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Knowing Your WHY as a Primary School Teacher

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Photo of Cassie (Teach Starter)
Updated | 6 min read

Knowing your ‘why’ is something that life coaches, business coaches and fitness gurus around the globe talk about. And, there’s a good reason why (that is, why you need to know your ‘why’). Areas of our life that can benefit from a little bit of outside coaching or support (like teaching, fitness and mental health) tend to be ones that challenge us in some way. Often, when we’re stuck in the depths (on under large and heavy pile – whichever metaphor feels right to you!) of a challenge, taking time to connect with WHY we are doing what we are doing can help to see past what’s hard in the present.

Our ‘why’ gives us a healthy perspective when we need it the most.

This week, we’ve asked Tanya of @littlemiss_teacher to share with us some of her thoughts about teaching. Find out what makes some days easy and some days not so much, and ultimately, what keeps her going each day.

TS: Tell us a little about yourself and your current role.

Tanya: My name is Tanya and I live in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. I have been teaching for 3 years now. I am currently working in a Catholic Primary school teaching Year 4 after spending the last few years teaching Year 2.

TS: Why did you become a teacher?

Tanya: I cannot pinpoint an exact reason why, or when I decided to become a teacher. All I know is that the desire has always been there. I think the ability to truly help others and have a positive impact on children’s lives was a pretty powerful motivator.

Despite this, I was scared it was too much of a ‘normal’ job. After Year 12 I went to Italy for a month and decided to pursue fashion and then the lure of the world sucked me in. After a 6 month trip around Europe, I came home and it just hit me that I wanted to do teaching and that it was now or never. I didn’t even think about another career…it was teaching all the way!

TS: What is it about your job that makes your heart sing?

Tanya: Where do I start… I love it when you see a child’s face light up because they have just had an “UH-HUH” moment and finally got a concept you have been learning all week.

Maybe it is when you have old students telling you that they still have your letter you made them 2 years ago and it’s STILL hanging in their room. I love receiving letters, notes or cards from my students, old and current. I love hearing parents tell me their child has never been happier.

I love it when the students start mimicking sayings that you try to ingrain in them like “mistakes show me you’re learning”. There are so many rewards in this amazing job I get to do every day.

TS: What do you find most challenging in your current role?

Tanya: I think every year has its challenges and over the last year I have had many ups and downs.

I feel the main challenge I have faced this year has been letting go. I arrive at school at 7:30 in the morning and rarely leave anytime before 5 most nights. This, on top of the additional marking, planning and resource hunting has just been draining. I honestly don’t know how teachers used to cope years ago without online resources like TeachStarter.

TS: Aw, shucks! That’s why we’re here!

TS: Is working in education different to how you imagined it would be when you were a pre-service teacher?

Tanya: Yes and No. I knew it would be hard work, and I knew it would be rewarding. I just didn’t know how much hard work it would require.

I think the challenging part of teaching is that you spend four years learning about all of the strategies and theories, then you are given mentors throughout your placement rounds and a mentor for your first year. After your first year of teaching, I feel you are almost on your own.

Funnily enough, I miss someone giving me constructive feedback about how I can better myself and my teaching to meet the needs of my students. That is probably the biggest thing I miss about being a pre-service teacher, the feedback and guidance.

TS: If you could change three things about the expectations that are placed on teachers, carers and students in the current climate of education, what would they be?


  1. More support teaching a classroom with 25+ students all with a range of behavioural needs, diagnosis, abilities and backgrounds.
  2. Looking after teacher wellbeing- I think many schools have such a focus on student wellbeing that we sometimes forget about ourselves.
  3. Overcrowded curriculum- there never seems to be enough hours in a day and enough days in a week to fit it all in.

TS: Can you describe the best lesson or best teaching experience you’ve ever had?

Tanya: My favourite lessons are the ones where we all lose track of the time because the students are so excited by what they are learning about and want to keep learning.

A moment I remember was when a student who hated maths got upset when I asked the students to pack up after a maths session. She finally had the “UH-HUH” moment and was really excited about learning- it was just infectious!

TS: Name three characteristics or skills that you hope every one of your students will have when they walk out of your classroom for the last time.

Tanya: One wish for my students would be they walk out of my classroom proud, compassionate and happy. I know it’s simple but I think sometimes simple is best.

TS: Where do you hope your career in education will take you?

Tanya: I eventually would like to take on some kind of leadership role at a school. In the future, I would like to potentially get into some kind of social work. After volunteering with Mirabel Foundation, I have found how rewarding different relationships with children can be and this is something I would like to someday pursue.

Tanya’s Top 3 Teach Starter Resources

I asked Tanya what her current three favourites are (because there are so many resources to explore!):

1. “Out of the Book” Comprehension Board Game

2. Contraction Bingo

3. Word Wall Task Cards

Word Wall Task Cards

Huge thanks to Tanya for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us for this Teach Starter Spotlight. 

You can connect with Tanya via her Instagram account @littlemiss_teacher


Would you like to apply for a Teach Starter Spotlight feature?
Or, do you know someone working in Education whose story you think we should share?
Get in touch via [email protected]


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