Community Lessons I Bring As Tumuaki, Principal

Principal Davida Suasua talks about the abundant lessons learned during her prosperous time at Tangaroa College prior to taking over as Principal at Rosehill College in Term 3…

Māori and Pasifika people and their Polynesian ancestors lived close to the sea and relied on it for food and other resources.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

The sea also has spiritual importance. According to Māori traditions, the god of sea and the progenitor of fish is Tangaroa, the son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku.

Māori believe that water is an energy, with many moods: it can be calm and life-giving, or dangerous and destructive.

Tangaroa the energy of the sea

We often take for granted the name behind a school and its relevance and importance to the community it sits in. The estuary that runs along the back of the school connects to the Waikato River, which we know connects to the sea, therefore, Tangaroa is our neighbour.

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Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

The school motto, Waiho i te toka tu Moana – steadfast like a rock in the ocean, reflects the challenges we face, the need to be resilient, the understanding to hold on as the storm passes, giving respect and understanding to the mood. There is relevance in knowing who you are, your history, your turangawaewae and for many of us Tangaroa has been there as a surrogate, stepping in, in good times and bad.

I have been in the Tangaroa College community for more than 25 years and as the Tumuaki for 7 years. I have learnt to appreciate, admire and at times envy the cultural capital and intelligence the Tangaroa College community has.

There is something humbling and raw about the honesty of a community which faces adversity as much as Otara has, from the Dawn Raids to gang rivalry and everything else that sits in between, when you tell people you teach in Otara.  Leaving a community that you have strong ties with sits outside your job description and has been a difficult decision.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

Still, I know that Tangaroa College has given me an abundance of kai which has fed my wairua, my tinana and my ngākau and that they are in a good place with excellent staff.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

Rosehill College sits on an estuary that is also connected to the Waikato River, which connects to the sea. Tangaroa College and Rosehill College have the same awa – The Waikato river.

Our Kaupapa have similarities too of, Manaakitanga, Hihiritanga, Rangatiratanga and Whanaungatanga – Tangaroa has connected both schools.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

The Rosehill College school motto is ‘Together we create an environment for personal excellence’ and exemplifies the importance of relationships to achieve the very best we can.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

The local iwi Ngāti Tamaoho, in whose Rohe Rosehill sits, have already connected with the College; they are working in collaboration with historians, researchers, orators, and ecologists, so it is important to know where our turangawaewae is for our College community.

Their fundamental principles align with Rosehill and Tangaroa of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

No doubt, we are in an unusual space as we grapple with post-Covid issues, curriculum refresh, and the introduction of New Zealand histories.

Images supplied by Tangaroa College.

The responsibilities are greater now than ever for school communities and their leaders to develop strong strategic plans that articulate clear pathways for students, for teachers and for communities.  

Tangaroa College has taught me that education is a definite privilege and the pathway to university is not an expectation for many of our students.

They have never been on an equal playing field, so stepping outside the box for innovative ideas is a challenge for a school and its community to understand, when traditional educational practices are so deeply entrenched and expected.

How do we make shifts?

My lessons from Tangaroa College have been:

  1. Know who you are.
  2. Know where your turangawaewae is, so when times get tough, your feet are firmly on the land you belong to. Waiho i te toka tu Moana.
  3. Know and understand the stories of your community.
  4. Challenge the norm and each other.

Never underestimate the name of a school or the Rohe on which it sits or how relevant and important it is to its community.

Our connections are there, we just need to take our sunglasses off.

Senior Leadership Team at Tangaroa College. Images supplied.

Davida Suasua

Davida Suasua is Tumuaki Principal at Rosehill College, having taken up the position in Term 3, 2022, following her prosperous tenure in the role at Tangaroa College.
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