In mid-2014 I was presented with an opportunity by a Twitter colleague of mine, Sonya Van Shaijik aka @vanschaijik, to write the final chapter of a collaborative e-book to be launched at the end of October, to conclude Connected Educator Month New Zealand. The kaupapa that I was asked to write about, all in te reo Māori, was ‘Whanaungatanga — Relationships’. I consented to write the chapter, and on the 31st of October the e-book was launched. For the purposes of this blog, I have translated my thoughts from that time into English for everyone to read. Here is my disclaimer: all the ideas and thoughts are mine, and are an interpretation rather than a direct translation of my previous blog.
In this blog, the concept of Whanaungatanga — Relationships will be discussed. Whanaungatanga is a massive kaupapa, one which can not be fully unpacked in one short blog. Therefore, this blog will be themed on three aspects, relationships between people, people’s relationship with the environment, and the relationship between people and the non-physical ‘spiritual’ world.
Unuhia te rito o te harakeke kei whea te kōmako e kō
Whakatairangitia rere ki uta rere ki tai
Ui mai koe ki ahau he aha te mea nui o te ao
Māku e kī atu he tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
Remove the heart of the flax bush and where will the kōmako sing?
Proclaim it to the land proclaim it to the sea
Ask me ‘What is the greatest thing in the world?’
I will reply, ‘It is people, people, people!’
We often see this whakataukī ‘tossed around’ within educational contexts to acknowledge the importance of establishing strong, sustainable relationships with students and their whānau, colleagues, hapu, iwi and the wider community. This indeed is a formidable task, even for the most ‘onto it’ educator. So I ponder, ‘How do we form these relationships with all these key education partners?’ This is what our educational leaders are saying:
- ‘Me hui kanohi ki te kanohi kia rongo i te mauri o te tangata!’ It is important to meet face to face, eye to eye, breath to breath to get a full understanding of the people we are working with.
- ‘He mauri tō te tangata, he whakapapa tōna, he mana motuhake.’ Everyone has mana. Everyone has a whakapapa, a genealogy, heritage and identity that makes that person no more and no less important than the next person. When we learn to treat everyone with care and respect, there are fewer barriers to establishing and maintaining relationships. Address the issues and not the tangata.
- ‘E rua ōku taringa, kōtahi tōku waha.’ You have two ears for listening and one mouth for talking! Listen attentively to what others are saying and expressing. When people are sharing their thoughts, ideas, and aspirations, be respectful of what they are saying and how they are saying it before you respond. When responding, acknowledge others, summarise what they have said, restate how you have interpreted the message and don’t say things you will regret!
Ko au ko te awa. Ko te awa ko au.
I am the river and the river is me.
This Whanganui proverb describes the relationship between people and the environment, and in this context, the tangata whenua and their ancestral river. The mighty Whanganui river provided oranga (sustenance and wellbeing) to the people who resided on its banks. This was the source of their livelihood, their local ‘supermarket’, their ancestor. Without the river and all its bounty, life would become increasingly difficult. Without the river flowing freely, the land would soon become barren and unworkable. This whakataukī encourages people to be cautious in the way we treat Papatūānuku, the land, sea, and waterways. We are the kaitiaki (guardians) of this world. In our role as kaitiaki, people need to care for and respect our environment and our environment will care and provide for us. Acknowledging local pūrākau, local history and stories of ancestors and significant landmarks is also very important.
Ko te wairua tētehi pou o te whare tapawhā
Spirituality is one of the posts that stabilizes the house
Professor Mason Durie, within his Whare Tapawhā research, expresses the correlation of a person and their spirituality as one dimension that needs to be strong. He states that people need to be self confident and self assured to be healthy in mind, body and soul. If all the sides of the whare are strong, so too is the person. Another whakataukī from Te Paipera Tapu that supports this whakaaro states that the three most important things in this world are faith, hope and love. Without these three things we are incomplete. When a person’s faith, beliefs and values are acknowledged and respected, they will thrive, be confident and excel… when a person’s faith, beliefs and values are challenged and disrespected it is hard to maintain solid relationships. One’s relationship with the non-physical world needs to be accepted as these intangible relationships are the foundation for one’s values and beliefs.
Me tītiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua
We must look to the past to strive for the future
This whakataukī leads us to our ‘so what?’ We all know that relationships and partnerships are essential when working with others. Our students achieve better when they know they are respected and cared about, and so too, we work better with our colleagues when we are all treated equally and our thoughts, ideas and beliefs are respected. In the ever-changing game of Professional Development, as providers we must ensure we are being honest, trusting and respectful as this forms the foundation of successful healthy relationships. When time is taken to learn about others, to listen to their needs and to their goals, a strong bond is formed. The hard work is then maintaining the relationship!