Tanu and his journey with Visual Arts
I ahu mai tāku manu i tō Aoraki matatū. Whakatakina poa tāna rere atu i te au o Waitaki ki te tai o Araiteuru. Āmiomio te rere i ngā pokohiwi o Tarahaoa, o Hua-te-kerekere kia reia te noho āhuru ki te tī tamore. I reira tipu ai ngā uri apū o Huirapa, ā, tū tonu te kōpae o Arowhenua. Nāia ko Kai Tahu te iwi.
Tanu is passionate about art and it has led him into a career as a teacher of Visual Arts. In a Teacher Journey interview, Tanu shared how art, coupled with teaching, contributed to his appreciation of learning as a life-long process. A proud descendent of both Hāmoa and Kai Tahu, in this instalment of Te Paepae Kōrero, Tanu expands on the theme of passion.
Art is a passion for you. How did it help you as a student and how does it influence your teaching now?
Although we had books at home, I really struggled with literacy all through my schooling. In comparison to my friends I wasn’t good at school work or art, but I saw art as a means to express my emotions, and eventually it developed into a passion. Now, when I look at the students in front of me, I remember what it felt like sitting at the back of the class, and I try to pitch the lessons to engage those students. Most students can only connect with things that are tangible, things they can see themselves in, so I try to ensure my lessons are presented in a way that they feel connected.
After school, how did your passion for art help your professional development?
When I got to year 11, I had to make some choices. I loved sport but I knew, deep down, I couldn’t make a career of it. From previous school reports, I knew I would need to take a comprehensive approach (to my learning). My sister is a huge influence in my life and at that time she was studying Māori Visual Arts at Massey University, therefore it seemed like a natural path to follow. I’ve never looked at education as a means to a specific career pathway but more as a key to unlocking opportunities. Being reflective in my practice has refined who I am as an educator and artist, and increased my proficiency with different artistic processes. Our NCEA students here at Manukura are developing the same level of work or even better than what I fashioned at university, as a result of this process.
You spoke about pitching your teaching to the students who are the least interested in art. Could you elaborate on that?
In Year 9 we play games and learn about each other. I ask them to say what they like or dislike about art and from there I get an idea of what their pre-conceptions are about the subject area. Most students think you have to render a picture just like a photocopy, but it’s more about the critical analysis of information. If I can pitch to the students who least like art and get them to buy into it, then I’m winning. I really want to make them feel part of the process rather than being told to be part of the process. Setting high expectations and showing the students how passionate I am, helps to create success. It helps students to see what the intent and the purpose is for them.
How has your personal journey helped you become the teacher you are today? What impact has this had on your students?
It’s all about experiences. My parents had very different experiences growing up – one steeped in knowledge of their whakapapa and language, the other not so much. But a pathway, in Māori schooling, was chosen for me that would enrich my understanding of tikanga Māori. This supported my work at post graduate level, even though post-grad never really fascinated me. But I was motivated by my kaupapa and opportunity to be soley absorbed within a creative space. I also knew that this would provide me with more tools to challenge and open the minds of my own students when I returned.
What else drives you as a teacher?
As a teacher you’ve got to ask the question ‘why you do what you do?’ To me, it’s about providing our communities and whānau with confident individuals who will make informed decisions. I am often asked what career pathways will this subject offer. I, personally, endeavor to provide students with a range of strategies that they can apply to life. The folios students complete, which are exhibited at the end of the year to staff, students and whānau, challenge students’ resilience, perseverance, and time management. They, also, provide motivation for me to get through the highs and lows of teaching.
What advice would you give to other kaiako about sustaining their passion?
Through an indigenous lens we focus on the strengths of an area, rather than its weaknesses. Doing my Masters was another way of challenging myself, and of role modeling a way of following a passion - to show my students that learning is a life-long journey. As teachers we need to lead by example. We need to step up as role models for our students so they believe that even if they are weak in some areas, they will achieve success if they follow their passion.