Tikanga Māori

When I first started teaching, it was in a small rural community in the Far North with a roll that was predominantly Maori (around 99%). I thought my knowledge of Tikanga māori was ‘pretty alright’ before I started up there. Turns out, I was very wrong. Over the next 4 years however, my knowledge became far more than ‘pretty alright’. It got to the point where I could understand a good part of what was being spoken at a hui, tangi, pōwhiri or wānanga. I understood and practiced the correct protocol and did my best to improve my knowledge of reo and kupu and if I had no clue I asked Whaea. I asked Whaea a lot! You name it, I went there.

Having been away from that community now for almost 5 years, I didn’t realise how much I actually missed being immersed in the Maori culture, particularly in that area. It wasn’t until this years Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori that it all became clear, when a colleague fired off a challenge to step forward and promote the week within our classes. I realised that the knowledge and interest in learning in this area is still there even if it’s somewhat rusty. We put up signs to name objects in our teaching spaces and office (most of which are still there!), had a daily challenge to help us learn more kupu and students tried to help each other pronounce words and names correctly. Cue Finnian Galbraith from Kapiti College and his speech on correctly pronouncing Māori words- his youtube video of his speech went down extremely well with my form class.

My current school is a stark contrast to the former in that there is a greater mix of ethnicities and while this has helped to create an awesome school culture, it also means there is a lack of knowledge from many around tikanga. What AC does have though is enthusiasm from many staff (not just teachers!) and students to learn more. There is pride amongst our students that is ready to cultivate and grow. Many students, and staff too, are keen to learn from our current group of expert students who are keen and willing to share their knowledge and skills in everything from our school haka to the correct use of te reo.

So, where to from here? I’ve already spoken to our HOD of Māori and spouted off several ideas around celebrating New Zealand’s bicultural heritage but my favourite and the one I think I’ll stick with is Matariki. After my previous experiences, I was disappointed to find out that we don’t do anything as a school for Matariki and so I would like to set about maybe changing this in 2016. I believe it should be a time of reflection, building links with our community and celebrating success within our school. Bring on Matariki 2016!


About Jo Smith

Health & PE teacher and TIC Outdoor Education at Aotea College.
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