The Five Things That Being a Township School Teacher Has Taught Me

2016-05-18 15:22

Like most children who do their schooling in schools facing multiple deprivations, choosing to become a teacher only becomes an option when other options—in as far as choosing a career is concerned—are exhausted and have failed. After this had happened to me, I started to believe strongly in the saying that your destiny chooses you, not the other way around.  I am currently the Accounting grade 10-11 teacher in one of the schools here in Bloemfontein and am glad to share with you the lessons that this noble profession has taught me in the last four months.

  1. You need emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as emotional quotient (EQ), refers to the ability to read other people’s emotions, know what and what not to say to someone at a particular moment. This is one area that I have been deficient on but after up-close interactions with a few of my students about some of the personal issues that can subject anyone to trauma, I have had to measure my words. This skill has even extended to my interactions with anyone I encounter outside of my professional life.

  1. Where a child comes from pretty much sets the behavioural tone at school

Although this is not true to some, it is certainly true to many. Many of behavioural problems that we teachers in schools facing multiple deprivations deal with on daily basis stem from the child’s family background. If South Africa’s basic education is to have any chance of surviving, we need to get our family structures in order. The values that are championed by the family often extend to the classroom. For instance, if a parent always says the bad things about a particular teacher right in front of their child, that parent’s attitude is most likely to affect the way a child interacts with and approaches the teacher at school. What I have learned in this period is that problematic students often come from broken families where proper parental guidance is a rare or a non-existent commodity. Of course, the converse is also true.

  1. Students have more to teach you than you could ever imagine

One of our best sources of knowledge sits right in front of us—learners. I have become a more knowledgeable human being because of opening myself up to learn about life and even the subject that I teach from my students. Sometime last week I asked all my students to evaluate me and as expected, they taught me so much and because of their honest feedback I can only become a better teacher and human being. Except for the fact that almost all of them said I was fun to be with, this excerpt by one of my cool kids forced me to look deep at myself: “he tends to focus more on those learners who are participative in class; leaving other learners who are less-active stranded”

  1. We will still be blaming apartheid in the next 100 years if education in our ‘black’ schools is not fixed

It has become a norm in our school, and I suspect in most of our schools, for learners to submit their assignments ages after the submission date. It has become a norm for our learners to make an unbearable noise the minute a teacher leaves the classroom. It has become a norm for some of the parents to only come to school at the end of the year to ask why their child has failed; this despite numerous attempts by the teacher to call them in for a meeting to discuss the child’s academic performance during the year. There is just a worrying negative attitude towards education by most of our learners. Could this have to do with how the curriculum is delivered to them (pedagogy)?

  1. School leadership can make or break the school

Although a principal is the accounting officer, the best ones, in my view, are the ones who never make you feel they are in charge. The best ones are the ones who consult thoroughly with the colleagues and even learners when the need for change arises. The best ones are those who understand that they cannot and will never know everything about school governance. These kinds of school principals take the time to tell you when you are doing well, not the kind of principals who will always remind you of your deficiencies. To them, no good exists. I am privileged to work at Saint Bernard’s high school because it has afforded me an opportunity to learn more about dynamics of the teaching profession.

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