Tuesday, 13 December 2011

our amazing tamariki

It's the season of school prizegivings and final reports in New Zealand, and every time I log onto facebook I see family members praising their kids and shouting out about their accomplishments.

It's such a humbling and awe-inspiring position to be in: seeing all of these clear statements of aroha, closeness and high aspirations for our tamariki. These kids are doing amazingly: at sports, academics, speech competitions, effort, leadership... the list goes on!

It's a bit like watching the crowd who is watching a game of rugby... seeing them cheer and yell is just about as fun as seeing the game itself. Facebook has started collected posts together which have a common word (like 'Christmas' or 'Maori') but if they collected together the posts which included the word 'proud' - well - that would be a whole lot of posts! A whole lot of uploaded photos with smiling kids holding certificates and grinning at the camera.

And, I have to say, it's so fantastic to see such proud families... the shout-outs are coming from parents, but they're also coming from siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents...

On a personal note, this means a lot to me, because as matiu's auntie I can say that sometimes I have been understood as part of Matiu's whanau and that sometimes I have been treated like a random person who could only have a minor interest in his learning... Matiu's reality, and the reality of lots of our tamariki, is that his parents are certainly very engaged in his learning but the circle of family support, encouragement and accountability extends far beyond himself, his Mum and his Abba...

It's graduation day at Victoria today as well, and that reminds me that family engagement and excitement about education doesn't stop after school. For me, a highlight of my job each year is going to graduation ceremonies and meeting the families, friends, partners and children of students who are graduating... they're so proud, it's so lovely to have a chance to be reminded that although I necessarily experience this student as an individual, they are part of a much bigger picture and their degree has meaning for people beyond themselves.

(It is a waste of time to even bother thinking about the ways that this interrupts the expectations that media (and, sometimes, people involved in education) can have of Maori and Pasifika families and kids... in fact, these attitudes and assumptions are so ridiculous that I'm not even going to bother writing anything more about them!)

Following on from election season, we could turn to theories and policies about education, but for now I just want to bask in the bright future of our people and come up with a bit of a seasonal collective aspiration or, perhaps, prayer:
  • may we recognise the talents and gifts our tamariki have;
  • may we provide everything that's needed to encourage and extend our kids in areas where they aren't so strong; 
  • may we fight for educational justice so all of our tamariki have the opportunity to excel according to the terms that matter to themselves and their families;
  • may we broaden our ideas about what counts as 'family' engagement in education;
  • and may we do everything in our power to make sure the fabulous amazing tamariki of today are not prevented (by systemic problems, poverty, racism, and the like) from being fabulous amazing adults in the future.
I'm so, so proud of so many of the tamariki I've been hearing about over facebook, email and the phone... and of their families who love, nurture, inspire, encourage, discipline, extend and adore them.


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