Showing posts from 2014

2015 can be the year for that small,significant life-changing goal .

It is 20h21. There are only three hours and 39 minutes left before we welcome in the new year, 2015.
I have been thinking hard about what to say to you and me about our vision for 2015. How do we prepare to make our lives matter? How can we live more authentically? How do we build on our successes? How do we make the changes that we have to make in our lives?

Making changes will never be easy. But we have to start somewhere. We have to learn to commit to our dreams by starting small. Every small act or action adds up and before we know it, we are moving ourselves to becoming happier people. We need goals to be our maps, but we forget that each of our goals is a composite of many tiny goals. Those small goals are really the small actions that move us closer to our main goal.

One of my overarching goals is to live a more purposeful life. One big stumbling block is that I am a self-confessed workaholic and I have begun to question its impact on my life.

My obsession with work is bloc…

We can craft our own ring road.

"My ring road is my own creation. It's where I am happiest."
                                                                                           - Keith Niekerk

The principle of the demand and supply model is straightforward. When there is a need, you supply the resources. The tricky part is we confuse our needs with our wants.

We convince ourselves that we need more of those things that give us instant satisfaction, regardless of the cost. We crave more material things to feed our addictions. The more we see, the more we want. Living like this is living on the edge - right on the brink of spiralling out of control and losing sight of true living.

Our real basic needs are simple. We merely need to live in harmony with ourselves, others and the environment. Therein lies the struggle. These simple life-enhancing pleasures are difficult to satisfy because of the high costs. The price of love, respect, sharing and tolerance is much higher than those things you can bu…

Don't ignore the signs of burnout and follow a plan to combat it in future

Do you feel you can't shake off that exhaustion even though you are on holiday? If this is the case, the reality is that you are suffering from burnout. Many of the symptoms of burnout were there throughout the year, but you probably dismissed those early warning signs.

There are two reasons why you don't see yourself as a sufferer of burnout.

Firstly, you may not know how to recognize the symptoms of burnout. You may have accepted being tired constantly because of work overload.
Family demands frustrate you, you ignore spending time with friends and your conversations are mainly about work. This preoccupation with work after hours and the absence of fun and quality time with family and friends are all telltale signs of burnout.

Secondly, you may be in denial. You tell yourself that it is normal to feel wasted at the end of the year. You may also play the blame game and identify everybody else as causing you undue stress and not take responsibility for your own role in fee…

Be the change you want to see.

One of these days we will be entering a new year, the year 2015. The ideal time to get rid of toxic people in your life. You know the kind that drains our energies. They come in all shapes and sizes and they are everywhere. Let's go minimalist on those people who complicate our lives. Let us be grape pickers of our own vineyards. Shall we start our pruning and harvesting? Right, here we go.
We are that bounteous cluster of grapes, brimming with life. Here and there we see a spoilt grape tucked between the energising grapes. Remove these imperfections and see them as those people that you wish to exclude from your life. Those shriveled grapes may even be parts of your own personality that you wish to change. Go ahead. Prune vigorously so that you can make way for new sprouts, new beginnings.

If we can visualize this cleansing, transformational process, we are well on our way to improving our quality of life. Now we just have to put our plan into action. This may sound simple, bu…

Frankie's knitting circle

There in the Groote Kerk in Cape Town, Frankie read the notice appealing to volunteers to knit jerseys for the Jerzy4kidz project 2014. The jerseys were for the Steinthal Children's Home in Tulbagh. "That's interesting," thought Frankie. "I will gather my friends and we can knit for this worthy cause."Quietly the weeks slipped by. Then one Sunday after the church service, Frankie brought a large bag filled with jerseys. These jerseys were given to Pierre who had to pass them on to Sharon who had to take them to Gwynn. Something like the Chicken Licken story, but in our story the sky was not falling down. Our sky had a Frankie galaxy, sending rays of light to needy children. We are now supposed to have a "lived happily ever after" ending. That is, if only Frankie had forgotten about the church weekly bulletin where she saw the Jerzy4kidz notice.The weeks went by. Winter dragged on and Spring struggled to make an entrance. The winds howled and the ra…

We need an ambitious national reading campaign beyond the classroom.

Why are we not tackling our reading proficiency crisis as a nation? Why is there such crippling pressure only on the education sector to fix a national priority? We need to revisit our approach to the literacy problem in our country and the reading interventions we are investing in. According to the most recent studies, we are not progressing despite our efforts.

We have to acknowledge that the multiple, well- meaning but uncoordinated literacy interventions are not having the desired impact on our low literacy levels. We need a far more ambitious, coordinated, national reading campaign to have deep, long lasting effects. Cuba understood this fact when in 1961, this country successfully helped more than 100,000 rural people become literate in one year. The Cuban government and the literacy campaign leaders knew that mass education cannot be achieved without mass participation.

We too,  have the manpower and other resources to action a sustainable, integrated national reading campaign…

Fish Hoek Primary School's physical environment is vibrant and child-friendly

Children are precious and learning is fun, says Fish Hoek Primary School, WITHOUT uttering a word. The atmosphere and the child-friendly building and grounds tell you this. When you tour the school playgrounds, you know that the school cares and nurtures the children's spirits. Decorated walls and open spaces with various functional objects are used to spread happiness. These are the subliminal messages I got when I visited Fish Hoek Primary School last week.
There are those who believe school is a place where children come to learn and not to be entertained. Also, they add, children do not appreciate and respect the property so money spent on decor and landscaping are a waste of money. Obviously, I am not in this camp and neither is Neil, the Acting Principal of Fish Hoek Primary School, his staff and his parents.
Neil explained that beautifying the school has been an ongoing project for years.
"When we moved into these premises, the school was brown. Everything was brown …

I love family traditions

Nowadays so many people believe family traditions are old-fashioned and out of keeping with the modern world. The 21st celebrations that used to be a huge event, complete with a 21st key to celebrate the "Coming Of Age", is also under threat, it seems.
When I was looking for a 21st key for our son, Christo, I was fascinated with a few responses. There were folk who said they didn't hand over the symbolic key while others settled for another symbol like a chain to substitute the key. Even Basil, my husband, said that " 21st keys" are outdated. I almost fainted!

There was no way we were not going to have The Wooden Key. The key made from wood is, as far as I was concerned, the true symbol of celebrating your coming of age. I wasn't going to fall into the trap of the modern thinking and started hunting for someone who could sculpt a 21st key with a drum figurine for our #Oxy Drummer son, Christo. Lavinia's brother came to the rescue and lo and behold, th…

Ten strategies to make your school a fun, nurturing space.

Schools are exploring different strategies to involve parents and children in exciting, cost-effective ways that create a fun learning space for all the stakeholders.Initially there will be an investment of time and money, but these costs will fade in the background as you see the priceless rewards of a happy school.

Here are TEN proven strategies that are used by many schools, rich and poor. Why not try to introduce some of them and reap the benefits as well?

1. Plan a talk series for learners

At Sullivan Primary School, a series of motivational talks will be part of the Grade seven programme next year. Past students who have succeeded against all odds, have been invited to host 45-minute sessions once a month.

2. Link up with NGOs to arrange regular Parent workshops

Square Hill Primary School has linked up with an NGO to run weekly coffee shop sessions with their parents in the new year. The idea is to equip parents with skills to cope with parenting and other life skills. A few of…

Teachers and Principals have to read to stay informed.

We say children have to read to help them learn faster, but how many of our principals and teachers are reading? If you speak to teachers, principals and even district officials, it becomes evident that many of those directly involved in education seldom make time to read.

Reading feeds the soul and the mind

One inherent danger in not reading for leisure or reading literature in your own industry means you are stunting your own personal and professional growth. Leisure reading is a pleasurable activity and a stress reliever. Reading takes our minds away from all the pressures and allows us to enter the world of others at no cost.

On the flip side, professionals should read to keep their minds fresh. Reading helps them build their knowledge which will come in handy during their work as well. How are we going to stay abreast of all the new knowledge that is created at breakneck speed if we don't read what is available to us?
There is an abundance of all kinds of literature available fo…

Meetings should help schools map their progress towards their goals

Given that schools can become insanely busy places with all the changes taking place, school principals should identify those bad habits or practices that slow down their performance and those that compromise their team talks.One such habit is the absence of a comprehensive staff communication strategy. I want to talk about that dreaded team talk called The Meeting. Schools tend to use one channel, the formal meeting, to conduct most of their communication with staff members. Hallo, there are other communication platforms that you can use to great effect. We are living in the 21st century!
Before the invention of digital technologies, including social media, meetings were probably the fastest medium to reach the whole team. Sending letters or making phone calls in the past would have been seen as expensive, impractical ways to share routine information or messages.It is different today. You can send an e-mail or use one of the chat services to communicate this kind of information. Yo…

Meetings can be fun if your colleagues bring along their ideas andtheir zest for life

I always look forward to the reflection meeting with the four primary school principals - Lavinia Davis (Square Hill), Cassy Dick (Steenberg), Noel Isaacs (Floreat) and Lameez Rabbaney (Prince George). This foursome has been partners in this mentoring network that was established about three years ago. They have showed that professional learning networks can be a deep support network, IF you are prepared to invest in the partnership. In short, when you work with your peers, you have a pool of resources a phone call away.
And, if you have a Cassy in the network, be forewarned: you will be phoned, e-mailed or picked up so that you know the group cares and cannot function well without you and your gifts.
The comraderie that prevails and the mix of diverse personalities are part of the success of this professional learning network. Humour and sharp wit are also present in bucket loads here. Even I become the target of many a flippant comment. Like yesterday.
"When I informed the sta…

End of year fatigue is in the air

The year is slowly winding down and you can see and feel that end of year fatigue setting in. There is that beautiful saying: the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. I suppose many of us will say "Amen" to this. The year has been a long one with many challenges and changes. I watched my colleagues at our Monday morning meeting. Usually there is wee bit of competition by one of my colleagues who likes to be the first to share her weekend delights. This week it was different, though. She sat there, twiddling her pen and eventually delivered her story like a stony judge. Then our workaholic, flu-ish colleague croaked her story of an awesome weekend away and ended on a whimperish note:" I am really exhausted." This, I may add, is not how we normally do it; we are just plain Moeg (tired).Sometimes this end of year fatigue can be a blessing, like my experience with a fellow road user. I must confess I can be quite irritated and impatient with motorists who are sel…

The power of habits at school: is the school setting the tone or are the children dictating the terms in classrooms?

All poor schools are equal... Excluding the discipline of children?

I know there are many struggling schools, including primary schools, that cannot teach because the children are extremely ill-disciplined. Principals and teachers offer all kinds of relevant reasons for this situation, including poor parenting. While I agree that multiple factors impact on schools, there are many poor schools that have excellent discipline and their overall learner performance matches that of better resourced schools. Why do we have this phenomenon then?

Given that we cannot change many of the external factors that affect children's behaviour, we have to focus on the variable that we do have control over: the school and its classroom spaces. Strangely, very few schools that have a poor discipline record, will talk about the school's role in impacting on children's behaviour. Why is there this reluctance to reflect on possible internal problems that add to the lack of discipline across th…

Parent involvement at Schools: two unconventional strategies that work.

This post is the third installment in the Parent Involvement at Schools series that I am exploring.

Generally, parents love to attend sport or cultural functions because their children are in the spotlight and there is no pressure other than to enjoy themselves. Teresa Muller, principal of St Mary's R.C. Primary School in Retreat, shared her challenges to accommodate parents at the annual school concert.

"We had such a battle at our school concert the other night," said Teresa. "There was absolutely no room for an ant, yet the parents kept on streaming in. They begged to be allowed to sit on the floor or to stand against the walls on the sides of the hall. We could have held the concert over two nights, but parents don't confirm their attendance, although we have given them regular reminders. Then there are the grannies and the aunties who also want to come. The night was good, noisy and fun because the parents lose their inhibitions when they see their childre…

Three powerful video clips School Leaders can use for a Movie Festival for staff development

School leaders are always looking for interesting, meaningful ways to do professional development with their staffs. Having a mini film/ Youtube festival is a wonderful idea that you can explore if you have not held one yet. Create the scene by having large bowls of popcorn and juice. You can even print out customised cinema tickets and hand these out to your staff members. Select clips that will make up an hour or ninety minutes of viewing time. The breaks between the video screenings create ideal body breaks or quick exchanges about the message of the clip viewed .Choose two or three video clips based on a theme to create a sense of cohesion. You may want people to share insights they have gained from the films after the festival. Get ideas from your staff on how you can host a film festival for the team. As a start, you may use these three video clips as part of your movie day. I have selected three video clips to represent the theme: "Shiny Eyes. The theme has been inspired …

The play, Rondomskrik,is a hard hitting reminder that we are our children's guardians

If you want to enjoy a good Afrikaans play and reflect on the state of our poor communities, the Rondomskrik at The Baxter theatre is the answer. The play, #Rondomskrik, is an accurate portrayal of the violence, degradation and brokenness of many poor communities. The storyline is inspired by the brutal murder of 17 year old Anene Booysen in a rural town, Bredasdorp. This play delves deeply into the complex web of cruelty and the exploitation of our vulnerable youth by their own parents, family members and community members. We see the resilience of the children, Antjie Fortuin (Crystal-Donna Roberts) and her brother (Richard September) as they learn how to cope with abuse and neglect by the adults who are supposed to be their nurturers and protectors. They are removed from their abusive mother (Lee-Ann van Rooi) who is eventually imprisoned for murdering one of her own children. When they are placed in foster care with a relative, they are treated as a source of income because of th…

Building strong literacy skills in Foundation Phase: insights drawn from academic article by #Elizabeth Pretorius

#ElizabethPretorius (UNISA) wrote a research article on a South African literacy intervention programme that she conducted at a Gauteng township school in 2010. I found this fascinating research article on #NicSpaull's blog. The link for the article, "Supporting transition or playing catch-up in Grade 4? Implications for standards in education and training." is on Nick's blog. Do pop in there and download the article.

I want to highlight FIVE key insights that I have gleaned from this research conducted by Elizabeth Pretorius.

1. Schools can make a difference if the classroom is a literacy hub.

I like the realistic spin that schools can help to bridge the gap of children's literacy deficits IF we have a highly-focused, sustained literacy approach at the foundation level. Other research has showed this, but we don't really have a large body of research on intervention case studies like this in South African schools. This research shows warts and all of how th…

My list of four Must-Read blogs for school leaders

Leaders are readersThe saying "leaders are readers" has a grain of truth in it. Most successful leaders of different industries are known to be avid readers. Our own Nelson Mandela was an excellent example of being a voracious reader and an active campaigner of reading. Reading articles and books about is a sure fire way to help you grow as a leader.School leaders and those in education need to read as a matter of course. Sadly, there are many school leaders and other education leaders who do not read for leisure or for personal growth. I have been told by some that they do not have time to read and that they are already flooded with their mandatory corporate communication. This mindset is not only shortsighted, but it can be harmful as well to the organisations we are mandated to develop. Independent reading sharpens your cognitive skillsIndependent, personal reading is vital. When you read literature on leadership, your horizons as a leader expand. You gain more knowledge …

Ban the war siren signals used at schools as part of the reculturing process.

This post is part of the series of making schools more welcoming. I want to talk about the school siren signals that schools must consider changing as part of their reculturing journey.Whenever I hear a school siren at the schools I serve, I am more convinced that schools must get rid of that war cry.

The reason for using the siren and its amplified sounds.

There is a huge difference in the function of an emergency siren sound and a school siren. Wailing Siren noises warn us about impending danger or of an emergency. When we hear these noises, we expect to see an emergency or security vehicle like an ambulance, the police or a fire engine. If we are driving, we will allow such vehicles to pass by, even if it means we have to stop at the green robots. Our response would be appropriate under these circumstances.

Now, let us zoom into one of these schools where we have these factory siren or emergency vehicle sounds. The children at these schools are already highly traumatized. They h…