He kākano i ruia mai i Rāngiatea.
The seed will not be lost.
This simple whakatauki encapsulates so much of what I believe should guide a modern secondary school.
Just like a seed that is nurtured and ‘fed’ will grow and transform into a vibrant plant or flower so a child needs nurturing and ‘feeding’ as they pass through their school years if they are to transition from a teenager to a fully formed young adult.
In this way the seed that needs protecting can be seen as every child that enters every secondary school. They have the potential to develop and flower but only if the environment protects them. For the child/seed to grow the environment must be a ‘safe’ one where it is OK to fail and fall, where it is OK to question, where it is OK to be oneself and feel valued for that. In this way the seed [child] will not be lost if it develops an awareness of who it is and feels comfortable and confident with itself.
The ‘feeding’ from a school’s perspective is the challenge that is presented through the learning experiences. The food is knowledge. If the environment is a safe learning environment, and I don’t just means physically safe, or safe from harassment but academically safe where it is fine to try and fail because you know that mastery will only come after experimentation and experimentation means accepting that you won’t get it right first time but with perseverance, you will eventually get it right. The more the challenge, the deeper the learning the more growth and the stronger the developing plant.
Part of this process is empowering learners to take control of their own safety. This means making them aware of how to keep themselves safe in a technological world. How to be strong in the face of inappropriate peer pressure. How to make the right choices in a world that presents so many opportunities to stray. As adults we can not eliminate these negative aspects but we can help our children to develop the skills to make the right choices and therefore take some control over making their world safe.
If the seed is the child it can also be seen as a number of other aspects of school life.
The seed can also be knowledge. The role of a school is to protect, value and nurture knowledge. By providing relevant, authentic and challenging programmes of learning the joy of learning as a life long skill can be developed and enhanced.
The seed can be seen as the vision of the school that has the aim of empowering and transforming all of our learners so that they can develop self, a sense of community and an ability to transform their futures. Protecting and honouring this vision is important or this seed can be lost.
The seed can also be seen as the love that every child needs from its whanau /family if it is to thrive. Never underestimate how important the concept of unconditional love is to a teenager as they traverse the tricky years towards adulthood. They may appear selfish, rude, self obsessed and surly and in many case that is what they are but what they all need is the knowledge that they have the unconditional love of home to pick them up and forgive them when they make a mistake, the knowledge that someone will always be standing behind them no matter what. Don’t ever expect them to admit this though.
So we all have our role to play in ensuring that the seed is not lost and the reality is that success takes a combination of school and home both playing their part in this nurturing process.
And why is all of this important?
Again I see this quite simply and best summed in the opening lines of a mihi that I have long admired.
Ka tangi te tītī
Ka tangi te kākā
Ka tangi hoki ahau
As the sooty sheerwater voices its presence
As the parrot voices its presence
So too do I
Why is it important?
Simply because it will hopefully allow every young person to find their voice and claim their time to talk.