Q and A with Associate Tahlia Storms

March 22, 2016 6:34 pm

Tahlia Storms, Cohort 2016 Associate

Congratulations to Tahlia Storms and the rest of our amazing Associates who are nearing the end of their first term teaching! Tahlia teaches English and Humanities/Social Sciences at Yule Brook College in Perth. She completed uni in 2014, and worked at a tertiary college for a year before applying for Teach For Australia.

I decided I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all day, and I realised I had done a lot of little ‘teaching’ jobs – swimming teaching, tutoring, youth-leading  – which brought me to the realisation that I wanted to be a teacher. Ultimately, I wanted to be trained as a teacher who could reach the students who were struggling and needed extra support, and be part of their journey to succeeding.”

Tahlia has shared her perspective on some of the questions our first year Associates are frequently asked:

1. How much work do you do outside of school hours?

Define “school hours”! I get to work at 7:30am, and generally don’t leave until 4pm. I will then do about an hour in the evening, depending on how many classes I have on the next day or how much marking there is to do. On the weekends, I aim to spend about half a day on lesson planning and searching/creating resources for my classes. The important thing is to ensure you are also planning in “me” time into every week! I have found if I spend all weekend at my desk, I have no personality or energy to give to my students because I haven’t recharged. An extremely well-planned lesson means nothing if you walk into class with no energy!

2. How intense actually is Initial Intensive?

The great thing about intensive was that everyone was new. I have to admit I found it quite full on because I hadn’t studied in over a year and so I had to find my “university-brain” again, and there were 125 other Associates to meet!  We also started a 10 day practicum at local schools on day THREE, so at the time it felt like it was straight into the deep end.

What we all soon found was it was very helpful to do a few days of classes with Teach For Australia and Deakin, and then apply what we had learned straight into the classroom the next day. At times you feel like your brain is going to explode with all the new information you have going around in your head, and trying to put that onto paper for the first assignment was a bit of a scramble, but somehow, with all of the support from the mentors, lecturers, and teachers, you get through it. I’ll finish by saying Initial Intensive is the only time I have managed to survive on about 5-6 hours sleep a night!

3. Did you feel prepared going into your first class?

I spent all of intensive freaking out about the first class, and as soon as it was over I realised I had nothing to worry about! The first class is fun! You get to go in, meet the students, tell them about yourself, set some boundaries (which you may have to re-evaluate later) and basically show them that you care about them and are there to help. But yes, definitely prepared.

During Initial Intensive, we spent a whole afternoon with Teach For Australia and Deakin mentors, planning out our first lessons and getting feedback. They help you along every step of the way.

4. What has been the biggest challenge so far?

During Initial Intensive, you’ll learn about this theory called Unconditional Positive Regard. Basically it means that no matter what happened yesterday, you will walk back into your classroom and continue to treat your students with the utmost respect and love. This is so important! But it is also so hard! I’ve learned how important it is not to take bad behaviour personally, and to walk out of the classroom leaving all of the emotions behind as you do.

5. Was the transition from working to TFA difficult?

I left my previous job ready for a challenge, but I didn’t realise just how challenging it would be! But I have also enjoyed the challenge and persevered through it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

6. What are you classes like?

My classes are very small. I’m lucky to be in a school that tries to keep class numbers low (15 – 20 students). But often the biggest challenge of a class is motivating students to keep up with the work, and to engage them in a way that is interesting to them.

7. Do you enjoy being a TFA Associate (so far)?

Yes! There is so much support, so much enthusiasm, and you make so many fantastic contacts in being part of a cohort, meeting previous cohorts, and of course our wonderful Teacher Leadership Advisors.

8. Is it hard to balance Masters assignments and teaching?

At the moment I have to admit I am struggling with procrastination with assignments. But what student doesn’t, right? Sometimes it’s hard, because when you come home you want to have a break, or you know there’s a hundred and one things you should be doing for school. But we have great support from Deakin, who are very understanding when we need extensions. The work is also often very applicable, so doing Deakin work helps our teaching in the classroom and vice versa.

9. Do you feel like you have enough support?

Yes! Between my Teaching and Leadership Advisor, my in-school mentor, my Deakin tutors, my principal and vice-principal, and all of the other teachers at my school, I have an abundance of wisdom, advice, and support. Having family and friends outside of the teaching bubble is also very important, because sometimes you need some perspective. My husband is so supportive, has listened to hours of teacher-stories, but also helps me to take some brain-space from work.

10. What is your work-life balance like?

It is so important to not make work your whole life, even just for sanity’s sake. I still youth-lead on Friday nights, and spend Saturday’s doing what I want to do, even if it’s just relaxing. You also cannot forget about the loved ones in your life. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking a break because there is ALWAYS something else you can do, or prepare, or research. But there comes a time when you have to STOP. You have to look after yourself first and foremost. The last thing the students need is a teacher who is going to burn out after Term one!
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(Image: Flickr user Christian Schmidt under Creative Commons license.)