It really feels like a team effort
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Kia ora, ko Lana toku ingoa. I grew up in Wellington. I studied a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Sport and Exercise at Massey in Palmerston North. I moved back home and had a few years doing different roles then last year decided to study the graduate diploma in teaching through Victoria University of Wellington. I was lucky enough to get a permanent job here at one of the schools I was placed at. I’m teaching physical education and health at a high school in suburban Wellington. I am so grateful for the years in between my undergraduate degree and going to teachers college, everything I did in those in between years has helped me with what I am doing now.
Why did you decide to go into teaching?
I love my subjects and am convinced they have so much value beyond the classroom! For physical education, I believe it should be accessible and enjoyable for all students (especially the ones that hate it haha). I want to help them to learn how to enjoy movement and set them up to be active for life. For health, there is unlimited potential for them to learn about wellbeing – both theirs personally and society as a whole. Lifestyle wise, I also love how there is more freedom to manage my time than a 9 to 5 job and the way there are crazy periods of busy then more relaxed times too.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Coming into teaching the biggest challenge has been the amount you need to learn initially. Along with an induction program there is planning and teaching topics for the first time, learning student management systems and school processes, start of year activities (camps, athletics day, assemblies etc), professional development days. You have to quickly learn how to be flexible and how to prioritize what’s most important. The flipside is the start of year activities are a great way to get to know students and staff better and they give you a head start on building those positive relationships outside the classroom that are key when you are trying to teach.
What have been the best moments?
I really enjoyed handing back my first marked senior assessment, this felt like a milestone I could tick off! Smaller moments include seeing students engaging in a lesson you have planned, when you see a student persevere then achieve success, getting to know kids and other staff in different contexts such as school camps or watching their games or attending school productions/events. I have found these extra things are always worth the effort.
Expectations vs reality – is being in a classroom what you thought it would be like?
Some days are better, some days are worse. I think there comes a time in your first year where you need to reevaluate and put things in perspective. We all go in with the best intentions but you have to accept things don’t always go to plan. When they don’t, evaluate, make changes, talk to someone if you need to and start again the next day. It’s one of the things I love the most about this job, there is always the opportunity to change things and improve. One piece of advice I got that helped me with this was to let the kids see who you are as a teacher. Ask yourself, am I trying too hard? Am I prioritizing the curriculum over relationship/student wellbeing? At any point (even during a lesson) it’s OK to step back and reevaluate. Ask the kids for some helpful ideas (though be prepared that not every idea you get back will be constructive).
How has being involved with PPTA been for you?
PPTA has been great! We have an awesome rep at our kura who has helped keep us in the loop and let us know which opportunities are available (conferences, branch meetings etc). She has also built a great team around her, empowering the other roles within our branch. It really feels like a team effort. Our regional rep has also been to visit multiple times this year. It has been nice to touch base with her too. Definitely grateful for the pay increase we won thanks to PPTA too!
What sort of level of involvement have you had?
I went to the NETs conference this year where it was awesome to meet people from all over the country. I find our branch meetings a great opportunity to touch base with other teachers and it’s really helpful as a beginning teacher to hear and contribute to the discussions that happen at these as I think being informed gives you a lot more confidence. I was elected NETs rep for our kura. This has helped me get to know the other NETs at my school better too.
What sort of support do you think is most important for first year teachers? What would you like to see more of?
There are three key relationships every NET needs. Firstly, a mentor, which should be provided to you by your school. This is someone who you can debrief with (lessons, workload, inquiry, admin, appraisal) they are there to help you make sense of everything! You need to priortise time with your mentor and fight for it if it doesn’t happen.
Secondly, relationships with the wider staff (including administration and facility staff). Don’t get stuck in a subject silo. There is learning you can apply from observing and talking with other teachers even if they are not in your learning area. These hallway conversations have reminded me I am part of a bigger team and that there is always support out there.
Thirdly, the other NETS in your school. Don’t underestimate the value of having people at the same stage as you, both to debrief about life with and you will find you encounter similar problems/ situations and can problem solve together. I couldn’t live without my NET friends. Beware of the mindset of feeling like you have to do it all on your own. I think when people isolate themselves and are unwilling to engage in conversation, that’s when things can go wrong.
What advice do you have for beginning teachers?
Prioritise having a hobby and staying fit and healthy. Timetable these things into your day and week.
Be kind to yourself and others everyone is trying their best!
Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember the bigger picture.
Write down why you wanted to get into teaching in the first place and refer to that when it gets hard. Celebrate the wins.
Have fun. It is an amazing and rewarding profession to be a part of.
Do you think you will continue teaching?
Yes for the foreseeable future. I love this job! I would love to be a dean one day.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Take personal responsibility for being informed. Join your PPTA branch, find out what the collective agreement says, prioritise your school’s PCT(provisionally certificated teachers) programme. Ask questions when you are unsure! Being informed gives you confidence because then you know where you stand and how to react.
If you are a teacher in New Zealand, find ways to include te ao Māori into your learning environment. This is our joint responsibility.