Sep 5 / Lillian Hetet-Owen

KО̄RERO / The Tikanga Of Honouring Your Teacher

The Tikanga Of Honouring Your Teacher

In the documentary, Mō Te Iwi: Carving For The People, Rangi Hetet speaks about his teacher, Hone (John) Taiapa, more than 60 years after he learned whakairo under the renowned master carver.
"I thank my teacher, John."
- Rangi Hetet says at 82 years of age
Rangi's acknowledgement of his teacher, as the source of his own knowledge and skills, is an example of the tikanga of honouring one's teacher.

This tikanga (way of doing things based on traditional Māori values) is something that can sometimes be overlooked by students of the traditional arts. In this post we discuss the tikanga of honouring your teacher within Te Whare Pora (the house of weaving).


It helps to think of Te Whare Pora as a state of being more than just a place where weaving happens. If Te Whare Pora is built on respect and humility then trust and care between the teacher and student will grow.

Over time, the relationship bears fruit: the more the student respectfully responds to their teachers instruction, the more their teacher is willing to give time and knowledge to help their student succeed. Such a two-way street makes it possible for both student and teacher to get maximum joy from working together.
Awhi Atu - Awhi Mai
On the other hand, if a teacher is impatient, unkind or dishonest with their student, or the student is disrespectful, demanding and ungrateful then the relationship will fall apart and Te Whare Pora will become an uncomfortable and unproductive space to be.

Showing respect and gratitude to your teacher (honouring him or her) is a way that you can ensure Te Whare Pora remains a generous, creative and nurturing place to be in. 



Trust your teacher to give you what you need when you need it. This way of learning is how our mother, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, was taught by her teacher, our great-grandmother Rangimarie Hetet.

This way of learning and teaching is contrary to mainstream educational practices.

The traditional Māori way of teaching and learning requires the student to be patient rather than constantly asking questions and pushing their teacher to share more than the teacher deems necessary. The student is given what they need when they are ready for it. (Think 'Mr Myagi' in Karate Kid)


Acknowledge those who have shared what they know with you and remember that you have become a part of a whakapapa of teaching and learning. Acknowledging where your source of matauranga and skills comes from also honours the many generations of teachers, in years gone by, who generously passed on the things they knew.


Excel at what you do. This is one of the best things you can do to honour your teacher because not only does it give immense satisfaction and pleasure to a teacher to see their students create excellent work but it is also a reflection on the teacher and his or her teaching ability. Ultimately, however, striving for excellence will be a reflection of your own standards and integrity.


The following examples from our own experiences as teachers illustrate the three things you should avoid doing if you want to uphold the tikanga of Te Whare Pora and build a good relationship with your teacher. 


For example:
  • Those who go from teacher to teacher to teacher simply to acquire know-how, without giving time for a trusting student-teacher relationship to develop.
  • Those who are already learning with a weaving teacher and, at the same time, also sign up to our course(s) without either teacher knowing - thus being disrespectful to both teachers at once.

Forgetting who your teacher was

For example:
  • People who say they learned with us but who actually learned with someone else.
  • Students who knew little about weaving when they came to learn with us but went on to say they learned what they know about weaving "at the feet of their nannies and aunties".
  • People who say they learned with our mother, Erenora, when they learned with Veranoa
  • People who claim to be one of our mother's students but who only spent a few hours or days with our Mum (and sometimes not even in a weaving class!).
  • Those who know very little at all about weaving but claim to be 'a weaver who learned with the Hetet whānau'.

We know of one carver who spent two weeks with our Dad but, when applying for a carving job, claimed he "learned with Rangi Hetet". Dad shakes his head anytime he thinks about that.

It takes time to properly learn a skill such as weaving or carving, and it takes time to develop a meaningful relationship with someone who you can truly say is your teacher. 

Sharing Without Permission

Which includes:
  • Those who learn with a teacher and go on to share what they learned from that teacher with others (ie their own students or followers) without first speaking with their own teacher about it. 
  • Those who sign up to one of our online classes (and therefore agreed to our terms and conditions) and think it's ok to share our video lessons with people who are not signed up to the course with us or use our content in their own teaching. Not only is this is unethical plagiarism, it is also illegal and amounts  to stealing.
Never Be A Pretender!
Whether you're learning or about to start your journey into the world of carving or weaving, when you follow the tikanga of honouring your teacher it will not only uphold the mana of your teacher and yourself but it will also speak volumes about how much you respect the skills and knowledge you are learning, passed down through generations.

Ngā mihi nui,
Lillian Hetet-Owen
on behalf of the whānau of the Hetet School of Māori Art

PS: I had a coffee with my Papa this morning and checked in with him about the points I've made above. He added the following to these thoughts (which made me realise - I should have asked him first! )

Avoid Teaching while you're still a student

In the excitement of learning new things, people can be eager to share what they know. Although it's fine to support your fellow students, it's worth remembering that most people would prefer to learn from an expert rather than a novice.

Dad's final words on this matter,
 "Tikanga is all about Respect"