Visiting Floreat Primary and Capricorn Primary School turn me into a mentee on steroids

Adrian in the foyer at the school, Floreat Primary School, where he has been teaching for the past two years

You will agree that even though you love your job, there are days when you wonder whether you are in the right place, don't you? Then there are those days - and hopefully they are the norm - when you ask yourself whether it is really possible to have so much joy; so much pleasure, when those with whom you work make you feel like a mentee on steroids? You know that feeling, right?


Now, today I had one of those "mentee on steroids" days. I was merely going to pay two short courtesy visits to Floreat and Capricorn Primary schools in the heartland of the broader Lavender Hill-Steenberg area. However, each session became a reflective session on the quality education agenda driven at these two schools. I must add that I had not engineered any of the sort. My focus was just going to be on "basic functionality" - checking on textbooks, time tabling, staffing and the like, for today.

At Floreat Primary School

So, while I was sitting in the foyer at Floreat Primary school, Adrian, a young teacher at the school, passed by. After a flash exchange of pleasantries, Adrian proudly told me that he is now the Acting Head of Department at the school.


"Imagine that, " he said. Only starting my third year of teaching and I am already given an opportunity to take on this senior leadership. He goes on to say he is simply loving teaching. Adrian oozes passion and energy. His eyes lit up as he told me about his new mandate. He has to disaggregate all the data sets of their learners' performance - the internal results, the ANAs and the Systemic results which will be used as their framework to analyse and assess their learners' performance.


"I need to disaggregate the data and find the learner numbers behind the percentages. We want to know exactly where our learners are pegged. This will help us to identify trends - the positive and the negative trends. We want to see where we need to improve and then we want to discuss how we are going to get there. "

Adrian's eyes were beaming and his hands were drawing the graphs and the trendlines in the air as he explained the process to me. I sat there, smiling and nodding while this young man took me through the paces. When this part of the conversation ended, I asked Adrian about the progress with regard to his Master's degree. He gave me a quick overview and said he should be done by November this year. Then the siren wailed to indicate the end of the interval. Without skipping a beat, Adrian wrapped up our chat and waltzed off to his class. What an interesting conversation!

At Capricorn Primary School

Siddieka Hassen, Principal of Capricorn Primary School

Then much later, I arrived at Capricorn Primary school to meet with the school head, Siddieka Hassen. Siddieka is the principal of Capricorn Primary school that is situated in the middle of the sprawling informal settlement of Capricorn. En route to the school, you pass a deserted section of veld before you reach a congested section of street lined with all kinds of informal businesses. There are hair salons, takeaways, barbers and clothing shops. There is also an educate centre along this road. This must be the CBD zone and you often have crawl along this narrow road where cars are parked and taxis stop to pick up or drop off their passengers.


Siddieka and I had agreed that our meeting would be brief because she had a staff meeting scheduled that afternoon. She was excited because their school is participating in the interschool zonal athletics meeting for the first time. I hear how difficult it was to collect the children's birth certificates and their efforts to obtain temporary ones for those who do not even have a copy. This is just par for the course for Siddieka and her staff and there is no hint of irritation. I congratulated Siddieka on the excellent performance of her learners in the Systemic Tests. Then the floodgates opened.


There I was, again the active listener sitting opposite a passionate, animated head of school speaking about their teaching practice. Siddieka had already visited classes and the teachers had already analysed the results of their own learners.


"You can see here, Sharon, we are going to talk about what we are doing and how we are going to improve our classroom practice. I have picked up certain things in the various classes, but I want to hear what the staff have to say. The teachers who went on the Mathematics course at Stellenbosch during the school holidays, are implementing what they have learned. They are busy finalizing their framework to assess their progress. It's all about the quality of our inputs and our outputs, you know," Siddieka said. "We want to know how we can build on our successes."

Too soon our time was up and it was almost time for their staff meeting.


Imagine that. Two schools with a common agenda: quality teaching and learning that should be measurable, hold the drivers accountable and that should reflect an improvement in learner performance. Who wouldn't want to have such energising,strategic conversations that are initiated by the key influencers themselves?


The following quotation of Steve Jobs resonates with me in relation to the mindset and work ethic of both Adrian and Siddieka:


" When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back even though it faces the wall and nobody sees it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."


We need more Siddiekas and Adrians to give our children who hail from poor homes and areas, a head start. There is no equal to good leadership and pervasive quality assurance of the teaching and learning practice to turn schools around.





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