top of page
  • Writer's picture

Barriers to Te Mātaiaho

by Rebecca Thomas

What follows is a description of how and why those beginning steps, where that Induction process happens, are so important on a journey.

The first time I came across Te Mātaiaho as a member of the audience (an attendee to a Curriculum Lead session), I felt flustered and uneasy. I say this as an immigrant and a non-Māori speaker and I would like to share my honest experience with you, so that those who may be able to identify with my experience may find comfort in their own thoughts.

Living in Tai Tokerau I consider myself a learner of te reo Māori and a passionate advocate for te ao Māori learning. For the past eight years my Tai Tokerau educators have embraced me with authentic manaakitanga and welcomed me into their lives; for me everyday is a school day. Although an ‘outsider’ with mixed coloniser, gypsy blood lines I take pleasure in broadening my world views, and enjoy finding ways to reflect on the past.

Sat in a very full, small room in Whangārei earlier this year (Easter time) with other experts (who were strangers), I was excited to learn more about what changes were in store. After a purposeful whanaungatanga and opening we got comfy, as the Curriculum Leads took charge and helped us make sense of Te Mātaiaho for the first time.

Three slides in, faced with an unfamiliar grey diagram that didn’t ‘speak to me’, and te reo Māori words I had never seen and had zero chance of pronouncing (let alone understand), I panicked. Looking around me, wooden faces were carefully concentrating, nodding and writing notes. I didn’t feel I had the courage to ask any of my questions; we were strangers, and professionals, and I didn’t want to appear ‘dumb’.

I sat and listened and felt overwhelmed. As I had failed to engage with the first part of the talk the rest of the induction knowledge became a blur. Now don’t get me wrong, the Curriculum Leads were great - amazing - and certainly knew their stuff, it was the language barrier from the outset that stole my enthusiasm and focus.

Russell mentions that focus in the Induction Phase (LTTNE - I’ll let you work it out) was paramount, and if you can avoid transmission pedagogies all the better for the audience. This was my problem, one PowerPoint too many. I needed to have an activity I could engage with, something tactile and hands on that gave me both agency and efficacy. Agency = taking action and making choices; efficacy = confidence in my ability to achieve a goal.

Determined for nobody else to feel like that I applied my North-East lens to what had happened, and I vowed I would do it differently if I were to facilitate such a session with schools.

I decided (after much research after the event) that I did in fact LOVE the whakapapa of Te Mātaiaho. It aligned with my own philosophies: progressions, ākonga and their voice as drivers, and local communities supporting schools to deliver an education that matters and helps breakdown barriers. The question was how can I assist a predominantly non-Māori workforce to relay the same messages, but walk away with the love and passion that I had developed? My challenge was how to pass on this understanding to others.

What follows is an account into how I think when faced with a problem; I write my problems down:

Problem #1 The language barrier caused me to stumble at the starting blocks.

Problem #2 The information was delivered in transmissive ways.

Problem #3 I was in a group, but not one built on a whānau-like trust, so I felt unsafe asking questions.

Problem #4 I couldn’t relate the information, or had a chance to bring any prior knowledge I might actually have (due to time constraints) to the conversation.

Problem #5 I didn’t get to collaborate or talk (except to ask questions) for a full 2 hours.

Solution to these problems would then equal a more engaging experience, so I could avoid the pitfalls for my attendees that I had experienced.

Solution #1 Spend time unpacking and making meaning of the language and the deep concepts they represent (you can never spend too long on the beginning - a good friend reminded me).

Solution #2 Make a tactile activity where knowledge can be shared in a non-dominating learning relationship, and one where discussion is key.

Solution #3 Ensure that this Induction knowledge is shared in a way where people feel supported to openly question things that will not be seen as deficiencies.

Solution #4 Allow people to bring their prior knowledge to the kaupapa.

Solution #5 Dialogic and discursive interactions to aid critical thinking, co-construction of knowledge, and empowerment and inclusivity.

Download the third free resource (my solution) below, and for other ideas click on this link.

Te Mātaiaho Whakapapa Card Matching Activity (2)
Download PDF • 396KB

317 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page