Tracey Poutama-Mackie - Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Tracey Poutama-Mackie (Contract Manager and Senior Tutor, People Potential Limited, Wanganui Contract) - a Teaching Award in Foundation Skills winner 2002
Contract Manager and Senior Tutor, People Potential Limited, Wanganui Contract
Tracey Poutama-Mackie is an outstanding example of her own philosophies. She arrived in tertiary teaching six years ago and her thirst for knowledge, her drive for excellence, combined with her absolute commitment to the importance of creating a learning environment which values and fosters cultural diversity has had a profound influence on her students and her colleagues. Tracey is uncompromising in her belief in the potential of the individual and the importance of awakening intellectual curiosity and confidence in her learners. Tracey manages and tutors several courses, including the ‘Fitting the Bill' course designed for those wishing to enter the police force. Tracey received a commendation from the New Zealand Police for her outstanding contribution to recruitment. When you ask Tracey what motivates her she may say:
Ko te manu kai i te miro, nōna te ngahere. Ko te manu kai i te mātauranga, nōna te ao.
The bird that feeds on the miro berries will assume knowledge and control the forest. The one that feeds on knowledge itself will have no limits placed on wisdom and understanding.
Ko Tongiriro, ko Manaia ōku maunga
Ko Taupō, ko Whangarei Terenga Paraoa ōku moana
Ko Ngāti Tūwharetoa, ko Ngāpuhi nui tonu ōku iwi
Ko Ngāti Karauna, ko Patuharakeke ōku hapū
Ko Tokorangi, ko Takahiwai ōku marae
Ko Paehua Poutama räua ko Kura Paurini ōku mātua tīpuna ki te taha o tōku matua
Ko Paeroa Honetana rāua ko Ramari Pitman ōku mātua tīpuna ki te taha o tōku whaea
Ko Te Karamu Poutama rāua ko Katarina Honetana ōku mātua
Ko Tracey Poutama-Mackie tāku ingoa
When I was working on the chain at the Beaudesert Freezing Works it never occurred to me that one day I would be a teacher. It never occurred to me that I would embrace intellectual exercise with enthusiasm and passion, or that I would go through such a large change in the perception of my own abilities. But that is how it is. My background is valued here where I work. My potential is nurtured and I know there are no limits to what I can achieve. The greatest compliment paid to me is the belief that I am an academic giant, that I am a competent, capable, contributing individual. The students who come to our organisation too often believe they have little to offer. Too often they have a sense of lack, a sense that they are limited in what they are capable of, limited in what they can offer. It seems to me the greatest gift a teacher can give a student is the picture of themselves as they can be. A glimpse of their own greatness that is life changing. A hundred success stories come into my mind when I think about that concept. A 45-year-old mother crying when she received her first certificate, a new nursing student at the polytechnic, a car full of new police officers, a youth returning from his first day at work, a student with a National Diploma, a 51-year-old returning to the workplace. There are no limits to the potential of the individual. Furthermore I am conscious always that if the individual does not make the unique contribution he or she can make to themselves, their whänau, their community and our country as a whole, we will all be the poorer for it.
So I accept the responsibility to be positive, success orientated and to provide an environment where people flourish. The consequences are far reaching. As one member of a family achieves success so the mana of the family changes and so the mana of the community changes. I have seen it happen so I know it is true.
Valuing the Individual
The call of the karanga drifts across the campus, as the new students are welcomed. The youth make up the kapa haka röpu. Their passion is self-evident and their commitment to excellence is obvious. The new students come into the classroom to the rousing haka and the körero begins. The speaking is sometimes stilted as a new speaker struts his stuff. One waiata is rousing while the next is thin because we have not quite learnt the words. But all of it is genuine. There is a commitment to making taha Mäori an integral part of what happens. Not so much of a special occasion but a normal courtesy extended to the visitor to make them part of the whanau.
The learning environment we create supports the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi - käwanatanga, tino rangatiratanga and öritetanga. Fundamental to my teaching practices are the following principles:
- Te whakpono - faith - to assist, support and nurture the individual.
- Te tūmanako - hope - to give hope, meaning and quality to the lives of people which enhance the cultural traditional and historical value.
- Te aroha - love - to heal the breaches that sometimes occur through misunderstanding between different cultures - to sustain the strength of all people.
These principles are valid for all of my learners. They are as valid for the student giving her mihi in Gaelic as they are for the more than 70% of students who are Mäori. For this is Northland and the learning environment must foster multiculturalism because that is the reality. Tikanga and te reo Mäori are an important part of what goes on in the classroom, so is the idea reinforced that it is a source of pride to be Mäori, a source of pride for all students to acknowledge their heritage and know about it.
I can hear some of you say, what about the non-Māori? Do they have to take part in reo and tikanga Māori? I would answer by saying that in some courses it is non-negotiable. A number of learning environments must reflect the diversity in society.
Direction and Purpose
Tama tū, tama ora
Tama noho, tama mate
They who work, prosper
They who sit around, waste away
It is my belief that before you go on in learning you must first come to terms with what you know already. You must validate your own background and skills to have a sense of achievement about where you are now. Time needs to be given to do an inventory of your abilities and strengths to recognise the small and large successes that are a part of your history. For many students this is a time for healing, forgiveness, hope and optimism. Then it is a time for finding success early and often as new skills and competencies are required.
It takes determination and perseverance to achieve the competencies of the courses offered. Goal setting is clearly one of the most important tools that students use, not just for their student life but for their whole life. It gives them the means to prioritise, measure progress and take responsibility for their own learning. Students know when they are ready to be assessed for a competency because they are tracking their own progress. This shifts the role of the tutor to one of facilitator. It is a role I am very comfortable with. As the students are never in any doubt about the results they must achieve they are self-motivated to reach them.
"Goal setting is clearly one of the most important tools that students use, not just for their student life but for their whole life"
The student sets the goal, the tutor provides the resources, shares the collective knowledge of the class and the organisation, provides encouragement and support, facilitates the learning and the student measures the progress.
For a group of ‘wannabe' police recruits this process is critical. There are a huge number of competencies to be achieved. These include strenuous fitness requirements, intellectual agility, maths, language and computer skills, driving skills etc. If a student miscalculates his or her readiness for the entrance test the consequences are far reaching. It can mean they have a year to wait before they resit the test. It can mean that they may never sit the test again at all. There is no problem with being on task in that class.
I began studying for a Diploma in Tertiary Teaching as soon as I started work as an administration assistant at People Potential. The passion for further learning is contagious and the whole team is continually learning new skills. I am, therefore, always a student, and I am constantly thinking on how my learning influences and works for me.
These lessons are critical to my success as a tutor. I excel when I am valued as a learner, when my individual needs are met, when my culture is respected and the skills I already possess are acknowledged. I learn well when it is assumed that I am intelligent and capable. It is no different for my students. They see me modelling life-long education. They see me modelling learning while working. They know it takes discipline and sometimes sacrifice but they also see me inspired and motivated and keen to take the next step.
In-house training is regular and thorough. Training sessions are innovative and challenging and all members of the team contribute and participate. Best practice is shared and the important philosophies of the business are reinforced. There is a continual commitment to improvement and we are always reminding each other that our students have choices about where they receive their education. If we are not exceptional they will choose to go somewhere else.
My own learning is multi-dimensional. I learn from kaumätua, I learn at hui, I learn from the New Zealand Police, and I learn from my students. My understanding of education grows with my involvement in the Board of Trustees of Bream Bay College, and from taking reo Mäori classes. It is my belief that to be a successful educator you must look to your own education and be constantly renewed with fresh ideas and challenging changes.
He moana kē tā mata whāiti
He moana kē tā mata whānui
There are many ways in which objectives can be achieved
You will know what is on the other side of the ocean if you are prepared to share knowledge with and from others
Whakawhänaungatanga in the Workplace
My success as a tutor depends on the success of the whole organisation and there are some underpinning philosophies at work here which make it an exciting place to be. There is a sense of kinship, of loyalty. If there is a problem or a challenge it is shared by the team. There is no isolation. We operate in a place where it is acceptable to find things difficult or to make mistakes. We share our ideas and our inspirations, and we mind each others' backs. There is no energy wasted on blaming or on looking backwards. Every team meeting begins with an examination of what is going right.
We are a whānau. The fact that I am a working mother is acknowledged and so if my children need me I am encouraged to be there for them. I am also supported when I am afraid of new and bigger challenges.
Picture this: I arrive back from Wellington after receiving the Teaching Award in Foundation Skills. The whole campus is at the airport. My daughter has been collected from school, my son from work and my Aunty Maree is there from Ruakaka. There are members of the community and the press. This is a celebration of our spirit.
Unuhia te rito o te harakeke
Kei hea te kōmako e kō
Rere ki uta, rere ki tai
Nāu i kī mai
He aha te mea nui?
Māku e kī atu
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata!
If you take out the heart of the flax
Where will the kōmako go for sustenance
If you strip the flax leaf
Pieces will fly
Some to the shore
Some to the tide
And you ask
What is the most important thing in
It is people, it is people, it is people!