Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria

22 August 2017

Brent Dunn (Cohort 2016) shares one the "aha" moments he’s had in the classroom at Tamaki College.

Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku tapihi mauria
(My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul)

This is a whakataukī (proverb) which is closely associated with language revitalization, a struggle which is very important in maintaining culture and one that I am passionate about. This whakatauki captures my journey so far as a training teacher of Te Reo Māori on the Teach First NZ Programme.

One day I had a student approach me and said “matua, ka mohio ahau ko wai ahau, nō hea au ināianei - researching my whakapapa and pepeha has opened a door for not just myself but also my whānau, thanks”.

This simple moment was one of my "aha" moments, those ones that keep you going even when Friday afternoon is headed in an opposite direction to what you had spent the week planning for. When starting teaching, you hear about these moments and wonder whether or not they will happen to you, and when it did to me, the confidence with which the student spoke to me, and the pride that she displayed was my most humbling experience so far.

This particular student had struggled throughout the term with seeing the value of Te Reo Māori, “why do I need to learn this Māori stuff? It means nothing to me...”

After hearing this statement, I knew that: Kia tākoto te mānuka – the challenge had been laid down

Engaging this student became a focus for me as someone who has myself benefitted from learning Te Reo and a pākeke who wanted to share their knowledge.

Over term 2 I observed a change in how she was engaging with me and her peers in class. I realised that our time together in Te Reo had lit a spark of interest; which she demonstrated by going to her family and asking;

“Where do we come from?”

This question led her and their whānau on a journey of discovery. This came to fruition at the end of term, where she stood and presented her pepeha and whakapapa in Te Reo Māori. Her quiet confidence and willingness to share was infectious and set the tone of the class that day.

I wanted to share this student’s journey because it mirrors my own. I have had doubts about my ability to teach and whether or not I have added value to my colleagues and school. However, thanks to the support from the TFNZ whānau and my 2016 Cohort whānau I have been able to wholly commit myself to this kaupapa and experience those "aha" moments where I have made a difference to the lives of the amazing people I have the privilege of working with, both young and old.