Mrs January was drawn to the profession of teaching because she played ‘school’ with her sibling all her life and she just grew into what she loves doing. “I love knowledge and simplifying information.” She says.
On entering Mrs. January’s class at Nosipho Primary in the Eastern Cape, of 54 Grade 1 children, one is met by bright-eyed expectant young learners. They are organized and respond to the instructions to listen, by raising their hands on the given call.
I have been working with Mrs. January since the beginning of 2015 and asked her to tell me about her challenges and successes. She was reticent to express her challenges and happy to share her recipe for success.
With 54 learners in a regular classroom she has ‘abandoned the idea of a space for her desk’ and released this for more room for the learners.
One of Mrs January’s biggest challenges is “having to assist the slower learners and worrying about their future pathways if this is the situation that they will be placed in each day as they progress through the overcrowded schooling system” Despite this, she comes prepared every day to meet challenges, making sure that she has sufficient concrete resources so that learners can be met at their level of development.
All her prepared ideas for worksheets are stored and filed neatly and ready for her to access.
Her walls are bright and relevant with clean, organized charts on display.
She ensures that during learners work time she circulates to assist, assess, motivate and check for understanding. This time also allows her to quickly mark some of the learners work as they are progressing. This also reduces her after hours workload. She says that moving among the learners is an opportunity to come alongside the slower learners to do some extra support which is hard to do in such a big class. She is very aware of the slower learners.
One of her aims is making sure that there are sufficient activities to stimulate all learners for the required time and this is evident by the full workbooks, homework exercises and files full of worksheets.
Her learner’s resources are managed by the leaders, who are appointed each day. She has expressed how confident and expectant they are of fulfilling their roles on their appointed days. She reports that the Teach Like a Champion techniques that she has been shown by her Edupeg mentor have assisted her in understanding that small changes can make a big difference. This has directed her in being aware, and ultimately able to reach all 54 learners in an organized, supportive and targeted way.
Mrs January has responded positively to having an Edupeg mentor in her classroom, commenting that she appreciates the reassurance and comfort her mentor brings each time she arrives. She loves all the ideas that her mentor shares with her, who often leaves her own resources from which to copy and use and finds the ideas from the Edupeg books useful as a supplementary resource.
The most satisfying aspect of teaching for Mrs January is: “Seeing the steady change in learners as they develop through the year. Other teachers also see that development and they comment positively.”
Her dream is to specialize in Special Education.
Mrs January’s advice to new teachers entering the profession is to “Grab hold of any advice, suggestions and the experiences of any mentor that you can. Take the opportunities to grow and learn and be a Lifelong Learner. Have the attitude of never feeling that you have experienced enough.”
One gets the impression on leaving her classroom that she is determined not to be a victim of her circumstances and rises above her obvious difficult surroundings. She is an example to others on the staff and has grasped the opportunity to be forever learning and open to ideas. She is not afraid to ask for ideas and assistance which are readily implemented.
One is encouraged, but not surprised, that she still has a dream of studying further.
Mrs January is an example that needs to be replicated in our schools.