• Therese

It Takes A Village, They Say #3

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Communicating through story

I’m from a family of six girls and a boy, between us we have 23 children and when we get together we like to share family stories. Our stories connect us to convict ships, saints, secrets, scuffles, sisterhood, suicide, suffragettes and sports stars. Our stories are unique to us and shape who we are today, they keep us connected.

Talanoa is a traditional word used across the Pacific. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good.

Sharing stories with whanau is needing to hear the story, asking them to “wait until I come back”, to “tell that one about…” A feeling of belonging. Mauri Ora describes the state of being fully present in the storytelling, “Ora”, to be alive and well. When we meet for the first time, our need to connect overcomes our shyness and becomes Mauri Oho, “Oho” to begin to awaken. Mauri oho provokes the interactions. A child will hide behind or cling to a familiar thigh when uncertain, they don’t want to be seen. Mauri Moe describes this state of inactivity when we can not make that connection...yet, “Moe” meaning to sleep.

Listening to and sharing story informs my interactions. I have an open door policy at school, I am a prolific emailer, texter, phone caller and dabbler in different forms of social media, home visits are part of the school routine and I enjoy getting to know the families. I believe it is my Mum who is the reason I make time to stop and chat. When considering communication in a school setting we follow the Mauri Model allowing time, space and invitation for story to emerge.

Whakawhanaungatanga speaks of the process of making connections and relating to the people one meets, by responding in culturally appropriate ways. Before I can respond appropriately to the 16 different ethnicities and the many cultures represented in our school families I need a willingness to learn from and about them. Some protocol is identified prior to meeting, while others emerge over time. The intent is to show respect. When considering communication in a school setting, we look for culturally relevant ways to encourage sharing.

I write through a pakeha lens, as we journey, we melt away the false beliefs that society has engineered, we distance ourselves from our ego to question our belief systems. Indigenous knowledge is about knowing protocol and about knowing others’ story so as to evolve. Stories never finish with “The End”. When considering communication in a school setting, how do we merge story to create a blended educational context that respects and builds on all indigenous knowledge systems?

Our school family is special, our students are differently-abled and due to their differences, barriers build. The students arrive and leave in taxis, there are no chats at drop off and no carpark catch ups as you might see at other schools. It was Ghandi who said “my life is my message”. When considering communication in a special school setting, how do we bring people together in an authentic way to invite and hear stories of profound challenges and resilience that hold a powerful message.

As we introduce to our school, an approach to education that was formed in a small town in Italy, we introduce the principles of another culture. The assumption is made that learning is learning, wherever we are, the principles acknowledge the child as a protagonist, a communicator, a collaborator and that the principles are universal. Adoption of these principles, with all the best intention to integrate, has potential to be diluted. When considering communication in our setting, we consider how we keep the integrity of the principles.

Battiste and Henderson (2009) claim “the task for Indigenous scholars and educators has been to affirm and activate holistic paradigms of Indigenous knowledge to reveal the wealth and richness of Indigenous languages, world views, teachings and experiences"

Educating is “to lead out”, to “train or to mold”, we provide the right environment to draw out the wisdom of the learner, while guiding learners to greater awareness of who they are in this place. When considering communication in our school setting, how do we re-create the family catch-ups, the village gatherings, and the brilliant debate to reveal the wealth and richness that our school environment has to offer?

Cultural responsiveness and indigenous knowledge are key factors in finding a better understanding of how communication can better cater for our school community. It is an invitation for learning about each other. Cultural responsiveness meets the storyteller and creates a safe space for people to tell their story. Just as the family stories shared give us our identity, indigenous knowledge is what the stories do TO us.


Core Education (2014). Creating the ‘talanoa’ conversation is all it takes… http://blog.coreed.org/blog/2014/12/creating-the-talanoa-conversation-is-all-it-takes.html

Mauri - Rethinking human wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.rangahau.co.nz/assets/Pohatu/Pohatu%20T%20Mauri.pdf

Battiste, M. (2013). Indigenous knowledge and indigenous peoples’ education. Canadian Journal of Native Education. doi:10.18356/aa0ced95-en

Urrieta, L. (2016). Native and Indigenous Education in the Americas: Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Equity, and Economies. Education, Equity, Economy Education, Equity, Economy: Crafting a New Intersection, 161-174. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-21644-7_8

Naturalizing indigenous knowledge in eurocentric education. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 32(1), 5-18,129-130. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/755262421?accountid=196279

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