Search form


Creating the ‘talanoa’ conversation is all it takes…

Printer-friendly version

We all like to talk, discuss, and laugh, and we feel relaxed when we have things to share — or even better: having something in common — because we all have something to talk about. However, it is easier said than done with the majority of our Pasifika parents, families, and communities who may still need that support when sharing their thoughts around their child’s or children's education in Aotearoa.


Pasifika cultures involve story telling when establishing connections

In many of our Pasifika cultures, it is all about story telling, or telling our story to make the connections. When I am in a Pasifika gathering and I meet other Samoan delegates, they will always ask me for my name and surname, and then will they start making the connections. They will then move onto my father’s name and slowly you see them thinking and coming up with the question, “Is he from Vailele?” Or, if they ask for my mother’s name, they would say, “Does she come from the village of Afega?”. This is how we connect, and this is when relationships are built, and how the story goes on.

How do we best connect with parents of our Pasifika children?

We, as educators in Aotearoa, find this quite difficult. How can we create this kind of connection with our Pasifika parents, families, and communities? As a Pasifika educator we love to talk, and share our stories, and make things easy for ourselves — it’s the environment that we are in — that plays a big part.  It’s a safe environment where the space or ‘va’ is respected. The ‘va’ is a space between you and another person — creating a connection with your Pasifika parents, families, and communities is about taking the ‘time’ to understand where they come from, and let the Pasifika learners give you a head start with telling their story of who they are and where they come from. When you know your Pasifika learners’ backgrounds, and you know how they learn, you will have a better understanding of their parents and where they come from. This sort of information should give you a greater indication, or insight, into how to approach or start a conversation with your Pasifika parents.

The Talanoa model

I want to share with you the ‘Talanoa’ model that I have found helpful when working with school leaders and teachers.

Talanoa model

I have interpreted the above Talanoa model in a way that schools can use within their contexts, that can be used in many settings. I need to acknowledge the Pasifika academics who have developed this model (Manuatu, Vaioleti, Mahina, Seve-Williams).

Below I unpack this Talanoa model in relation to my work in schools.

The word ‘talanoa’ is a term meaning to talk or speak. The four elements around the word ‘talanoa’ are attributes that make the ‘talanoa’ more meaningful and rich. They are Tongan words with similar meanings used in other Pasifika languages.

Ofa/Love — When we talanoa with our Pasifika parents, families, and communities, whether we are in parent interviews or Pasifika parents fono/meeting/hui, we start with questions about ourselves. O ai a’u?  Ko ai au?  Who am I?. This sets the scene of your talanoa and shows that you are sharing your love with everyone by acknowledging who is in the meeting. This ‘ofa’ can mean different things, but in this case it’s about who you are. This becomes a time when barriers come down and you start building a relationship or connection with one another through knowing who you are.

Mafana/Warmth — Throughout the ‘talanoa’ the conversation is warm and not threatening to both parties.  At times, teachers just want to get to the point and then move on. Having this warmth in a conversation builds rapport, developing a connection to bring in the trust of the parents. The talanoa becomes more of a heart-to-heart, and a supporting of one another rather than picking up the bad points of the learner.

Malie/Humour — We love humour in our ‘talanoa’. The talanoa needs to have a bit of humour in order for the conversation to be real. Pasifika parents will often use an example that the teacher has given them and they will turn it into something hilarious. This indicates that both parties are starting to trust one another, and the relationship building is becoming stronger. You can often find something funny in a situation by over-exaggerating something to the point of being ridiculous. This is a great way of building that mafana as well.

Faka’apa’apa/Respect — The respect is the final element, but it is also woven  throughout the four elements, and this is where the ‘talanoa’ comes to fruition. Both teachers and parents start building the ‘where-to-next’ stage because of the mutual respect from both sides. This helps to build a shared understanding between the teachers and Pasifika parents, families, and communities.

I have used the Talanoa model with the schools that I have worked in, and I have seen the changes that it has made with building relationships and connecting better with Pasifika parents, families, and communities. I am looking to reinforce the Talanoa model by embedding it as part of CORE’s facilitation practice in schools.

Faafetai lava