Following the C17 Journey: Philip McKibbin

Voices - 21 November 2016

Participants of Cohort 2017 share their part of the journey on the Teach First NZ Programme. From the Summer Initial Intensive beginning November 2016 and right up to the end of 2018 when they complete their two years on the programme, we will hear from different participants to gain insights into their schools and communities.

Week 1 of the Summer Initial Intensive, as told by Philip McKibbin. Phillip will soon be teaching English and comes from a family of teachers. As a writer, he has a passion for language and holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy (with first class honours). Philip has also been studying Te Reo Māori for last four years and is aiming to be fluent in the coming years. Philip writes his story of the first week of C17s Summer Initial Intensive.

Conjuring Courage

Philip McKibbin

I was nervous. I had never done this before. I knew what to expect, though. Janet would recite the karakia that Te Mete had gifted us, I would do the mihi, and then we would all sing a waiata together. I knew why I was there, but I still had doubts. Now was a time for courage.

A couple of days earlier, we had gathered for the pōwhiri at Tūtahi Tonu Marae. Jono Smith asked those of us who could speak te reo Māori if we would be willing to do the whaikōrero. I was reluctant; as a second-language learner, I had never given a formal speech on a marae. So it was decided that Jono and Rewa, another of the men in our cohort, would stand and speak.

After the karanga, Papa Awi Riddell, the Teach First NZ kaumātua, welcomed us. As we sat there listening to him weave his kōrero with tales from his childhood, we were reminded of why we were there: because we know that educational inequality is a problem, and we believe that, working together and with others, we can solve it.

Watching Jono and Rewa whaikōrero was inspiring. They had seen a need, and responded to it. It was not easy for either of them, but they did an excellent job. I said to Rewa afterwards, ‘Next time there’s an opportunity, I’ll speak – you can hold me to that.’

So when we were told, a couple of days later, that Waikaraka, the final member of our cohort, was arriving, and that we would be leading the whakatau for her, I put myself forward to speak. I was nervous: this was important. A couple of days before, her father suffered cardiac arrest. Her joining us was an act of bravery, and we wanted to acknowledge this. Rewa gave me some suggestions, and as we sat waiting for Waikaraka to arrive, I thought over what I would say…

The noho marae was the first part of our Summer Initial Intensive, the eight-week training programme designed to prepare us to step into our classrooms at the beginning of Term 1, 2017. It was a time for whakawhanaungatanga. Hinekura Smith gently guided us through different activities – from composing a waiata, to weaving baskets of knowledge – during which we got to know each other as a cohort. It was a beautiful three days.

If you were to ask any one of us about the noho, you would probably hear, ‘There were a lot of tears.’ And believe me, there were – a lot. One thing that gradually became apparent to me during the noho was that, although we were all there for the same purpose, the decision to join the Teach First NZ programme had not been easy for everyone. Some of us were grappling with very personal doubts…

Waikaraka arrived, and we welcomed her among us. Janet led the karakia, and I delivered the mihi – surprising myself, and possibly one or two others, that I was able to. We all sang our waiata, and then it was settled: Waikaraka was now a part of our C17 whānau.

As we were heading home from the noho, Catherine, another of the women in our cohort, told me about her decision to join Teach First NZ. She had given up a high-paying career in finance to devote herself to teaching. Apart from a few of her family members, almost everyone she had talked to had advised her not to. And yet, her heart told her this was something she had to do.

A couple of days later, we were asked to reflect on our first week. I wrote a few stilted lines, then tried to summarise what I had written. I drew koru around what I had learnt, and read back over it: “The desire to contribute to positive change can conjure great courage.”