Respecting our learners.

learners

Photo from our School Facebook Page.

One of my excitements as an educator is when I hear teachers speak passionately about their learners in positive ways especially about their heritage, language, identity, beliefs or culture.  I am even more excited when I hear them make an effort to pronounce their learners home names correctly and notice when their learners have taken on a ‘school name’.  I see some cultures embrace this more than others and do not expect their child to take on a school name when they come to our school. I love it when our teachers make an effort to find out how to greet the parents in their home language. This is not an easy task at our school as we have 32 different languages listed as home languages..

This year I have been super excited to see the team I am currently a part of fostering a learning culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion through using a social media ‘WeChat.’ The exciting part of wechat is the simplicity our families have of easily translating what the teacher has written into their own languages. I recently sat Google Educator Level 1 exam and passed. However during my study time, I discovered how easily our families can translate the newsletters into their own language if we also offered a Doc option and not just a PDF. Therefore I will highlight this important feature to my school.

One key strategy I use when I teach is providing opportunities to build on a learner’s home language and culture in the learning setting. You can read more about these strategies in mine and Pam’s Book, SOLO Taxaonomy and English Language Learners.

I also allow our learners the ability to access their home language when using their chrome books. We have just updated our device management system and I noticed that this feature was locked down so I will be unlocking this again for our learners.

One of our support staff takes a group of senior students who are literate in their first language and she creates Duality maps with them. This ensures that heritage, language, identity, beliefs and culture is shared in both languages so that the students can celebrate who they are with their class mates and teachers. This is such an important learning activity that I ensure that time is given to this on a regular basis. You can see some samples here in our newsletter. Check out: 3 July 2017.

I myself model learning about histories, heritage, language, identity, beliefs and culture of my learners and what is important to them by continually learning. I am reminded of my TeachNZ sabbatical where I visited 13 countries in 11 targeting the countries where most of our learners come from.  

Recently I have been learning Chinese so that again I can feel what it is like to be in our learners shoes. Learning Chinese has taken me to China on three visits and my recent visit was highlighted on the International Exchange and Pathways portal (ILEP). This journey helps me understand that my world views are different from those of my learners and that I am willing to learn what it must be  like for them to learn in New Zealand.

I am an Across School Leader for ACCoS Kāhui Ako and I use this opportunity in my leadership to affirm and draw on the cultural capital that all learners bring with them to their learning experience by giving teachers in our Across Sector Groups the opportunity of sharing about their diverse learners and families in their schools. I believe in this so much that I have recently invited an ESOL Verifier to come and share to our Kāhui Ako so that this adds voice to the work that I believe in.    

I really like this video from Rae Siilata speaking about the importance of teachers to recognise learner’s differences and have shared this with some of our staff and remind them that language is central to culture, identity and heritage and that the right to use your own language in learning is an internationally recognised human right.

If you want to know more about our professional responsibilities to our learners then you must read the updated Code of Professional Responsibility.  This blog was inspired by section 2.3 on Page 13.

 

Matariki

 

matariki

Titiro Whakamuri. Kokiri whakamua.

Look back and reflect so that you can move forward.

Every year I try and learn something new about Matariki and this year was no different. I also noted the fog that rolled in several times in June so can now add this to the signs around Newmarket of Matariki. Next year I hope to climb Maungawhau early enough in June to catch a sight of the seven sisters just before dawn.

Last year I was surprised to see that I was not using as much Reo as I thought I was. So I made it a goal to include it wherever I could. For example I included a whakatauki every time I presented. 

This week at school as part of celebrating Matariki we had TuRongo collective for our students lead by Matua Karena, Matua Puriri and Whaea Millie.

They shared with us Pakiaka, Mau rakau and haka and spiritual learnings within waiata.

​Puriri led the students in Pakiaki where they learnt games such as Poutahi, Pourua and Poutoru. I heard expressions such as step into the spaces with feet like a horse not a bunny. Side step like a crab.

We then rotated to Mau rakau with Karena where our students learnt about Maui and Matau or left and right. They had fun learning how to trust their friends with the Mau rakau.

Finally the students learnt about spiritual learnings within waiata. I liked the analogies that whaea Millie used with the Tuatara and the birds. The way she explained about wiri and pukana. How she incorporated stories in the learning. Finally the students learnt the Matariki song that told about the sisters and again she painted a picture using words so that the children could see the song.

What I liked about the sessions was the simplicity of delivery yet the learning was deep.

 

We finished celebrating Matariki at our school with our annual Matariki disco. To borrow a quote from Katie, one of my student writers. “Overall I think the Matariki disco is important because it was the Maori new year and a chance for everyone to get together.”

 

Hànzì 汉字 simplified Chinese characters.

I have often said that I would never ask a teacher or a student to do something that I was not prepared to do myself. I am a trained ESOL teacher and I also believe that it is important to develop empathy with my learners by learning a language myself as a teacher.

This year is a huge year for me as I undertake my 2017 goal of preparing for and sitting HSK level 2. Those of you who know my language learning journey will know that Chinese is my seventh language. Four of my languages have been learnt over two years. Most of the languages I have learnt I am still very much at basic level except for Samoan. However when I am in the language it does not take long to reactivate vocabulary.

I learnt Maori at teacher’s college and found it similar to Samoan so was able to pick up vocabulary quite easily. 

I learnt Dutch for two years and my best way of learning vocabulary was listening to a Berlize tape on my way to school. The journey took 30 minutes so for an hour each day I listened to the same tape over and over again. By the time I arrived in Holland I could understand basic conversations.

I then hosted Japanese students and so undertook to learn Japanese. My goal was to learn Kanji. I learnt Japanese at night school for two years and could hold a basic conversation. However Kanji just evaded me. Learning to recognise characters was too hard. I could see no patterns in the script and gave up.

Last year I agreed to teach and learn Chinese. Through teaching Chinese my vocabulary exploded. I also attended night school at Unitec and sat HSK level 1 and passed. However the Hànzì 汉字 or simplified Chinese script was again so very difficult. I practiced and practiced and learnt to recognise numbers but again could not make any sense out of the characters. I downloaded a tile app and practiced that with some success but could not seem to commit the character to memory. 

This week something exciting happened to me and again I am so grateful to my student teachers. I have had two girls go over with me my vocabulary and my phrases each week so that I had a booster of what I do in night classes. This week, they showed me how to read simplified Chinese characters.   For example pretty 漂亮 Piàoliang

They said see the pretty leg hanging off, that is how to remember. For 下雨 Xià yǔ, to rain, they said, “See the raindrops in the window, see the slope on the left, it is like water falling down.” Guess what? What they said works because I can now see something. 

Then they both told me that next week they would test me on my character reading. They said that 10 characters is a good start. Maybe that was the push I needed because little do they know how motivated I am and that this weekend I have memorised 30. In addition there are no numbers in my list. I feel so excited because I can now tell which way up the characters should be, I can see little characters in bigger characters and I have had heaps of fun with my 88 year old mother as she has called out the word in Pinyin or English and I recognised the characters. My mum is a shorthand typist and she helped me look for patterns in the words. For example 睡觉 shuìjiào, to sleep. Mum said, “see the man under the blankets.” and I can.

So I took all the double characters from HSK level 1 and created groups of them and printed them off in different colours and chunked them in groups of 10. They are blue tacked to my cupboards so before I go to sleep, I can see them and when I wake up I can see them.

I have also recently discovered the HSK vocabulary lists on youtube and speed them up so that I can hear the words and practice memorising the characters.

In all I am feeling quite positive about my language learning. I believe I have gone over a hump that has been holding me back. I can see the way forward for learning script that just was not there before. 

So do you know any other languages with a different script? What strategies do you use to learn vocabulary? In my list above, can you recognise Ni Hao? Just one simple greeting that your Chinese children can read and that you expect to move up in PM levels in English.

 

 

 

Beijing in Spring

Springtime in Beijing

For the past three weeks I visited Beijing with a group of twelve New Zealand Chinese Language teachers. We applied for and won a place on the 2017 China Scholarship Programme to Beijing developed by ILEP, Confucius, Hanban and the New Zealand Ministry of Education. We were hosted by Beijing Language and Cultural University that is located nearly in the centre of Beijing and stayed in the conference centre.

BLCU

Personal Goals

I had three goals for this journey. My first goal was language. I wanted to further develop communication in simple and routine tasks and to exchange information on familiar topics by building on basic phrases because I recently passed the HSK (Level I) exam. My second goal was cultural and to learn more about Chinese history and visit historical sites. Because I am also a teacher of Chinese children I wanted to learn more about where my children came from. My third goal was about connections. Making connections with other educators on the group from New Zealand as well as educators I came into contact with. I also was keen to make connections with local people.

The journey developed more than my three goals.

Language

Daily I was immersed in the language from catching a train, shopping at the supermarket, daily routines such as passing pleasantries with staff at the front desk to asking for my clothes to be washed at the laundry. Daily I was surrounded by language from the fabulous forms of vehicle mashups and their advertising to the signs directing us to uniformed checkpoints and of course wherever we saw food. Daily connections were made with the teachers I travelled with from sharing our learning to being together in the various daily life. I spoke with local people at the historical sites we were taken to, on the trains, at the university canteen, with my home stay and with our tutors and support students. We visited a school and observed a lesson in action. I was delighted to see and hear the traditional student teacher greetings before the lesson that I had heard about. The language lesson was centred around whole group teaching with a focus on traditional poetry. As the teacher unpacked the poem she used videos to give the students imagery written about in the poem because she was aware that many of her students would not have had first hand experience with what the poet was trying to depict. After the lesson observation we had a round table discussion with some their teachers. This part of the session was particularly interesting as we had a compare and contrast discussion between our two systems. The common theme was what was best for our children.

As a group we attended a Kung Fu performance and a Beijing Opera performance so again we were exposed to language but in a different way. Both used a different type of language that I liken to when Samoan matai meet. The language used is similar but the vocabulary is quite different.

The language highlight for me was when we stumbled across the BLCU students’ end of semester talent performance. There we saw and heard language used in singing and when the master of ceremonies introduced each item.    

Culture

What I have learnt about Chinese culture is how old and steeped in history the culture is. I saw similarities with my Samoan culture such as some thatching of roofs, the openness of the buildings with the pillars, the use of patterns for effects. I also saw how the young people take care of the old people. I saw grandparents taking care of the grandchildren while parents worked. I also really liked the mishmash of old and new. There appeared to be a sense of evolving as can be seen in the scooters.

We were fortunate to research and prepare for visiting many historical places and were given the opportunity to take part in calligraphy, paper cutting and in Tai Chi Fan movement. During these sessions we were reminded of the ancient history and of how far back Chinese dynasties predates European history. This was particularly so during our time at the National library where we were able to visit the Oracle collection and view ancient writing on bones.

Food

When we talk about language and culture we must also mention food because together everything intertwines. Our daily routine involved food. Our opening and closing days involved food. Our daily excursions involved food. There was lots of it and the price was cheap. Several meals I ate at the BLCU Canteen and the range was massive. A few times we might have paid $20.00 for an evening meal but that was the exception rather than the norm. In Beijing we were exposed to several area cuisines such as Sichuan, Fujian and Jiangsu. We ate several types of street food such as jianbing and investigated nearby eateries such as a local Taiwanese restaurant or a Japanese restaurant. However one memorable and unscheduled meals would have to be from the Nanjing provence hosted by one of our member’s brother. There I tried lotus root stuffed with rice. Our final meal together involved rice flambeed in front of us, eating Peking Duck and an opportunity to sip local spirits. Some mornings I ate yoghurt and peeled fruit rather than go out for breakfast. Sometimes when I needed some quiet time I took a container with me to the canteen and brought back leftovers and had that for dinner. Generally food involved being with people, talking, reminiscing, planning next events and activities or celebrating.

The numbers game.

I am always interested in numbers and am always thinking about how we track what we do. I wore a FitBit and my daily step average was 16,384. By the end of the trip I had walked approximately 250 kilometers and I have walker’s blisters to show for this.

We visited historical sites to learn about history and places of interest where we could observe traditional arts and crafts happening.

  •  Water Cube & Birds Nest: 4.8km
  •  Tiananmen Square: 16 Km
  •  Mutianyu Great Wall: 67 KM
  •  Forbidden City: 14 KM
  •  Summer Palace: 9.6KM
  •  Nanluoguxiang/ South Luogu Alley: 12 Km
  •  Oriental Charm Market: 23km
  •  Sun Park: 16 Km
  •  Pearl Gardens: 36 KM
  •  Zhujiang Dijing (Host Family): 25 km
  •  National Library: 8.7 KM
  •  National Museum of China: 16 Km
  •  Hanban Confucius Headquarters:
  •  Tianjin City: 149km
  •  Liyuan Theatre: 15 KM (Beijing Opera)
  •  Red Theatre:  (Kung Fu Show) 21 Km

My highlight was visiting the Great Wall at Mutianyu. The journey there took us nearly two hours because we were caught in traffic. However once I stood on the wall I felt emotional and a part of something very big. I spent time on my own walking parts of the wall and reflected on my Chinese learning which like the Great wall has been massive. Parts of my learning is crumbling from lack of use and parts are stronger from teaching. Part of my learning is growing as I continue to focus on my goals.  I took the chairlift up and the luge back down because my feet were problematic with blisters. Some of the teachers walked up and down the wall and the feedback we gave was to provide more time at this amazing place.

mutianyu

Overall during the journey to Beijing I had travelled 1000 kilometres by bus, by taxi, by subway and by high speed train. In addition I took just over 1300 photos to help capture part of my learning.

Environment

I saw rejuvenation happening. I believe that language and the environment go together and have a belief that the current challenges that Beijing is having with natural resources will continue to improve. When I check new environment I look at the air quality, water quality and soil quality.

We were there in the spring but apart from the blossoms there was no other evidence. The air was as warm as summer because of the low ar quality. There was no spring rain for all the time we were there and I missed the rain. I saw patches with trees and escaped to these sections when I could. However the dust and thickness of the air could not be masked by the greenness of the trees. The sky was quite blue, often cloudless but was generally hazy in the distance. When it was warm and seemed clear I would check the readings and usually went out with my mask.

Water was a premium and I hesitated to eat fruit or vegetables with no skin. So I generally ate imported fruit and ensured that I only ate cooked vegetables. Toilets were interesting because paper was placed in a nearby basket and not flushed down. At the same time I could see that already water was given priority as we were encouraged to keep waste materials separate. For drinking water I initially tried boiling water until the metallic taste put me off. So I switched to bottled water and and churned through nearly four litres daily. It wasn’t enough though because my skin was dry as sandpaper and I found I needed full body moisturizing twice daily.

The soil looked parched and stripped of all goodness. I wondered about what I was eating so stuck to what local people ate. Generally vegetables are eaten cooked. Therefore I did the same and avoided uncooked vegetables.

The birds gave me hope and I would look out for them as I walked to class each day. When we visited sites I would also look out for them. They are indicators of how healthy the environment is. The main birds I saw were the indigenous magpies. They had magnificent colours of an azure green, kind of like our tuis. I also saw one woodpecker.

Transport

I am a travelwise lead teacher so am always interested in public transport and in how cities move people. I loved the Beijing subway system. I found it easy and user friendly. Beijing did not have a separate bus lane like we do in Auckland. However I loved how cycles and electric scooters had their own lanes and how pedestrians had their own lanes and these appeared just as important as cars and buses. I loved seeing the mashup of electric scooters. Some looked like mini trucks, some looked like mini cars and some looked like normal scooters. Everyone using them did not wear helmets and like the cycles seemed to have the same rights as pedestrians. One highlight was catching the high speed train, with a colleague, to Tianjin a nearby city of 19,000,000 people. A city I had never heard of until the week I visited it. Another highlight was activating an Ofo account using wechat. Ofo was one of the bicycle systems we saw. There are several but Ofo caught my eye first because of its bright yellow colour. I had 100 yen transferred to my wechat account from a local resident because I believe a Chinese bank account is  needed to activate wechat wallet. I then needed help to activate Ofo because all the instructions were in Mandarin. Once activated I could ride an Ofo bike for one yen (.20c NZ) for 30 minutes. When I reflected on how successful this would be in New Zealand I realised that it would not work as well because helmets are not compulsory in China.

The challenge that Beijing has is traffic. Like every large city cars are everywhere. Travelling on motorways takes a long time and if you plan to take the motorway then ensure extra time is always accounted for.

Internet access

Well where do I begin with this one. The internet is as important to me as natural resources. Coming from New Zealand into Beijing I had to make several adjustments. One was leaving Google behind. That was the most frustrating because I am used to the ease of google for searching, for collaborating and sharing, for site translating, for storage of photos and videos, maps with marker locations. Over the time in Beijing I learnt to adjust to other tools and just had to get on with it. I missed twitter the most because I could not keep up with general education news. I used viber to communicate with family but even that died in my final week. I was determined to cope as a local would without a VPN but maybe I should have ensured that it was working well before I left. I could still get school email on the phone but could not access it via online. I am sure that staff I work with were happy to have a little peace from me.

However the positive was WeChat. We used WeChat as a form of group communication and this worked really well. We could share photos, ask questions and confirm information. I learnt to push out information too using WeChat. For example creating PDFs from powerpoint and uploading them using my computer version of WeChat. I observed how WeChat was used to purchase grocery items, restaurant food, pay for petrol, movies etc. In fact in New Zealand I believe this is definitely an area that is still in early stages. We have to download a movie app to buy tickets, download a petrol app to pay for petrol and so on. But we have yet to develop a system that does all this within one app.

So in order for access, we purchased a local simm card as soon as we could. I could not get a data only plan so went with a month phone plan. Back on campus I also purchased a month’s internet access. Both were adequate for my requirements.

The phone plan gave me access to wechat and maps. Using maps I could navigate the bus and subway systems. I was also able to use the GPS systems to always identify where I was. On campus internet was slower than what I am used to.

Daily routine

Supermarket shopping was part of the regular routine because of the need to buy water. However it was also an excuse to stock up on snack food such as nuts and fruit. What I noticed was alcohol was very cheap. For example a local 1 litre bottle of beer was 90c NZ.  Wine however was not cheap. I often bought pistachio nuts, salted plums and dried mangoes. I usually did a daily load of hand washing and was grateful for the hindsight to bring a portable washing line. The bigger items were taken to the local laundry where they would be washed and dried within three hours. I had taken coffee sachets but had not quite taken enough. Coffee was a daily luxury and I limited myself to one sachet. When we were out and about we looked out for café’s that might sell coffee. We did find a starbucks but the coffee was still not that wonderful. Generally coffee came in long sachets with powdered milk and too much sugar. For the first few days I needed a daily nana nap because jetlag affected me but I soon was into the Beijing rhythm.

Connections

For our final session we were instructed to present a reflection about our time in Beijing. I waited to go last because I had created mine a little differently focusing on some funny moments. However as I sat listening to my new friends share their highlights I felt the connections as I nodded and laughed recapping on an incredible three weeks learning. For one of my slides I have put all the highlights together to emphasise what a cram packed cultural and language experience we had. Together we collaborated to create a preparation lesson for each of the sites we visited. We created a variety of debriefs to show our learning and as a resource to use back back in our programmes. We reflected on what we learnt through our highlights presentations and we have returned to New Zealand tired but at the same time rejuvenated in our efforts to teach and share about Chinese language and culture with our students and our peers. However for me the greatest taonga I bring back are the memories of my time with my colleagues as together we navigated our way around Beijing and learnt more about a different culture and language. We have come home with a greater appreciation of our own country and the importance we must give to its environment, culture and language. Highlighted for us is the importance of people whether we are learning in a city of twenty two million people or teaching in a country with four million people.

My daily journal

Throughout my 21 days in Beijing I kept a daily journal that had similar focus areas each day. I kept a record of the air quality, daily temperature and short snippets of activities and places we might have visited. Each day I looked for a cultural element and each day I tried to identify new phrases I had learnt.

Probably my greatest learning was from the other Chinese Language teachers in the group. As part of our brief we needed to create a preparation lesson for upcoming places we would visit. Through them I learnt more about vocabulary and phrases I would need, I learnt about some cultural aspects such as an explanation about the appropriateness of using chopsticks. I also  learnt that no matter where we are on our language learning journey we still have some things to learn and with a little research we can still teach in unfamiliar areas.    

scholarship

Overall Statement

Overall the purpose of the scholarship was to grow our understanding of Chinese Language and Culture and also to rediscover interesting aspects of our own cultural identity. I believe that together with my goals I have certainly looked at who I am. One beautiful highlight was when I wechatted my Chinese ‘daughter’ living in Shanghai and her young daughter was learning to say Ni hao nǎi nai. (general term for grandmother). My heart is already made up of many bloods and this moment confirmed that there is also a bit of Chinese there. This journey was unbelievable. I have grown as an intercultural educator and return to my school rejuvenated with my work. I am excited to return to my weekly language classes to continue growing my Chinese and look forward to sharing this once in a lifetime experience with the children that I teach and with the teachers that I work with. There are many people and organisations to thank for this opportunity. First and foremost thanks to Fu Jiwei the Chinese National Language Advisor who first alerted me to the programme. He also came with us in a supporting role.  Also to ILEP for coordinating the programme.To Liu Hongyuan and Beijing Language and Cultural University for hosting us, providing us with two exceptional guide students Hu an and Siqi and for organising the sites we visited and the cultural activities we took part in. Thanks to our Ministry of Education, Confucius Institute and Hanban for approving the programme. Finally special thanks to Dr Wendy Kofoed and Newmarket School Board of Trustees for giving encouragement and approval for me to go.

I give a shoutout to these amazing Chinese language teachers who helped create fabulous Beijing memories:

Jenny, Elly, Nickie, Jordy, Lizanne, Olivia, Juliet, Karen, Lynn, Ann and Natalie

BLCU2

Chinese Scholarship Programme -Beijing

china

Thanks to Huang Wu who helped stage this awesome photo.

This year I took an extra plunge at being the learner to walk in my learner’s shoes. I placed an application for the Chinese Scholarship Programme to Beijing. This week  I received news that I have been selected as one of twelve New Zealand educators to go. I am super excited. I have been to China twice before.

The first time to Shanghai to visit my homestay. The second time to Winan about three hours north of Xian, famous for terracotta warriors. The focus of my second trip was to attend my homestay wedding. This time I will be visiting Beijing home to our current Mandarin Language Assistant.

Last year I was in a massive learning curve as I opted to learn and teach Chinese as part of my role as an ALLiS Lead teacher for Newmarket School. I always say I would never ask teachers to do anything I was not prepared to do myself. Pushing my comfort zone and with encouragement from our TPDL tutors, I sat and passed HSK Level 1.

I pulled together all my learning for 2016 and included this in my application.

When I reflected on the past year for learning, it was massive. My biggest reminder is how hard it is to learn a language. Especially one with a different script and with tone nuances. It took me ages to memorise characters for numbers and even some basic characters. I still rely on Pinyin which is our script and know that I have to work really hard to leave that behind as a learning crutch.

One of the focus of the scholarship is developing intercultural communicative competence. An area that I am passionate about. There will be some extra-curricular activities such as visiting historical sites, experiencing life on a Chinese university campus, a homestay, a visit to Hanban and school visits. I really hope to climb the great wall of China and take the tourist selfie. I am especially keen on participating in immersion tasks designed to encourage interaction in everyday situations. I felt a little discouraged during the summer vacation when I met a new Chinese family and I could not pull my formulaic phrases out fast enough. I hope I can put to use my Thursday lessons with my student tutors who worked with me for most of last year.

Our trip host will be Jiwei Fu, National Adviser for Chinese, ILEP and programme host. We will be based at the Beijing Language and Culture University and if that is no more than a coincident but that is the university of our current Mandarin Language Assistant Xuan.

Next week we will all meet together and begin the induction programme. I hope everyone is on WeChat the Chinese Social Media Communication space.

While I am away my usual social media tools will be blocked by the great firewall of China but that is not a problem because this year at my school most of the teachers have been using WeChat with our community so I will be able to keep in contact with school. I will also be able to communicate with my host daughter in Shanghai who has had a baby. I would have loved the opportunity to pop over there to hold her but that will have to wait for another visit.

I often just do things because I believe I have nothing to lose but in order for this trip to go ahead I needed my principal’s and board’s approval and my sisters support because they will be looking after my aging parents while I am gone.

Why am I going? Well for me the greatest reason is to learn more about the children that I teach. I want to make stronger connections. A key towards empathy is learning some of their language and learning about where they come from. I am an ACCoS Across School Leader and in our Community of Learners we have identified that our Chinese learners are growing in greater numbers.

Where to next

When I return from my journey I am expected to share and implement what I learnt with our students. In addition I am expected to share at clusters, networks, language associations, conferences and various other professional development sessions including my work colleagues. I am also expected to continue teaching Mandarin which I will do. Part of that includes continuing with my night classes at Unitec with Huang and learning Mandarin alongside other amazing people. This year I set a personal goal of achieving HSK Level 2. If you want to know more about WeChat download the phone app and then look for me. My id is: Ulimasao. I love WeChat for the ease I have with translating from the language being used for communication and back into my own language. What an absolute gem for our migrant families.

Afakasi

afakasi

Mum,  me-2 years old, dad and my older sisters.

“E iloa e le tagata lona tulaga i upu e te tautala ai.” quote from Matalaoa. 

I was born and bred in Samoa. My mum is Samoan and my dad is Palagi. That means I am afakasi or half caste, literal translation. I am super proud of being Samoan so much so that I received my Malu 10 years ago and yes I am a fluent speaker. 

Tūrangawaewae has been part of my life for most of the week as I have learnt about some distant cousins. I believe that the more I find out about my family’s past and heritage, the more my own identity changes and evolves. These holidays I have been learning more about my Samoan family. Those of you who know me, know that I am actually more than afakasi and know what an incredible mixture I have in my genealogical makeup. For me there is no Samoan term to describe my blood except it is fabulous. This is one question I should have asked Aiono Fanaafi Le Tagaloa when she was still alive. She used to always provide me with historical terms to describe modern day developments. My favourite was ‘Fau o le Upegatafaailelagi’ – webmaster. (Builder of the net in the sky.)

I have been super excited from my recent Facebook family connections. I always believe that each social media has its place and to find the purpose for it will encourage use. Well this past fortnight I have lived and breathed it as I have connected with relatives of my generation, the last of my mother’s generation through their children and starting to know the next generation. I have learnt more about the term ‘usugagafa‘.  I have managed to piece together so many gaps of our puzzle. I have retrawled Papers Past and again have uncovered a treasure trove of information. Everytime I go on the archives get better and better. Those of you with Samoan Ancestry will find heaps of information. It is still very Eurocentric yet I have managed to find many of my Samoan ancestors mentioned.  

I created shared Google Draw documents and invited branches to add their information. This has worked superbly well. The flood of photos has given me extra excitement and pleasure as mum and I have poured over faces and had some amazing bonding moments. Through her I have learnt a little more as well about her. 

Milestones.

This year my dad turns 90 and this year it is my parents 60th wedding anniversary. I have been working on my dad’s biography for a few years now and this milestone will give me the incentive to pull everything together. 

 

Mid Autumn Festival

Background

This year I have been learning Chinese as part of my Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) learning. TPDL is an in-service year-long professional development programme for teachers at all New Zealand schools.

I chose to take on the challenge of learning Mandarin as part of being the ALLiS teacher for Newmarket School. I also took on the challenge as I wanted to foster closer relationships with the children that I work with at Newmarket School. Nearly one third of our school is made up of children who speak Chinese. I have visited China twice already but with limited vocabulary and my second visit happened during their Chinese New Year.

chang e Chang e -drawn by Seroung

Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節

Soon in China it is the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節, also known as the Moon Festival. One key idea I have learnt is the importance of festivals and celebrations to bring families back together. My first visit to Chine was just before the time of the Mid Autumn festival. During this visit I was introduced to moon cakes. Again I had very little knowledge of the importance of sharing moon cakes.

The Mid Autumn Festival  falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar year. Myself I naively thought this meant the 15th of August. However had omitted the phrase Chinese lunar year in my first round of information. I know now that Mid Autumn Festival takes place in September because Chinese New Year happens in February when we compare the dates to the Gregorian calendar or the calendar which the western countries use. This year the date for celebration is the 15th of September.

The Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People eat moon cakes for celebration. The moon cake is a kind of pastry with various fillings and the surface is printed with different artistic patterns.  Mid-Autumn Festival is also a time for family reunions. As the moon cake is round in shape, it symbolises the reunion of a family.
So for this Mid-Autumn Festival our children at Newmarket School will enjoy a delicious moon cake at school and at home they will probably also enjoy a Moon Cake shared with family.

nzclw

New Zealand Chinese Language and Culture Week

Last year New Zealand celebrated Chinese Language week around this period. The first I heard about it was after the event. I have been watching for this years dates and checking the internet for the confirmed week. This year there is now a site for this event.

This year I was determined that at Newmarket School we would celebrate this new national event. So at Newmarket School I am working with a group of senior students to coordinate a week long list of activities. I have just finished a paper on Intercultural Language Teaching which clarified the need to communicate in the first place and seek to teach culture in a way which develops intercultural communicative skills at the same time as developing language skills. Intwined with cultural activities is the opportunity to develop language. As a Mandarin teacher I have been focussed predominantly on language. Partly because of my own focus of learning Mandarin. 

NZCLW at Newmarket School

With my senior students we have developed a list of activities that they have chosen to lead over this week. The activities planned include:

  • Elastics
  • Long skipping rope activities
  • Pong pong
  • Chopsticks activities
  • Diabolo spinning
  • Jianzi- hacky sack-  Shuttle Cock kicking

One key activity is a language activity as I really want our children who learn Mandarin to have the opportunity to celebrate their learning. I will also give the children the chance to practice a formulaic speech and for this activity I will use our fluent speakers as judges to help me judge this. The second part is to identify our fluent speakers because next year I will prepare them for the oral Mandarin speeches.

In addition I am keen to develop literacy skills for our Mandarin speaking children. So I have set the challenge of writing a book in English to retell the story of Chang-e. The lady in the moon. Our children who are literate in Mandarin will help me with translating. Also we have our parent community who will help me with the final draft. I have a group of artists who have chosen to develop the images that will be used.

In class activities that teachers and classes can choose to include in their programme are:

  • Dumpling making
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting cherry blossoms
  • Painting Panda
  • Decorate a tea tin
  • Make and fly fish shaped kites
  • Mask painting
  • Paper cutting
  • Making lanterns from recycled materials

Health and Well Being

One of our school wide goals for 2016 is ‘Heath and Well Being’. So by incorporating mindfulness into the weeks programme through exercise, physical activities and meditation I am proactive in developing a positive health awareness culture in our workplace. I am conscious too that by sharing moon cakes during this week I must take into account the children in our school who have allergies to egg and nuts. Again it is about being prepared and identifying those children for their safety and well being. My next step is to work with my student organising committee and identify any hazards in their physical activities so that injuries for participating children will be minimised. I also need to reconnect with our National Chinese advisor as I wish to strengthen our working relationship. I also still need to reestablish connections with a past pupil of our school by inviting her to our events.During my research for the types of activities to run I have made connections with Confucius, Asia New Zealand, our local secondary school, several parents in our school community, our after school Chinese teachers and of course our children who are running several morning tea activities.

WeChat

Those of you who work with Chinese children and are not yet aware of Wechat, then use your phone and locate the app. Wechat is an amazing social media tool to use to create connections with our Asian neighbours. I use Wechat for communication in the Connect with China Flat Connections initiative. I use Wechat to build communications with some of our parents. I use Wechat to maintain connections with our previous Mandarin Language Assistants and to communicate with New Zealand teachers who have shifted to China. I use Wechat to develop closer relationships with our sister school in Ningbo. I have used Wechat to make connections with a kindergarten who will communicate with our junior school during the upcoming week of celebration. 

The week long celebration is now just two weeks away. I have let our parent community know that it is happening via our newsletter. I have alerted teachers to the dates and to be aware of their contribution in class. I have met with the student leadership team to design the activities that will be run. So now it is down to the finer details.

Those of you who are in an ALLiS cluster, what kinds of events have you hosted to raise awareness and to celebrate our children?