by Rebecca Thomas
Russell Bishop’s new book, Leading To The North East, explains the reasons why leaders MUST ensure that ākonga Māori learning experiences must no longer be a lottery; it is high time for our Māori students (in Russell’s words), ''to be successful as Māori.’’
Without making this message and mahi about who to blame for disparities we see (which Russell refers to himself as a counter productive discourse), this message instead is a call for our leaders to engage in his book and make it one that you respond to, with urgency.
Any leader in Aotearoa who considers themselves to be change agents with the ability to transform learning capacity in their schools, and provide education that is responsive to Māori peoples' aspirations for improving achievement, must get to grips with these pages in the next school holidays.
Whilst it would be tempting for me to summarise its content for those people whose lives are busy, it would be an injustice to Russell’s research and message to reduce his voice to a six paragraph opinion piece.
What I do wish to highlight however, are six reasons/questions/wonderings that might encourage you to place an order for his book in time for the winter break, and make you promise to dedicate the time to digesting its meaning and relevance to you in your role.
This book will encourage you, as leaders of learning, to critically reflect on:
#1 Why teachers may experience defensiveness at the thought that their own pedagogy might need changing when disparities arise in the data.
#2 What attributes transformational leaders need in order to get the job done.
#3 How our education system continues to assimilate students into the dominant culture’s way of making sense of the world.
# 4 How important it is to build on ‘cultural capital’, enabling marginalised students to ‘stand tall and proud’ of their identity.
# 5 What impact interrogating evidence of both teaching practice and students’ performance has on engaging teachers in improving outcomes for Māori and marginalised students.
# 6 What implementing a transformational change WITH fidelity takes, and what model will help you achieve this.
Above lies only six reasons, to be fair I could have included any number of reasons, my starting list was super long.
Ironically, before I started writing this blog I asked my critical friend ChatGPT (whom Steve and I refer to fondly as Alistair) what the optimum number of reasons would be best to provide to an audience in order to make them want to engage with an important book.
Unsurprisingly, our artificial friend Alistair didn’t commit to a recommended number I might need. Instead, sitting on his AI fence, he stated that humans are all different with diverse needs, wants, motivations, prior learning and individual preferences, and that maybe the job of highlighting relevance and growth as a driver would help people to engage instead.
As I read the answer from my automated friend I couldn’t help but smile at those final words he used. With the right modelling, the right program, the right approach, the right evidence, the right systems, we can create something that is as unbiased as possible; wouldn’t it be wonderful to create an educational experience for our learners that was also inclusive and balanced too?
This holiday read, Leading to the North East, if you want to get your teachers to the North East where our beliefs and assumptions about learners are evaluated and modified.