Heart and soul for teaching

2017-06-14 06:01
Teacher Sheryl Paul with one of her pupils.Photo: tania sandberg

Teacher Sheryl Paul with one of her pupils.Photo: tania sandberg

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LIKE the rhino, teachers in the profession for the love of teaching and their pupils are a dying breed, but not at Orissa Primary in Isipingo.

Pure gold hides in the classrooms in the form of teachers who dedicate their lives to serving between 20 and 40 years at the same school.

Acting principal, Frances June Dayal, leads the team having served 20 years at the school and boasts dedicated staff members like Sheryl Paul, who has been with the school for 34 years – just six months after Orissa Primary opened.

Paul’s life philosophy is insightful: “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day.

“It is a quote I overheard and it has stayed with me. I love my job, it is so rewarding. To give just one example, a little boy who was in my class in Grade 1, 2 and 3, wrote me a letter in Grade 7 and gave it to me on his last day of primary school and asked me to read it when he left. In the letter he thanked me and told me how much I shaped his life. He appreciated all the things I said and taught him and this made me so happy,” Paul said.

She said she keeps a file of notes she has received over the years from pupils.

Her life has been filled with moments of pleasure of both teaching and interacting with the children at different levels.

A highlight that stands out for Paul is the years of the Debs Ball at school when the children used to take part in a formal pageant and then open the dance in ballroom style.

One of Paul’s hobbies is dancing, so she used her skill and talent to pass on the technique during pupils dance rehearsal sessions.

Paul said that it is through these activities that a teacher is able to connect and build relationships with the pupils and this assists in mainstream teaching.

“I am now teaching my ex-pupils’ children, like a grandmother.”

Paul says she has the energy, vibrancy, dedication and enthusiasm as that of a new-comer to the profession. She is married to Amanzimtoti Fire Station commander, Mitch, also a teacher by training.

The couple have three children, Cherece, 32, Chermelle, 25 and Mikyle,22.

Chermele chose to matriculate at Isipingo Secondary, while the other two children matriculated at Kingsway High.

“God has plans for all of us, it would be easy to teach at a Model C school in my neighbourhood, Athlone Park, but these children need me,” she said.

Many of her colleagues have shared years of teaching at Orissa and have shared many personal and professional milestones.

“It is such a special relationship that I share with many staff members who have become like family. We have a great work ethic at Orissa with seasoned teachers who mentor new teachers with great care.”

Speaking about her childhood she said: “I grew up in a very sheltered Isipingo Beach home with extended family, so going to college and starting my career in Benoni helped me to grow up. I had to do my own washing and cook meals,” she recalls.

Paul went to Isipingo Beach Primary and completed her secondary schooling at Clairwood High and said she loves teaching Foundation Phase.

“Foundation Phase children do not bear grudges. You can reprimand them and a few minutes later, they are hugging you. Their affection is priceless,” she said.

She added it was through her pupils that she learnt so much about affection.

CHALLENGES

There are several challenges that teachers face in the classroom and Paul acknowledges that teaching is not a profession for the feint hearted.

From her early years of teaching, over three decades ago, to current Paul has progressed through many different phases of the South African socioeconomic climate and acknowledges that the dynamic has changed.

With curriculum changes, scarcity of resources, large class numbers and other challenges – a teacher has to be on her toes and keep up with the times.

Paul highlights that in many cases, parental involvement is lacking.

“There are several reasons why parents are unable to be hands-on in their child’s homework and projects.

“As teachers we try our best to connect with the parent body and extend ourselves to assist.”

Paul still has great zest to see through many more years in the classroom as she quips that there is never a dull day in teaching.

Orissa is proud of its strong teaching staff and Paul shines as a gem among them.

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