Whanaungatanga at Wā Ora

By Krista Kerr – Pōhutukawa teacher

As we start a new year we see each sector and individual classroom of ākonga build their new hapori (community). We all said haere rā to our oldest students at the end of last year, and last week all sectors had their mihi whakatau to welcome a new group of ākonga which was a lovely way to start whakawhanaungatanga, building up relationships and a sense of belonging.

This involves a lot of change for the group of ākonga moving into a new classroom: they are in a new environment, with a new group of peers and teachers, new materials to explore, as well as new routines and expectations to learn. On top of that, this group also has to make the adjustment of being the oldest in their previous ākomanga, to now being the youngest.

The students remaining in their class also have to change and adapt, including moving up to being ngā tuakana (the older, more experienced ākonga) who role model for others and help demonstrate the culture of their class.

To help this new hāpori form, to start the process of whakawhanaungatanga, many things happen; small and large groups are held, introductions, the telling of great stories, and the sharing of kai are some examples. It is lovely to see how these tamariki step up to fill the shoes of the older peers who have moved on, ready to help their new hoa coming in. In preschool we see our 4- and 5-year-olds welcoming in new 3-year-olds, giving them lessons and āwhina (help) when the need arises and helping them to feel a sense of belonging to their new class as they settle in.

The Māori dictionary defines whanaungatanga as “relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging.” (https://maoridictionary.co.nz/word/10068)

It is not only our tamariki/ākonga that are part of the Wā Ora hapori – you as parents and whānau are too. Just as our tamariki have their roles to play in building whanaungatanga, so too do you. Some of you are parents brand new to our kura and some of you have been part of the Wā Ora whānau for many years. Some have tamariki staying in the same sector this year while others may be new to a sector as your tamaiti moves up to primary, or to high school. As a hapori you have many experiences as parents and whānau, and it is always lovely to see these being shared to welcome others. Please make the time to come to events such as parent meet ups, information evenings, twilight picnics, the Matariki concert and evening feast; all of which allows time and opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga, building relationships and the sense of connection. Ask questions, share your experiences, chat, reassure, and laugh – that is what your tamariki enjoy doing every day in their whānau kura.