Showing posts from 2013

Looking back at the highlights of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, it is time to celebrate the highlights of this year. It is soul food to applaud the uplifting moments in this world of ours. If we don't acknowledge and celebrate those life-giving acts and actions, our psyches will drown in the forms of injustices that still plague this earth, Like the hag, poverty.

I was chatting to Christo, Sasha and their friend a day ago while we were sitting outside our tent, lazing away the hours. For a while now our drummer boy, Christo,  has been on his journey of self-discovery. He is questioning the purpose of life, the history of civilizations and the path of self-destruction that we have been following since the beginning of time, He is fascinated by the "hippie" era and its philosophy of living as free spirits.

Our conversation inevitably turns to the scourge of poverty. As expected, my young trio have a tough time, I think, grasping that poverty is a manmade state, a structural, economic and political power mechanis…

2013 marks the end of our season as Circuit Team One of Metro South Education District.

This year ended on a bitter-sweet note for our circuit team that has been together for five years and a bit. Four of our team members, Juan, Irene, Elize and Kay will no longer form part of our circuit team. It seems like it was just the other day that we formed our melting pot, Circuit Team One of our education district. There we were, a diverse group with fiery personalities and equally strong world views, bound by a common mandate: to provide effective support services as a multi-functional team to the 37 schools we were assigned.

Our diversity - and quirkiness - could so easily have been the barrier to supporting the schools. And, bureaucratic structures can hinder team building because of its structural hierarchy. Yet, it is fair to say that our team managed to transcend these potential threats largely because of the relational, progressive leadership style of our circuit team manager, Juan.

He advocates relationship-building as foundational and thus dialogues and various forms …

Prize giving ceremonies are stepping stones to reach bigger goals

I have just returned from the prize giving ceremony at Steenberg Primary School. The entire event celebrated centered the youth, including the entertainment and the keynote address.
The Grade R learners provided us with light "wishy, washy down", banana and fishy singalongs between the various categories, singing at the top of their voices and contorting their bodies into half moons and great white sharks. Such confidence and spontaneity!

The keynote speaker was an equally confident young man. Mujaheed Damon is an alumnus of Steenberg Primary School and he is a good role model for his younger peers at Steenberg Primary. He is currently a Grade 9 learner at Norman Hensilwood High School and he was here tonight to show learners that resilience is a powerful indicator of success.
Keynote by Grade 9 learner, Mujaheed
Just like the awardees of the night, Mujaheed too started carving his journey of success at an early age. Mujaheed spoke about the balance in his life - focusing on …

International Children's Day at Capricorn Primary School goes ABC!

Capricorn Primary School celebrated the launch of their Maths hub today, on International Children's Day.
This was the perfect day to host this event. Although the focus was on the Maths hub, we were given a snapshot of the integrated, strategic whole school development that is in place. Children performed dance and song items to celebrate their artistic gifts and the guests were taken on a guided tour to show how the school is living the Millennium Development Goals without the rhetoric. Powerful stuff. Many of the guests sat there, in awe and moved by the humility and the unapologetic celebration of the children by the school.
The Maths hub
The Maths hub was created to deepen the Maths teaching for learners by allowing dual teaching moments for Maths lessons. While half the class learns Maths in their dedicated classroom, the other half of the class goes to the Maths hub to be taught by a Maths teacher there. Nicky Roberts, who is one of the school 's Maths partners and who …

Blouvlei LSEN school goes oriental at their graduation

Regular readers will know that I am a diehard fan of Blouvlei LSEN school in Retreat. Tonight the 2013 graduation had an eastern theme. All the honored guests - the learners and their parents looked stunning in their eastern-nuanced outfits. Tonight was another spectacular event. All the speakers reminded the learners and their parents that they are extraordinary human beings. Gideon, the Head of Department, usually the composed, witty Programme director, was visibly moved when he paid tribute to the learners, his heart was full. One could hear his disappointment and feel his hurt for the boy whose mom refused to allow him to attend the graduation. Gideon also shared the story of another graduate who, after many dark, stormy periods in his life, transformed into a dependable leader on whom his peers and teachers looked up to.We listened to Joshua thanking the school and everybody who helped to shape his life since his arrival at Blouvlei at the tender age of 8. We were in awe of Ryan,…

Memorial service for Uzusakhe of Hillwood Primary

One of my mentors told me you need a thick skin when you are in education, especially when you have to deal with all issues related to education outside the classroom. Education is a cauldron of contestation and one needs to be ultra resilient. I have taken this advice seriously and have passed on this advice to many a school head, school leader and even to colleagues. But, I will never get used to numbing my emotions where our children are concerned - thank goodness for this!
Today again, I was so vulnerable when we bid Uzusakhe, a mere 11 years, goodbye at a memorial service held for him at the school. He is going to be buried in the Eastern Cape, his ancestral home, this weekend. Uzusakhe drowned when he and friends went to Muizenberg beach last Tuesday. Apparently he and his friends usually go to the public library on a Tuesday, but the heat wave drove them to the beach.

The memorial service was dignified, yet extremely emotional. I watched the learners sitting on the hard tarmac i…

Worm farms and container gardening at schools on the Cape Flats

I was chatting to Lindsay, an employee of the NGO, Earthchild, the other day at Levana Primary school. Lindsay helps the learners at Zerilda Park Primary school and Levana Primary school to set up worm farms. As Lindsay explained, the worm farms are established to produce compost for the learners' own container gardens and the worm farms also help learners to learn how to care for the environment. The learners are encouraged to bring organic scraps from home to feed the busy worms. After about eight months, there is enough wholesome, rich compost to feed eight container gardens. Learners have to bring plastic crates that serve as the garden container. I am so fascinated by the talk that I am tempted to start my own worm farm.What I heard next is what gives one a reality check. Lindsay said that they were only able to secure one crate this year and could therefore only establish one container garden. Last year, Lindsay said, they were able to set up four container gardens which co…

Schools will lift if they harness their learners' entrepreneurial power

All children are born entrepreneurs. They are curious, experimental, innovative and talented. They enjoy taking charge and showing off their skills and competencies. Yet, we force them to be passive onlookers at school assemblies and other school events. Even when we receive guests at the school, the learners often just interact with them from a distance. Often the teachers are bogged down with all the planning details while the bored learners direct their pent up energies to amuse themselves in ways which are not appreciated by the adult folk around them. The question begs: why are we not allowing the 'Steve Jobs' to help us with the organizational planning so that we can reserve our energies for the classroom?I can see the possibility of an entrepreneurial- driven Programme embedded in a school's infrastructural curriculum framework because there are schools that serve as models.Take for example, Jacques Schouw, a grade ten learner at Muizenberg High School. Jacques is …

Teaching today requires dollops of courage

SMT of Prince George Primary School Teaching has always been challenging. In this fast- changing world, teachers are expected to lead the their children to become well- balanced, critical problem solvers who can live and work harmoniously with their communities of family, friends, fellow colleagues - everybody! How tall an order is this?

There is often some glib talking about the higher order thinking we want our children to master and the need for teachers to develop these cognitive skills of the learners. As if thinking is automatic, as if all teachers themselves have the capacity to teach the new content and the new thinking skills without the necessary training and support. it is one thing knowing say, certain content and making sense of it for yourself. But, having to mediate that same content and having to teach children the various skills to master the same, you need a basket of strategies and a solid understanding of the pedagogic demands to reach all the children successful…

Empowering the Girl Child at schools is a necessary practice

The macho culture is so ingrained in our culture that we often deepen cultural or structural practices that promote gender inequalities without us realizing it. Now that the United Nations marks 11 October as the “International Day of the Girl Child”, we will hopefully see more sustainable awareness campaigns against violence against girls especially at schools and at community level.
This week I attended two school events where the girl child was empowered.
Grade 11 girls host their Speakers’ event at Ocean View High School
 At Ocean View High school, eleven Grade 11 girls participated in a Speakers’ Circle where they presented talks on varied topics such as the critical need for honesty, quality education to help eradicate poverty and the role of technology in our world – powerful stuff! All the speakers were confident, assertive and delivered convincing arguments to support their cause. One of the girls, Hope, invited her mother to attend the function. You could see the joy on the pri…

The power of "How Cool is Your School" brings out the monsters in my teen passengers

All I know is that Heart 104.9's Breakfast show with their "How cool is your school" competition is causing havoc in my car in the morning.

You see, I have three - yes, THREE teenagers - triple the hormonal double-decker rollercoaster moodswings - hitching a ride to school.  And most times, we listen to the Heart 104.9 breakfast show and enjoy the antics happening in the studio somewhere in Green Point. I have long given up on wanting to slaughter  the traffic reporter, for drawling that drivers must be "extra-cautious" because of some calamity on the road. Why extra cautious, why not just 'careful'. But I digress... at least this is better than listening to 5 FM for two beats of a song, or to Good Hope FM for a heartbeat of an announcement as the whims of my daughter, Sasha dictate.

Let's get on with the story then. At the back we have Reagan and Riko, my nephews, who would normally be quite content to make small talk in between playing a soccer game…

Professional learning communities are the best spaces to fast track professional development

This week ANA test papers were placed under the microscope again by our SMTs. We had set up SMT clusters formed by 3-4 school teams. Our aim, as action researchers, was to analyse why the majority learners responded so poorly to certain questions in the ANA tests that were written at the end of last term. The schools had already graded the papers and all our schools had done their analysis based on their learners’ performance at the various levels of grade, phase and school.
We used the ANA maths test papers as our frame of reference for these sessions.Today our focus was on specific questions. We sought to identify the elements in the question that may have contributed to the learners’ inability to answer those respective questions correctly.

SMTs diagnose questions that posed challenges to the learners
The SMTs were locked in deep discussions and a healthy buzz surrounded us during both cluster sessions thus far.. Each question had to be stripped to the bone: the content, the skills …

Square Hill Primary School ventures where many fear to tread

Schools serving poor communities need super strong, driven, inspirational leadership and teachers to rise above all the odds stacked against them. Learners in such schools must be immersed in a culture of high expectations, visible in all spheres of school life to help them blossom and succeed. Square Hill Primary school is one of those schools that can be singled out to be such an oasis.

It is said you can test the popularity of a school by the number of applicants wishing to enroll there. In Square Hill Primary School's case, application for placement  especially in the reception class is always a challenge. In February every year, Lavinia Davis, the Head of the school, e-mails me to inform me when applications open for the Gr R/reception class because on that day I will have to deal with many agitated parents. Our office always receives a flood of complaints because of the clamouring for space at the school. On the day of  Grade R registrations, parents queue from about 4h00, ju…

Floreat Primary School Head is setting the platform for 21st century teaching

I knew Friday 04 October was going to be hectic, but I got more than I bargained for.  I had three key engagements: a visit to Floreat Primary school in Steenberg where I was supposed to conclude the performance appraisal of Noel Isaacs, the Head of school. We had already spent three hours a few weeks ago on the process and agreed that we needed no longer than another two hours to wrap up the appraisal. Then I needed to complete important administrative tasks at our offices in Fish Hoek and later the evening we had our Schools Arts Festival at the Cape Town City Hall where I needed to be.

I had it all worked out and knew I would be able to tick off the boxes at the end of the day.  Well, life happens, you know and then the linear planning goes off the rails. That is exactly what happened to me on Friday morning till just before noon. I did start my day as planned, but that is as far as it went. So, here I give you a fairly diluted sequence of events once I arrived at Floreat Primary sc…