Tegan Clinch

Perth teacher and mental health advocate, Tegan Clinch, shares her inspiring story and tales from the classroom.

“In the first year of teaching my Deputy told me that it is okay to let your guard down. That you’re allowed to let your students get to know you. And I think it’s a great piece of advice – being open with the students allows them to be open with you, by sharing your feelings with them so that they can share in return. You develop a safe environment within the classroom.”

Tell us a little bit about your childhood…

I grew up on a five-acre property in the southern suburbs of Perth. Having twin brothers, we would often spend our time playing and exploring outside in the bush on our property. I spent many years of my childhood playing netball and ballroom dancing. My mum is originally from rural Victoria where we would often spend school holidays back on the family farm with our cousins, riding in the headers, tractors, and quad bikes, along with water skiing on the Dimboola River.

Tell us about why you became a teacher.

I was one of the lucky few who knew what they wanted to do from a young age. Being a teacher was always my dream job, making my brothers playschools on the weekends and holidays. Teaching is also in my blood, my grandfather, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all teachers. So, you could say I was destined to work in the profession.

Was there anyone that inspired you both to become teachers and what was it about them that inspired you?

My grandparents were both teachers and taught home Economics and Manual Arts. As a young child I would spend time with my grandmother in her kitchen and sewing room making cupcakes and dresses. I would spend time with my grandfather in his woodwork shed helping where I could. Having spent time with them learning about their passions, teaching stories and how they taught rurally, helped inspired me to carry on in the field.

I have also had the honour of working along side some amazing teachers and education assistants during my study and teaching career. I have been lucky enough to share a classroom with many or work along side others to see the amazing difference they are making to the children in their classrooms. These people inspire me everyday to keep pushing, to make my own difference and work towards my goals.

What inspired you to work in a rural and remote setting in the first part of your career?

Firstly, I wanted a job after I graduated university, which was probably the first big push to apply for rural teaching positions. Secondly, I spoke to lots of teachers who had taught rurally themselves and they spoke about how much they loved it (as I do now). The adventure they had during their time in a rural setting also sounded amazing and something that I wanted to experience as well.

What have you learnt from being in a small town?

I learnt to teach. Moving to a small country town as a graduate you hit the ground running as you are often the only teacher in your year. You learn to plan, navigate your behaviour management, what works and what doesn’t. I was very lucky as my school was so supportive and always willing to help when needed.

The people you meet are pretty special. My housemate and work colleges are some of my best friends. The year I started teaching, the school also hired three other graduated teachers. We would often have dinner parties together, filled with food and laughs, day trips to the beach for steak sandwiches and time in the sun and playing winter sport together. Community is special as well. You are all out there in this rural place, you learnt to stick together and get involved. I played and coached netball with my good friend, which was a highlight of our winter sport season. Also coaching the next generation of netballers was fun.

Tell us why did you move back to Perth?  What is it like working in a bigger school?

The decision didn’t come lightly as I loved the rural area, but I completed three years and just felt like it was time to come home. My final year was in 2020 when Covid first hit and being out there without family during boarder closures and lockdowns was very difficult.

Being at a bigger school is different but I also love it. I am currently working with a team of 5 other teachers in my year level team, a huge difference from being the only one. I love the collaboration that happens, being able to work with so may different people, to bounce ideas, learn new things and share resources.

What does a typical day look like for your schools today?

Everyday is a little different, it usually starts with a trip to the gym and a quick swim at the beach before heading to school. I check emails with a cup of tea and make sure all resources and activities are ready, and by this time it is usually 8.30am and students are starting to roll in. Our day usually includes lots of laughs, smiles and singing little rhymes and songs. I love a good storybook and try to read to my students throughout my day. My students have currently discovered books with CD’s. We have loved getting out the old CD player and listening to different stories. Afterschool often includes finishing off any marking or prep for the next day and before I know it, it’s home time.

What is your funniest teaching story?

I have a few funny teaching stories; I actually have a little book where I write them all down. It’s lovely to look back on all the funny moments especially on those more challenging days.

It was something that happened this year. I was out on yard duty and a year one student came up to me and said very confidently “I haven’t been at school all week because I have an USB infection!” I was a little confused and replied “A USB infection? On your computer?” She looked back at me just as confused and pointed to her lower torso. That’s when the penny dropped. “Oh, do you mean a UTI infection?” I replied. She looked at me like “yeah” and then went on her merry way, I was left giggling to myself.

What are your tips for a first-year teacher? Especially living in a rural and remote setting?

Your first year is hard! But also, so much fun and everything you have worked for during university. Develop a support network that you can go to bounce ideas around, vent, and ask for help. As hard as it can be, don’t always use your weekends for schoolwork. Your ‘to do list’ will always be there, so leave that laminating at school and enjoy your Sunday! Watch and observe as much as you can, if you have the opportunity to go into other people’s classes and observe them teach, do it!

 Get involved. Whether it is a community sport or committee. Say yes to day trips and dinner parties with your colleagues or members of the town. These teachers you meet along the way will become lifelong friends, and the rock that will help you through the roller coaster that is the first year of teaching.

And finally, YOU GOT THIS!!

 What is one thing you wish pre-teaching you knew about?

Lessons won’t always go to plan and that’s okay. Just learn to jump ship, regroup, and come back to it with a different approach.

Do you make time for self-care?

Yes, I do! I am a better person and teacher when I try to take time for self-care. Personally, I believe that self-care is the little things in life, the daily habits and small moments that accumulate to help make life a little easier and worth living.

For myself, the little things are the beach, where I can lose myself and find myself within the current of the waves. Friday coffees and the motivational quotes that I write in my diary each week make me smile. The gratitude jar I keep to remember the little things that happen throughout the year. My 6:00 am swims make me feel alive and awake to start the day. The meal prepping, I do every Sunday so that I remember to eat. The monthly massage helps me to de-stress and unknot my shoulder. Cracking a bottle of Moet on a random Friday with my mum because what’s the point of ‘saving it’ for a special occasion, when every day is special? It’s the boundaries I set, emails can wait until the morning, and Sunday afternoons are for family and not schoolwork.

For me, self care starts with the daily habits and small things which help you feel better, allowing you to function, be successful and ultimately ‘happy’. I love doing some and loathe others, but I’m determined to accomplish these tasks as it’s ‘good for my health’. It can be as small as brushing my teeth, or as glamorous as a monthly massage, but these are the things making life a little easier and worth living.

 What motivates you?

To make change and inspire! Firstly, in my classroom and hopefully on a bigger scale later in life.

You have also taken up study to do your Masters in Positive Wellbeing and Mental Health in Education, why did you decide to do your Masters in this area and what have you learnt from doing this course that you would like to share?

I decided to study again to learn more about mental health and wellbeing in education, so I can make change to practices around teacher mental health. Mental health is so important to everyone’s overall health. (T.W: suicide) It recently hit home how important positive mental health and effective wellbeing is for everyone, as my cousin took his own life last year.

The ultimate goal is to work with schools, to put policy and practices in place to help create positive wellbeing strategies to support teacher’s mental health through their career. Teaching can be tough, and I want to help support other teachers. Services which are available are often reactive, you access them once you need help or support. I would like to create proactive strategies that help support teachers before they get to the point of needing reactive services.

Do you have any favourite Blog, Podcast, educational social media accounts, that you follow that inspires you in your professional life and personal life?

I love following accounts where people are being authentically them, following their dreams, enjoying the little things in life and inspire me to be a girl boss. An educational social media account that I love is ‘Miss Mays Moments’. She is an early childhood teacher from Victoria, who shares all her wonderful ideas, which I often implement into my own classroom. A personal account that I follow is ‘In the Frow’. She is a fashion blogger, with a PHD and just an ultimate Girl Boss! I love her fashion sense and how she and her husband are power couple.

What on your list of loves that inspire you in your life and why? (places, people and things)

  • The Beach – The beach is my happy place. It is the one place I visit the most. You can find me there in summer or winter enjoying a beach walk, swim or just listening to the waves.
  • My Family and Friends – I am surrounded by so many people doing amazing things. All on their own little path achieving their dreams. I love that we get to be apart of each other’s journeys, cheering each other on.
  • Woman Kicking butt in their chosen field – I love being around woman who are following their dreams. Woman making powerful moves in raising a family or in their career.
  • The Future – The endless opportunities that the future holds. The idea that our best days, ideas, or adventures haven’t even happened yet.
  • A Glass of Moet – Because who doesn’t want to feel glamorous.

Can you share a creative idea that you came up with in your classroom – something that you have implied and just love and do (organisation strategy, self-care strategy in the classroom, an affirmation, a simple way to connect with your students etc)?

In the first year of teaching my Deputy told me that it is okay to let your guard down. That you’re allowed to let your students get to know you. And I think it’s a great piece of advice – being open with the students allows them to be open with you, by sharing your feelings with them so that they can share in return. You develop a safe environment within the classroom.

Finally, what is next for you?

Firstly, I would like to finish my master’s degree and start sharing my knowledge and passion for mental health. Hopefully, with the borders now open there might be a little bit of travel on the cards as well.