Reflections of a first-year teacher

Issue: Volume 102, Number 2

Posted: 23 February 2023
Reference #: 1HAZQG

In 2022, 24-year-old Morgan Korau Rangi Watt (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Hikairo) began his teaching career as a Year 7 sports development kaiako at Auckland’s Rosehill Intermediate School. He tells Education Gazette about his first year at the school.

Morgan with Year 7 and 8 ākonga from Rosehill Intermediate.

Morgan with Year 7 and 8 ākonga from Rosehill Intermediate.

I did lots of coaching before and after school and holiday programmes when I was at uni and I was doing a different degree in HR.

I got into an office job and realised straight away it was not for me. I wanted something a bit more hands-on, I guess.

I thought about teaching when I was younger but there was a lot of stigma around being a young male with children so I backed off a bit. I regret not doing it then but, at the same time, I like being a little bit older.

Doing the postgraduate programme was only one year, which I liked, so I went back to Hamilton to study. That’s where I grew up and my family was there.

We went into lockdown in August that year, so I missed my last practicum which was annoying but, just beforehand, I spoke to some recruiters at university. They called me the next day and I mentioned a job in Auckland with a sports focus that I could be interested in. 

I had the interview and, by the end, thought the opportunity was good. I got a call back from the principal, Maria, within the hour and I took it. It was only August or September and I think I was the first in my class to get a job. Nobody had really started looking but it was great to have the security of knowing I had it sorted. 

After talking to more people about the role, I soon realised what a unique opportunity this was. They told me jobs like this don’t come around often. 

Sports academy

There are two sports academies at our school and the aim is to be in the Year 8 class because that’s when you go to sports camp. 

So essentially you do Year 7, which is my class, and the students then apply to join the Year 8 class, where the camp is the big reward. 

We still teach everything as per normal but we do have a little bit of extra PE. It’s three lessons when other classes do one.

The other thing we do, which a lot of parents quite like, is bringing sports into the lessons so, for example, last year we did biographies and other classes might have done famous New Zealanders, so we’d focus on famous sports people. 

I’ll try to make my lessons sports-relevant because the students are a little bit more interested in that.

It’s really interesting to see the academic success of my students too. The sports focus really works for them, they find class more interesting by having that sports aspect so they were actually keen to be at school and my class had really high attendance rates. 

At the start of the year some teachers had 10 students coming but I still had my 27 ākonga 95 percent of the time.

They don’t miss out on any learning – we still do maths, reading, writing, social studies and everything else that’s part of the curriculum – it’s just with a sports focus. 

Being Māori

As Māori, I’m going to focus on incorporating more te ao Māori concepts and learning this year. Last year we only had six Māori students but this year it’s 50/50, which I’m excited about because I do want to do more of that. 

I have my mum and my sister on-hand to communicate ideas on how to relate to the students. I guess I’m learning and absorbing skills and information as I go. 

Whakapapa and knowing who you are is important. My dad had to do his family tree recently and we discovered connections back to the 1800s from Scotland – I’m lucky to have a really broad background of culture and heritage.

The school also has resources and people who guide us in relation to helping Māori learners, and a cultural advisor who we can go to for extra help. 

My mentor was the cultural responsiveness leader for a number of years so I can always go to her as well.

Thinking outside the box

One of the big things we’re trying to do is encourage more active activities at lunch time, not just for the 40-minute PE sessions. 

There was a recent touch tournament where I took a couple of the boys that were struggling in school, behaviour-wise and academically. I could support them by setting out a pathway where I can say, “hey look, if I get feedback from your teacher that you’re not doing it in class then you won’t be able to come with me on the sports day.” It gives them some motivation and reason to enjoy school a bit more. 

Last year we also received the Counties-Manukau Sportsmanship of the Year trophy, as voted for by all the other schools. I’m pretty proud of that one because we didn’t have the strongest year in terms of competition, but it was really cool to see some of the values I’ve been instilling in the students coming through, like leadership, teamwork, and being good sports. It’s cool to see it was recognised by other schools.

Even though we’re not winning everything, it’s been really cool to see the students developing skills to cope. It helps them in general life too. 

Biggest learnings

I felt I had good success because I dedicated a lot of time to the job. I knuckled down pretty hard. I went in early and I was staying late making sure everything was complete. 

That’s the advice I received – you have to put in a lot of time and effort but you’ll get out what you put in.

The other advice I got when I was on my placement was that you can learn how to teach something but you can’t learn how to develop relationships. So as long as you’ve got that skill you can pick up the rest.

Building a rapport with the students is a big part of it. I give up my lunch time and go play basketball with the students. They are pretty stoked that I do that.

Towards the end of the year, it was great to see the learning the students achieved and how close we had become as a class. 

My advice to other first-year teachers? Just get on with it. When something happens, and you get given extra work just knuckle down and do it straight away. Don’t procrastinate. 

It also pays to develop good relationships with the people you’re working with. Make an effort to get to know your fellow teachers. 

It’s the most rewarding job. And if you’re a male, don’t be afraid to join the profession. A lot of the parents made comments to me about how valuable it’s been for their child to have a male teacher who they can relate to. It’s refreshing for them. 

There are two sports academies at Rosehill Intermediate, with students striving to make it to a sports camp.   

There are two sports academies at Rosehill Intermediate, with students striving to make it to a sports camp.  

Principal’s reflections

Rosehill principal Maria White reflects on Morgan’s first year as a kaiako.

The relationship that Morgan has developed with his class and our school community has been outstanding. He is a very, very competent first year teacher, a very competent young man.

As a teacher, he’s very clever, and he’s resourceful and he’s embraced the values of our school, which for any organisation is really critical.

Morgan walks the talk and being Māori is an additional gift for us. We’ve got a high representation of Māori children and Morgan is such a role model for them. 

He reflects our school, our diversity, and all of the students feel a sense of belonging with him.

He is a fabulous academic role model – because of his knowledge he has very quickly absorbed the curriculum – and he’s very reflective in his practice. 

Morgan has a very holistic view of education and draws on te whare tapa whā, which is what we do at our school for wellbeing in health, and he’s very good at balancing the programme for the students.

And the students just love him. He’s got that cultural capital of a Māori perspective, he understands walking in a Māori world but he equally understands all our children because he’s incredibly personable. 

My advice to other first-year teachers is, like Morgan, don’t be scared to ask and don’t pretend you know it all. Buddy yourself and align yourself with someone who is strong with a few more years’ experience that will be your proper mentor who you can go to with questions.

Your first year is so overwhelming, so being systematic and organised is critical because a lot of information and expectations are flying at you all at once. You’ve got to be seen to be very organised and onto it for your class to set up a strong class culture.

Being confident and solid is really important for your children because you are the leader of the team of your class. Then of course you go to your mentor or your buddy to ask for help.

We struck gold with him. He’s got a sense of the job, a sense of himself, he understands the students. The profession needs more people like him.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:51 am, 23 February 2023

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