A day in the life of ... Kala Brown

This teacher at a Maori-speaking school on New Zealand's South Island is proud to be the guardian of a great treasure: the language, philosophy and culture of the nation's indigenous people

Tes Editorial

I wake up to the sound of the alarm piercing my eardrums. I hit the snooze button at least twice. Come 6.30am, it is definitely time to get up. I live with my younger sister and her whanau, the Maori word for family, and my six-year-old nephew is already up, watching cartoons on television. He greets me with a smile and I get us both breakfast. This makes my morning, but soon it is time to get ready for school.

I moved to Whakatu, the Maori name for the city of Nelson on New Zealand's South Island, at Christmas last year. I work at the new Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi, one of five Maori-language immersion schools on the South Island.

Maori is, of course, the language of the indigenous people of this country and these schools attempt to teach their philosophy and culture as well as their tongue.

Recently, the kura celebrated its first birthday. Because we speak only Maori at school, we have a small roll of 57, with 42 tamariki (children) in our primary section and 15 in the high school. A child needs to be proficient in speaking and understanding Maori in an interview with the principal before they can be accepted to TKKM o Tuia te Matangi.

Maori, our sacred language, is dying within New Zealand. It takes just one generation for it to die and three generations to revitalise it, so my school is fighting an uphill battle.

I arrive at kura just before 7.30am. I teach multiple classes: hakinakina, which is sport; hauora, health; and whakapakari tinana, fitness. I also cover other lessons when needed.

I love sport. In one of the day's early lessons, I take a holistic approach and give the children opportunities to build on their strengths.

Because our pupil numbers are small, the teenagers don't have many opportunities to participate as a school team in college sport. But this year, three of the girls are playing in a women's basketball team. The same three have also been asked to fill in on a local college rugby team and today I take them to training after school has finished.

As well as my full-time position at the kura, I am also kaihautu o te Waipounamu (facilitator of the South Island) for the New Zealand Educational Institute. This takes up some of my day after school. It is important work and I am a strong voice for Maori education.

I really enjoy working at TKKM o Tuia te Matangi and couldn't imagine being anywhere else in the world. It is a rare opportunity to be involved in the process of revitalising an indigenous language, a taonga (treasure).

My day ends at home with my family. It has been another busy day - but, because of the work I do, an important one.

Your day

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