Why and How Dianne Tonpi is Staying in Teaching

Dianne Tonpi has kept her motivation to teach and shares some of the techniques that she uses.
Mar 14, 2024
It's a tough job that could be made easier.

The number of teachers who have indicated that they are leaving the job are scarily high, a majority when asked has said that they would head for the exit if given the chance, many are looking into how and in what other industries could their skills be put to use.

Same goes for school leadership with a severe shortage looming for principalships and senior teachers.

The job isn’t easy and the often-cited reasons for leaving or wanting to include the weight of administrative duties, tension with parents, widespread discipline issues, a lack of recourse when conflict occurs. That’s just to name a few, and teachers say they are just plain tired.

But one teacher who is staying on in the profession is Dianne Tonpi a teacher at Australian Christian College (ACC) Marsden Park. She has been through a lot, including being widowed with children to raise on her own.

She believes the key to keeping teachers on and motivated to do the work lies in appropriate resourcing, planning, self-reflection, caring for oneself and making space to do so.

“One of the hardest things I’ve faced was being a widow and having to provide and look after my children at the same time. I knew I had to define my work-home balance, with two young kids and a teenager it was a priority for me to stay organised, there was no other parent to rely on and pick the kids up from school. So, I set time boundaries for myself, I made sure that schoolwork was to be done at school and personal business was to be done outside of school. I would work on weekends when the kids were in bed and make sure I always gave my undivided attention to my children,” Tonpi says.

Tonpi maintains her motivation for teaching by reflecting on what challenges she has faced and addressing them rather than letting resentment settle in.

“I ask myself at least twice a year, if things aren’t going well and if I really want to be here. Depending on my answer I usually further ask myself if there is something I’m doing wrong. What am I not doing to make myself enjoy my work? Is it someone impacting me? Because I know if I can get to the root of what’s causing my distance from teaching, I can re-motivate myself by fixing whatever it is my issue is. I always get to the root of my problem and remind myself why I am here at ACC and can do what I love.”

When feeling overwhelmed teachers might ask themselves, “Are you putting 100% into what you’re doing, prep, attitude and how you respond to things? If they say yes and still does not happen, is there something else you could try for a while, take leave, or do something else in the education space, what is it you’re not enjoying? Is someone impacting you? Boss, colleague, staff,” Tonpi says.

“I always set time for work and time for home, so I know when I feel like I want to pick up and go I constantly keep a reminder in my mind that I’m doing this for my kids and because I absolutely LOVE my job.”

For any young person thinking about entering the profession Tonpi believes that teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers you can have.

“I would tell a young person to think about their values and where they want to be in their teaching career and stay true to themselves. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world and the responsibility of teaching not one but 30 kids make me feel rewarded. It’s an honour and a privilege to teach a child something new every day. Stay positive, stay truthful and always advocate for yourself.” 

The problem isn’t so much with attracting teachers, she believes, more with retaining them.

“I think there isn’t much of an issue attracting teachers because nowadays it’s a good starting wage. I believe there is more of an issue around retaining teachers because once your experience doubles and have been a teacher for 4-5 years the pay does not get much better. On top of this comes the heavy workload along with the high expectation of undertaking activities that are outside of your normal job role and teaching things you may not be specialised or trained in."

Having enough staff and teachers who are trained in the subject areas that they teach is one way the burden placed on teachers can be eased.

“I’m lucky at Australian Christian College (ACC) Marsden Park that we have teachers who are specialised in each field to teach our students, it really takes the pressure off our shoulders and allows us to teach our students to the best of our ability.

“If schools hired teachers that specialise in subjects/units, they want to teach there would be a larger teacher retainment.”  
Image by Elizabeth Lizzie