Confidence in te reo Māori strengthens connections

Issue: Volume 98, Number 18

Posted: 28 October 2019
Reference #: 1HA1BC

Ninety-seven teachers and kaiako in Te Taiuru (Taranaki-Whanganui) have become among the first to complete Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, a 16-week programme aiming to grow and strengthen te reo Māori in New Zealand's education workforce.

"These people are amazing," is the simple yet proud assessment from Dr Ruakere Hond, a member of the Te Ahu o te Reo Māori expert advisory panel.

He says when the teachers and kaiako first turned up, they were very apprehensive and many had never even been on a marae.

But this programme quickly changed that, and apprehension turned to enthusiasm.

"They have put in countless hours and shown a real commitment to reo Māori, and that needs to be recognised. I take my hat off to them."

The programme, delivered differently in each region, supports the Government's vision that te reo Māori will be a part of all ākonga and students' education by 2025.

In Te Taiuru, it was delivered by Te Ataarangi ki Taranaki Charitable Trust, who specialise in full immersion learning.

Teachers at the graduation talked to the Education Gazette about their journey, and how it's helped them better connect with students and whānau.

Cherie Boyd, Chief Executive of Kindergarten Taranaki

Being immersed in the Māori world broadens the perspective we've got as teachers. The concepts, ideas and connectedness in te ao Māori wrap around both what we learn and how we learn.

At the start, the idea of three noho marae (staying at a marae for three days) was a little challenging for some people, in thinking about logistics. But the level of commitment was very high. Teachers have thought, ‘I’m part of this amazing journey; this amazing opportunity’, and it’s uniting people.

Some have now chosen to talk about their whakapapa, where before that, I had no idea they were Māori. I think it has provided a fantastic affirming opportunity.

The programme is having a very significant and measurable impact on the tamariki. The curriculum is richer and stronger, and we include te reo Māori and te ao Māori more frequently.

We've been able to move more strategically as an organisation, build deeper connections with iwi and hapū, and engage with whānau. We've been able to support them on their journey. It might've started with the teachers, but it's gone far wider than that.

Judy Phillips, Deputy Principal and Year 2–3 teacher at Westown School

The whole thing started with high anxiety. I spent the first few times looking like a stunned mullet, but the tutors were very good at recognising that, and helping you where you needed it.

When I first started, I knew a little bit of reo, but I would never use it because I didn't know if I was saying it right. But there's been a big push on pronunciation, and the tutors have been very gentle.

Te Ahu o te Reo has changed how I teach. I speak a lot of one or two-word phrases of reo in class, and my students are responding well. I have little boys who say "oh my mum says that to me."

I have a lot of Māori students, so it's just making more connections between what they hear at school and what they hear at home.

It's never been part of my culture, but I feel like it is now. It's been an enormous privilege to be able to visit these marae and stay. It's not the sort of thing I would ever have experienced. I would recommend this to other teachers to build their confidence in using the reo.

Erin Macdonald, Science teacher at Stratford High School

It's been amazing, right from the beginning. It was so much more than learning the language, and some of the outcomes are immeasurable.

I have been amazed at how quickly we’ve learned things by using the rākau (Cuisenaire rods). I even used them in my science class when my students weren’t clicking with genetics. I told them ‘I realise you’re struggling with genetics, let’s just do something and let me know if it works.’

In the end, they were connecting things, and I even had my HOD come and ask to use it too because they heard the kids talking about it.

In the past, it’s almost felt like tokenism. Now I’m finding it’s so much more, and it fits in without having to think about it. 

As a secondary teacher, the process of going away for a noho (stay on the marae) has been challenging. But every single time you know it's going to be worth it. You don't want to leave. And that's a really good measure of how successful something is.

Piki Te Ora (Leeann) Mullin, ECE teacher at Te Kōpae Piripono (immersion kindergarten)

This journey was really for me. My tamariki can speak te reo, but I couldn't. I knew more than I realised, but I was so shy to use it. Being surrounded by fellow teachers who were learning made my journey a lot easier, and I wasn't so shy to speak or make mistakes.

I had done other courses, but it was never learning I could take back and use every day with tamariki and their whānau. Building a relationship with whānau is important because they know their child best, but this was hard without the reo.

If you don't have confidence, it's hard to kōrero. Even if you know you've got it, if you don't have the confidence to use it, it's never going to grow or extend. Now, sometimes I speak te reo without even realising. It's starting to come naturally, which didn't happen three months ago.

Not only am I making more meaningful connections with my tamariki, but also their whānau. I have let down my barriers, and my confidence is just letting it flow.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:28 am, 28 October 2019

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