A different learning model: going at your own speed


I’m half way through my third year of learning te reo Mäori. So, this year a couple us are doing the level 3 class again as tuakana (older siblings) as kind of  helpers. We help by sitting with the new students and also by modelling the “ture” rules, the code of behaviour.  This includes things like making sure everyone can go at their own speed regardless of their level of te reo.  I must talk about this rule a little.  It has been amazing experiencing a different model of learning to what we all know from school.  In formal education there is a class of students and all are expected to reach a certain level of curriculum by a certain stage. In our classes it dosn’t work like that. In reality everyone is different, coming in at a different level and with a different learning style and at different speeds. It is unrealistic to expect that people will be able to get to the same place at the same time. The way I see it, it is a vertical structure rather than horizontal. Students start at there own point and travel along at their own speed. In reality this calls for much patience in class – to respect others who are in a different place to you. A common behaviour that we don’t encourage is helping someone else by telling them the answer. Unless they ask for help. A student must have the space to do it in their own time. We work in groups and mostly the groups are arranged by having people of similar levels in them. 

For me personally this is a continuing learning curve. Two main reason. Firstly, my default position has always been that I am not good enough, can’t get it right etc, so I can get very stressed and flustered if I feel like I SHOULD be doing something better etc. The pressure I put on myself is exactly that: pressure that I put on myself. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m ok as I am and I can go at my own speed and not like anyone else. Sounds easy enough but changing a lifelong tendency to feel like I have to please others, especially teachers, is hard going.  Secondly, I do admit to having a tendency to jump in and “help” when I know something and someone else doesn’t. We like to think of this as being “just trying to help” but in fact it can be just the opposite. I don’t like seeing the discomfort and struggle in the other person and automatically try to relieve it. I remember how frustrated I felt in my first year – I even went home in tears sometimes!! I’m thankful to have this awareness of myself doing it as I am learning lots about myself as well as this reo ataahua. 

Ngä mihi nui ki wënei akoranga.

About Waiata

Waiata is a hugely important part of te ao Mäori. There are many different types of waiata such as hïmene – hymns, waiata a ringa which are the waiata with hand movements and moteatea – chant like songs that tell a story usually from the past. Mäori being an oral language much of the culture is embedded in the variety of different songs. There are also love songs, war songs, songs especially for tangi – funerals.

Waiata is one of the highlights for me of learning  te reo and tikanga Mäori. I have always loved music, I played instruments including violin, recorder and guitar but singing is my favourite. There are hundreds probably thousands of waiata they are written all the time for a myriad of different occasions and different kaupapa. In our classes we sing many waiata pertaining to the taonga, the importance of the language te reo Mäori. The tikanga is embedded within these songs. I find them moving and I learn from them.

Something I say over and over is that you cannot really know a culture without knowing the language – not deeply and in context.

It is an incredible feeling to sing in a group of people who are all passionate about what they are singing. I have been moved to tears on a few such occasions. I remember at the hui whanui singing with some 300 other people – there is nothing like it. For me I feel that within the song are all the emotions of joy, sadness, the history and the future dreams. Te reo Mäori is such a physical and expressive language and the people also – and it comes out in the singing. Words in English at this point cannot fully express what I am trying to say, and my Mäori is not good enough yet either…