Inspiration Wednesday

By admin
21 April 2015

Andrew Graaf, principal of Alexandra High School in Pietermaritzburg, has always had a love for teaching.

His passion is so contagious he inspires his staff and learners every day. We had a chat with this remarkable man.

graaf 3

How long have you been at the school and how long have you been principal?

I was a pupil here from 1976 to 1980 then returned as deputy principal in 1998 and got the post as principal in 2008.

Where does your love and passion for teaching come from?

Actually, I wanted to be an actor. I realised that teaching is (slightly!) better paid and that I could perform to an audience for six periods a day!

Please tell us more about jumping down a waterfall, going to look for a child in a drug den and eating inhloko? These are some of the things your staff mentioned as exceptional about you. Why did you do these things? What were you trying to convey to your students?

I jumped down a waterfall at a leadership camp to prove I could overcome my fear of heights. I loved it so much I went back and jumped with a few of the terrified girls.

A pupil I’d been trying to help disappeared from school and pupils told me where they thought he was. I went off to the bottom end of town and found him in what I’m told was a drug den.

Lastly about the inhloko, which is a traditional Zulu dish, I’ve tried all sorts of interesting foods at various cultural ceremonies. Inhloko (I was told afterwards) involved a sheep’s head and brains! There’s a first time for everything.

What inspires you every day?

The fact that I can touch a life and leave it a little better. Ours is such a broken world.

Teachers often become discouraged when they see all the challenges that lie ahead. How do you inspire your staff when they're unmotivated? What tips do you have for other principals?

I remind teachers that it falls to us to nurture, mould and shape young people to be the future citizens of our country. We truly are building a nation. What other job is more wonderful than that? Each day we make a difference. Principals all need to focus on the good and be agents of dreams and inspiration. We need to be shock absorbers of the negative and drivers of positive change.

What tips do you have for teachers to inspire their students?

Less shouting, more hugging! Let each pupil know you genuinely care about them and that they’re capable of good, great, wonderful things.

By Roxanne Eastes

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