Tēna tātou katoa,
Ko Carpati te maunga
Ko Marea Negra te moana
Ko Tauranga te rohe
Ko Greerton Early Learning Centre te kaupapa whānau
Ko Catalina Thompson taku ingoa
I have a Bachelor of Teacher and a Postgraduate Certificate in Early Years and Primary from London Metropolitan University. Although my professional career started in England, in primary education, it is the early childhood that has given true meaning to my professional identity. For the past eight years, Greerton Early Learning Centre has been my ‘home away from home’, a place I feel empowered to learn and grow alongside a wonderful, diverse community.
My story of being
I grew up in Romania, a small country at the other end of the world, during communism, an ideology defined by food rationing and deprivation of free speech. Raised as a communist child, I learnt from very early on what it means to be resilient, resourceful and fight for the simplest things in life. But I also learnt about the freedom of play, as a child roaming the neighbourhood, connecting with everything and anything that sparked my curiosity,… away from the supervision eyes of adults. Those were my fondest memories, since the wider world was completely shut….
I believe that when I moved to England, in search of opportunities, that I became aware of who I was as a cultural person and how one must navigate their cultural heritage, language, beliefs and ways of being and doing on foreign ground. All these experiences, past and present have deeply influenced my teaching and learning philosophy.
How do we empower our mokopuna to reach their full potential?
Before we even begin to reflect and answer this question, we must first ponder out loud…Who are you? Where have you come from? What makes you the wonderful person that you are? What are your whānau and community aspirations? How does your story challenge my biases, assumptions and perceptions? I believe that once we understand and embrace fully these answers, that we can truly begin a process of learning and teaching. Mokopuna are empowered to learn, if we, the people around them, establish meaningful connections grounded in aroha and whakapapa. So I find our learners identities to be a huge part of local curricula as it provides meaningful opportunities for us to stretch the boundaries of learning within our rich cultural capitals.
A pedagogy of freedom, trust, space and time
We know that mokopuna come into this world complete and with an incredible capacity to learn so, I believe our professional responsibility is to create an environment for all their competencies to unfold. Freedom to explore at their own pace of wonder, in a way that fits with their learning identity is key as well as trust to take on the kind of thrilling challenges that give mokopuna ‘butterflies in their stomachs’ and shrink kaiako’s hearts to the size of peas. Risk and challenge has been a passion of mine for a few years now as I constantly seek to disrupt and question conventional thinking around risk, hazards and safety. In the wise words of Gerver Tully “despite all efforts and intentions, children are always going to figure out how to do the most dangerous things they can in whatever environment they can.” Without provocation to take on edgy, adventurous risks, “children lose the feeling of aspiration which is so very important in terms of the drive to move forward in life.” (Claire Warden). My teacher inquiry research on adventurous play concluded in the writing of Greerton Early Learning Centre’s policy on Risk and Challenge which sets the benchmark for the type of environment we strive to create.
“I bet I can live to one hundred if I only I can get outdoors again” (Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful)
Oh, Papatūānuku and her incredible gifts…For the past 7 years, I have been involved in Greerton’s forest farm adventures. In a place where time stands still, and the hustle and bustle of life only exists as a distant traffic noise, tinkering with ideas seems to be the right thing to do. Innovation and creativity flourish here, flexibility of thinking and growth mindset push beyond any conceivable boundary, camaraderie becomes the way to learn in the wild when we don’t quietly commune with nature. It is inside these connections with Papatūānuku that mokopuna and kaiako reveal themselves in new lights, discover things they never new lived inside themselves and grow a deep understanding of Kaitiakitanga. I had the privilege of sharing some of these experiences with fellow colleagues in America during a Learning Stories Conference in 2018.
I am humbled and privileged to be the newest member of the ELP whānau, to learn alongside such inspirational voices and grow our collective wisdom around how we can best nurture mokopuna as “competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.” (Te Whāriki, 2017, p.5)