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Strong student connections

Melaine Sagala - TIC Samoan Language, Avondale College, discusses the benefits of strong student connections for their learning. She also discusses a model for connection that has worked for her in the past.



I’m Melanie Sagala, I’m at Avondale College teaching Samoan Language. Teaching a language is really important for students in this generation because a lot of it has to do with empowering them, knowing their identity and knowing who they are through learning about and learning to communicate about their language and to communicate in their language. Language teaching is important, especially living in Auckland the biggest Pasifika city in the world the chances are that you will encounter someone that speaks a Pasifika language is very high, and so everywhere else in the world, people it’s normal to be multi-lingual, bilingual, so it should also be the case in Aotearoa. One of the fundamental things that people, or teachers kinda forget is that students, Pasifika or not, need to be connected, and so and it’s just a basic, ah actually it’s just a basic human things to connect and you as the teacher, it is your job to make those connections however that happens. And out of that it could be as simple as you know a conversation. There are, and I know that sounds like it’s too simple, but in actual fact a lot of times teachers need to make connections just by talking to them finding out about who they are. I don’t think we do enough of that and I know that there’s a lot of pressure on teachers now a’days to be able to get through the curriculum, let alone have a relationship with students. But I know that that making connections with students has a really high pay off rate than if you didn’t have relationship. Making a connection with students it’s like a banking model that you have where you bank credit. So every connection making a connection with a student’s like your banking credit. Unfortunately, so that you would have so much connectedness credits so that there comes a time when you would need to withdraw you could. And withdrawing from that credit model or from the bank would be a time where you’d have to discipline a student or you needed to put pressure on the student you could do that without fearing that your relationship is cut off you’re secure in it because your relationship is you’ve got credit. The misconception and the lack of understanding comes from your I suppose, a lot of us teachers, we withdraw from the bank, when we don’t have credit in the bank, and so that’s why a lot of these when you go to discipline students or you go to need them to do something, they don’t respond because you haven’t made that connection.

I think with connecting your community, your community is the community that is the wrap around for these students and an integral part of the students’ life. And we have, at our school, started to think about not asking the parents to come into the school but us to go out, um, to the community. Everyone’s busy and I guess with Pasifika parents they have the tendency, this is generalising, but I guess when you think about younger children, we’ve found that a lot of out feeder schools had a high rate of parents coming for their parent-teacher interviews and I yet at our parent-teacher interviews we weren’t getting the same amount of parents coming in. And I think that part of that had to do with, I guess parents think that once you grow up and you’re at a certain age, that you’re ok, where as if you are the younger children probably you’re needed more at the school to know and understand. We thought we’d hold events, we’d hold evenings, and we were finding that we did not have the same amount of parents coming in. So we thought let’s just think about it differently. Let’s not ask them come in, let’s go out. Or invite them to come in not for disciplinary things, or not to sort of consult the dean or whatever, but to celebrate some of their successes and to just to have a meal. And so we held a dinner for ah your Pasifika leaders in our community, because we felt that a lot of them had a lot of influence in the community. They don’t want to come to our school, who cares about our school? So let’s invite them to come to a dinner. We’ll celebrate and let the kids present to them their own stats, what they’ve found with their own learning. And so that had the effect of students presenting to the community, showing them their learning, and their success and their ambitions. And so we found that had a really good result in that the kids empowered the students to own their learning. We felt that at parent-teacher interviews it was good to establish that relationship because now we can talk real with the parents.