Airana Ngarewa on Teaching and Writing

Airana Ngarewa on Teaching and Writing

Apr 01, 2021 - Voices

Airana Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui) is trained and accomplished in multiple sporting codes, from wrestling to jiu jitsu to marathon. With six national championships in four different sports under his belt, Airana lives and breathes physical and mental discipline. He is also is published writer. Having previously taught in a martial arts setting and served as administrator in a local school, Airana is part of our Ururoa 2020 cohort of change-making teachers. Learn more from our conversation:

Pictured: Airana Ngarewa (L) stands with his sister Waitohu Ngarewa (R)

Tēnā koe Airana, can you share a little of where/who/what makes you you?

I was born in Pātea, raised in a family of seven and made healthy on a diet of combat sports and Matauranga Māori, the latter more a consequence of the community we lived in than any formal attempt at education. It was only as I grew older that I came to understand the unique history of my people (the noble men and women of the Pakakohi in the south of Taranaki and Parihaka in the north). From there, it has been a ceaseless descent into the clandestine and sometimes dark history of my ancestors and an ongoing to effort to bring this history to light and undo the many regretful consequences that have plagued this region since. Teaching and writing has thus been the sword and shield by which I have tried to fight this fight. Although I must confess teaching has often felt more an exercise in being than in leading, my tauira proving ready experts in their own rights. The best I can do on most days is be an audience for my tauira, the most recent to be witness to their unique gifts and insights. The remainder of the time I am but a champion and a cheerleader, a wave in the ocean that is their life aspiring to propel them towards their very own greatness.

Where are you teaching at the moment, and has there been anything in the course of your work in education that has surprised you?

I am fortunate enough to be exploring the world with the tauira at Spotswood College in Taranaki. My ancestral lands. The wellspring of the west coast. A truth reflected in the wide array of interests and passions and aptitudes of the kaiako, tauira and whānau I am allowed to walk alongside. At least once a day I am surprised by the resilience of our tauira, their showing up to school, to class, to life, despite the great challenges they are facing in the world outside the gates of our kura. Of late, grit and resilience have become terms of art in education but I think often in our philosophising, we overlook the everyday acts of toughness our rangatahi have always on display. If you look close enough, know your tauira well enough, you cannot help but be awed by their strength. And as is often the case, their humour and empathy and genius also.

As a teacher enrolled in a postgraduate programme time is at a premium. How do you keep up a writing practice? What animates you?

Writing for me is an act of discipline. ‘Motivation’, as my mother told me, ‘is fleeting.’ It comes and it goes. Thus, writing has been more akin to a kind of creative labour, the pains of childbirth to be a little dramatic. Even so, in a strange way, I enjoy it. I figure this is the legacy of my being raised in a hyper-competitive space. The hard parts are the warriors you get to wrestle with. An iron sharpens iron kind of arrangement, I figure. The process of putting pen to paper is sporadic at best. I write almost every day but without any good routine. Fortunately, there is a voice inside me that is always compelling me to read and reflect and rewrite and move whatever I am working on forward. Sometimes that is very early morning, 6 AM is prime time, and sometimes that is late at night, 9 PM makes a semi-regular appearance.

Where can we find more of your writing?

If you are looking for my writing you will find it in The Stand, Mayhem Literary Journal, Turbine, Takehē Magazine, Mātatuhi Taranaki and Kaupeka. My short story Pātea Pools was published in Newsroom.

Ngā mihi, Airana! We are so glad to have you as part of this movement for a fair and thriving education experience alongside rangatahi.

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