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Postgrad Facilitator talks Te Reo imposter syndrome, ako, and Māori tauira support

Kirsty Hohua TML TFL Website

Ko Tōtaranui te maunga
Ko Mākātote te awa
Ko Te Aowera te hapū
Ko Hirurahama, Te Aowera, Rongohaere, Materoa ngā pā
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi
Ko Kirsty Hohua tōku ingoa

This pepeha comes naturally to Kirsty Hohua now, her own story that brings forward her whakapapa into her present. But it’s been a journey to get here and one that helps her find a deep empathy for the kaiako (teachers) she supports as Postgraduate Facilitator on The Mind Lab’s Master of Contemporary Education (MCE). Because she understands what it’s like to be ‘relearning’ something that many people expect you to already have sorted.

Kirsty’s greatest joy is connecting with kaiako from all across the country.

Through this role, everyday she is also able to connect with a large number of Māori tauira (students), and finds it extremely fulfilling to watch them create positive change in their learning communities.

“I love teaching. I’ve really found my calling with teaching,” she says.

Kirsty’s most important goal is to get her students through their assignments. She also teaches and facilitates sessions, adds to the kaupapa Māori material that’s in the MCE programme, and marks Te Reo Māori submissions.

Despite this, Kirsty doesn’t see herself as a kaiako to her students.

“Instead, I see myself as a person who helps them, supports them, and tries to get the best out of them, because I understand it’s a struggle being a teacher.”

Looking to finish her second year Masters of Education in Māori Medium, Kirsty was awarded the TeachNZ scholarship.

“I’m still learning everyday. Everyone is learning.”

But Kirsty’s journey to being the go-to support person for Māori tauira was far from easy. Growing up in Upper Hutt with two siblings, her Mother was physically strapped at school for speaking Te Reo, her first language, and decided there was “no currency” in being Māori.

Attending Queen Victoria boarding school in Parnell, Kirsty felt lost and out of place, struggling to find a connection to her Māori ancestry due to an upbringing bereft of te reo Māori and an understanding of her culture.

“It was hard… I’ve always had a sense of shame and embarrassment for not knowing who I am, where I’m from, or knowing how to speak te reo,” Kirsty says.

But in 2000, she graduated from Victoria University with an honours degree in Māori.

Kirsty decided that a move to teaching would be a good career choice for her children.Kirsty moved to Ōtaki and joined a community of “the best” Māori speakers, where local marae were ‘living marae’ for not just tangi, but for hui on the weekends too.

“That’s where I’ve been immersed in Te Reo,” says Kirsty.

Associating with a servant leadership model – a philosophy encouraging diversity of thought and fostering leadership in others, rather than achieving authority and power – it’s no wonder her key focus at The Mind Lab is student support.

Being at The Mind Lab, Ako – to both teach and learn – is a core value.

“We are always in a state of ako, we will always be in a state of ako until we die. It’s learning new things and being open to what is around us,” she says.

“In Te Ao Māori, ako is inherently in us. But doing it collaboratively. It’s about coming together, talking about things.”

Kirsty says if she knew about The Mind Lab before starting her Masters, she would have studied MCE.

“The project is what sold it for me, it’s amazing. You get the tools to make change in your classroom, and that’s just the first project. You can just keep doing that over and over.”

MCE is designed for full-time teachers. By learning something Tuesday night, you’re encouraged to implement it into the classroom on Wednesday.

Not only is there a focus on how to best utilise technology in the classroom, but always questioning “why” tools should be implemented – what purpose will it serve students?

“MCE is great for learning about how we use these tools while also looking at yourself and reflecting on how you are teaching.”

Looking to the future, Kirsty sees education becoming even more digital and dynamic yet grounded in mātauranga Māori

This includes going back to tīpuna, whenua and looking at reviving traditions and intertwining that with sustainability.

She also forecasts more student-led learning, where teachers and students are able to be innovative and adapt to changes together.

“Especially from a Māori medium perspective, it’s an exciting time because we have graduates coming through that are going to totally change and innovate the way we do things.”

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