Jayne Ferguson, 2014 Cohort (Chemistry)

Voices - 11 July 2014

Jayne teaches Chemistry at Kelston Boys High School. She tells us about how and why she came to join Teach First NZ, and what it has been like so far. 

I am teaching Chemistry at Kelston Boys High School, an all-boys secondary school in West Auckland. Before applying for Teach First NZ, I was coming to the end of my university studies and looking for a new challenge. The mission of Teach First NZ really resonated with me. I applied for the programme and, after a full-on selection day in Auckland, I was stoked to be offered a place in the 2014 Cohort.

The first part of our training programme started in mid-November with the Summer Initial Intensive (SII), and was an amazing, challenging experience which set the tone for my learning journey right from the start. Living and working with nineteen other participants provided an incredibly stimulating environment where we were all working towards a common goal of enriching and improving the lives of young people in our communities. The SII challenged all my ideas about effective teaching and learning, and from the first day I knew I had taken the right step. The practicum component at the start of January allowed us to experience a week in the life of a teacher. It was exhausting and challenging to plan a week of lessons, but each day I woke up excited to see the incredible young people who had given up a week of their holidays to be taught by us.

Soon enough the eight-week SII was over and I found myself at school preparing for my first few lessons. I was so excited and nervous to meet my students. Since the first day, this year has gone by in a blur. You are always thinking about how your students learn best and what strategies you can implement to enable  and enhance their learning. Teaching is incredibly challenging, but at the same time such a rewarding profession to be a part of. I still wake up every morning inspired, knowing that I am going to get to teach and interact with my funny, caring, delightful students. I look forward to seeing each and every one of them, and I definitely missed them over the Term 1 holidays!

I really enjoy seeing and hearing how my students think about the concepts we learn about. I find it so interesting when they explain to me what we have learnt about and how they have interpreted their new knowledge. For me, learning about how each student thinks is the favourite part of my day, and the lessons where we do labs, of course! I am lucky to be a Chemistry teacher, as I can demonstrate some of the concepts we learn about through experiments. The boys love asking what they can blow up -- nothing so far thankfully! I feel so proud when I can see my students making connections from what we learn in class to the experiments we do.

The biggest challenge so far has been recognising that when students come into the classroom each day, they are not always ready to learn, no matter how much preparation you have put into your lesson or how exciting you think the topic is! Motivating and engaging disengaged students is a big challenge, but it is so rewarding when you get the context and conditions right for learning. One of the biggest surprises has been how vibrant life at school is; there is much more going on than just classes. I love sitting planning after school and hearing the various cultural groups performing, or wandering out to the field to watch the football or rugby. The conversations with the students on Monday morning that feature what they thought of the game or how they played are always delightful.

Since beginning this journey, I have felt so privileged to have a job that I genuinely enjoy. I love thinking about learning and designing academic programmes to suit my learners’ needs. I try and get my students to do a lot of hands-on work, and then challenge them to connect what they have seen with the theory we have touched upon. I love seeing the penny drop when it all clicks together and seeing that ‘aha’ expression on students’ faces makes all the hard work worthwhile. The challenge in this job is so different to my previous work; you can usually predict what a chemical reaction will do but you can’t predict how the students will connect and interpret new information. This is what makes teaching so special to me!

I have learnt so much since starting upon this incredible journey of Teach First NZ, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!