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Hubba on Learning-focused Culture

Christine Harrison, or "Whaea Hubba" as she is affectionately known, hails from the Ngāti Kahungunu region and started teaching in 2020.  She has taken up the role of junior rumaki teacher at her beloved Maraenui Bilingual School, in Napier. Hubba talks to us about her approach in setting up her ‘taiao ako’ or classroom culture for her tamariki. 





Ko Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Whanganui-ā-Ōrotu, ko Ngāti Pāhauwera, ko Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ko Ngāti Porou, ko Kai Tahu hoki ōku iwi.


Ko Christine Henrisine Harrison tōku ingoa, engari nā tōku koroua taku ingoa kārangaranga, ko Hubba tērā.


Ko au te kaiako ki roto i te akomanga 3 mō ngā tamariki tau 2 ki Te Kura Reo Rua o Maraenui.


Nā te nui o te aroha o ōku kaiako, i a au i tēnei kura, ka tino hiahia ahau ki te hoki mai hei kaiako. Nōku tonu te waimarie kua whai tūranga ki konei.





Hubba 2




What do you remember about the classroom environment when you were at school?


I remember the classroom environment as being spaced out for each learning area that we had. For example, Pāngarau was in a different area to Pānui.


I also remember it being a clean, tidy  and spacious akomanga. It always felt welcoming. It was a safe and caring environment and I remember having a lot of fun.


I looked forward to going to kura every day, because I knew that my kaiako cared about me and my education and gave it her all to make sure I had all the tools I needed for the next stages in schooling, high school and adult education.





Hubba 4




Those are great memories! So when you began planning your classroom this year, what did you do to set up a ‘learning-focused culture’ that would foster ‘trust, respect and cooperation’ so tamariki felt it was a safe space and could take risks?


I followed the same example I was shown when I was at kura. However, this year group being so young, needs a whole lot more resources for play and learning. They are still learning how to interact with each other and their space. So it has taken some time to teach them routines and how to play safely, at the same time respecting the rauemi we have – which at times are limited. I do my best to foster a sense of pride in their space so that it is well-cared for by them and it’s kept clean and tidy. I prefer a spacious environment so I try not to clutter, which makes it easy for these pēpi to find things. Our space is welcoming,  it’s safe, and a happy and caring learning environment.





Hubba 5




Ka rawe e hoa! I’m sure your tamariki love coming to kura, just to feel warm and welcomed. It is clear that you have an emotional interest in this physical space, your classroom. How do you use it to develop relationships – student to student, kaiako to student – to ensure learning outcomes are being met?


I’m really lucky that I have a mentor who is very supportive, and who sets a great example for me. We join our classes some times and I get to see how she highlights great things our tamariki do for each other.


Our kura follows PB4L which is a programme that aligns to concepts that are important to us, and that we value.  My tamariki and I talk a lot about these values and what they look like in the classroom. When it’s necessary, we stop our mahi to kōrero about how we treat each other, how we treat our classroom and all the resources we have. It only takes a few minutes to remind them.


It’s really important to build the relationships we have in the classroom, especially the relationship between me and my tamariki, and their whānau. I am from this community, so I know their mātua. 


Just like how I remember the classroom from when I was in kura, I set my classroom up with learning areas. I have a reading area, an area for our rorohiko, ako kupu, mahi toi, and pāngarau. I’ve also set up the tables for tamariki in front of me, the whiteboard and my desk so that I can keep an eye on everyone. Sometimes I notice that some tamariki are struggling, so it allows me to keep them with me while I send others off to work independently. It makes it easy for me to move from the whāriki to the whiteboard too. It also ensures that I monitor the learning outcomes for all my tamariki, including the ones who have specific learning needs.


I try to keep resources and our space exciting. We have vocabulary blocks and te Arapū Māori. We also have foam dominoes, puzzles, Lego, connectors, and bingo. I have introduced some mokonui for imaginative talks, engagement and fun. I like to ask tamariki what they would like to see in the classroom so they feel they are part of how I set things up. It gives them a sense of ownership and pride in their space. They may be small, but they have some great ideas!





Hubba 6



Kai whea mai! You have some very lucky tamariki. Where do you go to find new ideas about setting up an inclusive learning environment?


I haven’t done a lot of research on this, but I have searched "play and learn" on the Ministry of Education website.


I have been reading through the Adventure and Junk play - Aotūroa as well. It not only gives great ideas for using recycled materials but the site also highlights values like: working together, problem solving, developing ideas, and creating a safe environment, which are an important part of creating a ‘learning-focused culture’.


I love Pinterest and have been working through ideas for indoor play and learning activities.


But most of the time I watch what others do in their classroom and listen to what they have to say. I take from them what I think I need. 




Hubba 7



Knowing what you know, are there any tips you’d give to other kaiako who are new to the profession, when setting up their learning environment?


I think it’s about creating stimulating learning spaces. Make it engaging and use what space you have cleverly. I had to plan where learning areas might go, but didn’t get it right at first. It takes a bit of trial and error. I’m lucky because my tamariki are little and colour plays a big part in their space. I have noticed happiness, engagement, focus and joy.


I think it’s really important to talk with other kaiako. Take the time to go and have a look at other classrooms, and take ideas from what you observe. It’s not just about what you see on the walls or in different areas, it’s also about how those resources and spaces are used to motivate and encourage learning together. I have visited other classrooms and talked with other kaiako not only from my kura, but also other kaiako within our Kāhui Ako, and those discussions have got me to where I am now.


  • Build a great relationship with your tamariki first.
  • Keep tamariki and their learning first and foremost. It’s all about including them all and making sure they feel safe.
  • Ask them what they want to learn about, and what they think they will need to do that.
  • Talk with your hoamahi and visit their classrooms – they have awesome ideas. Include whānau ideas too. We have some talented whānau out there who are willing to help.
  • Find ideas online or in your learning community like your Kāhui Ako.
  • Keep trying new things until you find what works for you.
  • Change the spaces – don’t leave tamariki work on the walls for too long. Keep it fresh.
  • You don’t need to spend money all the time – me auaha te whakaaro!




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