At the end of 2013 two ladies were sorting out the college resources and found they had some school journals to spare. Roz Beyers, an ESOL teacher there and sister of Maukean resident June Hosking, emailed to ask if June knew of any schools that could do with extra readers.
June forwarded Roz’s offer to some, but received no replies. With it being a busy time of year and the cost of freight being too much for them to bear, Roz took the five boxes of books home and stored them, bringing one copy of each journal when she visited Mauke for the Christmas break.
Early in 2014 high school teacher Teata Ateriano was given a Year Four to Six composite class and says she knew being tasked with providing a strong literacy foundation for students new to the English alphabet, language and reading was something she hadn’t trained for. So she was very happy to take up June’s offer to carry out individual literacy diagnostics and consequently, assist Teata in planning a literacy programme.
To add to this initial offer, June’s husband Andrew, suggested they start a home reading programme, as is done at Apii Te Uki Ou, where June taught and managed for a number of years. With a small and dedicated team of English speaking volunteers the programme is proving successful.
“We are blessed to have a keen team who bring with them years of valuable experience. Elizabeth Ngarepa-Leahy is one such person; she was a Public Health Nurse in NZ and provides useful insight into aspects of child development that aid or hinder learning. And, of course, her husband Chris (when on island) adds another accent, a bit of fun and dry wit to the mix. Tuaine John Marsters was a great help also for the time she was on Mauke,” says June Hosking.
“Tangata, Teata’s husband and local policeman, gets dragged in after hours to paint shelves, make wooden blocks for alphabet games etc and my own husband – well he’s the cause of all this!”, she says jokingly. “Honestly though, these students with beaming faces running and skipping to us, book bags in hand, and then throwing high fives or thumbs up as they leave, makes all this hard work worthwhile. And, most importantly, this all wouldn’t have happened without Teata being willing to take on the formidable task of spending weekends, holidays and late nights gaining in-depth knowledge on teaching juniors. These young years are the most critical, if the foundation isn’t solid, it doesn’t matter what fancy things you clad with at high school, that building will always be weak.”
During the term one holidays, when Teata and June spent a number of days in classroom, a past student asked Teata which was harder, “the little kids or the big kids?” Teata didn’t hesitate in saying this age group (present class), she admitted that she had no idea how much work was involved in primary school until now.
The team have seen significant progress from early term one when there were a number of students who couldn’t string a simple English sentence together and so would head for the bilingual volunteers, to now when they confidently take on anyone and insist on trying out books above their reading level.
Realising that education is strengthened when home, school and community work together, Teata has called two meetings so far to inform home of class expectations and how they can help their child. At the second meeting June gave a 20 minute interactive presentation, using numbers of prompts including attempting to get the adults to read a letter written in a different language and alphabet.
The team agreed this proved an excellent eye opener, as adults realised how ineffective some techniques for urging a child to read are, when a child has no previous knowledge to work from.
“But, when shown the same incomprehensible word with an accompanying picture a whole new world was opened up to them,” says June, “watching faces light up with understanding during the presentation was wonderful. I concluded by modelling reading and sight word learning at home, without the growls and smacks; heavy on patience and praise.”
Families were asked to continue speaking Maori at home, aside from doing English reading homework, and Teata will instruct mainly in English so that students become good English speakers without losing their mother tongue.
Parents and guardians have expressed their appreciation as they now feel better able to assist with homework and Teata thanks the team and families for enriching her students learning.
In term one Ministry of Education’s Math Advisor thanked the team for their work noting that literacy and numeracy go hand in hand. In term two she was pleased to see that as the students are developing in literacy, they are also developing well in numeracy.
Mrs Ateriano and her class wish to thank Hagley Community College and those who made it possible for the journals to take the long and expensive journey from Christchurch to Mauke.
Firstly to Ryders Freight Forwarding for transporting the books from Christchurch to Auckland free of charge, and then to Bele and Shelvana Tararo, of Makatea General Store, for carrying the cost of freighting the books from Auckland to Mauke.
Bele and Shelvana say, “It’s taken a while to get here, but we are very happy to assist with the education of our children in this way.”