Te Whāriki has been out for a while now, and the revised version since May 2017. So it’s time that we take a look back on the initial conversation at the launch and re-familiarise ourselves with the intent of the update.
Initially, there were lots of conversations about what was left out and what the point of updating was. It was updated to reflect new ways. It was 20 years old, times had changed, and yes, there were lots of awesome parts of the 1996 version of Te Whāriki. I too wondered about the point of modifying something that was pretty awesome. So awesome in fact that other countries were using it as a template to create their own (Australia and Canada at least). As well as that, there are now a wide range of resources available online to support teachers.
In this two-part blog, I share a summary of my notes from attending one of the launch events hosted by Nancy Bell, the key points will be covered, as well as a few of my own thoughts on the matter. In the second part, we will take a deep-dive into the five practices the Ministry wants to develop further through the revamp of Te Whāriki.
First and foremost, Ms. Bell spoke with passion about the new edition of Te Whāriki. She encouraged us to embrace the changes, and celebrate them. Local curriculum is a main focus of the new Te Whāriki, and Nancy urged teachers to ask ‘what is important for this community?’ and ‘what matters here?’ This provides early childhood services a clear directive to be visible, present, and curious about their community. What is the community interested in? Is it clearing streams of rubbish and weed, is it local businesses? In what way can you contribute? How can your early childhood environment make stronger connections with the local school? How can you bring what the community is doing back into your teaching space?
Remember teaching isn’t always child-led. As teachers working in that space, you have ideas, and as such should be able to share them with children. Bring yourself into the space, make your passions visible. Children might ask questions about our environment, and the impact humans are having on it. They might not. It is still an important topic, so should be one that teachers can raise and address with children in a child-friendly manner. The same goes for things like choosing Fairtrade products and telling children about those choices, and what they mean for growers. Drop a seed of information or an idea, and see if it gets picked up by the children.
Ms. Bell shared that historically there was a lack of intentionality in teaching, and the revision was intended to shake things up a bit for the early childhood sector. Although this initially feels confronting, I know that intentional teaching is much harder than “just teaching”, or “just being at work”. Intentional teaching requires me to really think about what I am doing, often slowing my teaching down so that I am less reactive and ponder more. I ask more questions to gain a better understanding of what the child’s intent is. I spend longer working with groups of children, and it feels like a quality interaction, free from distractions. I ignore the urge to be distracted by what is going on around me and practice the art of being present.
According to Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority, “Intentional teaching involves educators being thoughtful, purposeful and deliberate in their decisions and actions. Intentional teaching is an active process and a way of relating to the children that embraces and builds on their strengths. When early years educators, and teachers, use intentional teaching practices, they take an active role in children’s learning. Teachers invite children to share their interests and ideas, identify opportunities to help children to become involved in play, and build on interests and ideas that they observe that day. Teachers recognise that children’s learning occurs in social contexts and make deliberate, well -planned decisions to support learning through children’s social interactions with a range of partners”. You can read and see more here.
The plan with the 2017 edition is for services to engage with learning outcomes better. Nancy wants to see more of this as evidence right now shows this isn’t happening. The update has meant that I have taken time to read this edition. I was driven by Nancy’s statement ‘If you don’t engage in the new document it is a disservice, not only to the document but to you and the people you teach’. I was not keen to be a disservice to anyone!
One positive revision was, in my opinion, removing Part B. Instead, the book is ‘flipped’ to ensure equal status of both ‘pathways’, rather than a small section marked Part B. This is more intentional, and equal. Think of it as “two friends journeying together” said Nancy.
I loved that the strands and principles have remained the same. I didn’t recognise my attachment to them until the idea that they might be rewritten was presented. Nancy urges teachers to think about the principles and to consider what this might look like in everyday life. For example, ‘Relationships’ historically have mainly focused on relationships with people, but relationships are also about places and things, e.g. planting trees is about a relationship with the earth and future generations. If you want to be really inspired about relationships with Papatuanuku/mother earth, Jenny Ritchie has written extensively on this topic read more here.
A statement that Nancy shared from Helen May ‘the poorest practices exits in our infant sections of ece’ really concerned me. We have extensive brain knowledge, and Nathan Wallis and Dr Bruce Perry have both supported Brainwave Trust to help spread this message. Nathan talks about the dyadic conversations that are needed WITH infants. Dyadic conversations are one person looking into a babies eyes and talking to them. It is the key to growing their brain, teaches babies about relationships, and wires up their brains to be successful. If you would like to develop your knowledge about infant and toddler care and education, you can click here.
Currently, assessment is more about the style (lovely borders and cute pictures) rather than the substance. Teachers need to move past that and to ask themselves, ‘why is this story valuable?’ Rather than catching a ‘cute moment’, find the moments in the day where learning was evident. Did the child persevere with learning to get on and off the swing independently, did the child share an item, thus demonstrating compassion and understanding of another child’s point of view? These are the moments that need to be recorded. Naturally, I would endorse you recording these moments on Storypark.
In part two we are going to take a deep-dive into the five areas that Nancy discussed, that the Ministry wants to develop further through the revamp of Te Whāriki. A rich curriculum for every child, a focus on learning that matters here, affirming of identity, language, and culture, parents, and whānau engaged in their children’s learning, and personalised pathways to school and kura. See you there!