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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kiwi Culture in the Classroom

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.  

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed the same laid-back culture in Ireland, and while I haven't witnessed any extreme cases of special needs, I worry that that might be the case here too. There aren't many examples I can draw on of differentiated instruction or one-on-one instruction. I do notice two students in the room whom I am almost certain have ADD/ADHD, and unfortunately it doesn't seem as though they have any accommodations or IEP-like program. So, unfortunately, the teacher ends up having to stand over them to ensure that they do their work, which irritates her (understandably), and all too often the boys get in trouble for not being able to complete their work or follow directions.
    The unfortunate result of this is, first and foremost, the inadequate attention to the boys' education. What's more, it stretches my CT thin, and makes it difficult for her to maintain a positive demeanor for the rest of the class. Another odd observation, however, is the much smaller population of special-needs students here. That in itself could be an entire blog post!
    On a more positive note, what you say about Maori tradition is pretty cool! I find the same thing here in Galway, there's a revived interest in Gaelic tradition. Gaeilge language is a required subject in all public schools, and in music a lot of the kids learn to play the bodhran and the tin whistle! It's pretty cool to see the school invested in teaching this culture to the children, and to see the way it unites them in a way that you can't really find in the states.


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