Teacher of the week: From 30% to 80%, with a smile

By admin
25 August 2014

Our teacher of the week is an entrepreneur who believes that learners should be educated to function in a diverse and rapidly changing world – a world fundamentally different to that in which their parents were children.

Name and age

Louis Buckle, 47

What and where do you teach?

Mathematics, mathematical literacy and business studies at Stellenberg High School in the Western Cape.

What did you do before you became a teacher?

My life is a series of mindshifts that led me here. My career started in the actuarial department of an insurance company, where I learned that owning a company is better than working for one.

The traditional corporate ladder frustrated me, and at the age of 26 I took control of a failing company. The company turned around and is now an industry leader. I have since served on the boards of a number of companies and have expanded and diversified my business interests.

What I do has not changed. Being a teacher is something that was added to the mix, and I do it with the same level of commitment.

Why teach?

A few experiences made me realise how strong and full of initiative youngsters can really be, and I wanted to be a part of that world – I wanted to contribute and learn from it. One of those experiences was when I was a tandem cyclist in a team from the Athlone School for the Blind. I was amazed at how much I could learn from the children and their dedicated teachers.

Another experience was when I lived in Rwanda shortly after the genocide. I found myself in a traumatised society where children were left to look after themselves and their families. I didn’t know that children could be that responsible and enterprising if left to their own devices.

I realised that children need to be educated to function and flourish in a rapidly changing and often unfair environment. The conventional logic of “go to school, go to university, get a job” is not of much use to the majority of our children.

My experience as an entrepreneur enables me to teach a new model: Focus on what really interests you and acquire the skills to apply it in a rapidly changing environment. Prepare yourself to generate an income, not just look for a job.

Share three tips with other teachers:

1. Acknowledge every learner’s right to be a human being in his/her own right and enjoy the diversity rather than try to create uniformity.

  • Perhaps the English medium learners struggle with English because their home language is not English, not because they are stupid. Spend a little time teaching them the terminology before you teach them the mathematics.
  • Perhaps the boy who challenges your teaching in the business studies class does know better since he has been running a successful business for some time.
  • Perhaps the girl with the tattoo simply likes it, instead of it pointing to an entire value system.
  • Perhaps the big African boy is simply big and not scary.
  • Perhaps the energetic, opinionated Italian girl is simply “Italian” and not rowdy or disrespectful.
  • Perhaps the pregnant girl simply made a mistake, instead of being labelled as immoral.
  • Perhaps we should acknowledge the fact that our learners come from different faith groups.

    2.                   Encourage individual thought and understanding.

  • Using multiple methods stimulates creativity and opens up discussion.
  • Facilitate the self-discovery of methodologies so that the learner really understands them, instead of just remembering them.
  • Encourage learners to always try, even if they get it wrong; they will learn why their plan doesn’t work.
  • Acknowledge learners who come up with alternative or better solutions.
  • Facilitate the subject – don’t present it like one-way traffic.

3.                   Listen to the learner (with your eyes and ears).

  • Notice when the disruptive genius in your class moves to the front. This is a hint that he/she does not fully understand and therefore the rest of the class is probably totally lost.
  • Allow the learners to talk in class and listen to the discussion. Learners are more likely to ask questions to their peers than the teacher.
  • Encourage learners to challenge the memo and the marks you give them. This encourages learners to “check” what you do and increases their focus. It also teaches them that everybody can make mistakes, even the teacher.
  • Encourage learners to work on the board. This gives them the opportunity to put their ideas on the table and builds their self-confidence.

What advice do you have for new or experienced teachers in any subject or grade?

  • Leave your personal issues at home.
  • Treat every learner with respect, especially the “difficult” ones.
  • Embrace diversity; don’t fear it.
  • Know your subject.
  • Be flexible.

What is your favourite “tool” in the classroom?

The internet. The latestthoughts and ideas are only a click or two away.

What motivates you as a teacher?

Engaging with young, uninhibited minds on a daily basis. I learn much more from them than they do from me.

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