What if Education was different?

I wonder how many people wish that they could make a difference in the lives of children? I would have to guess that there would be a lot. Now, how many people would like to make a difference in the lives of children by changing themselves? I would have to presume that there would be more people leery about this one. As an educator, would you think that you should change or that the students just need to learn the material that is presented to them, in the method that you choose?

Tonight I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at my local elementary school that was put on by Don Rempel, the superintendent of the North East School Division. This presentation really made me think about the way we educate. Don had the opportunity to go to New Zealand to learn about the initiatives that were being pursued there in regards to education and the Maori people.

maorivillage2

The Maori people are native to New Zealand and have a similar history to those of First Nations students in Saskatchewan. Our First Nations students have low graduation rates and high drop out rates which results in low employment rates and poverty, which is very similar to those of the Maori people in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the initiative is to change the way teachers teach students with the focus being on the Maori students. This was a 5 year plan and it has just come a close this year. The results are amazing. Not only for Maori students, but for all students regardless of race or ethnicity. By focusing on the Maori students, New Zealand schools have changed the way teachers react and interact with students by focusing first on the student and his/her needs, and secondly on the curriculum. Don’t get me wrong, these teachers still expect students to perform and achieve standards, but rather than striving for the final goal of mastering a subject or concept, there are frequent check points, allowing the student to develop a proper knowledge base before continuing to the next item. Rather than having the teacher focus on the class as a whole for the majority of the time, the concepts are given to the class and then the students are divided into groups or given individual instruction to achieve understanding. There is constant feedback and support given to students to give them the extra assurance. I have included a link below to some information regarding the Maori initiative.

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/MaoriEducation.aspx

Something that really stuck out to me was “Don’t just think that all students can learn. Believe it.” By focusing on the minority students and making them feel accepted, culture and all, we can make a difference in the lives of these children. These children see teachers as the main support in educational accomplishment; not family or community support; not the educational structures; but the teachers. So give yourself a pat on the shoulder and make a difference in the life of a child by focusing on them as children, rather than the “unfortunate” ones who have been born and raised in hardship. They are all children with the same wonder and curiosity. They need us, let’s make a difference.

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11 comments

    1. It was a really informative evening and left me wondering how I could improve myself. These types of presentations are wonderful, seeing to the possibilities for better and stronger education for all students.

  1. Hey Ashley,
    Thanks for providing such a thought provoking post. It is so easy to get caught up in getting all the curriculum covered, and finishing all your planned units- and forget that what is most imporatnat is providing the best education possible to all your students. Changing yourself, and your teaching style, is not always easy- built it is the right, and responsible thing to do. I love that picked a positive example which mirrors a problem in Canada. Hopefully we can also find ways to adapat to better help our students, whether they are First Nations or an immigrant from another country with a different culture. Thanks for sharing!

    1. This concept can absolutely be applied to immigrants as well. When our students enter a new culture with different norms, values, and language it’s important to us as educators to provide them the support and resources they need to succeed. Although our First Nations students aren’t new to Canada, they are faced with some of the same disadvantages. Hopefully, we can look to ourselves to change the way they learn. Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you found it informative.

  2. I really enjoyed when you said that we need to believe that all of our students can learn rather than just thinking it. I think this is very true. If we have high expectations for our students then I think it is more likely that they will strive to do their best, where as if we have low expectations for them and do not believe that they can learn then it is likely that they won’t. I also really enjoyed how you showed us an example that is very applicable to our teaching careers. As teachers we need to be willing to change so that we can meet the needs of our students.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I do believe that every student is capable if learning; however, the trick is to make the student believe. This is when that uh huh moment happens or the light comes on. I think that’s one of the best feelings as a teacher and as a student.

  3. Really liked your article on the Maori people. We actually had two speakers come into our class last year from New Zealand and spoke about what the government and schools are doing to help these students. It is very impressive. I hope it’s okay that I speak about this in my blog and link your blog!! (although I am not quite sure how to do that!!
    Thanks

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