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Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Early Childhood

This year there was a lot of discussion and interest around Waitangi Day, which falls on the 6th of February of each year. There was lots of kōrero in our Centre – Future Focus Pāpāmoa Beach. Some Kaiako were asking what are we going to do to ‘celebrate’ Waitangi day. But for tangata whenua this day is not always about celebration but about bringing forefront the importance of honoring Te Tiriti o Waitangi and why.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. It is symbolic of our past and central to our future. Signed in 1840 by representatives of Māori and the Crown, this agreement provided the foundation upon which Māori and Pākehā would build their relationship as citizens of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Central to this relationship was a commitment to live together in a spirit of partnership and the acceptance of obligations for participation and protection.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Education

Te Tiriti o Waitangi has implications for our education system, particularly in terms of achieving equitable outcomes for Māori and ensuring that te reo Māori and Tikanga Māori not only survives but thrives. As kaiako we have a code of professional responsibility and a set of standards of the teaching profession that have been crafted to set out the high standards for ethical behaviour for kaiako and the standards and expectations of effective and responsive teaching practice.

Together these two documents set out what it is, and what it means to be a kaiako in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

In alignment with this is our commitment as kaiako to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In Early childhood education settings, all children should be given the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritages of both parties to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Over the years I have been teaching I have often heard the phrase “bicultural practice”. What this has looked like is little bits of te reo Māori, songs, dress ups and poi added into a mainstream classroom environment. This can become quite tokenistic and we can loose the depth of the meaning of what it means to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi within our spaces. We need to move away from this terminology and shift this to a lens of “Tiriti- Based practice” which integrates Māori understandings within our Centres way of being knowing and doing. We are currently doing this by incorporating a sense of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga through our daily practices and ensuring te reo me nga Tikanga Māori is seen, hard and felt within our walls.

What do these values look like within Future Focus?

At Future Focus our core vison is to create “A Place to Belong”, the most important way to do this is through creating and maintain strong reciprocal relationships between Tamariki, whānau and Kaiako. We place importance of demonstrating cultural values and principles by showing manaakitanga. Being welcoming, respectful and caring, also supports us to engage collaboratively with whānau, demonstrating whanaungatanga with our families.

We maintain an open-door policy and welcome conversations with whānau at anytime. Ka nohi ki te kanohi, email, phone call or via Storypark. By incorporating the aspects of whānaungatanga within our programme and we ae enabling our whānau to have barrier free access to Kaiako to discuss their childs learning and development. We seek aspirations from whānau on a regular basis and promote positive relationships and interconnectedness with our whānau. It is important to demonstrate our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi through learning te reo Māori and seeking a partnership with families. We seek aspirations from whānau on a regular basis, incorporate their voices and promote positive relationships and interconnectedness with our whānau. In turn creating the best possible outcomes for Tamariki.

Learning about the Māori gods like Papatūānuku and ranginui, can also inform us about important and very relevant values such as kaitiakitanga. It connects our practice with knowledge of the past and why caring for the whenua is so important. We foster kaitiakitanga in our environment and community by promoting sustainability practices, caring for our environment and the creatures in it and utilising natural and real world resources as much as possible!

These Māori values mentioned above manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, whanaungatanga, kotahitanga are things we all can find strengths or passions in. It is then up to us as educators to put our knowledge of te reo Māori me nga Tikanga Māori into play and guide our mokopuna to begin to understand these values, curiosities and dispositions they are naturally showing! Giving them the language and confidence to see them selves as possessing and upholding these values.

The Early Childhood Curriculum

Our early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, is grounded in a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which informs obligations to protect Māori culture and language, and to ensure the success of Māori children as Māori. Children’s cultural and language backgrounds are recognised and affirmed, and children are empowered to develop and strengthen positive learner identities. We encourage that strong sense of belonging so that every child knows that their individual strengths, interests, culture, languages and families are respected and valued, which contributes to a striong sense of self worth and individual well-being.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini – I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents and strengths of my family, tribe, and ancestors.

Strengthening Tiriti Based Practice

Te reo Māori is a taonga that requires our protection under Article Two of Te Tiriti. At Future Focus Pāpāmoa Beach we have began our journey to strengthen our Tiriti based practice by increasing and improving out use of te reo Māori and have moved from using our basic commands and words to using an increased vocab of sentences and phrases! We are doing a phrase of the week led by one of our Kaiako Taylah, weaving that phrase for the week through our daily practices. Then the next week adding a new one to the Kete! Our whānau have been receptive to this too and we are creating a community where we are all giving it a go!

One way for us to be more responsive is to put ourselves in the position of not being the expert and be welcoming and open to more ways of being. We are blessed to have whānau in all of our Centres who kōrero Māori at home to their tamariki so nau mai haere mai and help us grow and learn alongside you.

Collaboration with Nga Potiki

Each of our Future Focus Centres are currently working in collaboration with Nga Potiki our local iwi, to ensure our service curriculum acknowledges and reflects the unique place of Māori as tangata whenua and children are given the opportunity to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both parties to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is an exciting step for our growth in this space and we are excited to learn about the history of local hapū and iwi with the guidance of Nga Potiki, our local Iwi here in Pāpāmoa.

Fostering the learning and use of te reo Māori is the responsibility of all kaiako and the education system so we are committed to uphold this. We will continue to ensure our practices and teaching are reflective and honor Te Tiriti o Waitangi in an authentic and respectful way that continues to have positive outcomes for our tamariki. To be a part of the revitalisation of the language for our future generations is a huge privilege for us at Future Focus and we welcome you all to work in partnership with us on this haerenga.

Nga Mihi,

Brittany Fannin.