Never mind the naysayers, kōrero Reo Māori mai!

I wasn’t going to wade into the debate around Te Reo Māori in schools. The argument shouldn’t even exist. But then I saw this video, and decided to write a note of support for those who understand the value, the necessity, the rich taonga that is Te Reo Māori.

The video has been shared 11,942 times and ‘liked’ 14,000 times in this facebook post alone. That’s a lot of  enthusiastic loving.

Te Hātea Kapahaka group from Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) stand in a Sicilian Church in Italy and sing their hearts out. It made my heart explode. I have no idea when they sung it, but that is beside the point.

It comes as no surprise to me that someone has carefully and beautifully translated this Leonard Cohen classic (Hareruia aka’Halleluah’) into Te Reo. If you can understand Māori, you’ll hear how well it is done. The arrangement is breath-taking.

And there is more to this waiata than beautiful words and a clever harmonies. They stand and sing to pay their respects to the Sicilian people, to the different cultures around them, to the church they are in and to their own people. They stand in acknowledgement and awe of the religion they are interacting with, and they do it all in Te Reo. It is hard to explain just how intricately linked Te Reo and tikanga are (put simply – the correct way/s of doing things). You cannot have one without the other. They could not have done this in English.

When people whine about why they shouldn’t have to learn Te Reo. I mostly ignore them. Because their standpoints are not worth the time it would take to have a really frustrating and dead-end conversation. But inside, it hurts.

It hurts because Māori is beautiful. It is powerful. It is central to Māori culture. Just like all languages are. Cultures simply cannot operate without their own languages. Whether it is New Zealand English (yes, there is more than one kind of English, including ‘street English’…languages grow and evolve –  youse people gotta understand this’), NZ Sign Language or computer programming speak. All systems of knowing and being, express themselves differently. Concepts are not universal. Only so much can be translated.

It also hurts because my partner and I go to great lengths to ensure that Te Reo Māori is our kids first language. It is hard work. There are only so many schools that offer bilingual education, and a few Kura Kaupapa in each main centre. Building your networks of Reo Māori speaking people takes time and effort. But it is worth it. We wish it wasn’t so hard.

But the crux of the matter is understanding each other. Even if our ‘collect-nationwide bunch-of-beautiful-kids’ don’t all go on to speak fluent Te Reo, and to have daily interactions with it, they will learn about Te Ao Māori – about tikanga Māori.

To understand each other, to afford each other the respect we all need, we have to know how different cultures are constructed, and this is done though language.

Those who harp on about the ‘racism’ of forcing 5 year olds to learn Māori, appear oblivious to the fact that the Te Reo is a national language, and no one cries foul that all our children are FORCED to speak English. The double standards go on and on.

I can’t be bothered arguing with old stuck in their ways bigots. It’s too late for them. Better to put our energies into the people who are going to change the way this country talks.

Leave it up to the educationalists, the neurologists, the linguists, the people who give a shit about other people. But for goodness sake, leave the decisions about how it rolls out up to Māori (because it IS going to happen). Give the power back. Once you start to learn, you come to know just what a formidible bunch Te Reo Māori teachers are. They are among the most effective, motivated and passionate teachers in existance!

And heck  – if you can speak English and want to speak English only, good on you – knock your self out. If you are a grown person, no one is suggesting you must also learn Māori. Don’t sweat it.

Kids however, love learning anything new. And they do so with ease. They’ll learn as many languages as you can consistently speak to them. Happily.

Singtome.jpeg

I am a New Entrant teacher, and yesterday I taught my little 5 year olds three new waiata, and by the end of the day (their first day at school), they could name all their fingers and toes in Te Reo. Many adults struggle to do this in English.

Kōnui, kōroa, māpere, mānawa, kōiti – ko ēnei ngā matimati!

Mauri ora.

 

 

 

Advertisements

How Moana Maniapoto’s APRA speech proves Don Brash wrong

This week was a good one for my young whānau. We spent it at a kura reo (language course), run by and for the various hapū of my partner and children’s marae. We spent the days extending our Te Reo, composing mōteatea and pātere (forms of waiata) and whakataukī (proverbial sayings). As well as collecting pipi, and wrangling many, many children at the local papa rēhia (playground).

The marae was noisy, busy and happy the whole week. There was a real sense of arriving at a destination for these whānau, or at least being back on track. Fulfilling the dreams of many tīpuna who had been punished for speaking their own language, by bringing Te Reo back into the marae. Reclaiming and revitalising a culture and language that were long suppressed, and bringing life to land that was stolen, forcibly removed or sold under duress – is no mean feat. It takes decades.

One evening, after my kids were asleep, and while far too many were not, I took advantage of the wireless connection at the local motor camp. Far enough from all the haututūs, I loaded up the APRA Silver Scrolls live stream on my computer. This night has become an annual event in my living room. I was so happy when I remembered that Moana Maniapoto was being inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame that night. Rawe!

My mother in law and I sat absolutely mesmerised throughout her heart-felt and thoroughly straight shooting speech.  Less than a minute in I wished I had stayed at the marae to watch this after all. All those kids ruckusing around on their mattresses needed to hear her acceptance speech.

It is an affirmation that being Māori is fantastic and a rousing call to action for everyone. Kids need both those things. And after reading and listening to a lot of media over the past week, I realise almost all New Zealanders do.

After her speech, and in between the other awards, I flicked back and forth between various news sources. I noticed my social media feeds (so news-y) were heaving with Don Brash and separatism – goodie, oh how I had missed him. I read a few articles; academic, personal blogs, Māori TV and the Spinoff about Hobsons Pledge and got the picture. Brash’s racism, ignorance and attitude momentarily indented a little corner of my over inflated bubble – but it didn’t pop it. You’re just not that sharp sorry, Don.

pjimage.jpg
Moana Maniapoto, Don Brash

All week, I had been floating on a cloud of hope and vision held high by the steadfast fortitude of the many dedicated Māori who include me in their lives, share with and teach me.  People who are committed to their language, their (and our shared) histories, and not the least of all, their children’s futures.

The contrast between Moana’s speech and all the rubbish about ‘one law for all’ and the appropriation of the phrase ‘he iwi tahi tātou’ couldn’t have been more stark that night. Moana has worked tirelessly in her 30 year career to advance opportunities for Māori. She sees politics and her music as inseparable. And thank goodness for that. Still, since the 90s she feels that very little has changed.

When she grew up, her people didn’t hear their own reo on the radio. Recalling this bought her to tears. Because, apparently it didn’t  ‘fit the format’ – to this day there is no quota for music in Te Reo, it still doesn’t fit the format.

Music in sung Te Reo rarely gets played on mainstream radio, even when the likes of Park Jae-Sang’s Korean language ‘Gangnam Style’ single swept the country and globe. So we know it isn’t really about the language.

It’s about the culture, the people and the politics of power and greed. And if we’re being honest, the Pāhekā fear of te Ao Māori. It is about the largely unchallenged and accepted dominance of Pākehā culture in this country. Whiteness is the format, and this is what Brash really means when he says we can all be one.

Now, I’m sorry to go back to Brash for a bit. But only so we can see the connect, or more, the disconnect between his thinking and Moana’s.

He is Pāhekā, and I am Pāhekā, and as such I have a responsibility to say that I utterly disagree. To stress that he is completely misguided. To show he does not understand Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that he does not get mana motuhake, and that his followers do real damage every time they wave the separatist flag (they are the ones raising it, not Māori) and cry foul at supposed special race based treatment. Does he not understand cultural structures, and that New Zealand is entirely guided by British, Western and Pāhekā frameworks?!

For years there was scant representation of things Māori at the APRA awards – (this was the structural real race based privilege, Don) until Moana and some friends asked Mike Chunn if APRA would create a Maioha award for Te Reo Māori music content. It has been in existence since 2003.  Now, I’m sure Brash can’t stand this, race based treatment! How dare they!

It is glaringly obvious that Brash denies history and doesn’t understand equality verse equity. So perhaps this image will help. Because at the top of the list of what the Hobson’s Pledgers believe is:

  • All New Zealanders should be equal before the law, irrespective of when they or their ancestors arrived in New Zealand.

equity.jpg

When one group (English/Pāhekā) not only take the vast majority of resources from another group (Māori) but actively strip a culture of its centrifugal force, its language, the playing field is completely unfair. Thus, the Maioha award is necessary all these decades after colonisation began. It is needed because Te Reo music does not get fair play. And because Te Reo is not understood by most New Zulanders. If these songs were in the mix with the other entries, they would have much less of a chance. And we would all hear less waiata Māori.

When one culture has been oppressed for over 150 years by another, the descendants of the oppressors are obligated to right the wrongs, and this is APRAs contribution. This is equity in action.

Now, on the note of most Pāhekā not bothering to learn Te Reo, ka aroha, you missed a lot during the Silver Scrolls.

The Māori world is one of eloquent speakers. What can be expressed in Te Reo is not necessarily translatable into English. Connections are made, acknowledgements are given and the love is spread at the start of speeches in Te Reo. Rarely is all this said again in English.

Rob Ruha’s acceptance speech for his second Maioha award was no exception. He spent at least the first 2/3 of talking about others, and made special note of Moana.  During his tribute, he said:

“E tika ana te whakahonore i a koe i tēnei pō, i te whakahōnoretanga i a koe, e ta, kua wini katoa mātou”.  “It is right that you are honored tonight, and in your honouring, my friend, we all win.” I urge you to watch his whole speech, click on the Te Reo above.

eight_col_large_05-Ruha01.jpg

Beautiful eh. And so true.

After their parents and grandparents were stripped of their rights to a Māori identity in the eyes of the law,  her peers struggled to see themselves reflected in the world around them, to see that their lives mattered. “music and the arts are not just a window to the world, but a mirror to our own”. She uplifts all Māori – and Te Reo really was the winner on the night. She has done her generation proud and has changed the course for those who follow her.

I support a Māori music commission in order to see Te Reo really hit the airwaves and stages with full force. So that more bands like Alien Weaponry have a fair shot at success. It is about putting things right, celebrating Māori, Te Reo, and ourselves in this country. So go take that race based idea Don, put it in your pipe and smoke it.

Learning happens in relationships. How Hekia’s new plans are an attack on inter-personal connections.

Three days a week I head to work at several early childhood centers. I love my job. I take my toddler with me on two of these days. For many parents the work and childcare balance is a weekly struggle. A juggle to meet everyone’s needs. Taking my youngest to work with me creates peace in our lives and provides stability for our children.

I have an older kid too. She’s not under my wing as much as I’d like, but that is what happens as kids get older. She is however, under the protective watch and guidance of trusted adults each day. They are all at once her teachers, our friends, our partners in politics and also part of a wider group of people who have collective philosophies and aspirations for our children. This school is small, and it  meets the needs of its children as best as it possibly can. It is a real community.

These places, my work and our school, are absolute community hubs. Every other week someone new arrives, a new whānau is taken into the fold. They are eagerly welcomed with open arms. They are accepted and absorbed….whether they see it coming or not! Education centres are crucial meeting places. They bring people together, at a time when new little lives are coming into fruition. At their best, places of education should be equalizers, and they should be there for everyone. No matter what your needs are. And for the most part, schools are these things.

I say all this, because there have been two pieces of news in two days this week that have worried me greatly. As a teacher with a background in special education, with a child who requires extra learning support, I feel under-valued as a teacher, fearful for my child’s future educational possibilities and fiercely protective of her rights as a citizen and learner in this world. And I feel worried for everyone actually, for our communities who strive each day for the betterment of children.

Hekia Parata,you have stung twice. And it really hurts.

7764155.jpg

First you say that youth aged 18-21 years will get less funding, which will be reallocated to pre-schoolers. My first thought straight off the bat is that I just don’t believe you. I doubt this will happen. Well, I don’t doubt you’ll authorise funding to be taken away from those who need it, but I can’t see it going anywhere else productive. Here are the reason this makes me furious:

  1. Kids aged 18-21 in the education system are at a critical turning point in their lives – they are being supported so they can live as independently as possible. To live lives that are fulfilling. You know, the kind of stuff we all want and expect at the end of our schooling. These young people can be painfully aware that their peers have moved off into work or further training and education, and that they are still at school – this is hard. However, staying on may make them happier too.
  2. The whole idea that youth with extra learning needs can stay at school until they are 21 is because they need MORE, not less – hence the extra three years. Is this not blindingly obvious? More. Not less. Yes, littlies need early intervention too, but not at our youths’ expense.
  3. For many families it takes a long time to establish that their children need extra learning support – not from lack of trying either. For some families this isn’t clear until their children actually start school. So these kids could miss that early intervention and the support in the last stages. Sure, extra funding for ECE may catch more children who might otherwise fall through the gaps. But if you take my kid as an example – a child who started ECE, and then on to Kōhanga from age 2.5yrs, with a specialist teacher for ORS children as a mother, it still took us 4.5yrs to diagnose her needs-  it is not always simple.
  4. Finally, why does it have to be one or the other? Are all children not worthy, regardless of age or stage?

Hekia is trying to make this move under the guise of a more inclusive education system in which she says there needs to be more “clear accountabilities” and “at the moment we mostly focus on and measure inputs”.

To quote Stuff – ‘This would mean schools would need to show students receiving funding had made progress in their academic achievement, which would be measured through their National Standards and NCEA results.’

Thank goodness my kid’s school refuses to drag our children through the time-consuming, unhelpful and ultimately humiliating process that is National Standards. If they did, my daughter would be WELL BELOW, all the time. Well, she ain’t below anything Hekia.

Again, a few pointers:

  1. National Standards compare children against each other. How fair is it for a kid with a developmental delay, or a sensory processing disorder to be pitted against a child who glides through academic learning? What does that achieve, and for whom?
  2. When you measure kids who don’t fit the mould with NS, they bring down the whole school’s score – by which I mean, the final NS results for a school appear lower, which puts pressure on the teachers who are already doing their best. NS are not reflective of what the teachers DO do and how individual kids progress themselves, from their own starting points. This is what matters, not how they compare to others.
  3. NS only measures some areas of learning, and disregards the arts, much of technology and science, and critically – social learning. Yes, these things are all inseparable from each other, but NS sure knows how to drill down to the fine points to compartmentalise learning. Some kids won’t necessarily thrive in academic subjects but that may not matter, depending on how everything else goes for them. Again. My kid would look like a failure on paper to Hekia, but she’s never seen her in centre stage.

I’m glad Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins chimed in with some sense. ‘using those measures was “utterly uninclusive” and “bizarre”. Kids are receiving ORS funding because they have a serious impairment or physical disability. To suggest National Standards or NCEA as a way to assess their success and the quality of their education is ridiculous.’ I couldn’t agree more.

And the second sting from the Hekia machine…

She is suggesting that some children could learn entirely online from providers who are ‘COOL’. That is, a ‘Community of online Learning’. This proposed change is part of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament this week.

COOL Providers could be schools, tertiary providers or *shudder*, private industries. The former is not too far-fetched. I can imagine some schools setting up online learning for children who may do better at home, or who have a mix of on and off site learning. Tertiary education providers delivering entirely online is nothing new. But private industries?! Here are my points:

  1. Private industries have no place in schooling. They are out for a profit, nothing else. They may say otherwise, but they are not primarily for the benefit of children. End of story. No one can convince me otherwise.
  2. Hekia sells this as an effort to appease digital companies who have made it clear to the government that there are not enough school leavers entering the work force with the skills required for working in technology. Saying that technology can just teach the kids technology is like whacking kids over the head with a maths text book, or expecting children to learn to play instruments by simply watching a band play all day, or sitting in a room full of instruments. Kids need support and direction from people.
  3. Social connections and relationships are the most important factors in any learning. We need more people not less. More skilled teachers for all students to meet ALL needs, whether they need extra support or not. Better teacher to child ratios.

Going back to my first statements about how wonderfully immersed my family is in our children’s educations, and how important these sites of education are for us each day. They are not just places our kids go to learn. They are places for all of us.  There we meet other families whose children may be on a similar path to ours. We swap notes and support each other. We up skill ourselves. Our children know there are many adults who have their backs. They know they belong somewhere, that they are a part of something that matters. That they matter. Critically, they see their parents interacting positively and meaningfully with their teachers. There are no barriers. We are teams, for the benefit of our families.

Hekia, please do not remove the funding that so many young people rely on in their final years, within the safety of their schools. It is crucial for that big step they take into the world , a world which is ultimately not made for them, that is hard enough. The more knowledge and resources they take out there with them the better, for them and for society as a whole.

Hekia, please stop side lining us teachers. We understand kids, we know about teaching and learning. It is what we do. We are professionals, we are experts. We are telling you that relationships are what matter. That connection is what supports children. It gives them confidence, courage, and companionship. These things are invaluable and National Standards doesn’t measure them. Computers can’t teach them. But communities do. Parents know who has their kids backs and who doesn’t. Don’t pull the rug out from beneath us. Make the foundations stronger instead.

Lastly, Hekia – watch this, because every kid does need a champion. Educationalist Rita Pierson breaks down the importance of relationships in learning, and life. I have lost count of how many times I have watched this and it still makes me laugh, and cry.