Breaking in the right way

Breaking in the right way

Oct 15, 2019 - Voices

Felicity Powell is in her first year of the Teach First NZ Programme. Her day job is a Computer Science teacher, and she’s also a Google Innovator, IP Law specialist, certified yoga teacher, wine educator, Shaolin Kung Fu kid, founder of a publishing company, an ex-Glacier Guide and penguin enthusiast. This wahine toa shares her journey with Ako Mātātupu; how falling apart allows the right pieces to fall together with purpose, and what educational neuroscience has to do with it.

1. When you started university did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

Absolutely not. I never considered being a teacher, even though my mum started her career in Teacher's College, and taught in Primary School. I loved learning and 'teaching' with others, from tutoring to designing learning programs, but teaching was not on my agenda. Education, yes. Teaching, no.

2. How did you hear about Ako Mātātupu ?

A wonderful Professor, who later became a colleague and friend, recommended it to me after I graduated in 2016. I went to India to train as a Yoga Teacher for a hot minute, and when I came back, I decided to apply. I remember I got into the programme at the same time as I was given a job as a Franz Josef Glacier Guide. I can't remember which interview process was more intense, but I remember I cried in both of them, and I cried when I was accepted into both. Basically - lots of happy tears.

3. Where are you working now?

I'm still in my first year of the programme, working as a Computer Science teacher at Mount Roskill Grammar School.

4. What is the best part of the Teach First NZ Programme?

This is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it's also the best thing I've ever done, hands down. I think being a part of a values- and vision-aligned organisation, who really walk their talk, is the most reassuring thing in the process. Also, it's kind of like being on a 2-year field trip with all of your favourite people. Whakawhanaungatanga is such an important part of what we do as teachers, and that starts within our cohort. Being on this journey with such amazing people makes all of the difference.

5. What's your favourite part about teaching?

This is going to sound super cliché, because everybody says it, but 100% our students. I still can't believe I get to spend every day with these amazing young people. They have pushed me to grow, learn, and love far beyond what I ever imagined myself capable of. I love the fact that when I feel exhausted, drained, and down, I still believe in what I do and who this program has helped me become. But my students are my day-to-day reminder that this is not about me at all. I'm currently writing this from my classroom, during the holidays, where a group of my students have chosen to come in and work with me on their projects. There's nowhere else I would rather be, to be honest.

6. What's the most challenging part about teaching?

There are massively challenging parts about teaching in New Zealand that are directly related to the Ako Mātātupu kaupapa, things that will pull at your soul and break your heart. But that pain feels worth it if you believe that you are there to un-do that damage, if you believe that is possible, and the pain is simply a byproduct of growth. And I do.

7. What would you say to those who are considering joining the programme?

Go for it if you are interested! Life is far too short to wonder "what if". If this is right for you, I believe it will be the rightest thing you ever do.

8. What life advice would you give to students finishing up their degrees?

From someone who took 10 years to complete their undergraduate degree... Your lowest grades will be your best learning. Learn to love the papers you've sucked at, because those mistakes will become the learning experiences that make you far beyond your easiest accomplishments. Try everything, especially the things that are scary. Along the way, you're going to find the things you're more willing to fail at, stumble on, be humiliated by... because those things are actually what you were uniquely made to endure and triumph through - that's your special brand of magic.

Lifelong learning is simply realising that you've got your entire life to love the things you suck at.

Start now.

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