As a Reo tutor , I get asked this more frequently than I care to acknowledge. I work hard to instil the values of my predecessors in my lessons and have a pretty no holds barred attitude with students. I am unapologetic about intertwining tikanga and reo and that in my classes at least , the two aspects are inseparable.
But still the question pops up, it makes me wonder whether tikanga is not as important to others or have we concentrated too much on aquiring the nuts and bolts of the language and left aside the life and wairua of it. I have experienced pressure from tutors as well!! At every reo wānanga or hui, I hear ‘this akonga of mine can’t make it to the Friday evening, so they are coming on Sat morning’ Sigh. 😔
Am I being too harsh?, should I be more flexible? Is tikanga too rigid, should it be more flexible, allowing for the modern world and all of it's fast 'paced - ness'? After all we can now live stream tangihanga, ...
I teach adults who are often much older than I am and have more life experience, I'll usually say this, "The experience of learning encompasses all aspects of Te Ao Māori, a pōwhiri is a fundamental part of what it means to be māori. It is the ultimate whakawhānaungatanga. The karanga is a call to your wairua and your tīpuna, signalling your arrival and welcome. You don’t get that in a class. The reo used in whaikōrero is poetic and beautiful, witty and smart, hillarious and sombre, all at the same time!! The waiata tautoko are emotional and informing! You'll hear sentence structures we wouldn't have learnt in class yet, you'll hear the many ways to use the same kupu. You will feel and experience what it is to live the language you so desperately wish to acquire. Once it’s all over, not only have you ‘survived’ a few hours of total immersion, you are now a part of a wider whānau. Your reo doesn't live in a text book, or in our three hour class every Thurs evening. It lives within your experiences of the world and if all you have experienced is the confines of your reo class, you haven't really learned anything. The journey isn't just about what you learn, but how you learn, and the experiences you encounter are the most important in shaping your reo"
Now ask again “can you miss the pōwhiri?" Only you can answer that.