I have not been in the classroom since the last term of 2008 when I taught a Grade 4 class. But I have kept myself pretty busy with my computer literacy lessons and had made up my mind that I was now past going back to do relief teaching. Justin, one of Jay’s friend’s dads asked me a few weeks’ ago if I missed teaching – my reply – Yes, I miss being part of a team, and that I enjoyed working with kids but that I loved the freedom of not being tied down. My computer lessons with retirees, committee commitments and supervising my grandsons’ homework in the afternoons, were at this time of my life, enough to keep me busy while still having enough time to myself.
But it is strange how things work out. Two weeks ago Monique, the head of Grade 1 called to ask if I would be interested in relieving a Grade 1 teacher who was soon to take maternity leave. But her dates clashed with our planned trip to Kruger in October. I wasn’t disappointed – I was relieved that I had an excuse. Then a week later Mandy the vice principal called and said, “Our teacher had her baby on Friday – we are desperately in need – and your dates no longer clash – you will finish at the end of the third term. Well I didn’t have an excuse did I! Fortunately I was given a week to sort out my life before taking over from a gap student on Monday.
Its the most natural thing in the world for me to back in the classroom. Even though things are very different to the last time I was in Grade 1 – seven years ago – I find that I am just going with the flow and lapping up every minute. Thrass is the new phonics and though the principles are basically the same the pace is way faster. I freaked at first thinking it was all too advanced for Grade 1 but – hey – the kids love it and three quarters of them are coping brilliantly. It’s as always the slower kiddies who get left behind and flounder if they don’t have a good teacher to keep perspective. It’s like that no matter what method you use. So I am going along with Thrass while keeping a sane hand on things and not freaking out when the whole class doesn’t catch on. The tried and tested methods with those who haven’t reached the readiness level, are ADHD or dyslexic I will still employ and make whatever progress we can. The important thing is that the kiddies are not stressed out – there is no pressure. They are tested on things that I may feel are not necessary yet – but if they can do it good and if they can’t they can always catch up in Grade 2!
I am lucky – I don’t have to do extra-murals and I have an apprentice. The school has a GAP programme (guided approach to pedagogy). Students study by correspondence while working in a school every day instead of going to university and college. I approve so of this system as the young teachers get the feel of the classroom and what its truly like right from the beginning. They do not become idealistic and then have a melt down when they finally get a class of their own. They are thrown in at the deep end and are given a lot of responsibility and learn classroom control and see different styles of teaching by observing many different teachers and grades. My grandson Josh was taught in Grade 3 and Grade 4 by brand new teachers straight from the GAP programme and you would not have guessed that they were novice teachers. Their professionalism was commendable and there wasn’t a hiccup the entire year. My GAP student is in her third year and is preparing to teach Grade 1 when one of our team retires next year. I also have moms who come in every day to help with anything required in the classroom. I use them to monitor handwriting while I am teaching, to listen to reading and to help facilitate story writing or project work when necessary. It really makes life that much easier when you are teaching a class of 30 children. It frees me up to pay extra attention to the aforementioned strugglers.
I do have one problem – my back – I keep it in shape doing exercise with a personal trainer who is also a myostiopractioner and has been treating me for years. When I listen to him I am well – when I do dumb things he’s there to rescue me. Standing, bending, sitting on tiny chairs and leaning over children is not the best therapy. However, I held up well till yesterday and then I felt – “I need Steve before I do something irreparable”. So I made a visit to him this morning and after a manipulative massage I am feeling much better! He also gave me some techniques on how to stand with one leg on a stool or low table and how to sit in a semi crouched position on the mat.
So yes – its been a good week – the little girls have crept into my heart. I am sure I will have many interesting stories to write about them next week. Till then have a good week and thanks for reading my blog.