This one’s for you, Dad.

One of the really important things my Dad has taught me is that you should treat everyone the same. For him, he sees no difference between the farmers, the scientists, and the academics he works with. Everyone has their own story and their own experience and thus are due respect.

I think this kind of appreciation for the individual is part of what makes up manaakitanga. During our most recent eFellows hui in Wellington, Deanne Thomas presented us with several challenges, one of which was around what manaakitanga and whanaungatanga looks like in schools, and looks like in a digital environment.

A seed of an idea has been slowly growing in my mind since then, and it wasn’t until last week that it finally sprouted a bit.

On Friday I had the great privilege of visiting Paraparaumu College and meeting its inspirational principal, Gregor Fountain. He was able to clearly articulate for me his vision for the College. This vision, to me, captures in a coherent and compelling way the connection between e-learning, culturally responsive practices, and nurturing positive relationships: relational pedagogy.

And these weren’t just edu-babble buzz words, either. The commitment to this path, and the care and respect for each individual in the school was immediately obvious to me. Gregor knew the name of each student we came across on our tour of the school, and asked each one something particular to them which showed me he knew them. The same thoughtful and respectful nature was extended to me, as a visitor, and to his staff. This genuine interest was sincere and natural.

It reminded me of my Dad. It made me think about manaakitanga. And it made me reflect on my own learning journey this year.

Image source

e-Learning is not about technology, it is, among other things, about access to information. Teachers are no longer required as content experts. Their job is to work alongside learners to help them navigate knowledge for themselves. Some teachers might find this threatening or confronting. That is understable. But instead of viewing ourselves as redundant, we should view ourselves as more important than ever, because what is left when we take information out of the teacher-student equation? Relationships.

In a similar kind of way, my exploration of design thinking this year as part of my eFellowship inquiry has led me to the same conclusion. I started with a hiss and a roar, wanting to inspire teachers to take arms against the education system and to transform it, one classroom at a time. I wanted a bias towards action. How to spark this revolution though, was at odds with who I am as a practitioner, and as my father’s daughter. It is rude to assume I know better than others. Disrupting with humility and respect was much more authentic to me. The emphasis shifted to where it should have been all along: empathy. Design thinking is first and foremost a human-centred approach.

And this is what my Dad has been teaching me, and this is what I witnessed at Paraparaumu College last week. As I have previously stated, to me big picture is really small picture. Systems must keep the individual firmly at their centre, otherwise they become bureaucracies only interested in sustaining themselves. In order to do this, a system must be flexible, adaptable, responsive. It must put the emphasis on relationships, on manaakitanga, on whanaungatanga.

He aha te mea nui?

He tangata

He tangata

He tangata