Nathan Mikaere Wallis - Maori and Pasifika Education: Raising Achievement

The 4-8pm workshop with Nathan Mikaere Wallis certainly kicked off in true Nathan style. Engaging from the start, with many anecdotal tales, Nathan certainly knows his topic well. And, with Maori heritage himself, this is an area he is clearly passionate about.

A few key messages from Nathan, among many more, were-

Adopt a risk-taking response to using te reo-

  • Most teachers are not racist bigots, they are kind natured people who want to make a difference.

  • Teachers/learners need to be empowered.

  • We need to adopt a practise of risk taking, e.g. saying Kia ora, you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to try.

  • Correcting someone’s language error does not promote learners, as people are wired to pay far more attention to negative feedback and then shut down trying.

  • You don’t have to be correct, you need to to be a positive risk taker. Dispel fear of getting it wrong.

  • Actively reinforce language at what ever level others are at; and whatever level you are at on the spectrum always aim to progress.

  • Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know much Maori, you are just at the beginning of the journey.

  • Correct modelling of language is important and it takes a long time, and many repetitions before someone may pronunce correctly.

The stages of the powhiri process relate to the stages of neuro-sequential development-

  • 'survival brain'- Safety - Karanga and karakia (information you need to know, e.g.. who has died, etc….)

  • 'movement brain'' - Rhythm - Waiata

  • 'emotive brain' - whakawhanaungatanga - whaka (to make it ‘active’ e.g. listen rongo, whakarongo), to build relationships, build a sense of belonging, reduces stress.

  • 'cognitve brain' - wananga - the learning or whatever is on the agenda at the hui.

These links demonstrated the holistic nature (hauora) of Maori tikanga, and it is important to focus on the in the classroom.

Spend time at the beginning of each day with waiata and movement, ritual and routine.

  • Rituals and routines reduce stress and anxiety in learners; relaxes the brain so it is ready for learning. Incorporating karakia and waiata validate that Maori culture has value.

  • Implement a 'Mindfulness' programme.

Relationships are vital-

  • Know your students and their brain stem triggers; don’t end up telling a student off for being 'naughty' when they are actually in 'brain stem mode' and can’t help it. At this stage it is also important to realise that you will not be able to teach the child to read, just like you cannot teach your dog to read, because the cortex is not online.

  • How well a student gets on with a teacher is a huge factor for learning. Rapport and relationships are huge to encourage a calm brain stem and allow full frontal cortex to be ‘online’.

  • What is good for Maori students will be good for all students.

Dyadic relationships-

  • Most students, even from a gang background, will have some form of dyadic relationship. BUT If a dyad is missing then no behaviour policy will not meet the students’ needs. They need to go to the ‘dyad’ to get the behaviour issue sorted, not the teacher who sees it. They need to learn how to behave with one person before they can behave with lots of different people.

  • Maori make a big deal about relationships.

  • So focus on relationship - do not move them every year!! Whanau classes. Staying with same teacher will be the #1 factor to making a difference to their achievement.

Incorporate te reo and tikanga in all curriculum areas to reduce negative dispositions-

  • Dispositions are important. It is just about impossible not to have a negative disposition about being Maori/Pasifika being raised in NZ.

  • Show great role models of Maori writers, mathematicians, scientists, etc… to help build a positive disposition.

  • You need to actively undo the beliefs/socialisation that students pick up on from a very young age.

  • Positive self-esteem is import in order for anyone to be able to access their full frontal cortex capacity.


  • 'Google Maori Newspapers Online'. There were once over 70 Maori newspapers with articles about anything and everything. Maori were very literate. These are now available online, translated from te reo Maori to English. Incorprate these acorss all curriculum areas.

  • Rose Pere, ‘Wheki’ introduces 9 fundamental concepts of Maori

  • Read ‘Te Whariki' ECE curriculum

  • What 3-6 need to know, Catherine Ryan - seven dispositions we need to have.

I hope all attendees got a lot out of the session with Nathan, and enjoyed the canapes! We look forward to hosting Nathan again in the future.

Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square