Weekly reflection: Accepting responsiblity or deflecting it?

Photo by author

New Zealand Graduating Standard 3.b:

“Graduating teachers have knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori to work effectively within the bicultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been putting off posting on this particular standard for quite sometime. Then I noticed an incoming search to this blog that kicked started this post:

“how am i to teach te reo when its not my culture”

I have no idea if this person is a teacher or a student teacher but I do recognize the sentiment, responsibility deflection. On one hand I totally get where the teacher is coming from. I didn’t learn te reo Māori at school and despite a lot of my cousins being Māori speakers, my grasp of the language is pretty bad.

But then I thought to myself, wow there’s actually a huge amount of privilege in being able to say “I’m not Māori why should I have to teach te reo?” Because what the anonymous searcher was really saying is “my situation is uniquely difficult in ways you can’t even fathom, so of course I am exempt from having any control over my response to it.” Another words, I don’t want to so how can I make this problem go away.

But there are avenues for non te reo speakers to start teaching Māori . The first option is to start learning the language, even if it is just alongside the kids, being open to learning is important. You could enlist expertise from the kids inside the classroom or reach out to classes offering  te reo lessons via skype. This all easy to do once you get out of the mentality that te reo teaching is just to hard for you. Because while the teachers of today might not be guilty for the decisions of the past, we are responsible for helping keeping  te reo alive in New Zealand today.

Of course teaching te reo isn’t the only time people go into responsibility deflection mode. I’ve become fascinated at the way we cast ourselves as the victim of circumstance to cover our inadequacies.

“That lecturer marked my essay down.”

“My associate teacher was unsupportive.”

“The kids were terrible today.”

Why do we do this? Because taking responsibility for your actions, especially your poor actions, is a hard pill to swallow. But the good news is that in my experience you get better at it each time you do it. Then you start to realize that carrying around all that negative energy doesn’t do anything except make an already bad situation worse. What’s more that grudge you hold against change is only allowing an idiot to live in your head rent free.

The biggest shift in my thinking during the my course has been making the leap from deflecting responsibility to accepting it. I’ve come to realize that while snarking  is occasionally healthy in the short term but ultimately the only person’s behaviour I can really change in my situations I don’t like is my own.

So the reason I’ve been delaying posting on this standard is because my te reo really isn’t that good and I don’t like to admit that it’s not good because I don’t like to lose face. However  my next learning step is incorporating te reo into my practice, so I’ll be taking up my own suggestions at about using tikanga and te reo Māori in the classroom even though I don’t feel 100% competent right now and keep open to learning on the way.

3 thoughts on “Weekly reflection: Accepting responsiblity or deflecting it?

Add yours

  1. Kia ora for sharing your blog.

    I was in a similar position when I first started teaching 5 years ago. My whānau is Māori but I had never been brought up in the tikanga or the language. The first thing I did was start to learn the language alongside my students and then moved to learning more online as much as I could. I feel like I am a better teacher for it and it now shapes the culture within the classroom. We fondly call ourselves the quarter lingual class because about a 1/4 of the language used within the class is Māori. However, it is much more because it shapes us. All my students speak Māori regardless of ethnicity and all of them try really hard to pronounce it correctly. It is awesome seeing them grow within the language as I did.

    One day, I will be fluent, but until then it is a journey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: