Education, Health & Wellbeing, Music, Other, Politics

Suicide and the Value of Te Whare Tapa Whā

Suicide. Many people that I know, myself included, have contemplated it at difficult periods of our lives. My grandfather died by it – so I never got to meet him – and so did a fellow high school chorister. Those deaths will never ever escape my mind; both for different reasons.

People need to come before profit; it is that simple. We need to build a social system that values this. Human life should always come before anything economic. In my opinion, a functioning society with healthy and balanced minded people may well fix financial issues. Though make no mistake, I have zero interest in the area of commerce and don’t know what I’m talking about at all in the realm of anything money related – that is my sister’s (eventual) field. In a utopia (let me dream) where everybody has a specific role and trades resources and progress is made at a local level, where individuals are appreciated and united – this is when we will see the fundamental changes necessary to change the actual course of the planet. I sound so naive, but that is because I am. Why should I be anything but hopeful? Futility is a waste of my time.

As a future primary school teacher, I am enamoured with te whare tapa whā. I think it encompasses everything Aotearoa’s education should be built on. But that was obvious, right? Why did it take me 20 years to understand? (I am still somewhat embarrassed that I only took the time to start giving Māori place names the correct pronunciation they deserve about two years ago. No more mangling: it’s too beautiful to misuse. ) Only after I figured this out – the weight and value of te whare tapa whā – did I learn that its origin was in education, though it has ended up being used as a health model. Such a waste! An educational revival is needed all up in here yo. Before I delve in, I should probably summarise this concept very briefly:

There are four tapa/taha (sides) of te whare (the house).

  • Hinengaro (Mental Wellbeing)
  • Tinana (Physical Wellbeing)
  • Wairua (Spiritual Wellbeing)
  • Whānau (Family/Community/Social Wellbeing)

They all play a role in overall wellbeing, stability and educational achievement and are of equal importance.

From what I remember, I was introduced to this model during Year 10 Health and I didn’t think much of it. At the time, I was facing the horrors of first time full on depression/anxiety: for me that looked like literally no sleep for significant periods of time, forgetting to eat and losing a lot of weight, and genuinely believing myself to be going crazy. Enough to make anyone feel alone and in pain and exhausted. I know I freaked my friends out a lot. We were only fourteen – the same age my youngest sister is now. Essentially, now I figure you aren’t really living if you haven’t contemplated death a few times – but for god’s sake get help – there is absolutely no shame in doing so and it will make you stronger.

I desperately want to go into the education sector and give our tamariki the tools to build resilience before they hit those hard teenage years. I want them to know their value and their aronga long before puberty, long before the hard years where they might plot to kill themselves or cut their precious wrists and cry about how worthless they think they are. My main focus will be eight to twelve year olds, so years 4-8. This is my favourite age, because we’ve mastered the alphabet by now, we know what numbers mean – the arbitrary stuff is done, but we haven’t yet reached that time of wrestling. At this age, kids are questioning a lot of things; they are curious, and curiosity should be nurtured absolutely always. They need direction and they need support in these formative years. Our rangatahi today are holding on by a thread: I know because I see it with my own eyes. In my hall of residence at university, at my old high school – it was even beginning to rare its ugly head at the late stages of primary school (at least for me it was.) Personally, I now believe I had depression/anxiety symptoms from the age of about eleven or twelve, even though I wasn’t diagnosed until about fourteen. As I have aged, I have acquired the skills to deal with all of that mamae and I cope far better. Je suis une femme forte. All I want to do is be a leader in the education sector, and show te ao that it is okay to be hurting and it is okay to reach out. Children need love, they need to be treasured, and they need to know that they are so valuable and they have things to offer this world.

I still recall just how foundational and affecting some of my primary school teachers – and high school teachers – were, and I want to be one of those. Shout out to my year 8 teacher, they know who they are, and they’ll probably never read this. I was a very very weird twelve year old who loved words and was quite the loner, just itching to get onto the next big thing, which was high school. Not much has changed. The next big thing after undergrad is postgrad, then teaching. I’m a driven chica, that’s for sure, and my cogs are always turning.

Another big shout out to my music teacher/s, voice teacher and everyone involved in my music education. They’ve all taken me from zero music theory knowledge at the age of 13, terrified little dweeb with no choral experience, couldn’t-harmonise-for-shit, panic attacks/performance induced anxiety to confident vocalist, level 5 (and a half-ish?) music theory, getting-there guitarist, songwriter and wannabe pianist. It’s nearly time for me to take the light and pass it on. Watch this space y’all.

Arohanui pour touts mes profs!

I can’t believe I ever wanted to be like the “cool” kids: mostly they were just scared of standing out. Maybe just like their parents or something too, I don’t know.

Also side note: my kids are hella going to a kōhanga reo and then a kura kaupapa – regardless of how white/black/green they turn out to be and how much they will stick out against all the tangata whenua tamariki. It’s only just dawning on me how desperately we need to conserve te reo Māori.

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