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Kaiāwhina - A Teacher’s Aide

Updated: May 3, 2023

by Rebecca Thomas

(image belongs to Irene Cooper)

Our unsung heroes, nanna’s, mums, dads, uncles, aunties, kaiāwhina are getting equitable access to PLD funding as a result of their 2022 collective bargaining. The important roles teacher aids have in supporting educational outcomes have been given some mana at last.

As I spent the day deliberating what effective PLD for te hāpai ō would look like, I did what Casey Kendall always reminds me to do when using te reo Māori and concepts, I searched for meaning within the root of the word to help guide my thoughts.

Firstly, Kaiāwhina:

Kai - to feed (not just food but also the mind)

Awhi/āwhina - to help, to hug

Kaiāwhina - to help and support

Whina - Dame Whina wouldn’t have been able to lead the hīkoi if she didn’t have kaiāwhina. The support people, the whānau who planned the marae stays, the people who worked hard in the background to get the mahi done. Without them and their support nothing would get done. It's testament to the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

Casey also pointed out that sometimes the word Hāpai ō is used to describe our unseen helpers too.

Hāpai ō

Hāpai - to lift, to raise, or elevate

Ō - an ancient term for provisions, or food for a journey

By unpacking the teacher aid title and using te ao Māori to explore meaning I fed my understanding, on a newer deeper level. It filled me with warmth, and made me want to ensure that any PLD that comes their way is uplifting and special. I wanted to acknowledge the wonders of what they do so selflessly, to appreciate their gift of time and energy for the betterment of others.

With those foundations in place I knew that my role as a consultant (responsible for designing this long awaited PLD offering) must be done in a mana enhancing way.

For me, this would mean a suitable venue where learning is face to face and relational, a venue that showed our kaiāwhina the status they deserve - not the back of an empty disused classroom/library, only online if location was an issue.

For me, this would mean giving the workshop a suitable time. A time that showed our teacher aides they were indeed valued - not after school, or squeezed into an unpaid lunch hour, or at a time when they might be collecting their own children or mokopuna from school.

For me, this would mean quality kai, kai with sustenance, even if I baked it myself - not a wishy washy cup of tea from a plastic cup, or a broken biscuit.

Finally, I decided the course I had planned would not only incorporate andragogy principles, but also be a space where they can bring their expertise and knowledge to the table, a space where they feel their experience and voice are appreciated.

I guess my purpose for writing this blog is two fold.

  1. It’s a message to those other providers out there, designing courses and workshops for the ones who raise us up: make sure you plan/design your workshops with the awhi and āwhina that enhances their mana and feeds their minds; ensure it is a workshop designed with care.

  2. For the leaders and teachers that will be missing their support for the day: don’t grumble, or make them feel bad when they have a day away from school for their learning, instead be supportive; show an interest, and whichever ākonga will be missing their guidance on that day - problem solve it, be the village.

Celebrate our mums, aunts, uncles and nannas, our unsung heroes, our kaiāwhina, this time it's our turn to raise them up. Acknowledge those who do the mahi in the background, as without them, nothing would be done.

(appreciation to Casey Kendall for helping me unpack and understand te reo Māori)

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