Michele Coxhead has set up a digital Maori classroom to help kaiako teach te reo in every classroom, in every New Zealand school.
Ko Tāwhirangi te maunga
Ko Mohaka te awa
Ko Ngāti kahungunu te iwi
Ko Michele Coxhead tōku ingoa
As I write this, it’s Maori Language Week and the attention that Maori language has been getting through the media and in supermarkets gives me a big warm fuzzy. Te reo is everywhere! It can’t be ignored and it is being embraced by many tauiwi as well as Maori.
The New Zealand curriculum and Ka Hikitia affirm the value of te reo Maori as the indigenous language of Aotearoa. And increasingly, New Zealanders understand that te reo Maori and tikanga Maori are essential components of this country’s heritage. While they define Maori identity in particular, they are integral to the identity of all New Zealanders. This poetic language supports the development and celebration of our national identity, enhances the mana whenua of our indigenous people and contributes to a creative and successful economy. Ka mau te wehi!
Ka Hikita 2008-2012 reports that for all the positive indications of change, only three per cent of New Zealanders can actually converse in te reo Maori. If this is to change, all schools will need to provide their students with the opportunities to learn te reo Maori that are available through curriculum.
There is this whole idea of promoting Maori, using te reo and normalising it. But for many of us kaiako, we have very little te reo Maori and are fearful of it. Many kaiako haven’t had an opportunity to learn any reo. In teaching colleges there is very little time to nail even basic words, never mind learn a language, and very often we teach by simply regurgitating the same simple words picked up in college.
We do have some quality te reo resources in our kura, but part of the frustration is that the resources need “unpacking” and there is some basic knowledge of te reo needed to implement and organise these into sequential lesson plans.
There has been some tension in the education industry because the Ministry of Education expects kura to teach Maori language but doesn’t provide any extra professional development to do so at the level at which they are teaching it. Any extra Maori resource comes out of the operational grant, the same as all other school needs.
Meanwhile, the government allocated $10 million over five years to support the teaching of Asian languages in schools, starting in 2014. The government also has an agreement through the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement to part-fund 12 Mandarin language assistants to teach Mandarin. We are aware that we have trade agreements but we also have a Treaty agreement!
So with all of this background, I decided to look at this and come up with a way that I could help.
During the past ten years, I have been teaching te reo in mainstream classes from years zero to eight, using Ka hikitia as one of my guiding documents and of course Te Aho Arataki Marau ma te Ako i Te Reo Maori – Kura Auraki curriculum guidelines for teaching and learning Te Reo Maori in English-medium schools and Tataiako.
After ERO visited our school and commented on the excellence of our school-wise te reo programme, saying it should be a model for every school, I decided I would like to share the theories and planning behind that plan with others.
There were no paid roles or occupations for this kind of work so I started my own; I interviewed myself then gave myself the job!
Facilitating workshops and working in schools allowed to share lots of the second language learning theory, but the unsatisfying aspect was that there was no ongoing support for attendees, feedback or feed-forward. Also there are limited schools to engage with as it is Maori that is usually on the bottom of the list for professional development.
For all of the above reasons, I decided to set up a digital te reo Maori classroom. Resources are free and include second language pedagogy, games and activities, current educational themes and theories, topical kaupapa and how it relates to teaching te reo e.g. growth mindset.
Please join me at http://www.thetereomaoriclassroom.co.nz to help nga tamariki and kura/kaiako gain confidence in using our native language.