Category Archives: Te Reo
New Zealand Graduating Standard 3.b:
“Graduating teachers have knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori to work effectively within the bicultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been putting off posting on this particular standard for quite sometime. Then I noticed an incoming search to this blog that kicked started this post:
“how am i to teach te reo when its not my culture”
I have no idea if this person is a teacher or a student teacher but I do recognize the sentiment, responsibility deflection. On one hand I totally get where the teacher is coming from. I didn’t learn te reo Māori at school and despite a lot of my cousins being Māori speakers, my grasp of the language is pretty bad.
But then I thought to myself, wow there’s actually a huge amount of privilege in being able to say “I’m not Māori why should I have to teach te reo?” Because what the anonymous searcher was really saying is “my situation is uniquely difficult in ways you can’t even fathom, so of course I am exempt from having any control over my response to it.” Another words, I don’t want to so how can I make this problem go away.
But there are avenues for non te reo speakers to start teaching Māori . The first option is to start learning the language, even if it is just alongside the kids, being open to learning is important. You could enlist expertise from the kids inside the classroom or reach out to classes offering te reo lessons via skype. This all easy to do once you get out of the mentality that te reo teaching is just to hard for you. Because while the teachers of today might not be guilty for the decisions of the past, we are responsible for helping keeping te reo alive in New Zealand today.
Of course teaching te reo isn’t the only time people go into responsibility deflection mode. I’ve become fascinated at the way we cast ourselves as the victim of circumstance to cover our inadequacies.
“That lecturer marked my essay down.”
“My associate teacher was unsupportive.”
“The kids were terrible today.”
Why do we do this? Because taking responsibility for your actions, especially your poor actions, is a hard pill to swallow. But the good news is that in my experience you get better at it each time you do it. Then you start to realize that carrying around all that negative energy doesn’t do anything except make an already bad situation worse. What’s more that grudge you hold against change is only allowing an idiot to live in your head rent free.
The biggest shift in my thinking during the my course has been making the leap from deflecting responsibility to accepting it. I’ve come to realize that while snarking is occasionally healthy in the short term but ultimately the only person’s behaviour I can really change in my situations I don’t like is my own.
So the reason I’ve been delaying posting on this standard is because my te reo really isn’t that good and I don’t like to admit that it’s not good because I don’t like to lose face. However my next learning step is incorporating te reo into my practice, so I’ll be taking up my own suggestions at about using tikanga and te reo Māori in the classroom even though I don’t feel 100% competent right now and keep open to learning on the way.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.e
Graduating teachers use te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi appropriately in their practice.
The other project I had to undertake for specialist week was a group assignment on language learning. The task was to create a teaching resource as a group. We were given the option of making a poster or powerpoint which all sounded so 1990s. I emailed our lecturer to ask if we could hand in a link rather than an actual file. He said yes which meant we got to submit a prezi with youtube clips rather than a boring powerpoint presentation.
We decided to focus on the teaching of mihimihis and think that getting students to create a digital mihimihi would be an ace language learning activity.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 3. a:
“Graduating teachers have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.”
Officially I spent Friday night planning for my upcoming weeks of teaching. Unofficially I (along with 2 billion others) tuned in to watch William and Kate say I do. But aside from gasping at the pretty dresses, what does this have to do with education?
The minute the first hymn piped up, I travelled back in time to my own primary school.
Guide me, O thou great Redeemer. We sung this hymn at school. Most of us mumbled, or at the very least had little idea of what it was we were actually singing about. But twenty (!) something years on, the years were immediately erased upon hearing it. Likewise, apparently the lyrics of Jerusalem are now on my brain after singing it regularly through weekly school church services.
Now chances are you can guess that by the religious overtones and dorky uniform, I did not attend a state primary school but a private one. But the royal wedding did make me pause and reflect on how context influences education.
As a child I had no idea why I was singing songs about not sleeping until Jerusalem was built in England’s green and pleasant land, it was just something we did when we went to church service. Now to its credit, my school was open to the idea about the possibility of there being more than one faith. We went off to a Jewish school and synagogue to learn about Judaism and a mosque to learn about Islam, something that put the school ahead of its time.
However there was one rather large elephant in the closet, the country outside of the school walls wasn’t England. Nevertheless I studied French rather than Te Reo Maori and as a child I could tell you the names of the Kings and Queens of England but wouldn’t be able to name the Prime Ministers of New Zealand (even since World War II) until I went to university. I was probably the last gasp of New Zealand school children who learned more about England than about New Zealand thanks in small part to the Maori renaissance.
What is knowledge and who gets to decide?
If you are part of a dominant societal group, chances are you haven’t given that question much thought. The people you study at school probably look like you, the names are easily recognizable (not to mention pronounceable) and the works we study are undoubtedly familiar. However if you happen to be part of another group the education system seems a little more foreign and at times irrelevant. That is until you happen to be watching a royal wedding…
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 6.e
Graduating Teachers demonstrate respect for te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in their practice.
During my first time at university I was one of the student representatives on the university council. Aside from arguing with the powers-that-be to keep student fees down, I sat through A LOT of graduations. I think in one year I went to 15 ceremonies. The one ceremony that I remember quite vividly was where the projection screen went offline halfway through Gaudeamus igitur. This meant that the audience not only had to stumble through that song but then the national anthem without lyrics. While I expected that very few people knew the words to the Latin song, I was stunned at the sudden increase in volume when the English version of the anthem rolled around. Here were a group of university-educated people who didn’t know the Maori verse to our national song.
The reason I bring up this story is because today is Waitangi Day, which for any non-New Zealand based readers is the day New Zealand commemorates the signing of our founding document. Not many New Zealanders seem to know that the actual Treaty, yes the very one signed on this day in 1840 by Captain William Hobson and the assembled chiefs of the northern tribes at Waitangi, is on permanent display in the Constitution Room at Archives NZ in Mulgrave St, Wellington. Archives should be open today. Go there.
For anyone not in Wellington then I suggest you read this pre-released this chapter of a Waitangi Tribunal report on the state of Te Reo. In short the language is in danger of becoming extinct: the diminishing numbers of younger speakers of Te Reo Maori mean older speakers passing away are not being replaced.
Reading that report should be a call to arms to all those entering teaching to learn Te Reo. Instead of viewing the maintenance of Te Reo as being a Maori issue which will only be resolved in the Maori education system, we all need to take ownership of the problem to keep the language alive. One private school has already taken up the challenge and made Te Reo a compulsory subject for all its year 9 students.
There are many Pakeha, myself included, that pepper their conversations with Te Reo and have abandoned the use of English greetings in their emails. In some ways, this is a positive development. We acknowledge that we have, or at least are supposed to have, a with relationship Maori and are expressing this relationship through language. The increasing usage of Te Reo both in daily life and through the media has undoubtedly contributed to a far richer New Zealand culture.
But is learning a modicum of Te Reo and trotting it out on regular basis enough? When I’ve pressed a couple of friends why their level hasn’t progressed much beyond a few dozen words and a couple of set phrases the answer is all too often that they don’t have the time to learn the language. However if learning Te Reo really was a priority, wouldn’t they find the time to learn it properly?
I’m sure the economically minded would immediately assert that such as an exercise is a waste of time. Shouldn’t New Zealand students, who already have low rates of second language learning, study something useful like Mandarin. This assumes that the two activities are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are complimentary. The skills that you need to learn a second language are in fact readily transferable to learning a third, fourth or even fifth language.
But why Te Reo? Because despite their sometimes vocal protestations of, dare I say it some Pakeha, Te Reo is actually a language for all New Zealanders. Over the coming hours many a drunken Hakas or screeching versions of Pokarekare Ana will be performed by Expats in various watering holes around the planet in celebration of Waitangi Day. The presence of an indigenous culture is one of the few ways Pakeha New Zealanders can easily differentiate themselves from the other white countries that were former British colonies. But its a shame it takes a visit abroad for many New Zealanders to acknowledge the importance of this relationship. Surely if we seek to benefit from biculturalism, we all have a responsibility to actively nurture the culture and learn more about it including the language.
I know things have changed a lot since I left school (which was 15 almost years ago) and that it would be a lot harder to a child to go their entire schooling career without ever taking a class in Te Reo (my fancy-pants primary school taught students French). But to get started here is a list 100 words of Te Reo every New Zealander should know. Oh yeah and the anthem