Thursday 12 December 2019 10:46pm
Paia Taani, who is graduating with a Master of Indigenous Studies.
Graduating with a Master of Indigenous Studies has been a “surprising journey of self-discovery” for Paia Taani, and one she says has anchored the decision made by her and her whānau for her to communicate solely in te reo Māori with her tamariki.
“We took that journey for our own whānau, but also realising we could make a wider difference and send a message to other families and educators about what can be done,” Paia of Tūhoe, Ngāti Whare and Whakatōhea says.
Paia vividly recalls the moment her first son was born 15 years ago, and the first words she spoke to him which were in te reo Māori.
"A common barrier was confidence, as anyone has to be confident in the material they are teaching to be able to teach it well, however teachers are trying really hard by using what they know."
The poignancy of that moment was that te reo Māori hadn’t been huge part of Paia’s life since she was 10 years old, when her immediate whānau left her childhood home near Waikaremoana and moved to Dunedin.
When Paia started lecturing in early childhood education two years after her eldest son’s birth, the whānau decided to apply the ‘one parent one language’ approach at home so their children would grow up with te reo Māori.
From that point, and while learning te reo Māori herself, Paia only spoke te reo with her tamariki now aged 15,11, nine and three.
“Through my lecturing and research I could see the benefits of bilingual language acquisition,” Paia says.
“We also wanted our tamariki to be confident in both of their worlds and be strong in both Māoritanga as well as their Pākehātanga.”
The topic for her Master of Indigenous Studies, investigating how prepared teachers are to teach te reo Māori speaking tamariki in mainstream primary education, was fuelled and influenced by two main factors.
“Firstly our personal experiences raising bilingual tamariki and choosing the mainstream education system, and also by my professional practice as a lecturer and facilitator of professional development around bicultural practices.”
In the research she interviewed kaiako (teachers) and tauira (students) in a Bachelor of Teaching programme on how well prepared they felt to teach te reo Māori.
"It is known that it takes three generations for a language to survive and thrive, and my hope is that one day I will hear my mokopuna speak te reo Māori. Once I hear that, then I will rest."
“A common barrier was confidence, as anyone has to be confident in the material they are teaching to be able to teach it well, however teachers are trying really hard by using what they know.”
One of the primary research drivers was raising awareness of additional support and extension for children who are already speaking te reo Māori, such as working with whānau or increasing accessibility to additional resources and support.
Currently Initial Teacher Education programmes are being reviewed against new Teaching Council requirements to achieve better alignment with the professional teaching standards, reinforcing the relevance of the research.
With her kaupapa in life to “make a difference,” Paia continues to strive for this by connecting and supporting Māori communities on a wider scale through her new role at Te Puni Kōkiri.
Meanwhile at home her husband Marcel, who is from Tonga, now speaks only in Tongan to the couple’s fourth and youngest child who is being brought up trilingual, and the new language is slowly rippling through the whānau.
“Te reo Māori is taonga,” Paia says.
“It is known that it takes three generations for a language to survive and thrive, and my hope is that one day I will hear my mokopuna speak te reo Māori. Once I hear that, then I will rest.”