Week 1:
“Kia Ora” from Auckland


Cornell Fellow in International Student Teaching

Takapuna Normal Intermediate School | Auckland, New Zealand

November 1, 2019

At some point during the sixteen hour flight from Chicago to Auckland, I decided to watch all of the videos on New Zealand the small television screen had to offer. After studying up on the geography and history of New Zealand, I took a crash-course tutorial on Maori, the language of the native people of New Zealand, as well as a whole lesson on kia ora. In Maori, kia ora has many meanings; it’s a simple phrase, translating to “hello,” “welcome,” or  “thank you.” It also has, according to the airplane’s language tutorial, a deeper, more significant meaning. When you greet someone with kia ora, you are acknowledging every part of that person. You are greeting their family, their friends, their ancestors, their home, their beliefs, their souls, all the while representing those same parts of you.

I took the video to heart. Kia ora is such a welcoming and powerful word, and I want to be very intentional with how I use it.

While my ears crackled and popped with the change in altitude and pressure during the landing, I thought of all of the friends, family, and schools I would be speaking for when I greeted my new host family and teaching staff in Auckland. I thought of my brother, mother, and father, who have all taken their own long-distance adventures of the past couple of years. I thought of Iowa City West High School, where Brady Tobin and I completed the first half of our student teaching this semester, and of all the students and teachers I have gotten to know over the past two months. I thought of my time at Cornell, and of all the people who made this international student teaching experience possible. These are the things I think about when I say kia ora.

My first ten days in Auckland have been absolutely incredible, and it is definitely a shift from Iowa City, Iowa. For starters, we are going into the start of summer, so instead of snow storms and cold weather, people are preparing for the beach and sun. Last weekend, my host family and I mowed the lawn, trimmed hedges, pulled weeds, and cleaned out the swimming pool for the summer holiday. Personally, I have no complaints about the warmer climate, especially after wearing a coat during my last week of student teaching at West High. Other differences between Iowa City and Auckland include the driver’s seat being on the opposite side, as well as driving on the left-hand side of the road, the country’s feverish support of The All Blacks rugby team, and, my personal favorite, tea time, which takes place at 10:30am every day.

Outside of TNIS after the first full week. Notice the lack of snow.

I am slowly starting to pick up on all of the lingo, the daily schedule, and the ideologies of Takapuna Intermediate Normal School (TNIS), who have graciously accepted me as a student teacher during the last eight weeks of their school year. TNIS organizes its teachers into teams of four, and I have been placed into the Rimu team. The past two weeks, year eight students –the American equivalent of seventh graders– have been working on their Exposition presentations, a project that allows students to pick a topic they are passionate about, conduct research on a thematic or overarching question, and to organize and complete an action plan on their subject. It was incredible to watch the students’ agency and self-advocacy throughout the process, especially when all of their work came together on the Exposition Night. Topics included warming up to prevent injury in sports, ocean and beach pollution, drawing to increase mindfulness, and dozens of other topics. Each student or group of students had a table with a display, as well as some sort of interactive component, and parents and peers meandered through the classrooms like an art gallery while the students spoke on their topics. The projects took a lot of time and effort from both the teachers and the students, and it was fantastic to see all hard work come together on the night.

Reading a book about Maori history at Exposition Night.

Outside of school, I’ve been able to grow closer to my host family, comprised of Rosie, James, who also works at TNIS, and their 11 month old, Bryn. Last weekend, we ferried over to Waiheke Island, which is west of Auckland, to stay the night with Rosie’s parents. The scenery was unbelievable, the kind of views I thought you could only see on postcards and in commercials. The lush volcanic mountains and the deep blue of the ocean left me speechless. We moseyed down the beach, sampled wine from Man O’ War Bay, and disappointedly watched The All Blacks lose in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. The loss, however, could not take away from the beauty of the Waiheke.

The view from Man O’ War Bay.

With the conclusion of Exposition, I hope to gain a clearer understanding of the school schedule at TNIS and of the city of Auckland during the coming weekend. For now, kia ora to all of those back home.

Rolling hills, clear ocean, and volcanic mountain ranges at Waiheke.

Caleb Wilson '19

Caleb is from Madison, Wisconsin with a major in education and English and a minor in civic engagement.