I worked through the challenges and have come on top smiling

As part of our series focusing on beginning teachers we talk with second year Drama teacher Adele Tunnicliff.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Adele Tunnicliff and I am a drama teacher at Northcote College in Auckland. I started teaching in July 2018 and am currently in my second year of the job. I grew up in sunny Nelson and had such awesome teachers. I studied my BA in theatre and media at Victoria University of Wellington, and my Masters in teaching at the University of Auckland.  

Why did you decide to go into teaching?

In all honesty, it was a last minute decision. I was working a job I hated and I wanted to do something that gave me purpose. A friend of mine had recently been accepted into a Masters of Teaching course and I thought that sounded like a great opportunity. I love directing and all things to do with drama and the arts. I applied two days before the cut off, and low and behold I got in! I never wanted to be a teacher, so it really was a snap-decision. 

What have been the biggest challenges?

Behaviour management, hands down. I teach in a co-ed school and I happen to teach every single year 9 that comes to our school. As we all know, year 9 can be hard work! I also started teaching halfway through the year (July) because my Masters degree finished in July. This meant my induction felt a bit rushed and I really felt like I had been chucked in the deep end. I isolated myself for a while and started to blame the job for all of my personal issues...a dangerous headspace to be in! I had days where I would just come home and cry. I worked through these challenges and have come out on top smiling and loving everything about this job. 

What have been the best moments?

Doing class productions with my year 12 students. I have gotten very close with my year 12 class this year, to the point where they all call me "Mum". Their appreciation and gratitude is very uplifting and reminds me that my job has purpose. For my birthday this week my year 12 class baked me two cakes and brought a shared lunch. They also made me cards and gave me gifts. I was so overwhelmed by their love!

Pg 15 Adele Tunnicliff

Expectations vs reality – is being in a classroom what you thought it would be like?

Hard to say, I had no expectations going into the classroom. The reality of being in the classroom is that YOU are the responsible adult in the room and that can be quite daunting at times. After a while you get the hang of it!

How has being involved with PPTA been for you?

To be honest I'm feeling like a needle in a haystack when it comes to PPTA. I don't quite feel like I know how to express my concerns with the profession just yet. I guess you could say I'm finding my feet there. 

What sort of level of involvement have you had?

I've been to branch meetings, joined the Facebook groups (and learned quickly to avoid those comment sections!) and participated in strike action. In future I want to be more active but I also need to remember I'm still in my first two years of teaching!

What sort of support do you think is most important for first year teachers? What would you like to see more of?

The most important support is having a mentor that you can trust. This person serves as your go-to on all of your problems. Another support is having an HoD that trusts you and answers all of your questions. To survive, you need teacher friends. These are colleagues you can banter with and grab a coffee with. Especially people outside of your subject area so you don't get stuck talking about work all the time! 

What advice do you have for beginning teachers?

Ask for help! Don't be afraid of asking dumb questions. Your colleagues are there to support you and you need to let them help you. Don't give up when the going gets tough. I also highly recommend getting EAP counselling as a way of dealing with all the emotions you will inevitably have being a beginning teacher. 

Treat your students with respect and kindness, and they'll return the favour. Never, ever, ever, yell at kids. It doesn't work. Find ways to get to know your students and show that you are interested in their learning. Your professional learning never stops, keep seeking learning experiences. Make teacher friends who are positive and keep you laughing. They're your biggest support. 

Do you think you will continue teaching?

Absolutely, I love it. I've found myself falling more and more in love with the job. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I'm really lucky in my school and I have the best HoD in the world who lets me do what I want. That's been a real treat. I never thought I would love being a teacher this much but I truly do!

Last modified on Friday, 29 November 2019 15:00