Teachers are torn over language troubles

March 29, 2023

Teachers are torn over language troubles

Some teachers are putting in hours of extra work each night, just to learn the Te Reo terminology needed for their lessons. Photo: Mae MacDonald

A lack of training and support in the Māori language is hindering some intermediate-level teachers from passionately engaging with the content they teach.

One year 7 teacher in Auckland says that whenever they have asked for help, they have been made to feel “guilty and ashamed” of their lack of understanding of Te Reo.

Since the use of Māori terminology was made compulsory in schools, the understanding of Te Reo among teachers generally is expected to increase, says The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Principal tikanga advisor Nicola Chase says all teachers should show an ability to grow and develop their understanding of Te Reo.

“Each school should have a system that shows how its teachers are shifting their knowledge so that kids get an improved level of teaching.

“That’s our expectation for teachers to be able to meet the growing demand of Te Reo across New Zealand.”

However, some teachers are saying that there is insufficient support for them to meet these expectations, and there is no platform on which they can air the anxieties.

According to the Year 7 teacher, who asked not to be named, for those who do not speak Te Reo as their first language or who completed their training before most of the Te Reo was introduced, it is a constant struggle to keep up with these standards.

“There was a little bit of awareness around the Māori language in my training, but that was six years ago.

“My biggest complaint is that I have no idea how to pronounce the words I am teaching, so I have no confidence in what I am saying.”

It is expected that teachers use resources and exterior learning platforms to expand their own knowledge of Te Reo, but in doing so they are losing the passion that inspired them to teach in the first place.

“In the past, I’ve downloaded apps to help me learn it, but do I want to come home and learn Māori for an extra hour each night after teaching all day? Should it be a choice for me? At the moment, it certainly isn’t.”

By forcing Te Reo phrases into their teaching, some teachers feel the authenticity of the language is lost, and the use of Māori becomes merely a check box on the daily schedule, rather than a passionate extension of the culture, she said.

“I think it should have Māori teachers coming in, embracing the school and really bringing the language to life within the school in the most genuine way.”

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