We are SO thrilled to introduce you to our first #TeacherFeature for 2022 - the incredible Tam of @misslearningbee! Tam is a former Kindergarten teacher and Assistant Principal, and has an absolutely AMAZING library full of fantastic resources she's created for Teachers.
Here at RO, we've followed Tam on the 'gram for a while now, and we've always adored her gorgeous, colourful and friendly energy, it's truly contagious. You can't help but smile when you see one of her posts. Just quietly, we think she may be the real life embodiment of 'Miss Honey' from Roald Dahl's Matilda. Let's jump in and get to know Tam a little better, shall we?!
RO: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
TAM: I am a former Kindergarten teacher and Assistant Principal based in Sydney, Australia. I’ve been a teacher since 2010, with the majority of my experience in K-2 classrooms. My teaching passions include synthetic phonics and writing, play-based learning activities, classroom management, kindness and social-emotional learning.
I recently quit my job to pursue Miss Learning Bee full-time, which I’m super excited about! I love to help teachers by creating engaging, research-based learning activities that support K-2 students in developing strong foundational skills and a love of learning, as well as resilient minds and kind hearts.
RO: What do you find most rewarding about being in education?
TAM: In those early years of school, I love getting to see a love of learning in its purest form. Watching the sheer joy in children as they learn how to read and write for the very first time is so special to watch, and so incredibly rewarding!
The other thing that I find rewarding is seeing students apply the ‘life’ lessons that I try to embed into my teaching practice – whether it’s reminding their classmates that it’s ‘okay to make mistakes’, or choosing to act with kindness in a situation, or recognising when they need to calm their bodies down with one of the strategies that I’ve taught them. Those moments, for me, are the most rewarding thing of all.
RO: Your phonics handbook, ‘#frothinonphonics’ is such a useful resource for teachers helping kids with phonics and spelling. Why do you think it’s so important to have resources like this available for everyone?
TAM: Thank you! Phonics is hands down one of my favourite subjects to teach. There is something so magical about witnessing the ‘ah ha’ moments that kids have as they unlock the mystery of the English language.
The #frothinonphonics handbook is essentially a guide of how to effectively and systematically teach spelling and phonics in K-6 classrooms. I have received such lovely feedback from teachers all around the world and I am really proud that it has become such a support to so many teachers. I feel very passionate about ensuring that all teachers can have access to the best research-based practices and training, even if they or their schools can’t afford expensive professional development. That’s why this handbook is, and will always remain, free. I’m so glad that it has helped teachers to feel more equipped to confidently approach such an important part of the curriculum- and I LOVE seeing hearing stories from teachers who have seen enormous improvements in their students’ learning as a result!
RO: We would love to hear a funny/touching story from your educational career, what is one of your favourite stories about all the kids you have taught?
TAM: I once taught a beautiful Year 2 boy, who struggled with incredible anxiety. I worked very closely with him and his family throughout that year to help him achieve goals that he hadn’t been able to reach in previous years of school, such as getting up to receive an award in assembly and taking part in our class performance. The following year, his Mum had told me that he was really struggling in the lead-up to NAPLAN assessments, and so I wrote him a letter that included a Dr Seuss quote: “Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”
Fast forward to a couple of years later when I very nervously took a huge leap of faith and left my beloved school mid-year to pursue a leadership role at a new school. This little boy knew how hard I’d found the decision, and on my last day, he gave me a letter quoting me back to myself : “As a wise person told me, don’t forget how strong you are, even when you have big mountains to climb!”
Needless to say, I’m still in touch with that child and his family, and they hold a very special place in my heart!
RO: Have you always wanted to be in the education field?
TAM: Absolutely! My poor long-suffering siblings can confirm that, after they endured many, many rounds of “schools” while we were growing up! Those school sessions even involved parent-teacher interviews with my Mum, and permission notes for excursions into our back garden…!
RO: With remote learning introduced in 2020, the teaching world had to adapt to teaching their students from home. What was a challenge for you during this time, and can you tell us a win?
TAM: Wow, what a huge couple of years it’s been for educators! And yet, teachers have well and truly risen to the occasion, time and time again! Our entire profession was flipped on its head, and we’ve been required to show incredible flexibility, resilience, and a willingness to learn a whole new skillset! But – we did it! Digital classrooms were established, resources were created, kids and families were supported, and we survived!
The biggest challenge was probably the way the situation just constantly evolved and changed, as did the expectations of us as teachers. I have had three stints of remote-learning throughout 2020 and 2021, and each time it looked very different!
There were many wins too, though. I adored our Kindergarten Zoom lessons, in all their messy chaos! They were so full of laughs and learning. I really enjoyed getting to share the experience with all of the parents - I feel like it really bonded us together. I also loved working with my Kindergarten dream team. We all have similar teaching philosophies but also approach things in slightly different ways, and so I really love that our kids got to experience all of our approaches. Our kids got five teachers for the price of one during remote learning!
RO: Has there ever been a time where your students have taught you something special?
TAM: I feel like they remind you constantly to not take life too seriously. I read somewhere that six-year-old laughs an average of 300 times a day, whereas adults only laugh 15-100 times a day. We need to channel our inner six-year-olds more often!
RO: We love talented and amazing women (like yourself) here at RO. If you could only teach your students one skill or life lesson, what would it be?
TAM: No matter how busy our classrooms schedules are, our job extends well beyond the curriculum that we report on. We teach kids how to read, write and work with numbers. We teach them to create, innovate and dream! BUT – we also have the opportunity to help the next generation learn to cope with the many curve balls that life will throw at them. I believe that we must teach kids to practise kindness and empathy, to learn to disagree with respect and grace, to own their mistakes, to make sustainable, healthy choices and regulate their emotions.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next”. As educators, we have the incredible privilege of equipping the next generation – but it is also an enormous responsibility. It’s so important that we prioritise those less tangible but far more important social/emotional life skills- I know it’s certainly something that I wish my own teachers/school had dedicated more time to when I was growing up!
RO: What are the top three things, or 'rules' you choose to live by?
TAM: 1) Choose kindness, always
2) Laugh lots
3) Spend less time worrying and more time being grateful. As a chronic over-thinker, this one is definitely a work in progress... ;-)
We're taking a leaf out of Tam's book and implementing those rules, stat! Thanks so much for chatting with us Tam, it has been an absolute pleasure. Find out how you can connect with Tam and download her free Phonics Handbook below.