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Day 15: My day job

Watching over The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

The post holiday glow is beginning to fade. You’ve just sat at your desk, logged into your computer and your email inbox is at bursting point. In the background you can hear the familiar ring of your phone…. the festive holiday seems like a distant memory already.

Source: Press release from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand Beat the back to work blues

Need I say anymore?

It was back to work for me today after a three week break. It was a long and busy day – there was certainly no gentle easing back into things.

After only one day I am already struggling with achieving balance in my working day. This is going to be a challenge for me to change patterns that are so ingrained in my being. It is so much easier to revert to my default behaviour which allows work to take over and rule all aspects of my life.

I did, however, manage to take a quick walk around the campus; to get some fresh air. My attention was drawn to two Maori carvings that guard either side of the main entrance to our institution. I was drawn to the carved figure carrying a kete (Maori for woven basket). A kete is accepted as a symbol associated with collection, storage, and distribution. The weave of the kete is also significant because it symbolises the creation of a robust and purposeful structure. In our NZ culture the kete is most commonly associated with acquiring and sharing knowledge. This link is strongly associated with the Maori legend of Tane and the three baskets of knowledge.

Täne decided to climb up to the heavens to seek the baskets of knowledge for mankind … It was Tane, God of men and all creatures of the sky, the land, and under the land and the trees of the forests that spread like a green shimmering cloak across the body of Papatuanuku whom ascended the twelve heavens. There he received the three kete (baskets) of knowledge and two sacred stones.

The first was Kete-aronui which held all the knowledge that could help mankind.

The second was Kete-tuari, which held the knowledge of ritual, memory and prayer.

The third was Kete-tuatea, which contained knowledge of evil that was harmful to mankind.

The stones, or whatukura held the power of knowledge and added Mana to the teaching of knowledge.

When Täne reached Earth he placed the baskets and stones in a special house, whare kura or school of knowledge that he had built before his journey to the heavens.

Source: The three baskets of knowledge

Interestingly, the Maori name for the institution I work for is He Wharekura – tini Kaihautu o Aotearoa.

As an educator working within this whare kura or school of knowledge I think of the world of our learner and what knowledge they need to live fulfilled and productive lives. So often knowledge has been equated to content as though teachers are content experts and institutions are the keepers of that content. In our Internet connected world this is no longer the case. Anyone wanting to learn about something can easily access content or they can directly access the people with extensive expertise in that content. Why would they come to us to learn? What is it that we offer them that they can’t get in other ways? I believe it is the connection with a teacher – a role model, a mentor, a guide, a facilitator, or anything else you want to call this person. They are seeking someone who can help them to put things into context and to motivate them in their journey of discovery. What they want is to tap into the wisdom and experience of someone who has travelled the same road before them – it is about learning together and from each other.

Ko koe ki tēnā
Ko ahau ki tēnei
Kīwai o te kete
You hold that handle of the kete,
I’ll hold this handle
And we’ll bear the load together

Source: Grace, P. (2000). The Treaty of Waitangi and the expression of culture in Aotearoa. The proceedings of the Treaty Conference 2000. Auckland: Treaty Conference 2000 Publication Group.

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