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This is the key to my childhood home.

Growing up I could walk out my front door, past the

Davies house, past the Melgryms, the Hutchinsons, the other Davies, past the Stewart-Jones,
the Fisks, the Thomas, then a street over and Id be helping Granny and Jock weed the front
garden or maybe knocking at their neighbors to see if they wanted to play. It reminds me that
growing up I knew my community and it knew me. They were a strong network of people, joined
by locality or kinship, and looking back on it, a shared cultural identity. While this provided me
with a happy childhood that helped me grow personally and build strong relationships within my
community, what it missed was a chance to understand the multicultural world going on just a
few steps from my front door. A primary school that, from memory, only had one Maori student,
and a high school that only seemed to emphasise Maoriness relating to sporting events, left me
with a knowledge of Maori culture that only focussed on the differences and otherness.
At 20, my world changed, when I got on a plane and left New Zealand for the first time. Landing
in a place so unfamiliar, it wasnt the new smells, both good and bad, or the intense humidity
that struck me, but the fact that for the first time I was the other; my cultural operating system
was not shared by those around me. The longer I spent in this strange new place, the less
strange it became, and the more I began to understand the values of those around me and to
see the similarities we shared. The people I built relationships with along the way, although
sometimes not understanding some of the things i did, valued my perspective on the world
nonetheless. They showed me hospitality and generosity in what little ways they could. Through
this process, of what I now understand to be Manakitanga, relationships akin to the idea of
Whanaungatanga were able to develop. In these, we saw each other as unique individuals,
each possessing their own strengths and knowledge. These meaningful relationships I made in
my time abroad have expanded my understanding of what a community can be to more than
just those at my front door.
Returning to New Zealand I could see that a lack of knowledge and a misdirected focus towards
the differences of our cultures, had led to a hesitance or fear on my part of learning about Maori
way of life. As I develop my teacher identity I am now beginning to focus on the similarities we
share and viewing the differences of our cultures as they should be; an opportunity to learn from
an expertise different to that of my own.
Unbeknownst to me, the idea of Whanaungatanga has been a central pillar in the story of my
life. Be it the importance my family placed on knowing those around us and the sense of
interdependence this fostered, or my own personal drive to see and respect people for who they
As a teacher I want to develop the idea of Whanaungatanga through my interactions in the
classroom and wider community. Like I was made to feel welcome, it is my responsibility to
create environments based on inclusion and respect that allow relationships to flourish. While
my lack of exposure to Maori culture will bring with it challenges, the processes and values are
there. I will never be Maori, but by learning more about the tangata-whenua of my community
and the values we share in a respectful way, I hope to understand my students lives and build
relationships that add to my ability to maximise their development. In valuing the expertise Maori

students, their whanau, hapu, and iwi possess, I hope to embody the ideals of
Whanaungatanga in a way that creates a classroom in which other cultures feel welcome and
valued for their opinions and beliefs. Through this embodiment, I hope to one day cherish a key
like this again, but when I walk out its door, a whole community of diverse and unique faces I
hope to greet.