Sunday, 18 March 2018

I See You! - Indigenous Knowledge & Cultural Responsiveness. Mindlab Activity 7

Reflection in the areas of vision, mission, and core values, and school-wide activities (Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M., 2001).
Figure 1. Hongi  (Dolphin Travel, 2018)
During her ULearn17 talk, Milne regularly used the term Hegemony. Cultural hegemonic thinking is a Marxist philosophy, the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society - the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores (manner and custom) - so that their imposed, ruling-class world-view becomes the accepted cultural norm (Wikipedia, 2018)

“We know that (mainstream) schooling has been one of the most powerful tools of colonisation, still complicit in the creation of the alienation we (Maori) are struggling with and a major roadblock in the pathway forward.” (Milne, 2017).
Figure 2. Mainstream (Milne, 2017)


I was born in Hungary, which underwent cultural eradication following WW2, by the Soviet Union. The monarchy was removed, privately owned property was expropriated and policies conformed with Communist principles.

Hungary experienced the worst inflation in financial history and people lived in fear, on the verge of starvation. Individual liberty ceased and arbitrary imprisonment became commonplace. All means of communication, from broadcasting to the classroom, were used for Marxist-Leninist indoctrination.

Hungarian people were aliens in their own land.

Figure 3. Me with sculpture of Vladimir Lenin. (Willemse, 1973)

I was 7 when my parents relocated to South Africa. Despite being bilingual in German and Hungarian, and having already completed a year of schooling, my lack of English was quickly identified as a deficit and I was enrolled at a grade lower than my peers. I felt invisible, misunderstood and quickly grew bored of school. You feel your culture being erased by the imposed standard and unknowingly, you become complicit in erasing your own culture as you strive to fit in.

When moving to New Zealand in 1998, we again experienced silent racism from the comfort zone of the endemic people and were surprised by the racial profiling toward non-Pakeha - whether indigenous or migrant. The human condition of rejecting the unfamiliar in order to preserve the familiar.

Viewing this slide (Milne, 2017) through my cultural lens, the similarity between occupation and colonisation is evident.
Figure 4. Naming White Spaces (Milne, 2017)

So What:

Teachers have a responsibility in nurturing people to be true to themselves.

Culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2001, p.106) “uses cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives as conduits for effective teaching”. My experiences have honed my EQ and cultural intelligence, as defined in 9 megaskills by Bucher (2008). This helps me to 'See' students of migrant cultures trying to establish or hide their identity and 'See' indigenous people strive to have their culture re-established and valued in their own land.

In Visual Art, the ultimate subject of self-expression, identity and culture play a vital role in developing personal points of view that drive authenticity and originality in creative work (see Action Continuum, Milne 2017).
Figure 5. Quote by artist Annette Messager (AZ Quotes, nd).

What next:

Bishop (2012) calls on agentic teachers to take action. So what is an agentic teacher?

Like the significant teachers that 'Saw' me, I aim to become someone with vision, who ‘sees’ the learner for who they are and values what they can contribute, with a mission to enrich experiences for my learning community. My explicit core values strive for connection and seek to collaborate, challenging deficit thinking. As a human resource, I own my personal learning by pursuing inquiries about ways to make a difference to students, colleagues and communities.
Figure 6. Mauri Ora (Maori Television, nd).
Bishop encourages a movement away from transmission models of teaching (Mauri Moe - the “sleep” state), and beyond child-centred education (Mauri Oho - state of being proactive). It is time to practice Whānaungatanga and build a relationship centred education that is culturally responsive and culturally sustaining (Mauri Ora - state of being actively engaged).

In fact, the Whānaungatanga competency is linked to the Teaching Standard for professional relationships (see below):
Figure 7. Whānaungatanga competency (Tātaiako, p4, 2011).

Figure 8. Professional relationships. (Our Code and Standards. p18, 2017)

My personal goals for improving school-wide activities, are summed up in this Maori proverb:
Figure 9. I am the river (Mader, 2012).
This speaks of our interconnectedness in this 21st-century digital era. A culturally sustaining practice can prepare students to be authentically contributing global citizens (Milne, 2017). So as I  present at staff PD based on my specialist pedagogical practices for developing student agency, our teachers can collectively use these principles to improve indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in their practice.


AZ Quotes (nd). Annette Messager Quote. Retrieved from

Dolphin Travel (2018). New Zealand Maori Culture. Hongi image retrieved from

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009).Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5),734–742.

Bucher, R. (2008). Building cultural intelligence (CQ): Nine Megaskills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Education Council. (2017). Our Code Our Standards.Retrieved from:

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2),106-116.

Mader, R., (2012). I am the river image. Retrieved from 

Maori Television, (n.d.) Mauri Ora - Healing Our Spirits Worldwide image. Retrieved from

Milne, A. (2017). Core Education: Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools. Retrieved from

Open Society Archives (1956). The Impact of Communism on Hungary. Retrieved from

Tātaiako (2011 ). Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Maori Learners. Ministry of Education. Retrieved from

Wikipedia (n.d.). Cultural Hegemony. Retrieved from

Willemse, T., (1973).  Me with sculpture of Vladimir Lenin (Photo).

With love,


Thank you for visiting,


  1. Kia ora Timea,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story in this thought provoking post. I was particularly impacted by your comparison of occupation and colonisation and agree with your statement, "while it may be an innate human condition to reject the unfamiliar in order to preserve the familiar, it contradicts our role in growing people who are true to themselves, whatever their familial culture." I can see how your experiences have developed in you an empathy for your students and the drive to see change. Your story helped me look at mine. I am Maori but was raised in a pakeha environment. My father who is Maori was estranged from his family and we had no connection to our Maori culture at all. As a child growing up I felt that I didn't quite fit in but I was never sure why. As an adult now I mourn the loss of of the rich culture I could have grown in but my experience has also helped me develop empathy for my students and a desire to ensure I 'see' my students.

    1. Thank you Donna, for your response. Yes I believe we are our stories. By embracing the forces that formed us, particularly the ones we had no control over, we can perhaps see our intended roles more clearly. For many years I searched for cultural identity and probably relate most closely to our New Zealand born Chinese who culturally identify with NZ but still experience physical prejudice because they don't look European. This cultural dichotomy has been a foundation for some truly thought provoking art installations in recent years. As a European looking person, I too experience prejudice as a 'colonist' and a 'racist' despite these concepts being the furtherest from the truth. This drives my passion all the more to open perspectives and develop cultural tolerance in my students who often will mimic what they hear from their parents, without truly understanding what they are saying. A complex subject but powerful for examining our practice.

  2. Hi Timea,
    This is a radical journey. I am very challenged by hearing your story. Your history and story has made me think about the students I have in my classroom. It's a good reminder for me, to ask about my students stories and understand them. Also to learn from them and make changes to my practice! I have many cultures in my class and many are bilingual. I have been wondering how do I utilise this in the class.
    Very inspirational, thanks again for sharing :)

    1. Hi Matt, thank you for your feedback :) Perhaps this is where modelling your whakapapa at the start of the year to your students and then challenging them to share their own (at a level that they are comfortable with) can lead to more vulnerability which leads to connection and relationship - Mauri Ora. I have adapted the design thinking process to suit my programme and the second step after establishing the issue, audience and criteria, is Connection - how do I personally relate to this issue? Using this regularly through the thematic units of inquiry can unwrap people's layers quite effectively. All the best :)

  3. Kia ora Timea
    What a lovely reflection. Your words prompt me to reflect on who is in my lecture room, and what is behind them and what has come in with them to their learning. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Nga mihi from Kate

  4. Thank you once again Timea, for an insightful and honest post. You sure have a way with words. Your thoughts also helped me reflect and reminded me about my own vulnerabilities. I have experienced ostracism. Unfortunately it wasn't directed at me but at my 8 year old son. After we moved to Northland from Christchurch, my children attended a predominantly Maori school where I worked as a teachers aide. My son was completely excluded by all other students and invisible to teachers, too. He was the new 'white boy' and he didn't fit in. He was assaulted several times and he was miserable, scared, lonely and sad. It broke my heart. My daughter, on the other hand did all she could not to attract any attention. She would walk along the walls, hardly talk to anyone and avoided any kind of potential conflict. We did not stay there very long and the next school my kids attended was more balanced and inclusive. What I am trying to say is that prejudice is never right and that probably at one time or another we all experience its negative effect. Luckily there are many people like you and others who commented on your post who understand that being different is ok and might actually be an asset, afford a different point of view with the ability to expand everyone's horizon.

    1. Hi Micaela, thank you for your honest feedback. While an awful experience for your children at the time, perhaps with hindsight and considered discussions, it can be turned into a positive learning experience that will support your son and daughter to become more empathetic and caring individuals as they grow up. As a parent of two beautiful daughters, I would welcome challenge into their lives because it was the dealing with those challenges as a family that would build their character and develop their problem solving skills as they prepared for adulthood. It makes for powerful conversations around the dinner table too :) Just as this week's assignment has done for us :):) Part of my cultural identity is to get problems out into the open and discuss them so as to get input from a range of perspectives whereas my husband's English background finds him doing the opposite. And yet when he opens up, he can offer some sage advice to the girls. Its good to step out of our comfort zones from time to time as it helps us to develop further.