Sunday, 5 January 2014

Whanaungatanga: Tara O'Neill

1. (noun) relationship, kinship, sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.  
Whanaungatanga, building and having positive relationships with others,  is the most important key to helping my students learn.   I put genuine time and effort into seeing relationships with my students develop during school time.  But, Whanaungatanga also happens outside of school time, often when I don't expect it.  Living in the small community brings about unexpected moments where impact can be seen.  Often in the ordinary.

My husband has just started working as manager and chef at the one and only local fish and chip shop.
Last night while waiting for our chips at the fish and chip shop, four young teens from school started asking me questions “Does Pete give you extra fish and chips?”  “No, I responded, never, we pay for what we get”.  
 “How much do you earn? “
I responded by telling them how the more years a teacher works the more they earn and how principals get paid the most.  “So Karyn doesn’t pay you?”  “No, the government pays teachers.  The government paid for our new school.” 

  “Are you rich?”  the teens asked.  “Well, I have enough to pay for my rent,food and clothes” One boy looked at another “That is all you need ah”   
“How much does Pete get paid?”  Well he gets paid by the hour.  Sue owns the shop and she needs to make money from it.  So she has to pay for the food they cook, plus Pete’s wages and his helper and if they were to give food away they wouldn’t make enough money”  

I can honestly say that this was the most powerful conversation that I had with these boys all year.  I am not their class teacher, but I do know them. They come into my class to play mine craft during breaks.  Not only was it powerful, but it lead to a discussion about what they wanted to do to earn money when they got older.  The concept of earning money is not always welcome. One boy just gave me a look that told me that working wasn’t going to be for him.  Being in a place where the students can see work modelled and talk with me about why I work and what I do with my money is very valuable.  It is the stuff that can change generations.  I hope that they go away thinking about why we work, and why they may choose to work and do something meaningful with their lives.  The other option for these boys would be to get payments from WINZ and be unemployed or choose illegal ways of making money. 

While it is difficult to live in the community you work in, it can pay off in big ways.  I have lived in this community for nearly three years  and for three years I have patiently observed. I have built up relationships, a sense of family, of being connected with many of this community.  Whanaungatanga can make the difference.  Initially no one trusted me and now at least people feel like they can ask me questions.   I totally believe the illustration of a life being like a  house with a window.  It is possible to open a window in a house otherwise shut up (through relationship), so that the person can see another place, another view or another way.  And this can make the difference. 

Tara O'Neill

1 comment:

  1. Nga mihi ki a koe Tara. Koira te ahuatanga o te Maori, ara, te kanohi kitea.
    ko te kupu 'au' te pito o te kupu whanaungatanga. Ko au ko koe, ko koe ko au.
    koiraka, ko whanau. Mauriora.