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Teaching between the pillars of education

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Simon Crane

Education is a noun. For many of us, it’s something we strive for. For lucky others, it’s something we’ve got. Something we achieved. It’s somewhat like buying an app online. We can’t really lose it. Even if we don’t make use of it for a while, it’ll always be available to us.

Typically we think of the pillars of academics, sport and culture when we think of education. But, in my opinion, the important stuff is the teaching that goes on between those pillars; the invisible materials that no policy document details. This ‘stuff ’ is never tested or assessed in any formal way. There’s no examination, no curriculum and no obligation for the content to be taught and yet these aspects are the most important parts of education.

Between the lines
I saw it this year in a rugby match between Woodridge College and Humansdorp in which a Woodridge College 1st XV player was running the line for an early morning U14A fixture. The ball travelled forwards from a Woodridge player, the referee didn’t notice and the linesman called the ball forward. This was a simple moment and perhaps a seemingly meaningless one to some. But at the heart of this moment lies integrity, and so much follows on from a moment like this. Everyone who witnesses a moment like this, particularly the impressionable junior player, sees that winning at all costs is not acceptable. As educators it is our responsibility to prepare pupils in our care for the exams that they will face. We need to cover the syllabi and requirements of our subjects. On sports pitches around the country, our pupils are tested frequently in fixtures against other schools in a number of different disciplines. On stage and in chapels, at eisteddfods and festivals, they are again measured against others.

The annual 60km Nhlozane hike undertaken by Michaelhouse boys and staff that I completed in 2011 is an exhausting test of the capacity to endure. But my point is that we don’t specify the teaching of integrity, honesty, righteousness, humility, faithfulness, gentleness, patience and kindness in any syllabus. We don’t test it in any formal and traditional way and yet we see it so often in people and, in particular, we see it in young people.

Calling the ball forward
Yes, a mathematical ability will ensure success in some careers. Certainly a lucid and fluent grasp of the nuances of English will add a pièce de résistance to your communicative repertoire and will impress your employers, but without the hidden curricula; the things we teach by accident even when we don’t even think we’re teaching, those things that the pupils see in our behaviour when our guard is down, all the academics in the world are a house built on sand. And that is why I am determined to hold on to those qualities and it is why I am so impressed when I see a young lad on an early Saturday morning in a corner of the Eastern Cape, who could have let his standards slide in a small, seemingly insignificant U14 rugby fixture that hardly anyone was watching, and yet he raised his flag and called the ball from his team, forward. That gives me, as an educator, huge hope.

Simon Crane is the new deputy headmaster at Woodridge College in the Eastern Cape.

Category: Summer 2013

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