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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Politics Splash Te Ao Mārama |
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An Open Letter to my Former Educators

I am writing this letter to let you know that you have inspired me to be a teacher.

Not because I have fond memories of how you all taught me valuable lessons that I will carry forever. No, I have become inspired to be a teacher because I have recently discovered that during my time at school, I was being blindfolded and led down a path paved by early European settlers. A path headed in the opposite direction to my culture, a path that so many of our rangatahi are still being led down, a path that had I continued down for much longer, would have seen me likely to never turn around.

I remember being ignored when asking about the assigned work. I guess my friends and I just laughed it off and used it as an excuse to not do the work. Instead of helping the confused Māori kids you neglected them, because you probably thought ‘he’s just going to end up in jail or on the benefit’. Unfortunately, it was a thought shared by far too many people.

I would see my peers achieve merits and excellences while I was scraping through school with achieves and not achieves. I’ll admit it, I too started to think I was probably going to end up on the benefit or working at the local construction company with a bunch of my mates. We all did, that’s because that’s what you wanted us to believe. Instead of using your role as educators to help the kids underachieving, you sat back and let society tell us that we were worthless and watched as we were constantly weighed down by negative stereotypes and assumptions.

We were taught about ‘great’ European pioneers like James Cook and how he found New Zealand. We were spoon fed western culture and history and idolised European settlers that ‘shaped our great country’. We even have streets named after them. Never did we talk about great Māori explorers, never did we hear about how those ‘great European pioneers’ manipulated Māori into signing away their sovereignty in a language that they barely understood. No, those things aren’t important in our westernised schooling system.

However, since finishing school, I have learnt about how strong Māori actually were and still are, during a time when Māori were being physically abused for speaking their native tongue and the number of Te Reo speakers were dropping rapidly, we stood tall and we fought for our reo. When those awesome ‘European pioneers’ you taught us about were killing Māori and stealing their land to sell to European settlers on the other side of the world, we stood tall and fought for our whenua.

These European pioneers you spoke of so highly, they killed my tipuna. They were so power hungry and money driven that they killed and enslaved my tipuna for sitting peacefully on their tūrangawaewae. They almost killed off my native tongue in just one generation.

I want our rangatahi to grow up being able to speak Te Reo Māori and not be looked at funny. I want them to grow up proud of their culture and history. I want them to grow up knowing about their tūrangawaewae. I want them to grow up in a country that is Māori.

As an educator in Aotearoa, it will be my duty and my privilege to educate and inspire young Māori, to empower them with their own mana and the histories of their tipuna.

I am writing this letter to let you know that you have inspired me to be a teacher.

Nā Carlos Carter

Ngāti Mutunga, Te Atiawa and Ngāi Tahu

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