Education, Health & Wellbeing, Te Reo Māori

Rumaki i te Rāwhiti | The Cactus Chronicles

I am exhausted, somewhat frazzled, yet have survived week 2 of my first ever teaching practicum. Praise be. No kōrero teka – student teaching is the wild west, and I’m the cactus: prickly, conspicuously green and always full of water.

The kupu Māori for immersion also means ‘to drown’. It is simultaneously both poetic and vaguely disturbing, but it is certainly an accurate picture.

That is precisely how being immersed in a language, in a different culture, in a new environment – can feel. I am currently experiencing all three, and while I feel extremely privileged to have this opportunity and experience, I am also beginning to feel more and more like I am treading water. Just a little. I am confident in my ability, and I am finding my footing. I am still figuring out how to get into the rhythm. I am motivated, I just need to put my head down and mahia te mahi.

Teacher placements are odd: it is strange to jump into pre-established routines, functional and effective teaching environments, pre-existing relationships, and to disrupt the surface. To agitate the still water with a blundering, graceless belly flop. One that you swore would be a swan dive: seamless, efficient, and soundless.

During my observation week at the beginning of March, I was just a fly on the wall. But here, I am expected to be gradually taking on teaching responsibilities within a number of classes across my two teaching subjects: Te Reo Māori and French. It has been enlightening to say the least: I am learning so much and I am trying to take everything on board. I have also inadvertently reawakened my white guilt. I know it is futile to sit in that state of Pākehā paralysis, and that I need to continue working on moving past it. I guess that it is all part of the haerenga for Pākehā: understanding and interacting with uncomfortable parts of the history of Aotearoa, and the implications of that. In my context, as a pre-service teacher, this tension is abundantly relevant – both in the education sector in general, and in the classroom itself.

Concluding thoughts: life is weird right now, but good weird. Exciting weird. Practicum is hectic and full on but it is also the absolute best, and I cannot wait to learn more, do better and work harder. Rangatahi are energising, inspiring, and carving their own paths. They are the ones it should always be about, and they are the ones that are the true teachers.

Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi
The old net is cast aside, while the new net goes a-catching


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