Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A hitchhikers perspective on education- What type of teacher are you? Henare Tahuri

A hitchhikers perspective on education- What type of teacher are you?

On the weekend of the Beyounce Mrs Carter Tour Concert I travelled from Gisborne for Hamilton to pick up my wife and then carry on to Auckland to watch my other wife Beyounce.

Before I left I said to myself, “self if we see a hitchhiker we will definitely stop and pick them up”.
Lo and behold standing past the one lane bridge before the Waioeka gorge stood a hitchhiker. I almost didn’t stop because I was so engaged talking to myself and practicing some questions in te reo maori that I was going to ask my students in Mondays lesson. Almost instinctively (because I had planned to) I pulled over to the side of the road to pick him up.

His name was Rod in his late 40’s early 50’s. It turns out that he had been camping in the bush, and for the last 2 days had been walking trying to find his way to a friend’s house by the Waioeka river. He said he had walked up and down hills following what he thought was the waioeka river but must have been some other river further inland. Despite his ordeal he was in good spirits and guzzled back a can of V.

He was a good passenger; because he just talked and talked and talked which made our trip seem short. He asked me what I did for a job and I told him that I was a teacher.

Well, this fulla went on and on about his schooling of which I would like to mention here as the main focus of my blog.

Rod said that schools have too many rules and that’s why students misbehave.

Rod spoke of 3 teachers.

Teacher 1- Mr George a principal/teacher of a small 1 or 2 school teacher rural school. Rod said that they just called him ‘Georgie’.
Rod couldn’t stop talking about this teacher. He really enjoyed and respected Georgie because he was a really good person and he had a very good way of dealing with and teaching kids.
Georgie operated on a points system. You could earn or lose house points for anything and everything inside or outside the classroom. For example during lunch time or play time Georgie would hit the ball high into the air and call out how much points you could earn if you caught it. Or in the classroom, points where given for completing school work or home work. Rod said that every child had the opportunity to contribute points towards their house weather you were academic or sporty. He would also take off points for students that missed behaved which Rod said the other students in the house would give the mischief child a quiet pep talk for losing points from their house.
When ever a child did something wrong or misbehaved, Georgie would not get angry but would take the time to explain to the child how their actions made the teacher and the other students feel.

Teacher 2- Miss Warde I think Rod said her name was. A little fat so and so, (I won’t repeat the actual words he used). This teacher came in straight after Mr George had left. Rod said that Mr George was part of the protesting activities of the springbok tour to NZ in 1981, which may have been the reason why Mr George was no longer his teacher.
The very first thing Miss Warde asked for was a copy of the school rules. Rod said that they (the students) were just completely dumb-founded. What did the new teacher mean by ‘where are the school rules’. Georgie didn’t have any rules, what’s this lady talking about?
Rod said that everything just changed, so he and some other kids rebelled and would do nasty things to the teacher, like put glue on her chair and silly things like that.

Teacher 3- an old prick, tall white male teacher who must have enjoyed treating high school kids less then the worth of a dog. A very strict teacher always waiting for someone to muck up. Rod said that this teacher still to this day leaves a sour taste in his mouth. That old so and so is part responsible in my low self-esteem and some major issues suffered to this day. Rod also went on to say that If he ever bumped in to him today, no matter how old he is now he would punch him for being so nasty as a teacher way back then.

After a couple of hours Rod spent talking about these different teachers he turned to me and asked, “what type of teacher are you?”

I told him how learning and teaching happens at Te Karaka Area School and the type of students we teach.
In terms of my own teaching philosophy in comparison to the 3 teachers mentioned above I would say;
Building and maintaining positive relationships with your students in a professional manner is definitely a must.
Having too many rules and always focusing on the rules can become more important then the learning, so I try not to be too hung up over the rules. I use school and classroom rules as a guide to allow learning to happen and also provide a safe and happy environment.
As for the 3rd teacher, yep, I don’t think trying to be a prison officer to school kids is a good way to achieving positive results in quality learning.

I am still reflecting on what type of teacher am I?

“Ko tāku ki a koutou” I ask,

What type of teacher are you?

Matua Henare.


  1. Am I the only person at our school who sees the dangers of picking up strangers in the isolation of the gorge? I enjoyed this Henare, I think its a question that we need to reflect on often, no matter how long you have been teaching, it needs to be part of your practice.

  2. Thought provoking as always from Te Karaka. Interesting to hear how much of an impact the negative teachers made on your hitchhiker. One hopes that one is more like Georgie and leaves a positive feeling with one's students. Research backs up your comment - it's all about the relationships you have with your students that makes a difference. Cheers

  3. Awesome and easy to read blog. I remember being laughed at in Standard two because when I stood up to spell my last name, I couldn't. To this day, I think I am no good at spelling. Rules, right and wrong, straight down the middle - well life is not like that and nor is learning, lets explore the outer edges of our learning shape.

  4. Your writing style is as entertaining as your conversational style Henari, and as deep. As with your hitchhiker, others also seem to recall their disliked teachers as outnumbering the liked ones.

    Effects and hurtful memories can last decades, if not lifetimes. Teaching of academic knowledge should never ever, I believe, take precedence over a safe, respectful, kind and caring classroom atmosphere.

    Like your hitchhiker, others have said they could not disassociate learning from unpleasant teachers and held it directly responsible for not becoming life long learners.

    Wielding power by threats and intimidation, such teachers appear effective. But only in the short term.

  5. So, so true Carlyn? threats and intimidation while maybe giving the appearance of being effective in the short term do not have a longer lasting effect, certainly not in any kind of positive way!