While most teachers are eagerly looking forward to the Christmas break, for James Fowell, the next school year is an exciting prospect.
“I can’t wait to get started and apply my new learning. I believe in its relevance and its value,” he says.
The learnings James wants to share with his whānau at Gisborne Boys’ High School are ones he gained during the year-long Kaitiakitanga – Postgraduate Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision programme he’s just completed with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Gisborne.
The course is unique in that it uses mātauranga Māori as the core of its supervision curriculum in a range of disciplines. It is aimed at professionals with at least five years’ experience working in areas such as social work, health, nursing, midwifery, counselling and education or in their community.
James says he was interested in learning more about kaitiakitanga in an educational context.
“I thought I knew what kaitiakitanga meant, but this has opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. Kaitiakitanga is an old approach, with renewed relevance and one that I am very interested in developing further.”
“More and more the line between being an educator and a counsellor with ākonga in our classes is becoming blurred. I have learnt more traditional ways, following tīkanga and kawa when working with whānau and to regularly check that I am being considerate with how I interact, especially if I am to offer koha into that space”.
James has been teaching for 20 years – the last eight at GBHS.
“School wasn’t always a positive experience for me growing up and I became a school teacher with the idea to change some aspects about school that I didn’t like.”
Those changes include understanding that everyone has a story and to “ignite a spark”, these stories need to be listened to and alternative methods to encourage engagement developed, not only with the student but their whānau as well.
“I realised pretty early in my career that it takes a lot of empathy to work with whānau that are struggling a little bit and it’s not always an easy space to step into for some,” he says.
“Those youngsters grow up and I want them to become positive contributors to society. I feel I am in a privileged position, Gisborne is my home and if I can make a small difference and somehow add value then I’ll do my very best”.
The Kaitiakitanga programme has added to James’ kete of skills and he is forever grateful to his Koka, Hine Moeke-Murray, for her unwavering patience and expert tutelage.
“Kaitiakitanga has been just great for me. I really enjoyed the in-depth look into myself and my whakapapa that it gave me. The programme is insightful and it just makes sense. The rangahau (research) gives validation and support to my approach to working with whānau and I have learnt so much. It’s given me a real purpose and new direction . I feel I am better informed in my practice and I’m excited to see what the future brings.”
He says the programme is a valuable resource that he’d like to see incorporated into teacher training.
“I would totally recommend this programme to anyone that is serious about going on a journey of self-discovery.”