Over the past six months our team at Mairtown have been a part of a research cluster group; focussing on leadership within Early Childhood Education. As part of this focus we had to come up with a research question as a team, ours was;
“How is our teaching team leading the way in assessment practices that contribute to our tamariki Māori (and all our children) being able to recognise their learning potential as rangatira/leaders?”
These photos represent our older boys displaying their rangatira traits by role modelling how to appropriately end waiata with pukana and whetero. This passion was passed on to our younger children who now display the same energy and mana.
This question sparked lots of thinking and ended up taking us all on a very fulfilling journey. At first we thought about how this question would look with in our context at Mairtown Kindergarten. In terms of our assessment we often recognise children’s leadership qualities. We know that we have fantastic tamariki who display a wide range of leadership skills, including helping their peers and teachers, role modelling positive ways of being or showing empathy. However we wanted to consider how were we to know that children recognised these skills and traits within themselves. We also wanted to know how we as teachers help create an environment where these skills and traits were authentically recognised and celebrated.
-Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example-
Braeden actively shares his skills and knowledge with his peers about how to get across the monkey bars. He demonstrates this over and over again to encourage and nurture his peers learning and development.
Although they are just dolls, Austin and Bella display the up most respect and care towards them. Their empathy and manaakitanga that they show when playing with the dolls is also reflected in their interactions with each other and their peers.
After much reflection amongst the team, and an empowering kōrero with Roimata Macfarlane, our Pou Whakarewa Tikanga Māori (Professional Practice Advisor Māori) from the Northland Kindergarten Association, we started to have a clearer idea of the direction we wanted to head in.
Our initial plan was to talk to the children about the concept of leadership, with the idea that this would transition into more discussion about the Te Ao Māori concept of Rangatiratanga (leadership). We started by asking the children, “What is a leader?” and “What kind of behaviours do leaders have?”
“It’s like some person be leaders and stuff. Some leaders come to the back to help other people.” (Peter)
"A person who is a leader is a helper. They help other people with heaps of stuff. They help show them how to make lego and how to do swinging and how to be friendly." (Taika)
“When people follow the other people. They hold others hands.” (Matteo)
“A leader is the helper and say toru, wha at mat time. They do not whistle and when someone gets hurts they say ‘Are you o.k.?’ They are kind.” (Emma)
“For helping people when they fall down and saying ‘are you all right’ and ‘do you want to play with me?’ They are good at showing others how to be good. By tidying up and showing others how to do this. I show people how to do flips” (Charlie)
“Waiting for your turns and not pushing in. Well they are kind and gentle.” (Sienna)
“Not shouting, not hitting. Be gentle.” (Jack)
“Leaders is about having no hitting. They be funny to make people happy. In my family my Dad is the leader.” (Franchi)
“They follow the people. No pushing. I’m the leader of my Mummy and Dad. When I was camping with my Mum and Dad I found the way to the beach and showed them.” (Sadie)
“A leader just knows how to make a circle. They be leaders at kindy and at the Nature Programme.” (Max)
“They properly have good behaviours aye. Just being good is good.” (Nyla)
“Ummm, they are nice and care for people.” (Mercia)
“They have good behaviours. They help people. Them get good behaviours by learning them and then use the behaviours to help people. I know Roman, he is a leader because he is on the Nature Programme. It makes you a leader because you do leader stuff on the Nature Programme. You just do normal stuff but are a leader at it. I’m a leader because I help people when they are getting sad and ask them to play with me.” (Tyler)
“Ummm, it’s a got to share person. My Mummy is a leader, my Daddy is a leader and my Nana Sue is a leader.”(Lali)
“On the Nature Programme there are leaders, they talk very nicely, like Sharlotte, because she has been there before, longer than me.” (Reese)
From our discussions and feedback from children we realised that they already had many clear ideas about what leadership can be. We wanted to extend their thinking about how they view themselves as leaders by including the voices of their whānau. We sent home a reflection form with all of our children, which said,
In term two we are going to be focusing on the different qualities of leadership with the children.
The Māori kupu (word) for leadership is Rangatira (a leader) or Rangatiratanga (leadership). In early childhood there are many different ways to be a leader. For instance caring for others, being helpful, self-regulation (being able to recognise and control emotions) or role modelling are just some ways that children display leadership qualities.
We would love you to share with us some of your child’s leadership qualities at home. Please use this form provided to document an aspect of leadership that you recognise in your child’s character.
Although we have given a couple of examples, leadership can be viewed in many ways. We look forward to hearing more about your child’s leadership’s strengths at home.
This information’s will be going in your child’s portfolio. Please have them back to us at the beginning of term two.
Thank you for your time.
Ngā mihi nui,
Christine, Kim, Zair and Susie”
-Ko te kai a te rangatira he korero- The food of leaders is communication
Initially we thought that when these family reflections were returned that we would just place them in their portfolios as a form of assessment to support the ranagtira learning journey. However every time a family would bring one in the words that they shared would light up our hearts.
Some of the reflections were,
“Grace shows leaderships qualities at home by: Caring for her baby sister, she looks out for her daily and tells us when she needs something; she is often watching over her and getting her toys, clothes, nappies etc. She shows concern for her sister if she is distressed and likes showing her to other people and is very proud of her.”
“He loves to help – with anything and everything. If something is being done, Tanner likes to be there helping. This ranges from helping with building, tiding the shed, moving cows, mowing lawns, gardening, preparing meals, helping to carry things (e.g. groceries), feeding animals –anything!”
“It’s good for me as a parent to recognise that these are leadership qualities emerging, thank you for this opportunity to grow and learn with our children.”
We can't express enough as teachers how much we value this kind of family involvement. This meant a change of plan and instead of just going in their portfolios they would also be displayed on the wall for all to see. We had such a huge response that we ran out of wall space and had to start a book that sat in the same area. Children and their whānau would read each other’s reflections and children would point out to others their own reflections saying things like, “Look that’s me being the helper” or “You know that’s me looking after my baby sister. My Mum says I’m good at that!”
Having this documentation in the children's play space created many opportunities for them to revisit and reflect on the leadership qualities that they display. It shows how the important people in their lives value who they are which is incredibly empowering for them. We reflected as a team about how the children display similar leaderships traits at kindergarten and through our assessment processes we made these connections visible. For example Jazmine's whanau acknowledged her caring nature and how she was always looking out for her brother and helping him out. This was a 'way of being' (Te Whatu Pokeka) that Jazmine displayed at kindergarten and was documented accordingly, linking it to her rangatiratanga reflection. We also shared some of the family reflections at whanau times. The children were invited to sit up the front as we read their families words. The children would just be bursting with pride and you could tell that this was a very empowering and meaningful experience for them.
“When documentation is incorporated into the classroom it can be a valuable teaching tool. The reflection that a child is encouraged to participate in when viewing documentation can teach the child to be more aware of his/her own learning.” (Deibert)
This was a moment when we realised that our tamariki where realising their learning potential as rangatira/leaders through our assessment practices. Having their family’s reflections on display at their eye level was powerful and created lots of reflection and discussion amongst the children.
This then lead into our other initiative that we decided to implement to support our research question. The creation and implementation of a Rangitiratanga stamp. Roimata kindly asked her nephew, who is an artist, if he would be happy to draw a picture that represented rangatiratanga for Mairtown Kindergarten. When we received the picture we had it made into a large stamp.
The stamp is used to recognise wonderful displays of rangatiratanga qualities amongst our children. If the teachers see anyone displaying these qualities then they are awarded the rangatiratanga stamp in front of the whole group at a gathering. The teachers acknowledge and explain to the rest of the group exactly what the child receiving the stamp has done, then they are presented with the large stamp and walk round showing it to all their peers. The other children give them a round of applause and often shout out things like, “Great work, I'm so proud of you.”
“I have always admired people who I perceived as having excellent leadership skills. At one time, I thought that these skills came naturally, but I’ve learned that we all have the potential to develop leadership skills. We need to be encouraged, role modeled, and nurtured to develop these skills and it should begin in childhood.” (psu.edu.com, 2012)
We also document every time a child receives a stamp to go in their portfolio. This page is often shared amongst peers and discussion arises from there about how they are being good leaders at kindergarten.
Recognising and celebrating the fantastic actions of our tamariki is empowering and an authentic way to help them recognise their learning potential. This celebration is enabling them to view themselves as valued contributors within our learning community.
It is a beautiful process and the response and flow on effect of this recognition has been hugely beneficial for our kindergarten. We often hear children talking about the rangatiratanga stamp saying, “Im going to do so much tidying up so I might get the stamp.” Or “That rangatira stamp is choice, I have had one because I made so many good choices and helped my friends.”
We have noticed the positive on-going effects on children who are celebrated for their great rangatira behaviours, for example one of our boys Max got a rangatiratanga stamp for helping a friend who was hurt, by giving him a hug and getting him help. Now every time he sees someone hurt themselves, he rushes over and gives them a hug and asks if they are alright. He has proudly shown his portfolio entry about this to others and re-tells the reason why he received his stamp. He just radiates with pride.
Franchi and Madison take turns at being rangatira, making sure they both take on the role of spinner of the barrel. They have learnt that by the act of giving they are creating joy for each other, which is reflected in their faces in these photos.
Our team continues to be led and inspired by this learning journey; it has been really successful in terms of cementing a strong centre culture of leadership. These skills and traits that we are celebrating and acknowledging are enormously important for lifelong learning. Our tamariki now recognise that being a leader doesn’t just mean to ‘be first’ or to ‘be in front’. They recognise that leadership is also about being helpful, caring, empathetic and making good choices.
We are excited about influencing strong and caring rangatira of the future.
We are excited about influencing strong and caring rangatira of the future.