This is unrelated to the post, but it is the best image I have seen posted around town to express sorrow over the events in Christchurch. It is is impressive the amount of visual support that is out there, and continues to to be out there.
Relationships. It is a current word/concept of education. Building relationships with students comes up as a strategy in practices ranging from trauma informed, engagement, discipline, motivation, and culturally responsive. My mother is a primary teacher turned family therapist. At the beginning of her career I am sure she felt the importance of relationships with students without it being an explicit instructional strategy. Whereas today, as a therapist, she can find the data to support the importance of relationships in personal growth and health. Is the need to explicitly put relationships back in the forefront of practices a response to the push in American education toward curriculum driven practices, testing practices, and earlier introduction of academics? It is a good reminder that although data is good, and educational research is good, and planning is good - education is still an endeavor among individual people.
In New Zealand, my understanding of relationship has changed - broadened. Part of my academic study is on concepts of culture and cultural identity, including the role of place and heritage in identity. Also, including how shared experiences such as colonization, immigration, and war can impact a groups sense of identity. Also, including how family dynamics, youth culture, education, and travel can impact an individual's sense of cultural identity. What I am learning is that the layers of culture are extensive and unique to each individual.
In the USA it is normal to introduce yourself to a group with your name, profession, educational credentials, or work history. The focus is on your own life experience and relationship to institutions, agencies, or companies. The Maori have a practice of introduction, to a group or meeting, that focus on relationships to people and land. The sense of who a person is and thus their credibility goes deeper than their own life experience and current affiliations. The individual exists in the context of their relationships.
This introduction, called a mihi, may include things like where they are from, ancestry, and genealogy. They may go further to include whakapapa, which the University of Otago defines as:
While whakapapa is about the recitation of genealogy – lineage or ancestry – it also literally means to ‘place in layers’ or ‘create a base’. It places our people in a wider context, linking us to a common ancestor, our ancestral land, our waterways and our tribal (and sub-tribal) groupings. Hence, the literal translation fits with the broader meaning of ancestry and the expansive nature of its ‘layers’.
In a Maori course I recently took I had an assignment to create my own mihi based on a template, similar to that in the video. It was interesting for me to think how to translate the items into my context, particularly the place and ancestry. For white folks in the US I think family immigration stories play a role that is not included in the template. Reflecting on the connection to place was interesting. While my affinity to the Chugach mountains and Pacific Ocean feel real to me, they are different than the connection to land by some indigenous peoples.
So here is my mihi:
My mountains are the Chugach,
My water is Cook Inlet,
My river is Eagle river,
My vehicle is flight,
My tribes are Scandinavian, British, and Irish,
My home is Alaska,
My grandparents are Jean and Elmer Samuelson, Al and Elizabeth Dennis, and Vera and Ed Strom,
My parents are Mercy and Elliott Dennis,
My family name is Hannam,
I am Leslie,
My sister is Ghennifer Zando-Dennis,
My spouse is Ken Hannam,
My sons are Maks Mayer, John Schoolcraft, and Patrick Schoolcraft.
Culture is made up of layers with complex interconnections, relationships. My cultural identity is based on my relationship with each of these layers and all of them together. And as is the nature of relationships - they are not static, but flowing and constantly changing.
Another way to look at it was presented in a book I am reading (see citation below):
In a high school art lesson the teacher asks students to create/select a symbol that
represents who they are. She asks them to include where they come from and who their
family and friends are. She asks them to think about their family, friends, cultures, tribes,
celebrations, and sorrows that, together, make them who they are today:
“How would you put all that is in your heart and head and soul into a picture?”
San Pedro, T. (2017). “This stuff interests me” Re-centering indigenous paradigms in colonizing schooling spaces. In Paris, D. & Alim, H. (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies.