ora e hoa mā. This winter 2019 issue of Ako focusses on community and the different ways it is evidenced within education. There are many quotes about the power of community but one that really resonates with me is this from Meg Wheatley, an American writer and management consultant with expertise in organisational behaviour: “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” When I think about community, I think about the many different communities that I have the privilege to be a part of, many of whom are focussed on enabling positive change within education. There’s the community that is NZEI Te Riu Roa, made up of members from across the education landscape – we know the power of the collective, we know that all of us working together to achieve a common goal is so very powerful, we know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This year, we have seen proof of this – and we can be proud of how we have taken the wider community of Aotearoa with us. There’s the community that is NZEI Te Riu Roa, made up of members from across the education
Children do not exist in isolation; their lives are embedded in families, communities and societies. Nested within these communities are the schools and early childhood education (ECE) services children attend. When I was a child, my experience was of little interaction between schools and their communities. Looking back, this seems due to the culture of practice within schools, more than the school gates. In the intervening years, writers like Bronfenbrenner1 have drawn our attention to the complex influences of environments – both immediate and more remote – on development and the value of creating meaningful reciprocal connections between the different groups and settings that children are part of. Today we see attention to the role of communities reflected in our curriculum documents. “Family and Community/Whānau Tangata” is one of the principles of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, along with the expectation that each ECE service will use the curriculum “as a basis for weaving with children, parents and whānau its own local curriculum of valued learning, taking into consideration also the aspirations and learning priorities of hapū, iwi and community”. For kura and schools, Te Marautanga notes that for learners to succeed, the school, the home, hapū, iwi and community
When my mother and I first arrived in New Zealand, she was 22 and I was four. We didn’t know anyone or anything. We had to learn how to use public transport, ATMs, how to buy groceries and clothes, pay bills – all while learning a whole new language. This was very overwhelming and isolating. There’s a common misconception that the struggles of refugees end when they are granted asylum. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Settling in a new country is difficult enough – but add a background of forced migration, having to navigate foreign languages, cultures and systems while healing with trauma and you have a plethora of new challenges to contend with. When we settled into our new home in Hamilton, there was one other Afghan family in the area who welcomed us with open arms. Having people from the same country, speaking the same language and believing in the same religion was invaluable – especially in those first few years when everything was so new and unfamiliar. Their presence was a great source of strength and comfort. We were able to keep in touch with our culture and keep our traditions alive because we had people to share them