Let’s talk about… reflecting on Manaakitanga

Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas
Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas


Manaakitanga: A deepening understanding

A reflection as part of the EDBOOKNZ collaboration project

Defining Manaakitanga
Manaakitanga is the concept of respect. This involves having care for others and their wellbeing, generosity of spirit, hospitality, kindness and support. It revolves around the notion of developing and maintaining respectful relationships so that all can thrive in an environment conducive to growth.
Manaakitanga allows people to connect with others in the group and, like Whānaungatanga, serves to strengthen each member of the group.
Tataiako explains Manaakitanga as showing integrity, sincerity and respect towards Māori beliefs, language and culture.
Graduating Teacher Standards associated with Manaakitanga:
There are three Graduating Teacher Standards associated with Manaakitanga. GTS 3, GTS 4 and GTS 6.
GTS 3: Graduating Teachers understand how contextual factors influence teaching and learning.
Key Indicators:
a. have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.
b. have knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori to work effectively within the bicultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
c. have an understanding of education within the bicultural, multicultural, social, political, economic and historical contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
GTS 4: Graduating Teachers use professional knowledge to plan for a safe, high quality teaching and learning environment.
Key Indicators:
a. draw upon content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge when planning, teaching and evaluating.
b. use and sequence a range of learning experiences to influence and promote learner achievement.
c. demonstrate high expectations of all learners, focus on learning and recognise and value diversity.
d. demonstrate proficiency in oral and written l anguage (Māori and/or English), in numeracy and in ICT relevant to their professional role.
e. use te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-ā-iwi appropriately in their practice.
f. demonstrate commitment to and strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners.
GTS 6:Graduating Teachers develop positive relationships with learners and the members of learning communities.
Key Indicators:
a. recognise how differing values and beliefs may impact on learners and their learning.
b. have the knowledge and dispositions to work effectively with colleagues, parents/caregivers, families/whānau and communities.
c. build effective relationships with their learners.
d. promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively.
e. demonstrate respect for te reo Māori me ngā tikangā-iwi in their practice.

Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas
Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas

The PTC associated with Manaakitanga:
There are two Practising Teacher Criteria associated with Manaakitanga. PTC 2 and PTC7. Fully certificated teachers engage in appropriate professional relationships and demonstrate commitment to professional values. Fully certificated teachers make use of their professional knowledge and understanding to build a stimulating, challenging and supportive learning environment that promotes learning and success for all ākonga.
PTC 2 is about commitment to promoting the wellbeing of all akonga.
Key Indicators:

a. Take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally, and emotionally safe.
b. Acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages, and cultures of. all ākonga/learners
c. Comply with relevant regulatory and statutory requirements.

PTC 7 is about a collaborative, inclusive and supportive learning environment.
Key Indicators:
a. Demonstrate effective management of the learning setting which incorporates successful strategies to engage and motivate ākonga/learners.
b. Foster trust, respect, and cooperation with and among ākonga/learners.

How could we tell someone about Manaakitanga?
Manaakitanga is about respecting people and their culture. We can tell people about Manaakitanga by showing it in everyday life. It is about treating colleagues, students and their families fairly and with respect, for example pronouncing Māori (and non-Maori) names well, if not perfectly, knowing about the local tikanga and understanding the values, traditions, and sense of humour of the community, using te reo Māori in class and encouraging students to speak Māori or home languages if the students so desire.
We can tell people about Manaakitanga in the way we show respect for and embrace Māori language and culture. Including whanau and the Māori community in school decisions and school policies through a process of regular consultation shows Māori contributions are valued by the school. It tells the community their perspectives and values are respected. Teachers, leaders, staff show they care about students and their families by talking positively about them. It leaves no place for deficit thinking or deficit talk.
What is an alternative explanation of Manaakitanga?
There is power in diversity. Our similarities help us to connect with one another initially but it our differences that allow us to learn from one another.
• Take time to know each other
• Make connections
• Acknowledge similarities
• Celebrate differences
• Respect for all
• Listen to one another
• Learn from each other
• Love one another
• Live together in understanding

What impact might Manaakitanga have on our practice?
Building and nurturing respectful relationships with students, whanau/ families, colleagues and peers. Knowing how all the students in our classes learn, what helps them to learn better and what hinders their learning. Having a holistic understanding of our learners so that we can make connections.
Acknowledging everyone, regardless of who they are, or where they come from, has the right to be respected, to learn safely, and in a way that is meaningful to them. It is not the students’ role to learn the way we teach, but for us to teach the way our students learn. Opportunities for collaboration, co-operation

What are the positives of Manaakitanga?
There has to be many, probably far too many to mention here. Every school should have Manaakitanga at its heart, weaving through every brick, wrapping itself round every member of the school. Schools should, in my opinion, emanate the principles/ values that are Manaakitanga because this is how we connect to each other. This is how we feel safe, physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically. This is how we are enabled to step up and step out of our comfort zones and take risks in our learning which ultimately lead us to being the better us. This is how we learn with and alongside others, for the benefit of ourselves, our peers, our whanau and our communities.
Manaakitanga allows us to value others and in turn to feel valued. It is about acknowledging the needs of others as well as ourselves so that we are adding to, as well as taking from, the kete.
Manaakitanga allows us to be our true selves- a right we all should be given.
What are the challenges of Manaakitanga?
Building trust between students and between students and teacher is essential to empowering all students to reach their potential. Taking the time to build relational trust is essential yet easily overlooked in the busyness of the school day and full curriculum. If we value this then we must make time for it.
A teacher’s life is a hectic one- there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do but just as we must make time to build a culture of trust within classrooms so to we must do this in the staffroom with our colleagues. We need to support each other and be generous in our praise of the work that our teachers do. At the same time we need to respect one another enough to have those challenging conversations and hold ourselves and each other accountable.
For me a sign of the depth (if that is the correct term) of Manaakitanga is when students and teachers have built a learning focused relationship whereby each gives and receives feedback and holds each other accountable. For some altering the dynamics in the student- teacher relationship so that there is a shared locus of control is challenging.

What are we still wondering about Manaakitanga?
We wonder
• How well Manaakitanga is understood in our schools
• How well Manaakitanga is happening in our schools.
• How we can gather evidence about Manaakitanga.
• How, in an ever increasing multicultural society, we ensure that all of our students’ backgrounds and cultures are valued and represented.
• How much time we spend explicitly teaching the values encompassed in the concept of Manaakitanga
• We wonder if we provide enough opportunities to really get to know our learners holistically.

Whose voice is not being heard?

As a class teacher I would regularly write a class list from memory. The missing name on the list, or if my memory had served me well, the last couple of names on the list were my ‘invisible children’. They were the students who were not renting space in my head for one reason or another. This quick activity allowed me to refocus my attention towards them. If they are the invisible students they are quite possibly the voiceless ones too.

Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas
Photo courtesy of Raynah Thomas

I wonder how good we are at hearing the voice of our wider community. We consult families but do we need to cast the net wider? Many of our five year olds have been to pre-school and I wonder how good we are at engaging with them to gather information about our new students so that we can better know our learners.



Graduating Teacher Standards

Practising Teacher Criteria


Let’s talk about… Striving for Excellence

One of our school values is ‘striving  for excellence’. As I was thinking about appraisal today, it occurred to me that appraisal should be all about striving for excellence, as should the practising teacher criteria.

I am privileged to be in a school that values and promotes the concept of agency and building learning partnerships. We have spent this year focusing on making the learning visible to our learners. It’s tempting to picture only students when we talk about learners, but the reality is everyone in the school is a learner. If making the learning visible by being transparent is good for student learners then it is also true for adult learners too. If we want our staff to continually improve then we have to work with them, alongside them, making professional development as transparent to them as their lessons are to the learners in their classes.

Our teachers are working hard to develop students’ ability to talk clearly and knowledgeably about their learning, but it is equally important that our teachers can articulate their own learning and goals, what they are doing in their classrooms, why they are doing it, and to be able to research and learn more about the impact of their practice on their students.  Our intention is that the appraisal system we have developed will enable this rich reflection and evaluation to take place. We haven’t got it right yet. It is still developing- very much an ongoing work in progress.

Being the new person in the school responsible for the overview and development of appraisal and appraisal systems is quite daunting. Add to that we were using technologies I not used before and then factor in that this year has seen changes to the appraisal  system across New Zealand  (and I’m not just talking about the change from registered teacher criteria to practising teacher criteria) and you’ll have an inkling as to why this journey has been both interesting and challenging.

It’s coming up to the end of this appraisal cycle and I’ve been reflecting on how far (or not!) I’ve come on my journey and what drives me to keep on wanting to improve appraisal. For me, appraisal is about improving and not just proving. No matter how good their practice every teacher has a responsibility to themselves and to their learners, to keep improving on their best.  Putting time into helping teachers improve practice and provide quality learning opportunities impacts on student outcomes.  Everything comes back to the students. They are the reason I do what I do, the reason I drive down the motorway five days a week.

I am disappointed not to have covered as much ground with the appraisal systems as I wanted. By the end of 2015 I wanted to have unpacked the practising teacher criteria with staff, and identified what good evidence looks like as well as what good practice looks like and how that may look different for different levels of experience. And once I stopped beating myself up over not having even started this aspect I could then start to think of the things I have achieved with it. As the new member of staff I’ve had to take time to build positive relationships with staff whose professional identities and roles are complex.  These relationships need to be nurtured and developed in order to build open and honest communication, mutual support and respect.  In addition to this I’m finally feeling confident using OneNote as the tool for recording and storing/ accessing and sharing our appraisal information. Yes, there were teething problems and my lack of knowledge about the digital side of things made messages less clear than they should have been.

Next year we’re going to unpack the criteria together and have the rich discussions about what they mean and what they look like; not because I think it’s important but because when we choose to be teachers we make a commitment to our students. They are the future. They are the ones who will go out into the world and make it a better place, or not, depending on the experiences we give them.  Every child deserves an excellent education and the highest possible quality of teaching and learning opportunities. It’s our job to give it to them. Until parents knock down the door demanding a satisfactory education over an excellent one, we will live our school value and ‘strive for excellence’.

Let’s talk about… Manaakitanga- Leading with moral purpose.

The Concept of Manaakitanga




Previously I looked at the concept of Manaakitanga through the eyes of a teacher. As a leader in the education system I also need to look at this important concept through the leadership lens. Manaakitanga through this lens is about leading with moral purpose.

Harris (2009) described leadership as being “primarily about influence and change, about providing “spaces” and ‘opportunities’ for creative, future leaders to develop.” In order to do this leaders need to develop professional relationships across a range of stakeholders, develop strong lines of open communication, learn alongside others in their setting and lead by example.  Gone are the days when effective leadership of school consisted of the headteacher or principal sitting in an office all day, seeing the occasional student for matters of discipline. Today the role is much more hands on, or as I like to call it, organic. Great leaders make a difference to outcomes by rolling up their sleeves and getting involved with the nitty gritty of education. Vivianne Robinson refers to this as a focus on ‘pedagogical leadership’, arguing that “the more leadership is focused on the core business of teaching and learning the greater the impact on student outcomes”.  Student outcomes is after all what it’s all about so it makes sense that there should be a focus on this from the leaders. Not rocket science, right?

Robinson goes on to identify five dimensions of leadership and the effect size they have on student outcomes:

  • establishing and communicating learning goals and expectations (0.35)
  • strategic resourcing allocated to priority teaching goals (0.34)
  • direct involvement by leaders in planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and curriculum (0.42)
  • promoting and participating in teacher learning and development (0.84)
  • ensuring an orderly and supportive environment so that teachers and students can focus on teaching and learning. (0.27)

As a leader I have to interact closely with data, pour hours of time and energy into reports and analysis of numbers and effect sizes, but this isn’t what will make the real difference. Sure it’s an important element but it’s the relationships, communication and interaction with people and the learning and development that makes the real difference, energises me and builds credibility.

” Having a commitment to improved learning and social outcomes is not just about supporting and guiding students, it also involves a commitment to the professional growth and support of other school leaders and teachers.”
” Having a commitment to improved learning and social outcomes is not just about supporting and guiding students, it also involves a commitment to the professional growth and support of other school leaders and teachers.”

The model here identifies four qualities that underpin successful leadership. One of these is manaakitanga. Put simply this concept relates having integrity, ensuring that decision making is ethical and contributes to building a culture of trust, respect and openness. Successful leaders manage interactions with stakeholders with Manaakitanga. They have knowledge, understanding and sensitivity to differing cultures, experiences and world views of those in their setting, but more than this, they are committed to making a difference by researching what works, what is right and what is best for students and the school. As leaders, we need to have a commitment to ensuring what is best for learners so that all learners can achieve their potential. Great leaders, in my opinion, inspire you go beyond your potential. Their belief and commitment to you enables you to be a better you.

If this sounds all warm and fuzzy and leads you to believe that being a leader is easy, stop right there. Leaders work with people. People are complex. Some would benefit student outcomes by changing practices and some are resistant to change. When practice needs changing it calls for some challenging conversations. Engaging in open to learning conversations where parties are open to listening, changing thinking, checking assumptions is essential if we are to continue to act with integrity. Manaakitanga- leading with a moral purpose- means we have to have those tough talks and they don’t leave us feeling warm and fuzzy.

Fern Raynah Thomas
Photo: Raynah Thomas

Does knowing this impact on my leadership? I would like to think so. There comes a time when situations test you and what you believe in.  There are things that, for me, are non-negotiable. Those things I stand with my back to the wall and come out fighting for; Assessment for learning, visible learning, student well-being, student voice, agency  and restorative justice practices are just a few. These practices not only make a difference, they have HUGE impact on student outcomes. Our core purpose.  Yes, during my time in leadership in New Zealand schools there have been times when I have been ‘challenged’ on these beliefs, but with these beliefs comes a passion, research and manaakitanga.


Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Leading from the middle: educational leadership for middle and senior leaders. M.O.E

Kiwi leadership for principals: principals as educational leaders. M.O.E.

Bezzina, M (2007) Moral purpose and shared leadership: The leaders transforming learning and learners pilot study  Australian Catholic University

Let’s Talk About…the concept of manaakitanga

The Concept of Manaakitanga


Unfurling Fern By Raynah Thomas

Manaakitanga is an important concept in the world of education and although it’s a Maori term the concept can be applied beyond the Maori culture. The virtues listed in the above definition are just as important to me as a non-Maori. As a strong advocate for making learning visible I can’t help but notice how the concept of Manaakitanga reflects that of learning focused relationships, the foundation of Assessment for Learning as defined in Clarity in the Classroom, Absolum.  As teachers we must build positive relationships focused on learning with a commitment to knowing our learners so that we can motivate and engage them in learning that is connected, challenging and fun.  Learners need to be able to take risks, step out of their comfort zone and experience an inner struggle with competing ideas and pieces of information in order to construct new information and learning. If they are to do this then teachers and school leaders must have worked to develop a culture of treating people, whatever their age, experiences, culture, with respect, kindness and humanity.  The infrastructure of the school needs to support students and teachers alike to ‘live’ the concept of manaakitanga.

Culturally safe classrooms

MacFarlane identifies five concepts on his educultural wheel, one of which is Manaakitanga.  He defines this as the ethos of care; a concept that embodies a type of caring that is reciprocal and unqualified, based on respect and kindness, a ‘duty of care’.


In order to fulfil the requirements of Practising Teacher Criteria 2 and 7 then teachers are required to show that they have taken steps to know their learners as individuals in their classroom and establish what MacFarlane refers to as cultural connectedness.  (Creating Culturally Safe Classrooms for Maori Students, MacFarlane et al 2007).

2. demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of all ākonga i. take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally and emotionally safe

ii. acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages and cultures of all ākonga

iii. comply with relevant regulatory and statutory requirements

7. promote a collaborative, inclusive and supportive learning environment i. demonstrate effective management of the learning setting which incorporates successful strategies to engage and motivate ākonga

ii. foster trust, respect and cooperation with and among ākonga

This seems a given to me, yet after being an Assessment for Learning facilitator, I know that some teachers have difficulty in shifting the locus of control from themselves to a shared reciprocal relationship where learning is a process that we all participate and contribute to, not one done to us.  When you’re focused on control you’re not focused on connectedness. Often those who were reticent to give up some of the control based their thinking on behavioural concerns. Their focus was on getting the behaviour right in order to get the students learning.  I’d always thought this was a case of putting the proverbial horse before the cart but I seemed to be alone in my thinking. Surely if you get the learning right the behaviour doesn’t ‘go wrong’. I was thrilled to find an article in the Assessment for Learning folder produced by Evaluation Associates which put my thinking down on paper- it seems I wasn’t the only one who thought the thinking was round the wrong way afterall. Imagine my surprise and sense of awe when I discovered that the author was Lin Avery, my then Principal.

For me, relationships are key in the learning process. Everything is built on the relationship you establish in the early days. Get that right and the year is a success. I can’t expect to gain respect if I haven’t taken the time to find out about my learners or my team. When I was in the classroom I did this by:

  • having positive expectations, and looking for the connections, the things we had in common
  • being clear about the relationships and the purpose for being at school. We were there to learn.
  • making reference to and connections with culture, language and customs in relation to the curriculum I was teaching. (The biggest compliments are when the kids ask me if I’m Maori, Pasifika etc because I’ve taken the time to learn about the things of importance to them.)
  • implementing different ways to learn and work- in a pairs, collaboratively, independently, in home languages
  • providing opportunities for peer support, encouragement, peer feedback.
  • differentiating work to the appropriate level for students- knowing where each child is, where they need to be and co-constructing a pathway to get there.
  • involving families through the use of technology and student led conferences. Both of these were led by the students and they were responsible for informing and involving their parents.
  • supporting students to solve problems through a process of restorative justice rather than ‘growling’ or telling off.
  • creating and maintaining an environment where everyone is seen as a learner (we banned the word ‘dumb’) and is treated with respect, kindness, compassion.
  • expecting and celebrating both mistakes and successes.

Interestingly, when I looked at the work of MacFarlane (1997) he identified similar things as leading to the success of Maori. He called this the Hikairo Rationale. Seven concepts are identified and have been used by RTLB, Restorative Justice practitioners as well as teachers and curriculum leaders. An example can be found here:


I continue on my journey to build on my bicultural practice. My journey is now taking me down the leadership road and consequently my next step is to look at the concept of manaakitanga through the leadership lens.

Let’s talk about…unpacking the PTCs.

At the beginning of the holiday, I joined a group of teachers who are collaborating to unpack the Practicing Teacher Criteria. Interesting times are afoot I think.

The group I am in is the Manaakitanga group, so called because the PTCs we are unpacking has this overarching theme from the Tataiako: Showing integrity, sincerity, and respect towards Māori beliefs, language, and culture. I’m really pleased to be in this group as I believe that whatever you do, it should be done with integrity, sincerity and respect.

Practicing Teacher

The two PTCs that we are unpacking are:

PTC 2. demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of all ākonga

i. take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally and emotionally safe
ii. acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages and cultures of all ākonga
iii. comply with relevant regulatory and statutory requirements

PTC 7: promote a collaborative, inclusive and supportive learning environment

i. demonstrate effective management of the learning setting which incorporates successful strategies to engage and motivate ākonga

ii. foster trust, respect and cooperation with and among ākonga


So watch this space as we embark on  a road that has been less travelled.