Having been in New Zealand for over two months at this point I have started to get a good understanding of the “kiwi” way of life. I would argue that the lifestyle here is much more laidback than the states. I see this lifestyle as well as aspects of the New Zealand culture intertwined in the school.
An unfortunate demonstration of this lifestyle is the lack of importance placed on special needs education in the school. In my classroom there is a young boy who has sever special needs. In the United States public school system he would receive one-on-one attention, if not a full time aid. However, here he only receives one-on-one attention for 45 minutes 3X a week. The rest of the time, it is my CT’s responsibility to provide for him. For her though it understandingly becomes overwhelming to prepare an entirely different academic plan each day for him. This ultimately begins to take her time away from the rest of the class and other children who could use some extra attention. For now the boy often uses the classroom iPad and while this keeps him occupied, it does not further his academic skills in a way that a one-on-one aid could.
The history New Zealand culture is unique in that it is a mix of European colonial settlers and the native Maori populations. In recent decades, more importance has been placed on reviving Maori traditions. Recently the school had “Maori language week” where emphasis on the Maori culture was given. The students learned Maori words, read Maori stories, and did activities tied to the local traditions. Evidence of their work in this subject is displayed around the classroom including translations for basic classroom words in the Maori language. In addition, with the recent Olympics the students have been learning about cultural icons in social studies, including both those internationally, and within New Zealand. They have had discussions about what makes New Zealand unique and they even wrote on why the next Olympics should (or should not be) held in New Zealand. The responses were quite entertaining! The effort to incorporate New Zealand culture into the curriculum has been impressive and for me, has been a unique learning experience alongside the children.