An Auckland teacher in the government's Communities of Learning (CoL) programme is urging teachers to get to know their students' backgrounds in order to help transition them from failing to achieving.
The CoL programme is a network of teachers in a community, sharing effective teaching methods and practices for better learning outcomes. It was announced in 2014 as part of the government's Investing in Educational Success initiative.
Head of English at Liston College, Patrick Houlahan, says understanding a Pacific student's circumstances is crucial.
"There might be a computer at home and there might not. There might be a printer and there might not and there might be internet and there might not," he says. "You could say it's due at this time but the kid goes home and does dishes and helps Aunty for four hours and even then the internet's out so he can't hand it in."
Patrick Houlahan. Photo/ Facebook.
Houlahan says the Waitakere CoL is providing extra tutorials for their low-achieving students, who are mostly Maori and Pacific.
"Rather than wait till the end of the year to find out they haven't got enough credits, we're trying to get in front of the problem and pulling them out of their scheduled classes to try and finish off their literacy credits," he says. "We're even pulling Samoan kids out of P.E."
Waitakere Community of Learning. Photo/ Ministry of Education.
As well as extra classes, Houlahan says they're also working more in sync with parents at home.
"With Pasifika people it's pretty important because structural issues, they're [parents] so used to getting any phone call from school being 'He's been naughty'. Getting them in to say, 'We just want him to come in for extra help. He's not in trouble, he's a good guy,' and making the interaction with home more positive than what they're used to hearing."
The Waitakere CoL's contract will be rolling over next year and Houlahan says it's not the finished product but it's a step forward.
Minister of Education Nikki Kaye announced an addition of 13 CoLs last week, bringing the total to 210 across the country.