Keeping up with the rapid pace of progress at my school has been a challenge. So much happens and you can’t be caught napping. But for an old lady like me who’s been out of it for several years it is exhausting. The school day for Grade ones is longer than at other schools and for this I am grateful because otherwise I don’t know how I’d manage to accomplish all that is expected for these little mites. Gone are the days when the first grade was a preparatory year, slowly getting into the hang of Big School – Now days – its into reading writing and mathematics right from the start and no time for play. These seven year olds are expected to count to 200 in ones, twos, fives and tens – and backwards too! Their moms and dads only had to calculate to nine when they started school but now the young Einsteins work right up to 32 and even begin fractions. Phew – and then there’s still reading, writing, I.T. Afrikaans, Xhosa and life skills to fit into week. I am learning the THRASS programme along with my youngsters and finding it just as much fun though I still insist on getting the basic listening and phonic skills grounded into them too. My colleagues are a great source of inspiration and this old dog is learning lots of new tricks from them.
Things are done properly and teachers are expected to work hard at my school. There are checks and balances, books are perused by colleagues, grade and phase heads regularly and from time to time there are class visitations too. Last week my grade and phase head spent an hour in my class observing my teaching and classroom control. Beforehand I had to do a self evaluation – not as easy as it sounds – the benchmarks I had to measure myself to were quite daunting and on a scale of 1 to 4 – 4 being the highest I honestly couldn’t give myself anything above a 3. Not at this stage of my life anyway – perhaps when I was in the thick of my career and nothing else but school mattered. I do still take my job very seriously and I work hard – but I’m not as fanatical anymore and I don’t think I want to be. Now I give 100% whereas in my younger days I gave 150!
Outings are another thing we fit into the curriculum and on Thursday we took our Grade Ones to UCT. Yes – the idea behind the visit was to show children what opportunities lay ahead after they’d finished their school career – no Grade 12 was not the end of the road – there could be so much more. So the tiny ones visited the chemistry faculty and were thrilled to be shown the ‘magical’ world of science. Professor G showed them intriguing experiments and had their eyes popping out of their sockets when different clear liquids were mixed together and magically changed colour several times while they stared in wonder. Then four lucky ones were allowed to don lab coats and rubber gloves and be the scientists to mix potions and produce some glorious goo. They saw eggs pass through narrow tubes, liquid nitrogen disappear in a puff of mist and a rocket take off into the clouds.
One young lad commented – “Its a mixture between magic and science, isn’t it Professor?”
That was the fun stuff – wow how exciting it is to be in Grade One in 2011.
If only every child understood how privileged they were to have these opportunities. How lucky they are to be in a class of less than 34, in a safe environment with teachers who come to school sober every day and do the job they’re paid to do. Too many of our South African children have so much less than these privileged ones I teach. I guess it is human nature that the more we get the more we want and appreciation is an attitude that has to be instilled.
This term we have only to write a comment on our reports but marks must still be entered on our schedules. I’m pretty up to date with the latter and done with the former as the term marches steadily toward break up day at the end of the month. I am also helping with the High School Play – which involves 2 to 3 rehearsals per week – but its fun.
Yes – teaching is hard work but oh so rewarding – I think I might find myself remaining in the classroom for several more terms yet!