Today I sat in on a presentation at the University of Waikato in an education course. The presentation was about culturally responsive schools, teachers and teaching.
Shirley Maihi, principal of Finlayson Park School, told us about her school which is just outside of Auckland, New Zealand.
Here is a small look into this remarkable school. There are:
- 900+ students
- 42 classrooms
- Decile of 1
- 23 different cultures and languages
- 92 staff
- Modules for parents
Finlayson Park School believes that language diversity is the schools responsibility. This school offers a program where parents and kids are respected, where they are socially responsible and responsive to families and social conditions. Students in this school are in 5 different units where they are with those of the same first native language that they speak. This school is committed to bilingualism where they maintain the first language of the students which helps strengthen the pathway to learning a second language. Classes here are smaller, with more teacher support and teachers who speak the native first languages who work with the students.
This is a school where:
- Teachers are culturally sensitive
- Teachers teach to meet the needs of their students
- Teachers are inquires, as well are students
- Teachers support bilingualism
- Teachers take professional development in bilingual education
- Teachers are inclusive
- Students host a radio show proving information for the community
- All students and teachers of all languages come together and are “1 school”
- There is a breakfast program and lunch program for those in need
- There is no waste products in the school – they recycle, compost, have class gardens
- Students of different languages and different classes buddy together to read, sing and learn from each other
- All students play together on the playground
- Parents and community members come together to support and take care of the school
- Where parents, even those who cannot speak or read, feel welcomed in the school environment
- Parents want the best for their children
This school has high standards for all of their children and even though they may not be at the national standard levels throughout their education, they reach those national standards by the time they transition to another school because it takes 6 years of good teaching and learning to reach those national middle class standards.
The presentation Shirley gave was beautiful and it educated me of the great work that one school here in New Zealand is doing to support students learning in a culturally responsive way.