Sunday, 4 January 2015

Waitangi Day....Do you love or loathe teaching about it?

February rolls around again (well, it's coming!) and along with it Waitangi Day...

This particular New Zealand event is always one of those tricky subjects that you're never quite sure about HOW to approach with your class.
Click here for your free copy of this mini poster (in black and white and colour) ~ Perfect for enlarging to A3 and adding to your wall display!~

Should you emphasis the grievances surrounding this historic day so that your class will understand all the news footage about protesters, Tino Rangatiratanga flags and debate about the Queen? Or should you gloss over the topic with 'fuzzy talk' about how we're all moving forward together sharing this beautiful country as one people?

After you've finished that internal debate, you then rummage around in your resource room/scour the internet trying to find some new fresh resources that are appropriate for your primary aged class (grumbling under your breath when nothing magically appears) and you then wonder if you should even bother touching on the topic?  After all, the event has often already occurred by the time you're back at school, and there's so much class organisation to be done... new routines to instill... planning and paperwork to get through in first few weeks of the school year....  and you're pretty sure it will get covered by the next teacher the following year right?

In the end, you settle for a fairly neutral and brief class discussion about the topic (probably linked to the signing of your own class treaty/rules, and maybe supported by a story from the school library that the kids already heard last year) and then you move on with the never ending list of things to get through.

Now I have my own child, I find myself wondering about how to explain the day to him in a factual, simple and honest way.  My main fascination with our country's history comes from making connections between it and my family.  My Great, Great Granddad lived in Taranaki, and was (among other things) a Maori translator during the New Zealand Wars.  He'd arrived in NZ as a young man a few years after the Treaty was signed.  His brother was the PM of NZ twice (during the turmoil of the Maori wars) and it's been interesting making connections between our personal family stories and our Nations history.  Letters written between family members at this time make for absolutely harrowing reading, and really showed the intense connection (both positive and negative) between Maori and Pakeha...they've really helped me to view historic events more personally and through the lenses of society at that time.

I find it absolutely appalling that I can only recall one instance in my whole journey through primary and secondary school that was based around the Treaty of Waitangi.  (I'm not saying it wasn't taught, but if it was, I can't recall anything of it - although I always was a bit of a day dreamer in class! ***EDIT - after discussing this with my sister, she recalled an amazing class bus trip all the way up north, stopping off at all historically significant treaty locations along the way - so some teachers were doing a fantastic job!***)  

The one instance I do recall was in my form 1 year.  That year marked the 150th anniversary commemorations of the Treaty being signed in Waitangi, and I was lucky enough to attend to attend the event and watch the celebrations with my family!  My main memories as an 11 year old included:
  • Being sticky, hot and dusty (probably because us kids were climbing around under the tiered seating drinking L&P)
  • Watching with interest as the protest action cranked into high gear when the Queen arrived (culminating with things being thrown at her)
  • Giggling at all the pomp and ceremony of the military drills
  • Watching all the warriors padding their intricate waka up onto the beach (complete with bare buttocks, ta moko and haka)
If this visit emphasised anything to me as a child, it was the incredibly rich, tangible and exciting nature of Waitangi... history should be alive and colourful, not drab, boring and misunderstood!  I certainly put my hand up to do 'News' in class on Monday morning :-)

I've admired with envy my American friends enthusiasm and joy in celebrating their country and their past - they do a great job in learning about themselves!  I don't think we put such an emphasis on learning about ourselves here in NZ.... maybe because we have a 'so called' young country?  Maybe because we're such an outward (rather than inward) looking country? (75% of Kiwis own a passport and international events fill our nightly news stories) Maybe because it's not the Kiwi way to dwell on ourselves or toot our own horn (tall poppies anyone?)  Or maybe because it's a complicated topic that not many people understand enough about.

Anyway, based on all of this, I've finally had time to make the resource I was always looking for but could never find!  It's a mini booklet designed to support your classroom discussions around the Treaty of Waitangi.  Non threatening, and basic factual information with lots of different ways to respond.  Mix and match the 48 pages to best suit the needs of your class...

You can find this 48 page mini booklet here
However you spend your Waitangi Day, make sure you learn a little more about it!

Grubbily yours,

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