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Warrior Woman

Contextualising Learnings from the 2019 World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) Conference



I have just returned from the trip of a lifetime, with great thanks to #giftednz , #WCGTC2019 and #TIENetwork2019. I had the privileged opportunity to present at the inaugural Trauma Informed Educators Network conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and to attend, as a delegate, the World Council for Gifted and Talented Childrens  (WCGTC) Conference, also being held in Tennessee, and just one week later. Through these, I have had the most wonderful chance to network and learn. It is some of my new learning that I share with you in this months New Zealand Centre for Gifted Educations Whats the Story?Blog.

At the WCGTC Conference, we were graced with a keynote presentation by our very own Associate Professor Melinda Webber, who hails from Te Arawa and works at Auckland University. You can watch her keynote in full here:



Sitting in the room while she spoke was truly magical. While it was late in the day, with many of the delegates having left early, those who were in attendance were there because they truly valued the opportunity to hear Melindas wisdom. Now, I have heard Melinda present on this research before and, while my understanding was further consolidated, I did not expect to get teary-eyed. But I was cognisant of the fact that these tears, and the fullness in my heart, were not mine but rather the feelings from the energy in the room. Melindas words were touching the hearts and minds of all those there, most of whom were likely representing minority and oppressed cultures. By the conclusion of her presentation, they were brimming with hope! It was truly beautiful, and nothing I have ever experienced before, or will be likely to do so again.

I had known that Melinda was presenting, however I had not been vigilant in finding out what she was to speak on. I had, however, made several notes  while listening to other presenters throughout the conference, linking back to the work she has been involved with over the past fourteen years in supporting gifted Te Arawa youth. This meant I was super excited to hear her present on this again, to help me weave my new learning in with a new frame of reference. It is not often this kind of opportunity occurs.

One of these other presentations was a pre-conference workshop run by Christine Deitz and Kristy Kidd, entitled Engaging gifted minds: The impact of innovative curriculum on young learners. In this workshop we were introduced to their Blueprints series, published as a way to connect gifted learners with historical figures through photos, biographies, source documents and artefacts, and hands-on investigation activities. I could see direct relevance to Melindas idea of learning about eminent people who our learners whakapapa back to. It left me thinking how, as a New Zealand European, I might draw on this concept to weave it together in a way which respects and celebrates Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview).

I decided to search people of eminence of Te Arawa and stumbled upon a video called Warrior Woman depicting the courageous and quick thinking of Te Ao-kapurangi, a descendant from Tama-te-kapua of Te Arawa canoe and from Hoturoa of the Tainui canoe, she was a woman of mana, who belonged to Ngati Rangiwewehi and Tapuika hapu(Ballara, 1990). Te Ao-kapurangiis remembered, among other qualities, for her leadership and peacemaking capabilities (Ballara, n.d.).




From here I searched to locate resources from which a Blueprint type biography might be developed. By this stage I felt I was in need of a conversation with Melinda with regards to the cultural appropriateness of what I was endeavouring to do. As it is, this is a work in progress. I have not developed a set of accompanying reflective questions such as those in the sample Blueprint, nor have I woven them together as a whole unit; however I feel that this is a start and that it potentially makes for a very practical and do-able approach to supporting our young gifted Māori, and in a way that can be used to lift all our Māori learners in a culturally responsive manner. This supports what I believe to be the most fundamental aspect underpinning learning: positive identity development. Further to this, this contextualisedbiographical approach helps those of all other cultures to break beyond the confines of the Westernised European worldview, in a bid to truly actualise Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi).

Resources for a Warrior Woman biographical study contextualised for Aotearoa New Zealand.

It was as I gathered these resources and began to think of the sorts of questions which would help learners to dig deep in their thinking about what they were looking at, seeing and experiencing, that I reflected on the words of another presenter from the WCGTC conference: those of Tim Stambaugh from Germany who presented on multi-exceptionality and the impacts of this on determining career pathways. Tim helped me to make the link with Melindas work, when he talked about guiding students to reflect on what they wanted their legacy to be. He asked, what would you want to have written on your gravestone? What do you want to be remembered for?  He went on to mention that most models of giftedness look from eminence backwards to development, while Gagné frames this in reverse, from beginnings at a biological level through development to excellence through his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT). This led me to contemplate how we might go one step further with our biographical studies. For example, as Melinda talks about, having the young people recognise which of these characteristics they identify with personally, for example the courage and quick thinking of Te Ao-kapurangi.Then following on from this, as a form of personal development, we can familiarise our learners with Gagné's DMGT model, and have them consider their innate characteristics along with environmental and intrapersonal impacts, to identify enablers, barriers and potential ways to mitigate the impact of these, and ultimately, map a pathway to success. This got me feeling very excited!  Both of these approaches are used by teachers in NZCGE’s MindPlus programme!  


To me, this very much sits in line with the whakataukī below, and this, is the whybehind the work.


So, some things to think about for your own practice if you work with or raise young people. Where do your young people hail from? How might you encourage them to seek out who is their own lineage, holds respect as an eminent individual? How might you then support them to co-construct a biography that is culturally respectful? How might this then be used to drive identity development and personal learning as a means to achieving success? What might this process look, feel, sound like in practice? I think this is just as relevant for those of us parenting, as those who work in education, mental health, child protection and any other roles in which we serve to lift our young people up, to empower them to create a better future for themselves, and all those yet to come.

My challenge to you? What will be your first step in using this new knowledge?


'What's the Story?' is a blog section which is written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.


Image credits:  Hatupatu Dr, Rotorua , New Zealand by Jill Beckmann [Image one], Slovenia by Klemen Vrankar [Image two].

Warrior Woman

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