This piece is inspired by teachers. Young and old, students, the retired and those who, after 40 years, are still doing it. New teachers, Senior and Master teachers, heads of departments and principals.
“A man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it.” Rayburn, Man on Fire.
I believe that teaching is for the called, and over the last ten years, I’ve seen people work at it like an art and every day they work towards creating their very own masterpiece.
A masterpiece is defined as “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.” The work that teachers do daily requires exceptional abilities. Your work is never completed in one day, nor does it solely rely on your own capacity. The measure of your masterpiece will be in the successful application of the combination of your ability and the potential of those you teach.
The thing is, even though we know teachers, and we know what they do. I wonder if we really understand the broad spectrum that is the profession.
At institutions of higher education that student teachers attend. They are taught teaching methods for the subjects they intend to teach and how to do so effectively to accommodate learners with different learning styles. These could include any one of the following four: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. Student teachers also do modules based on inclusive education. An inclusive system supports the idea that all children, from diverse backgrounds and different physical abilities, should be able to learn together and thrive in the same environment despite their differences.
That being said, there is nothing at any of these institutions; that prepares a teacher for the reality of standing in front of a class, filled with actual children, with all these differences.
One thing a teacher has to be, without question, is accommodating. Working with people is tough, working with little people, and all their adult people (parents, guardians, siblings, extended family members) can be even more challenging.
As a teacher, your life is not your own. You need to be on call 24/7 because parents and their little people forget that you too have your own family to attend to.
Being a teacher is so much more than academics. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some amazing teachers in my life, some taught me, others I’ve worked with and then there are those I simply admire from a distance.
I asked a few teachers, three questions:
What does it mean to you to be a teacher?
What’s your favourite memory as a teacher?
What is the most difficult memory you have involving a child?
Here are some of the responses:
Richard Meyer, a Final Year Student Teacher.
To me, being a teacher means that even if I can’t make a difference in the world, I am able to make a difference in the lives of the children I teach, whether it be just 1 or 40 of them.
My favourite memory would have to be with my grade 7 class of 2019. Teaching Grade 7 is no easy task, teaching them Mathematics feels even tougher. This group ended the year with a bang though. Their grade average for Mathematics was 65%+. I felt it was a reflection of how well we had worked together that year.
Lelo Chabalala, 3rd Year Teaching.
Teaching for me is being able to impart the knowledge I have acquired but also learning from the learners, especially about how they are experiencing life.
I love it when parents or learners show appreciation. Learners telling you that they enjoyed a lesson seems small but it means a lot to know that you are actually making a difference.
It is these words of gratitude that I hold dear to my heart.
Tammy Constance, BA Communication, PGCE, B.Ed Honours (Management and Leadership).
My best memory is when a learner approached me on the street long after I had been at their school. She told me how much I had impacted her life. How I had inspired her to strive to do her best against all odds and to use the most powerful tool she possesses, which is her mind.
My most unfortunate memory was when two learners fought in my class and I couldn’t stop them because of the level of aggression in their altercation. I could see the anger and hatred in their eyes fueled by circumstances at home. Nonetheless, it made me more aware that each child is different; in how they are raised and even just in how they experience life daily. This incident made me more sensitive to how I approach learners today.
Ethel May, B.Ed B.Ed Honours (Mathematics Education), M.Ed (Mathematics Education)
Being a teacher means more than just teaching a child. When I worked at my previous school, which is a former model C school, it, unfortunately, was just that. However, now that I am at my current school, a school in the Coloured community I grew up in. I’ve become a role model and mentor. I know these kids look up to me. Some of our learners stay in child-headed households, so when they are at school they are seen as kids but when at home, they have to fulfill adult responsibilities. I help groom these kids and try to help shape them into becoming responsible adults one day. In some instances, I teach them morals, values & give advice where needed.
My favourite memory as a teacher would have to be the day I took our learners to participate in the Provincial Mathematics Olympiad to represent the district. For some schools and teachers it might not be a big deal but for me, our staff and our learners, it was a huge deal because it was the school’s first time.
Gloria Henry, Principal and Teacher of 21 Years.
My favourite memory as a teacher? I don’t have a specific one but the impact I’ve had on my learners’ lives comes to mind. Supporting them in contributing to their community, encouraging the worst behaved learners so much that they transform into star students just by identifying their interests and talents, especially if they aren’t academics, and using these to create a platform for them to shine.
Most difficult memory involving a kid? A star sportsman, well behaved and a genuinely gifted boy committed suicide. I thought that we had a good enough relationship, that he knew he could speak to me about anything. I didn’t see it coming. His death haunts me until this day. Could I have done more? Did I miss something? It’s tough. Detaching is tough.
Hennie Fourie, Hoof en Onderwyser van 37 Jaar
Ek kon n verskil in kinders en volwassenes se lewens maak. Ek kon baie keer ‘n sielkundige, berader en ‘n skouer wees. Onderwys het my die geleentheid gegee om kreatief te wees, om myself ten volle uit te leef. Boonop het dit my laat groei as ‘n onderwyser en later ‘n bestuurder en bowenal as ‘n mens. As onderwyser het ek ook baie geleentheid gehad om God se lig te versprei en die verantwoordelikheid te dra as kind van God wat as ‘n leier te alle tye ‘n voorbeeld moes stel.
Een van my gunsteling herinneringe sal altyd wees toe ek ‘n graad 7 seun en sy pa bymekaar gebring het in my kantoor. Hierdie twee het nog nooit fisiese kontak gehad nie en om vir mekaar te sê – ek is lief vir jou nie – ‘n kind wat na sy pa se liefde en aandag gesmag het. In my kantoor voor my oë het die twee mekaar ‘n stywe druk gegee (die eerste in jare) en ek het saam met hulle ‘n traan of twee gestort toe hulle vir mekaar sê dat hulle lief is vir mekaar. My huiswerk vir hulle was om elke dag ‘n druk te gee en te sê dat hulle lief is vir mekaar
Ongetwyfeld toe ‘n leerder in ‘n ongeluk naby ons skool baie ernstig beseer is en ek die hele middag saam met sy ouers by die hospitaal gewaak het. Om die seer, hartseer en smart saam met die ouers te moes beleef toe hy kort daarna oorlede is. ‘n Kind se dood bly verskriklik – al is jy net ‘n observeerder. Ek sou nog ‘n hele paar soortgelyke onaangename ervarings moes deurgaan in my loopbaan. Aan die einde van die dag maak dit ‘n mens net meer bewus van hoe nietig jy is en hoe baie ons het om voor dankbaar te wees.
Today on World Teacher’s Day, we salute those who have made personal sacrifices for the good of the learners they teach. We take our hats off to you for knowing that your job doesn’t end when the bell rings at the end of the day. Thank you, for taking your responsibility – to mold young minds, to empower children, to teach them self acceptance and discipline – very seriously.
We honour you for taking shared responsibility for our children.
Thank you for knowing and living out your why.