Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Matariki reflections

Last week I had the absolute privilege to take 50 tamariki from our school Kapa Haka group to Te Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay, Wellington for a noho (stay overnight).  The purpose of this noho was to connect these children further with each other (whakawhanuangatanga) and to connect them further with Te Ao Māori (the Māori World), Tikanga Māori and Te Reo Māori (language and culture).

For the majority of these children this was their first time onto a Marae and their first time partaking in a pōwhiri.  It was a day of first for me too.  I needed to learn a karanga (call) to use as they called us on to the Marae and I also had to learn a speech (whaikōrero) in te reo to respond with during the formalities.  Luckily a good friend from the Māori Language Commission was able to help me with this but I spent a lot of time memorising these.  I found that understanding what each word meant helped me memorise what to say and in what order. So here was this blonde haired, blue eyed descendant of a NZ Māori taking a step outside of her comfort zone, but so filled with pride of my heritage, representing her kura, her whānau and her tupuna as we were welcomed on.

Those of you who may be unfamiliar with Te Tapu Te Ranga, the kaupapa of the marae is "Kaitiakitanga" - to care for Mother Earth, to be guardians, to think about being sustainable.  This kaupapa was reiterated to us by Bruce Stewart, the kaumatua and founder of this marae.  He spoke to the children about Matariki and how it was a chance for us to look to the past in order to work out what we must do in the future. How we must look after the land and not make the same mistakes.

For me I relished this opportunity to connect with my culture and to amp up my te reo.  When I worked in early childhood I spoke te reo all the time but I realised how much more I could be using it in my classroom environment.  I know that the little bit I do does rub off on my students but it made me sad when another student from another class asked me at dinner time "What does kai mean?".

So I am looking to my past in order to plan my future - I make a further commitment to integrate te reo Māori into my teaching practice. To weave both the values and the language in to my daily life.  For te reo is a living language and must be used in order to give it life.