Teaching Tongan Students

Mele Suipi Latu, a teacher on the staff at Tamaki College, ran a session for us on Tongan values, ways of being and how these are sometimes in conflict with what we expect of them in school.
She reminded us that students come to school already shaped with a whole world view consisting of beliefs, customs, practices, and expectations.

The 4 Tongan values:
Respect
Relationships - family, church, country, villages
Humility - Lototo - drop what you want and go with expectations. Everyone knows their place.
Commitment - you do it until it hurts. Commit to whatever course you are doing.


Students develop a subculture when they leave home - a second culture. There can be a clash between the subculture of school & home. At home they learn to do what they are told and to respect their elders; at school they are taught to question. Mele suggests that the teacher puts up their expectations from the first lesson but should never disown the students from their culture.

There can be a big difference between students raised in Tonga and those who are NZ born. Some don't speak Tongan and so feel they don't belong in Tonga but they don't belong in the pakeha culture either.

Church is the pivotal element of their lives - it is church over homework. Some students are tired because they have to go to work or look after family after school. The parents want their children to do well at school but they don't always know how to get them here. The teacher might be the only hope that the child has. Education has transformational power.

Mele thought that it could be that the way the Tongan parents make their kids behave well at home might be the most effective way to make them behave at school!

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