Key issues discussed in day of learning 

Psychologist Nigel Latta spoke at the event. 

It wasn’t quite as big nor bustling as Fieldays, but another Cambridge-based event foiled by Covid last year finally went ahead Friday June 19—the inter-school Te Kaahui Ako o Te Oko Horoi Professional Learning Day 2021.

Drawing in keynote speakers from around the country, and educational professionals from around Waipā, the event touched on topical issues for the teaching sector: anxiety and mental illness, biliteracy, and inter-cultural relations.

Presenters included Nigel Latta, the psychologist and TV presenter, Meng Foon, the race relations commissioner and former Gisborne mayor, and Dr Richard Hill, an education professor at the University of Waikato.

Dr Hill discussed his research into the difficulties Māori youth face transitioning out of kura primary schools and into mainstream English insitutions, as well as his journey learning Māori and the benefits it brought.

Leaders from Cambridge High School, Roto-o-rangi school and Bunnies Childcare and Pre-School chronicled their respective journeys embracing Māori culture in their classrooms.

A common theme for the speakers was “past, present, future”—an apt phrase for an education industry in many ways only just learning to teach its own history, whilst priming the future citizens of New Zealand.

Cambridge High, which recently adopted a revamped school house system incorporating names and stories from the Cambridge region, worked closely with Mana Whenua in constructing the program, said Principal Greg Thornton.

He hoped the program was an expression of the school’s recognition of the past, present and future threads of the town. The high school’s Te Oko Horoi house, for example, has chosen white as its colour — symbolic of the fact that Cambridge (Te Oko Horoi) could not only be Tāwhiao’s famous wash bowl of sorrow, but also increasingly a wash bowl of cleansing.

Psychologist Nigel Latta presented keynotes on “little humans”, anxiety and teenage psychology.

Anxiety is an ever-present problem in contemporary teenagers; although Latta emphasized that it’s difficult to tell whether the problem really is more widespread, or simply talking openly about it is.

Latta pressed for a greater emphasis on philosophy in education; quoting the Holocaust survivor and psychologist Viktor Frankl, he said it was important for the stressed out to find a meaning in life.

“Those dead Greek guys from 2000 years ago—the stoics—they had it all sorted out,” he joked.

On that note, the issue of teacher mental health was also explored—teachers often feel like they have to take on the burden of their student’s struggles.
Meng Foon, the race relations commissioner, spoke of his surprise and disapproval that schools were still instituting streaming.

He said he hoped the new curriculum brought in by the Government would address some of gaps in New Zealanders’ knowledge of their country.

Foon also emphasised the importance of the job today’s teachers had in front of them: shaping an Aotearoa “we can all feel proud of.”

As he drew his keynote to a close, Latta praised the work of New Zealand’s teachers. “And not just because it keeps the kids away from 9 till 3.”

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