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Strengthening relationships

By integrating culture, caring, challenge and support into their pedagogies, teachers strengthen relationships and build communities of learners who succeed socially and academically.


Key content

Where teachers and Pasifika students develop strong relationships with each other , they each gain a more holistic view of the other person as an individual. Teachers who integrate cultural values and socio-cultural norms explicitly into their pedagogy increase levels of trust, acceptance, sharing and mutual support between students.
The term 'learning community' is used to describe groups with an unrelenting focus on learning. Such a group may be the classroom. Here, the peer culture is shaped by the teacher to support the learning of each class member within a community of learners. This kind of community building, where it happens, ensures a positive, affirming social environment and supports academic and social outcomes of Pasifika learners. 
Caring practices alone are insufficient to create an environment that supports the learning of Pasifika students. The research evidence is clear: 
“Diversity is valued, addressed and integral to instructional strategies. Caring and support is integrated into pedagogy and evident in the practices of teachers and students. Academic norms are strong and not subverted by social norms. Students are enabled to express and process dissenting views. Disagreements around curriculum are valued and cognitive conflict is seen as a resource central to the learning process.” 
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis, page 31.


Thanks to the Principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.

Things to think about

  • Have you ever asked your Pasifika students how they like to learn? What do you think they would say? How would you go about finding out what they really think?
  • Pasifika students often lack self-confidence and self-belief. Do you agree? If you agree why do you think that? What support do you provide?
  • What “learning conversations” take place in your school? Who are the participants? What is achieved? Do they involve Pasifika students?

“Peer groups, especially at secondary school level, can profoundly influence children’s achievement. They can do so in positive ways, or negative ways”. 
Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration: Community and Family Influences, Section 3, page v.

  • How do you shape the peer group culture in your school to be a positive influence on the achievement patterns of your Pasifika students?

“The term 'learning community' denotes an unrelenting focus on, and active orientation to, learning and describes the kind of classroom where community building supports academic and social outcomes.” 
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis, page 31.

  • Would this be an accurate description of your classroom with Pasifika learners? Is this a model you would want to aspire to?


I think what makes a really good teacher is the ones who build relationships with their students, get along, yeah.

Liz Crisp 
The challenges I think I face with some Pasifika students and their families would be along the lines that the children think they've come to school to sit and be quiet and listen to me, and that I'm going to pour knowledge into them and they will if they listen, get it. And that can be something to overcome because I want and need the children to talk and relate to me, and work with me. So there’s a little shake down time while we work that out.

Glen Ryan 
Children arrive to school with less understanding would be my belief. ABC's, 1,2,3's they’re not so familiar with them. Sometimes it's the language and it can be a barrier. If the teacher doesn't have the language, they don't think the child knows. But have someone speaking Samoan or Tongan, they know it. So often that is an issue, and yes they won't ask questions so they will be more reserved and the teacher’s the higher person and they won’t question that they’ll just follow so they look quiet and shy but they're not.

Anne Dyer 
One of the things I think is important is that we don't keep looking at the students from a deficit model, oh they don't know, oh they don't understand. You have to keep in mind that every student is capable and every student has the ability to do well. It's just that you have to bring it out of them. You have to find a way to get that student to participate. And when students do that then they just move. For the Pasifika students you really have to build up that confidence and provide a learning that allows them to be able to share their knowledge and to know that what they bring is respected and it's valued. That’s really important.

Nola Dougall 
So I've learnt to appreciate the differences between the different pasifika cultures that we have here. I've been on a Malanga, a trip with the students to Samoa and learnt an enormous amount about where these students have come from and that to me was one of the most valuable learning experiences.

I think what makes a good teacher is a teacher who really knows their students because then they know our weaknesses and our strengths and make use of those weaknesses to work with us to better what we need to make to improve on and to get our strengths and make it so then it can, we can aim higher and do better with those strengths.

Moyeen McCoy
I would describe the relationship that I would like to have as an open relationship, with a wee bit of distance in it, because I am the teacher, and I would like it to be an open exchange of views because a lot of what we do here is to encourage the girls to speak out, and to articulate views.

Moyeen McCoy
I like it to be positive. Negative relationships with students just don't work; the work just doesn't get done. It has to be a kind of energetic relationship if that makes sense, where there is energy being exchanged between two parties rather than the teacher giving it all and the students sitting like a stone.

My favourite teachers are they are like my friends in a way where they can teach us and still have that line where you can't really cross.

It's okay to be wrong the teachers let you like make your mistakes so that you can like learn from it, so that really helps.

A good teacher is like, they respond to their children, and they, you know they have like good comments, and what you need to improve on. And they are like help them with their learning and that.

Moyeen McCoy
I think it's really important to understand the culture of the students that you're teaching as much as you can from your own perspective. But I don't think it's expected that you have chapter and verse on somebody else's culture. And I also think it's important that you act the person that your are.... you act out the person that you are, rather than try and take on somebody else's culture. There are certain things that you need to know, that you need to understand about pacific island culture, particularly to do with the community and the families. And I think if you don't know those things then it's incumbent on you to learn them because it would be very difficult for you to move in those circles unless you did know those things.

Aina Masina
As pasifika children, the culture that they bring in is, is very diverse, so it can be a handful for teachers who don’t understand those cultures, but by putting their own culture to the side, and valuing what the kids bring into the classroom, is one good step of moving effective teaching practice into place. There are three similarities that I take into account; it’s the family, their religion, and also their traditions and their customs. I know a lot of the things that they bring into the classroom, and what they can offer. And being effective around that is utilising a lot of that, their strengths.