Thursday, 6 October 2016

Breakout #3 - Ulearn 2016

This session is called Raise achievements of Pasifika students by empowering parents through Ako Fakataha. (Learning Together).

Here is the session description according to the booking sheet..

"Students’ values are reflection of their whanau and families’ values. When parents feel that their children are succeeding, they are empowered to do more and are willing to engage, participate and collaborate in their children's learning. This is how the relationship between parents, teachers and children will work and Pasifika Success will happen. The nut will crack."

This session was actually run by two teachers from Manaiakalanai school St Pius, Ana Tui and Sharon Middleton. 

Sourced from

As part of their curriculum review in 2015, Ana, alongside her colleagues and with some guidance from Cognition, began Ako Fakataha. The idea behind this programme was to involve parents of Pasifika students in a way that embraced and celebrated their culture, and was accessible to parents so they felt comfortable and confident to act as themselves. 

To start the programme, Ana approached some of her Tongan students parents about forming a group in which they could help each other, alongside the teacher as equals, to help their children learn. After some initial reluctance, Ana succeeded and 7 parents agreed to be a part of the programme. Their first meeting was in her classroom, where they talked it out and agreed on shared values and ideas that would guide their group, including the name Ako Fakataha, which means learning together. They agreed to meet in one of the parents' garages every Monday night.

In these meetings, they would start and end with a prayer. This really reflected the parents values and the teachers awareness of the importance of this for the families. Next, the teacher would take one of the kids and model for the parents how to talk to the child about their learning. Ana discussed how typically, Pasifika parents tell children what to do and children listen, but when it comes to learning, parents need to listen and children need to talk. Its literally the opposite. So, it will take a lot of work to change. After this, the parents would listen as their children talked to them about their learning - with Ana helping out, offering advice and sentence starters, reigning in distractions and more. After their closing prayer,  in typical Pasifika fashion, they would have a feed!

After 25 weeks, with a meeting in the one parents' garage every Monday night, Ana reflects on her programmes' journey thus far. The parents in her group had actually formed a social group without her knowing. They had been going for walks with their kids altogether every Tuesday, walking to school together and for enjoyment. The mums in the group had also began meeting up for coffee groups, each week each mum bought with her $50 which they would then pool together, and give to one of the mums. Over the long period of time, they had each been the recipient of the good will of their group members. Ana did not know about either of those things before the end of term 3; in fact, she felt quite cheated that they didn't tell her about it! 

Interesting questions were raised at the end of their presentation, such as how can Pakeha teachers get the same success when they don't have the same 'hook' in with parents, as they are not Tongan as the parents are Tongan (in Ana's case); how can parents who typically do not engage with school, be targeted?; what are ways to use the children to get the parents invested?; how can the digital technology in our schools also be used to hook parents in? I loved how these questions were discussed, as people from the audience as well as Ana and Sharon built onto what each other had said, supported, celebrated and encouraged each other. 

Ana and Sharon tell the narrative of one, i'm sure of many, stories which aim to promote success for Pasifika as Pasifika (just like Te Kotahitanga encourage Maori to succeed as Maori). It is talked about a lot that we need to build relationships and engage with our parents to help their children succeed; nobody that I know of has taken it as far as Ana has with her Ako Fakataha programme. To get successful outcomes for these students, we need to meet them where they are..

And yes, sometimes that does mean meeting them literally in the neighbours garage.

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