Hagley Community Preschool | Te Pito o Te Puna Wai o Waipapa - Connecting a diverse community for learner success in ECE
Hagley Community Preschool (HCP) Te Pito o Te Puna Wai o Waipapa is located on the Hagley College Te Puna Wai o Waipapa campus, on the fringe of Christchurch city centre. Due to the uniqueness of the location, HCP is a culturally, linguistically, and socially diverse community where over 50% of whānau are refugees and/or migrants.
With 13 different ethnicities and 11 different home languages represented at HCP, language barriers led kaiako to ask the important question: how can we ensure that whānau are heard and understood? Their curiosity led them to apply for the Teacher-Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) to research and develop innovative practices that would make a difference to tamariki and whānau.
Christchurch Terror Attack
Whilst in the process of completing a TLIF application, an unforeseeable tragedy occurred; the Christchurch Terror Attack at Al Noor Mosque.
With 50% of tamariki identifying as Muslim, and therefore being actively involved in the mosque, the ripple effect of the attack was felt right through HCP. Rather than blinded by this terrible event, kaiako moved into action, wrapping themselves around the community and helping them to feel safe.
Very quickly kaiako came together to assess the new needs of whānau. They organised and distributed care packages and donations from the wider community. Kaiako offered whānau full time enrollments so mums could be with their husbands in hospital. Kaiako transported tamariki and whānau to preschool and hospital daily. Kaiako maintained regular contact with whānau unable to come to the preschool.
When things settled down, whānau showed their appreciation by inviting kaiako to their home for coffee ceremonies and morning tea. During this time kaiako began to recognise the significance of the cultural connections tamaiki were making in their play at the preschool. Coffee ceremonies that kaiako experienced in the home were replicated in tamariki play at the preschool.
Over this stressful time, kaiako appreciated the collegial support they received from their education networks.
Kaiako utilised the Hikairo Schema (Angus Macfarlane et al., 2019) as a tool to delve into their practice. Through deep reflection and inquiry, they came to understand that genuine relationships are compassionate relationships. This means:
- communication, support, aroha, and respect is entrenched in teaching practice
- whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and wairuatanga are the foundation of their shared philosophy.
These values contribute to a mana enhancing teaching and learning environment where each child’s cultural identity is celebrated and nurtured.
Shifts in Practice
The collective understanding of whanaungatanga is now strongly connected to the way that kaiako develop an understanding of tamariki learning. This is achieved through the sharing of significant stories at regular meetings, contributing different perspectives, and gaining shared understanding through questioning. The types of questions HCP use include:
- How do we hear the aspirations that whānau have for their tamaiti, including migrants and those from refugee backgrounds?
- How can whānau aspirations and dreams for tamariki shape our localised curriculum?
- How do we do this if we do not share a common language?
- How do we inadvertently silence voices other than English and impose our own priorities for the learning of tamariki?
Opportunities to critically reflect meant that kaiako continued to grow in confidence to ask bolder questions, take risks and learn more about the cultural and religious values in their community.
Introducing home visits for new whānau also empowered kaiako to meet their community where they were at. Kaiako continued to embed their new knowledge around being culturally intentional resulting in a positive impact on the learning of all learners; tamariki, whānau and kaiako.
The impact of kaiako learning has continued to provide the impetus for ongoing developments at the preschool. Kaiako have positioned themselves as learners alongside whānau and tamariki. They seek opportunities where everyone can contribute to the learning community. One such opportunity has been a programme of 10 whānau learning together workshops. Through these, whānau and kaiako engage and discuss. Everyone gains an appreciation for cultural perspectives on parenting and learning.
Further collaborative, professional learning opportunities for kaiako have evolved. The preschool has also developed relationships and networks with wider communities. These add to the professional kete of learning and resources.
For services and centres looking to find ways to connect with communities, here are some top tips from kaiako at Hagley Community Preschool Te Pito o Te Puna Wai o Waipapa:
- Let whānau take the lead with the information they wish to share with you.
- Be aware that many whānau with refugee backgrounds have experienced trauma and the loss of a family member.
- Be sensitive about the questions you ask, for example, asking No hea koe? Where are you from? And who is in your family? can be somewhat upsetting depending on their background.
- Let whānau set the pace at which whakawhanaungatanga is built. This allows for greater trust and openness to occur.
- Never make assumptions!
- There is always more behind a parent's comment or wishes for their tamariki. Listen for longer; dig a little deeper into learning conversations once trusting relationships have been established.
- Language is powerful.
- Avoid ‘othering’ language such as labels e.g. refugee, them, they, and us.
- Reduce reliance on written language and translations. Although these do have a place, often whānau with a refugee background have not had the opportunity to learn to read or write in their home language, let alone English.
- Oral language is the key. Access an interpreter to help.
- Learn from whānau.
- Build your own language bank | kupu. This includes using symbols and imagery.
- An example from our learning is to say “Kobe?” as a casual Farsi way to check in and say ‘are you ok?’
- Ensure that all members of your community can see themselves in the learning environment and feel welcome.
- Where possible, connect with whānau in a space they feel most comfortable; home visits are a valuable tool.