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From M&E Project to SAMSTIP: my experience

| January 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

BY EDWIN KATLEHO NKGASI

On the first day, the journey looked easy, linear and a smooth road to walk.

Iremember it all – the last day as a student, the graduation day, the first day at work and a first pay cheque felt real and not too far out of reach. The thought of completing studies in record time, preparing and presenting a lesson for the first time – all seemed like a walk in the park. The excitement, the energy and the feeling of being on top of the world, the sense of being like a champion and conquering the world, is the feeling every intern teacher experiences on their first day. The feeling of being the ultimate ‘hero’ to the young and energetic learners is a true feeling that every inspired and motivated teacher in the making experiences. One feels one will be a perception shifter, a lifechanger, a future leader builder and a difference maker.

In front of a class for the first time

Internship years seemed too short and time flew too fast. On the first day at Edendale School as an intern teacher, looking into the eyes of those young learners, eager to learn, my heart beating fast, questions rang in my head. ‘What if I make a mistake?’ and ‘Am I prepared enough?’ The dread of being
pronounced ‘not good enough’ or ‘inexperienced’ and wondering if I was meant to be a teacher, that was how I felt the first time I stood in front of a class.


However, the resolution to become an intern teacher was the best decision of my life. Indeed, it was the decision that gave me the opportunity to understand the true meaning of making a difference in any child’s life. A few months later, I felt trust and belief from each and every learner with whom I came into contact. I was given the role of a register teacher and conquered the first encounter with parents, going on to encourage those
learners who felt like all was impossible. It was during those moments that I realised I was bringing change and impacting learners’ lives in many ways. The first letter from a learner, saying: ‘Thank you, sir, for the efforts put in and believing in me!’ stirred in me feelings of pride and accomplishment.

Four years of studies and internship, as well as the guidance from my mentors from Edendale School, came to an end. Now I was faced with the challenge of finding full-time employment as a qualified mathematics teacher. One had to prove himself to be the perfect candidate for the job. The task of finding ‘the best school’ to work at as a teacher became a hurdle to cross and the new trial one had to confront. The fear of being unemployed and being on my own haunted me. It was time to grow and handle life like a man.

Memories of M&E

My application for a mathematics teacher post at LEAP Science and Maths School1 was successful. This was a fresh start indeed. Ross Hill was then the head of the school (2013). He remembered me from the time I was the support facilitator, working with ISASA’s Mathematics and English (M&E) Project under the guidance of Gwen Williams, Maddy Hayhurst and Mr Molele. [The ISASA M&E Project is now called the South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP). It
draws on the quality education offered by ISASA member schools to help solve a root cause of South Africa’s pressing skills shortage: the critical lack of qualified mathematics and science teachers.] During this time as a
mathematics teacher intern (as well as a support facilitator), I was offered the opportunity to visit international schools in the US. This was a great offer and the beginning of my growth in my teaching career.

The experience as an intern teacher, as well as the guidance received from my incredible mentors such as Ross Jaff, Shelagh Wallace and Gwen Williams, became my stepping stones to be recognised by other schools where I might possibly work. Government schools such as Sandown High School and Krugersdorp High School could not offer full-time teacher
posts, but I took up one school governing body (SGB)2 teacher position. (In South Africa, the SGB of a school has to recommend to the provincial head of the Basic Education Department the appointment of educators at the school, as well as the appointment of non-educator staff.)3 This position was to be reviewed annually, and that made me realise that there were lots of paths to investigate and things I had to learn to be
an influential teacher. One also wondered and questioned what was going to happen the following year. I asked myself: ‘What if the school runs out of funds? What if the school feels they no longer need one’s services? What if one becomes unemployed?’

Lifelong learning

Changing schools after a few years, taking on roles and responsibilities – from being a core mathematics and mathematical literacy teacher to being an information and communications technology (ICT) teacher development
training coordinator at learnthings Africa4 – taught me that in teaching, it is not about what one learned in tertiary education that was important, but what was crucial was influencing and building the next generation, armed with the art of inspirational teaching combined with passion, care and
love for the sharing of knowledge. I am presently teaching at Cedarwood School in Midrand, Gauteng, and I now know that all learners are unique beings with different capabilities, intelligences, creativities, interests and talents. All learners also need teachers who care, inspire, encourage, understand and provide safe and supportive learning environments for all.

Still involved with SAMSTIP

My additional role as the current ISASA SAMSTIP programme interns mentor has indeed given me the opportunity not only to inspire, encourage, motivate and build learners, but also to improve and impart my
educational philosophies to the next group of teachers. Child psychologist and teacher, Haim G. Ginott, said:
I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the
decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal
approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood
that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess
tremendous power to make a student’s life joyous or
miserable. I can be a tool of an instrument of
inspiration or torture. I can humour or humiliate, heal
or hurt. In all situations it is my response that decides
whether a crisis will be de-escalated or escalated and a
student humanised or de-humanised.

Ginott’s words have taught me the values that I as a teacher should have and live by, and how I am viewed through the eyes of each and every learner I get an opportunity to teach, mentor and inspire.

References:

1. See: http://leapschool.org.za/

2. See: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/school-governingbodies-sgbs

3. See: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0256-01002009000200002

4. See: https://educationinnovations.org/funder/learnthings-africa

5. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haim_Ginott

Category: Summer 2019

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