Monday, 27 February 2017

NCEA what's the big deal PART 2

Image result for exams Growing up, I thought that teachers must be so smart and I was in awe of their knowledge because I felt that I knew so little. Boy, was I in for a great big shock when I started teaching and I realised that not everyone should be teaching and knowledge was usually accumulated over years.

Some of the teachers' attitudes stunk too. So when I listen to my children's teachers I'm checking out their attitudes, and will put in my 2 cents worth, if I think it's important and I'll also correct or challenge them if it's necessary because sometimes it isn't. So as you can see I'm very critical about what I hear them say as well as listening to what my children think of their teaching styles.

In fact, I remember being told that "these children won't do well in English" when I taught senior English at a South Auckland high school and when most of the class passed and some got excellent grades some teachers were gobsmacked and wouldn't talk to me for days.

So what's the big deal? what was the secret to success? I believe the teacher makes the biggest difference regarding content and attitude and for me, I think the difference was that I cared enough to give them the skills that I had picked up as a successful Uni student and over the years, I've learnt that pretty much the skills are transferable given the amount of exams I've studied for.

I firstly handpicked texts with themes that I thought they would relate to i.e. classics like "To kill a mockingbird", "Cry, the beloved country" and Pacific poetry and would discuss in depth the themes with examples and then go over exam questions and explain how to write to the excellent grades.

This is where, I believe, a lot of our Pasifika and second langugage/cultural students may fail to understand is the in-depth writing and examples that are required to get those "excellence" grades. I used to say that it was a "palagi/pakeha/European" way of thinking. It is very focused writing.

Memorization plays a big part in exam writing so knowing the information thoroughly for each topic is important and being able to relate information to the question is crucial. So that's why the last minute cramming doesn't work so well for the day before exams. You need time to let the information sink in and make sense.

Another "biggy" is being able to answer the question. It's so important that the question is answered thoroughly with examples from a text etc. and that you write in such a way that you show the examiner that you have a deep understanding of all of the parts of a question.

I've shown students many times on how to break a question down to it's vital parts and then make sure that you answer accordingly. I've seen so many students write a general answer having just retold the story (as I did when I first started) until I learnt that every question is focused and requires a focused answer.

I even go into knowing the structure of the exam paper and I figure out the timing of each section. I tell students how many minutes they should use on each and to write out a quick plan (like a mind map) that breaks down the question with examples to answer each part and then tick off as you go.

I explain that it's important not to get stuck on any particular question but to keep moving through the question paper then come back making sure that you leave plenty of room for answering questions. I've gone through many 3 hour exams where I've dismantled the answer paper ensuring that there is enough room for each question and work on parts, backwards and forwards and I've written all over the question paper with my own notes.

These are just a few hints to knowing how to master the exam paper but also the frame of mind that is needed to be able to stay on top of things but managing your time (first blog on this topic) and handing assessments in on time that have been well considered...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Tips on NCEA exams for parents...

Image result for ncea What's the big deal about NCEA National Certificate of Educational Achievement? (level 1) it's the equivalent of the old "School C" back in the day except it's been revamped and can include end of year exams (external assessments) and in class assessments (termed internal assessments.)

Usually students begin to study for it in their Year 11 but students can also pick up "credits" for their Level 1 in Year 10. Usually students are encouraged to take 5 subjects in total to make up enough credits i.e. a total of 80 credits at Year 11 including 10 literacy and 10 numeracy credits.

Internal and External exams can be given 1 of 4 grades i.e. Yet to achieve (did not achieve); Achieved; Achieved with Merit; and achieved with excellence. If a student is able to get 50 or more excellence credits then they achieve an excellence over all endorsement.

There are more particulars about NCEA but it is best to talk about those details with your child's teacher for specific and up to date information. I'm particulary interested in this topic because our eldest child is studying towards her first NCEA qualification this year and I am keeping a watchful eye as an ex-high school English teacher.

One of the golden rules of achieving in any assessments/exams (as I have in being a professional student all these years) is the ability to keep up to date with all the assessments and being able to organize time and resources so that there is not a mad panic at the end of a day.

I've learnt over the years to set up my diary, calender whatever works for you at the beginning of the school year and then as I began to attend each class, I'd try and get information to get an oversight of the whole year and try and find out the dates of all upcoming assessments and would write/record them somewhere for me to be well aware of.

My notes were also kept in chronological order and I preferred to use (particularly in Uni) books with pages that you can tear out that had already been hole punched so that I could arrange the notes in topic order or anyway that made it easier for me to learn the information.

In those first years, it was important to not have so many things going on at the same time i.e. I gave club sports for a time (unless you're wanting to major in sports rec etc.) and I minimised my involvement in any extra-curricular activities including church commitments. I did, however, did attend church and Bible class (Sunday school) which took care of the spiritual side of me.

I also had a quiet desk space that I was able to write quietly and my parents were very careful about not involving us in activities that took up a lot of time so as parents I'm the filter of a lot of activities and will be checking this throughout the year with our one.

As well as school notes, it's also important that students get time to go to the library regularly to obtain more information about projects, assessments that they might have or to be able to extend on the class information. I found this particularly interesting growing up.

Another hint is that I have bought year course Revision outlines that are like a summary of what some of the topics that will be studied within subjects. In fact, when I was teaching English, I regularly referred to those notes in each of my year level teaching and would add to it with supplementary resources and that was the secret to some of my students gaining Excellent marks.

Getting enough sleep is another good tip and having exercise to regularly do assisted greatly during my Uni days. I've also encouraged students to have "study buddies" whereby students can study together or can share notes if one is away but this does need to be carefully monitored as it can be a distraction too.

So all the best to those out there who are in first year of NCEA or parent/caregiver as it can be a year of great successes if carefully managed...

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Samoana by Lole Usoalii - my possible thesis topic...

The song is one of the first Samoan songs that I learn to play on the piano as a teenager and I loved the chords and sound of it. I also have since sung it at many occasions where my family is together and as we reflect on being Samoan within Aotearoa, New Zealand.

It's been an interesting journey in my studies so far. Firstly, I started looking at Pasifika educational alternatives in Mangere that were trying to bridge the gap for success for Pasifika students but as I then won the job as a lecturer/tutor for Indigenous Research and my focus changed.

I realised, DING!, that that question wasn't for me to answer and that it was a Ministry of Education question that they needed to check out for themselves i.e. in being a colonising force that has disabled Maori and Pasifika and particularly Samoan students from succeeding in NZ education as a group and indeed being called the "brown tail" end of not achieving. Not so simple but that's it in a nutshell.

So in I went to talk with my supervisors about my new topic. I'm sure they weren't amused as I talked about my interest in studying educational concepts of the faaSamoa i.e. values, concepts, ideas and gave a long winded speech about all my interests in this area.

It turns out that it still seemed a bit "woolly" and needed more defining which got me upset and angry as I reflected on a big blow up that I with my eldest about the differences in our paradigm of parenting i.e. free style vs faaSamoa stylez. DING!

Then I had another epiphany (the first one was about me not answering a Ministry of Education question - my former employee) and the second was about investigating the tension between faaSamoa values, ideologies etc. and NZ education ideologies, philosophies etc.

Well of course if you were brought up as a young woman in faaSamoa styled parenting as I was with my parents in Mangere, away from the mother land, then there were certain expectations that were expected of you like behaving in a certain manner, dressing in a certain manner, talking in a certain manner and conducting yourself in a certain way - the way or manner being that of within faaSamoa paradigms.

Of course, as in any generation, we rebelled and wanted to do things in our own manner but what I also was very much aware of was that the media, education, global diaspora generations were expected to take on the values of the society from which they were now a part of which is/was very different for immigrant parents who often held strong to their values, culture etc. in contrast the first generation born in a host society would often leave behind their parents cultural values and much of those messages were often transmitted through education paradigms.

So here I am now considering the first part of my question and problem which is: what is significant about the faaSamoa? and why is it important to preserve it? what answers does it hold for our future generations? i.e. why bother? and as I begin to research through some of the writings and ideas, it seems clear to me that many believe that these customs and rituals were divinely given to Samoa, almost a sacred covenant to continue to uphold. Sorry, no referencing - I'll leave that to the thesis.

And I reflect upon my parents and the many parents, grandparents like my grandmother and many of those who have since passed on but wanted to leave their warm island homes to give their children a better future and other opportunities that they believed couldn't be found in island homes but little did they know about what was awaiting them in the host societies and what that would mean for future generations...

Friday, 24 February 2017

Climbing Mangere Mt at night...

Image result for mangere mountain Last night my beloved took our family on a family walk up the Mangere mountain in the evening after 8pm when it was just turning dark. I walked around the perimeter of one side of the mountain whilst my family walked straight up the mountain.

It reminded me of a poem that I wrote a few years ago and published it last year in my first collection of poetry called "Pacific Hibiscus" which is also the name of the small publishing company I started in 2015. The poem is titled:

Mangere my mountain

It was a beautifully sunny day when we first met
I was young, oh so very young
dressed in crisp white pants, new sandals, a light top.
I often see you out my window
driving past nearly every day and now on a family trip.
     I watch you.

We walk down into the dormant volcanoes' deep pit
not so bad, with lava rocks spewn in all directions
"Let's climb this mountain,"
says my adventurous Papa.
     I smile upon you.
"Up we go," he says.
I look up, daunted.
Oh - my - goodness
Oh so tall, so very tall.
     I tease you.

We make our ascent
Papa leads the way
my elder sister and younger brother following
Mama tailing me encouragingly
I'm so scared, so very scared.
     Hold on to me.

I cling to you, scared to fall
"Don't look down," my Mama says.
My clothes not so bright anymore
just one foot in front of the other.
     You've left your touch upon me.

We're almost at the top
Papa, brother, sister relax awaiting our belated arrival
"Will you want to come back on a school trip?"
Mama asks encouragingly.
"No, never again." I vow.
     You left without saying 'goodbye'.

But I do return,
on my last senior year Geography fieldtrip.
We meet again, I busily chatting with schoolmates.
I laugh at the 'solidified dinosaur faeces' scattered
randomly in your crater.
"Solidified lava rock, better known as scoria,"
my geography teacher corrects.
     Do you remember me?

We walk around the rim,
Disinterested cows observe the twittering teenagers
as our teacher tour guide explains
how it once was a fortified Maori Pa
sunken earth of kumara pits
evidenced by sheeped terraces no longer fenced
I survey the panorama of Onehunga to the north with
Puketutu Island at my shoulder
How long have  you lain? I earn respect for you
     You now learn of me.

University days burdened with study,
As our bus daily bundles past
We smell the stench of the rotting sewage ponds
and hold our noses in disgust.
I ignore your beauty.
     Have you forgotten me?

Years later, to return with my husband
and our little girls
"Let's climb this baby,"
my adventurous husband challenges us.
Leading us carefully over small hills
With little girls laughing.
     I smile knowingly.

     *     *     *

Ko Mangere te maunga
Ko Moana nui a kiwa te moana
Ko Hamoa te whenua
Ko Hamoa te iwi

How can I forget?
You are my mountain.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

2nd year doctoral studies at AUT University...

Image result for aut north shore campus It's back to the grindstone again going into my second year of Doctoral studies in Education with AUT North Shore campus. This year we've been encouraged to look at 4 hours per day (20 hour week) study programme whereby we read, think, write in any order but that it is done.

The first year was mainly looking at my topic and considering what that might look like and writing the Introductory chapter as well as the Literature Review but in starting my new job in teaching a Certificate in Indigenous Research paper, I realised that I was going about it the wrong way and that I really wanted to be looking at a topic that was a lot closer to home.

Some of the things that I had been speaking to my students about were the along the lines of: do the research that is meaningful to you and that only you can; be flexible - let the research lead the journey to leave a legacy; what is something that is precious and valuable to you that you want to look closely into depth about? and now I can answer those questions for myself.

So now in taking my own advice, I've decided to make a 180 degree turn about to now looking at the topic broad topic of the faaSamoa and what educational ideas/values to pass on to the next generation. The research question itself isn't tightly bound yet but I feel a sense of exhilaration in finding something that I passionately want to write about.

It has to do with some of the ancient knowledge in the faaSamoa that was passed down to me from my parents but isn't being passed onto the next generations due to the language not being passed on, the domination of the English language and paradigms that do not value Samoan values in this current age and yet the books that I'm writing are very much about a time and space that is almost lost in time, hence the reason for this doctoral study.

So for the next 3 days, I'm in an intensive study cohort where we talk about where each person is at as a professional doctoral studies community and are able to share, debate, discuss, consider, question, support etc. each other in the group. With mainly Pakeha, Europeans in the group but also Maori, Pasifika and a couple of other cultures represented.

It's definitely not for the faint hearted and with a couple more years to look forward to completion there's a lot of work to do. Let the games begin...

Saturday, 18 February 2017

NZ: Kiwi Consciousness Contemporary Artists from NZ...

 Today, I went to the mailbox not expecting anything but bills and flyers, however, I was in for a pleasant surprise as there was a thick parcel addressed to me. I couldn't recall buying anything of late via internet so thought to open and find out what it might be.

The surprise came in the form of a thick hard covered 500 page book called "New Zealand: Kiwi Consciousness Contemporary Artists from New Zealand (2016) by Imago Mundi, Luciano Benetton Collection now catalogued in

This was the culmination of Rosa Maria Falvo, independent writer and curator whom I met over the internet via emails when she asked if I could like to be a part of the project. That was last year and to see my painting on page 385 as a part of the collection is a real honour.

The book is a part of a series of world exhibitions that Luciano Benetton Foundation has collected over the years and can be found on the above website. What is amazing about it is that emerging artists, like myself, can exhibit alongside established NZ artists i.e. those who have had exhibitions around the world or nationally and each artist has one 12 x 10 cm board exhibited all in one book.

The book itself showcases the paintings of some 210 NZ artists from different cultures, backgrounds and disciplines etc. Written in English and Italian, it's a quality book which I'm very proud to be a part of as I am one of the Pasifika artists representing Pasifika art in NZ.

In one of my last year's blogs I discussed about the painting that I had sent out to be considered called "Pacific Hibiscus in God NZone" and it was accepted to be a part of the NZ collection that was exhibited in Italy and launched near the end of last year.

It's now spurred me to continue pursuing my painting dream that I thought I wouldn't be able to do but now am incorporating it into my books and with exhibitions to be planned for the future. Such a blessing...

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Indigenous Researchers big day out!

Exhibition regarding places of "convicition" (spiritual in Mangere)

Iconic photos depicting protests throughout NZ in the last 100 years
Yesterday, my Indigenous Research class headed for a big day out on a fieldtrip to 4 different sites to view and observe as indigenous researchers.

The first site we viewed were the 2 exhibitions currently on show at the Mangere Arts centre. The first exhibition we viewed was called "Signs of Protest" and it featured many photographs that had been taken by leading NZ photographers over the past 100 years at significant protest events around New Zealand.

It also featured the iconic photo of Dame Whina Cooper and her moko (grandchild) as she lead the land march of the 1970s. There was much to see and a couple of students felt overwhelmed in bringing back memories of where they had been when some of the photographed events had taken place.

I was also able to view a photo of the "Polynesian Panthers" with Tama Iti (well known Maori activist) when he was young in the 1970s and Muruoa Atoll that I had been aware of as a Green Peace supporter back then.

Some of the photographs reminded me of the times, as a young student at Auckland Uni, I had also attended several protest marches i.e. a couple of anti-nuclear protests where we walked down to the US Embassy and lay down on the road outside (they cordoned off the traffic) and we had other students draw around us with chalk so that when we got up it looked like a lot of people had died there.

I also attended anti-nuclear frigates protests coming into the Auckland harbour in the 1980s before NZ took it's stance on being nuclear free and other protests arranged by various student groups at the University back then.

The second exhibition was one that religious icons in Mangere called "Conviction" (spiritual rather than physical) with pics taken of some of the religious churches around Mangere. It was interesting in identifying the Tongan Methodist church, the Evangelical "Life" South church that we current attend, the big new Mormon Chapel, a Hindu shrine etc. There was also the comment that in Mangere there is a church on almost every corner and particularly around the Town Shopping centre where there are several churches within a 2 km radius.

We then went to view "Crater Hill" (discussed in an earlier blog) from our van as we didn't have permission from the owners to view but were still able to see the quarrying that was taking place on one side of the hill and the lake area that looked relatively untouched.

It also brought up the question as to whether it had once been Maori land but with the land confiscation Act of the 1860s, Europeans may have acquired it and has been passed down to this present generation who are now ready to have parts of it developed.

In a current news article, it stated that an application was being made to change it's current zoning from light industry to residential. If the application is granted then someone/entity will be making a lot of $ in housing development due to the housing shortage/crisis that is currently plaguing Auckland. However, it doesn't take into account that there may be evidence of early Maori settlement in the area.

After that, we left on route to go to the Auckland Museum to view the Research library as well as the other exhibitions but in remembering that the "Portage Crossing" event was happening on the same day at Mangere Bridge, I discussed it with the students and decided to go to the event to "have a look" and see what it entailed as I had heard about it over the years but had never attended it.

When we arrived at the venue, the "Drums of the Pacific" Cook Island dance group were in full swing and the dancers were entertaining the audience with their drum dances in which one of our group were invited to dance in their "around the world" dances which is always fun to watch.

We continued to wait as we had heard that there would be waka (canoes arriving shortly after lunch) and so we decided to have our lunch there and listened to some of the local entertainment before the waka appeared and we were able to view eight 6 or 12 man canoes paddling across the sea as well as canoes for the single paddler. There was also a women's team a Cook Island team and other teams paddling in support of the event.

The significance of the event was in commemoration of the early Tainui waka (pre-European) that had paddled down the East coast of NZ and then "crossed" over at what is now known as Portage Road to get to the West side of the coast NZ and the smallest stretch of land between the two.

It definitely brought back memories of when I used to paddle and perhaps to consider for a future date.

First waka (outrigger canoe) to arrive at Mangere Bridge

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The indigenous researcher an uncommon breed...

Neon Text Generator This weekend I am teaching in my Indigenous Research class and I realise how far I've come from my early days of being in my 20's and having completed my Masters course at Auckland University, I wanted to become a researcher so that I could discover/uncover important information that needed to be known.

I now know that there is certainly a big difference between being a "Western" researcher being schooled in Western research methodologies as opposed to the indigenous researcher who is, what I have written in the graphic, as "an uncommon breed".

If you wanted to know more information then you might have to join my classes and discover what my students have learnt and it's created a big mind shift for me in terms of the way that I now view and consider research.

It has been an amazing privilege to have been able to teach this class and even moreso to have learnt some important principles about indigenous research and in being an indigenous researcher. It's sad to think that the information that I now know needs to be shared alongside practicing mainstream teaching although it most probably won't see light the day as there are so many pressing curriculum units that needs to be taught first in most classrooms yet it could change the face of teaching should the practices be upheld in today's classes.

In reflecting on the research journeys that the students in my class have taken, I feel very privileged as they shared important parts of their lives with me, through their stories, their dreams, their fears and their visions for the future.

It has also made me reflect on my first major research project that took me back to Samoa in my first Masters fieldwork study that has now taken me to write books about the treasures that I learnt back then about indigenous knowledge that was slowly being forgotten as the older generations passed on.

I now know that the indigenous researcher is much needed in classrooms all over in advocating for our younger generations to learn and pass on important indigenous knowledge. They are "uncommon" but are the chosen ones...

Monday, 6 February 2017

New movie "Ballerina" review...

As part of our Waitangi Day celebrations I also took our younger ones to watch the new movie "Ballerina" and what particularly caught my attention was the name of the main character who is known as Felicie which is pronounced the same as my husband's family Samoan name spelt Filisi.

In fact, as a part of my beloved's research project, (he's also studying the Indigenous Research paper) he too is researching his family name and it is interesting to note that the name of the character is latin of origin but also used in French, German and means happy, fortunate or lucky.

When our elder children were younger I took them to ballet lessons and they enjoyed it but when I changed my job situation it made it difficult to continue and they continued on with their sports and music lessons. Now it's our youngest's turn and she too wants to go to lessons much as I did when I was young.

But apart from European dance it's also about exposing our children to Pacific dances, music and sports as each culture has their particular preferences and I liked how the movie expressed the idea that dance comes from the heart more so than something that one learns from lessons. It's much the same as art, writing, music, dance etc. the arts are more than what the eye sees.

So if you have little ones who would like to dance this is a pretty good movie which I think is a Canadian production with a neat story about where passion and discipline can get you in dance and that having a talent and heart for it can take you a long way...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Waitangi long weekend and learning Maori language...

Image result for happy waitangi day Loving this long Waitangi weekend with tomorrow's festivities all over the Aotearoa, New Zealand in commemoration of the signing of the founding document, at Waitangi, a document that defined the partnership between tangata whenua (indigenous people of the land) and manuhiri, (guests/foreigners) the European settlers at the time and other cultures.

It's sad that many people, including myself growing up in Auckland, were not taught much about New Zealand's history especially pertaining to Maori, the indigenous people and now in teaching about Indigenous Research, I have learnt so much with much more to learn about filling in the gaps of historical information that I was unaware of.

One of the things that was very evident in my growing up and being educated in Mangere was the racist attitudes that permeated society regarding things Maori and still do to this day. That is why with the current discussions of a political party wanting Maori language as a compulsory subject in New Zealand schools, there has been a lot of resistance from non Maori.

I must say that I too felt that learning Maori language was not relevant to me when I was given the option at University to take the perceived "easy" option of studying Maori in my undergraduate years as I had more interest in other subjects. I could speak Samoan and my career counsellors' thought it an easier option to take but I wasn't interested. Now, in having been in a Maori tertiary learning environment, I've learnt to appreciate things Maori, their histories and much more.

So I am definitely for learning Maori as a compulsory language in New Zealand for my little 5 year old not only because it is one of the 3 official languages of NZ (sign language is included) but also because when one learns a language, one also learns about the values and culture of a group. NZ has been far too racist in it's views and it's time to think outside of this colonialist and oppressive perspective.

I now see the beauty of being multilingual and an ideal for me would be to be proficient in not only English but also in Maori and Samoan (my cultural heritage) and at least one other international language like German (in the ancestry of my great, great grandfather), Spanish or French, Japanese etc. I've met many Europeans outside of NZ and many speak English as a second, third or even fourth or fifth language.

We've been far too small minded in our perspectives and policies and I'd even venture to say that the more we learn about other cultures and their languages, the more we learn about ourselves. I see so many of our youth seeing the futility of life and thinking that there is no reason to live and yet when we become more altruistic and learn more about other cultures and languages, we actually learn more about ourselves.

I've been blessed in first being a student, then on staff and now a teacher/lecturer/tutor at Te Wananga o Aotearoa because I am no longer ignorant and have a better understanding of Maori culture, its principles and the mis-management and lies that have been perpetuated around things Maori. Although they have a pantheon of gods, their many guiding principles are about creating safe spaces in relating to one another but we can't learn those principles if we are only learning the English languages and it's principles.

Happy Waitangi day for everyone tomorrow...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Kiwi guardians programme - earn medals...

Last year, I had heard about this programme called "Kiwi guardians" for children and their parents/caregivers and thought to add our youngest into going on discovery adventures beyond our backyard so now considering to take our's on a journey and earn badges along the way.

You can check out the website on: and there are so many places throughout New Zealand to visit and learn from. It's a partnership between Toyota and NZ Dept of Conservation. And at each of the places children are able to earn badges as well as to learn about the natural environment.

Reminds me of my Geography fieldtrip days and also when our children were younger and we'd take them camping to some of the camp sites around New Zealand or when we hired a camper van and drove down to Wellington and had a great time up North as well.

Definitely something we need to teach to our younger generations about preserving our natural environments, flora and fauna and also conserving what natural resources we have around us. I saw it in the way that I was brought up by my parents in not wanting to waste resources or over consume on things.

It was also about not being so materialistic and having so many things when there is so much in our natural environment that can be a blessing i.e. in watching the stars at night, the sunrises and sunsets, the beautiful trees and flowers that surround us in planting a garden or having indoor plants not to mention pets etc.

So why not give it a go and teach our children and grandchildren about the God given natural environment that surrounds us...