It started with a conversation with a student in my class. He is currently 10 years old, with the reading age of 6.5years. He is a kind hearted and generous soul who has a very caring family. On culture day, he wore a korowai his mum handmade for him and a tiki necklace his aunty made for him.
He is also obsessed with tamoko and tattoo. Like, literally draws all up his arm.
I thought to myself - what is my purpose in life? In his life? To help students learn - but to learn what?
I said to this boy, "When I am an old nanny and I've learned te reo, I want to come find you and I want you to do my tamoko. Promise?" The look in his eyes was (cliche teacher moment) happiness. I felt that he'd probably been used to being told he is underachieving and leaving the room to work with teacher aides.
What is our purpose? Is it solely to get students to certain levels?
If I can help students become positive, contributing citizens... I will be happy.
If this boy, leaves school with a reading age of 10 or 12, but gets himself a tatooing kit, puts together a portfolio of drawings and gets an apprenticeship in a tattoo parlour and makes $300 per tattoo (per hour) and travels the world to tattoo conventions and blesses people with the taonga of tamoko...I'll be happy.
This doesn't mean I will stop teaching him how to read.
It just means that we'll talk about tattooing and I will let him draw when he finishes his work early and I will keep reminding him of his promise to me when I'm an old kuia.
Then our senior manager played this video at a staff meeting: