Fostering education in te reo Māori

Issue: Volume 98, Number 13

Posted: 2 August 2019
Reference #: 1H9wXk

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, a programme that aims to grow and strengthen the te reo Māori skills of New Zealand’s education workforce, has launched in Kāpiti, Horowhenua, Porirua, Waikato, Taranaki and Te Waipounamu
(the South Island).

Raumati Beach School teacher Jo Fothergill was one of 90 kaimahi from early childhood centres, schools and kura across the Kāpiti/Horowhenua/Porirua region who attended an orientation day in Ōtaki recently.

“I’m trying to increase the use of te reo in my classroom. I’m pretty good at pronouncing, but stringing sentences together is not my forté. I’m not Māori, but I realise that I can learn Māori and I can appreciate culture and tikanga and I can honour them in the way things happen in our school and in our school environment,” says Jo, who teaches years 7–8.

Te Ahu o te reo Māori is currently being trialled in regions where Māori populations are growing. It’s a programme that equips teachers and support staff with te reo knowledge and skills to help their relationships with ākonga, students, and their parents and whānau.

The programme supports the Government’s vision that te reo Māori will be a part of all ākonga and students’ education by 2025.

The Education Gazette talked to teachers at the orientation day about their reasons for being there. 

Keegan Sercombe, ECE teacher at Bowen Early Childhood Centre

Why did you choose to do this professional development?

I’ve always wanted to learn Māori, but through school I didn’t really have the opportunity. I’m not studying ECE, so I haven’t had the opportunity to really learn Māori. I’ve tried myself, but it’s a bit hard when you don’t have a teacher to show you the ropes. When I saw this pop up, I was like – perfect.

Do you have lots of students you’d use the language with?

It’s part of our curriculum. In our centre we only have four Māori learners, but we do have a goal to increase our te reo. Our biggest challenge from ERO was to work on our te reo and our te ao Māori, so we’ve been looking at Māori professional development opportunities for our teachers because we want to ‘up our game’.

Is it important to teach your tamariki the skills anyway?

Yes, definitely. As a New Zealand centre, everyone should be learning Māori.

We have these Maui books… they’re all about Māori legends, and the kids are just so into them. They really love Māori culture, the legends, and the stories. One kid has the jaw bone, and he sleeps with it. I’m pretty sure he sees himself as Maui. Their eyes just light up when you start telling these stories, these legends. 

What do think it is about teaching it to them at such an early age… what does that mean for their future?

If you’re teaching Māori and te ao Māori to tamariki from a young age, when they’re growing up they’re able to make world connections to the Māori culture and their beliefs and their legends. I think that in New Zealand it’s important for everyone to have those ideas and those concepts. It gives them security and a background for the country they’ve grown up in, and they feel a part of New Zealand. It is an important part of our culture, whether you have Māori in your blood or you don’t – I have no Māori in my blood but I still feel like it is a part of me, I feel like it is my people, and that it is important for me to know these things and if I don’t it’s a part of me that is missing.

I was made fun of last week for mispronouncing a Māori word – which is pretty cool!

I remember a few years back I was talking to a few people… and I said ‘Taupō’ and people laughed at me for saying the right pronunciation, but I think now it’s changed a lot. If I said it again, even though I am Pākehā, they’ll accept it. They’ll be like, that’s cool, she’s trying, she’s making an effort to make connections and embrace the culture. It was harder three, four years ago.

Jo Fothergill, primary school teacher at Raumati Beach School

What brings you to this course?

I was interested in having other people around and having to kōrero with someone.

Why do you think it’s so important to upskill? Do you have a lot of Māori students?

We have an increasing Māori student population, but, for instance, in our kapa haka group, 80 per cent are not Māori, but they’re interested. We have families who arrive from South Africa, and their kids are coming to kapa haka, and they’re seeing that it’s an important thing.

I also think it’s important to upskill because there are kids who are Māori but try not to be because of negative influences, or they don’t want people to make negative comments about them being involved in kapa haka and things like that.

It’s normalising it for them?

Yes, I think that’s really important. I try to have in my classroom things like really simple commands in Māori. They don’t pay attention when I say it in English, but if I say it in Māori I suddenly get attention. That’s when I know I’ve normalised something.

I’m not Māori, but I realise that I can learn Māori and I can appreciate culture and tikanga and I can give honour to that in the way things happen in our school. We have a Te Ao Māori group who are running PD in te reo Māori for the whole staff. One of our parents is the head of the marae at Kāpiti College; he’s written a haka for our boys and a school song, so our aim is to have everybody know the haka and also the song.

What do you think that adds to their lives outside of school?

To Māori children, I think it adds pride. I think they need to be proud of who they are, because they have so much to give us, our society, New Zealand. There’s something special about Māori students – they’re kids who maybe don’t have strengths in traditional areas, but have amazing leadership skills and language skills… The academic things… that’s not what’s necessarily going to get you through life.

What we want is to have these kids love who they are, to love their culture, and to love everything that that brings to me. It is my job as a teacher and my job as a human being in Aotearoa to foster that.

What about your non-Māori students?

I had a little South African boy who was fairly new to the country, and boy, does he love doing the haka. He doesn’t understand all the words, but he loves doing the haka. His face shines.

We have something special, and something unique. As a Pākehā, I need to be doing it. I can’t just say ‘I’m not Māori so I don’t need to worry about it’, because we’ll lose language and culture, and a big part of who we are as Kiwis. 

Judith Smith, primary school teacher at Paekakariki School

Do you have many Māori students in your school?

Not that many.

Why would you say it’s important for your school to have a knowledge of te reo Māori?

I think whether you’re Māori or not, just getting the language out for everybody to learn in a personal way is important. Being from the UK, it’s a personal journey for me to be able to learn it.

What benefits do you think it has for your students?

More than understanding the language, I think knowledge of tikanga and where views and concepts are coming from is important to children – not just the Māori children, but everyone. Giving it mana, giving it the importance that it deserves.

Steve Barnsley, secondary school teacher at Porirua College

Why did you choose to do this as part of your professional development?

I’ve taken it up for two reasons – personal and professional. Firstly, I’m in a bicultural marriage so our children are Pākehā-Māori. That’s been the motivation for me personally – to be speaking more te reo at home, and understanding it more.

I’m wanting to increase my frequency and my vocab. I work at Porirua College, which is pretty diverse, and I would like to use more te reo at school. But I’d also like to better understand tikanga and best practice around akonga Māori – how we can raise achievement for Māori as Māori… This is not my first endeavour, but it’s a journey, and it’s local and there are going to be enough of us in the school that we can encourage each other. 

Do you use my reo in the classroom and what impact do you think it would have on your Māori students if you did use it more?

No I don’t. I think it would have a positive impact in terms of their sense of belonging, and sense of being valued. Not all Māori students at our school are speakers, so I think part of it is communicating a willingness or a vulnerability to be a beginner, and to take those risks.

What about your non-Māori students?

Again, I think it’s that principle of the teacher as a learner, demonstrating a willingness to take some risks.

What are you looking forward to most?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to grow some te reo and being able to practise with others at home.

Participants at the Te Ahu o te Reo Māori orientation day in Otaki.

  • Manaakitia te reo – Encourage the reo
  • Poipoia te reo – Foster the reo
  • Whakatangatawhenuatia te reo – Normalise the reo
  • Whakawhanaketia te reo – Enhance the reo 

For more information about Te Ahu o te Reo Māori.(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:18 am, 2 August 2019

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