Showing posts from May, 2014

Five Ideas to build healthy relationships with staff and learners

I am blessed to see many community-building practices at the schools that I visit. I wish school principals and teachers had this opportunity as well. You learn so much from having the experience yourself and from interacting with your peers in a real life setting. Such learning can never really be fully appreciated in a workshop setting.
Let me share a five practices that I simply love AND believe others can benefit from.
1. The staff breakfast
At a few schools the staff have a monthly breakfast where all staff members sit and enjoy communion. In most cases the staff members make the breakfast contributions and a rotating breakfast team coordinates the event. At one school staff members report about an hour earlier and at another school the first interval is extended to accommodate the breakfast. At Square Hill Primary school,where there is an extended interval, the principal, Lavinia Davis, with her support /ground staff takes over the playground duty. A programme is run for the lear…

Saying farewell to our school doctor, Dr Jen Kallis

Today we had a farewell tea for Doctor Jennifer Kallis, known fondly to us as Jen. Jen has decided to bow out gracefully from serving school communities in the Cape Peninsula for the past three decades or more. Jen is a medical doctor: someone who cares deeply about serving the community and children who are often the victims of neglect, abuse and the ignorance of adults in their lives. She is acutely aware of the socio-economic demons that plague communities. Jen refused to let people travel to our offices because " Where must the parents get the money for taxi fare. Jen, the storytellerBesides being a doer, Jen is an incessant talker,always sharing stories of her experience with children she meets and treats at the various schools across the peninsula. Her animated face and the passion with which she relates the stories kept me spellbound on many occasions. At such times, time would stand still until I realise there may be a rather irate school head waiting for me. When this re…

School Principals need a healthy dose of humour, say our panelists

Managing and leading a school is serious business, but should a principal be equally stoic in demeanor and attitude? See what our panelists had to say when they were asked: Should a principal have a good sense of humour?

"The best principals are those with a sense of humour. Those who don't take themselves too seriously and can laugh at themselves. I've always suspected that when fun-loving teachers become principals they have to first graduate from asshole school. Those who don't are the best principals. It is a prerequisite to being a good leader - having and maintaining a sense of humour." Rowan Esau. Educator at Square Hill Primary School and now a district official responsible for school enrichment. I once heard : "Humour is mankind's device to escape suffering" - Based on this, with all that our principals" experience and educators, humour will at least lighten things up that seem to be depressing to SO MANY in the education system. A lead…

Building partnerships with SAPS, Steenberg Police Station

Today a group of our school principals met with a group of policemen at Steenberg Police station. The Station superintendent initiated the meeting to inform the principals about the their response to the raging taxi war in the area and to listen to the concerns of the principals. The police and the school heads share the same objective: to ensure that the community and in particular, the learners have a safe, healthy environment. It sometimes takes a crisis like the taxi war and violence that erupted again last week, to bring the two role players in the same space.At the end of the meeting, the group had agreed to have a monthly meeting to discuss issues of safety. We have also extended an invitation to SAPS to attend our Principals' meetings and our Safer Schools Forums. These baby steps will help us to work collaboratively. For now there is political will. The success of this much-needed partnership rests on the commitment of the schools and the Police officers of both the Muize…

UNESCO Arts Education Week 2014 is celebrated on the Cape Flats, Cape Town

Tonight was a glorious evening. South Africa was represented at the UNESCO Arts Education Week 2014 by two local Cape Town schools, Steenberg Primary School and Oaklands High school. This was made possible by CICLO Arts Educational exchange project that coordinated Arts Exhibitions and Performances in four cities: Cape Town, Copenhagen Rio and St. Petersburg. CICLO partnered with the Frank Joubert Art Centre where the Steenberg Primary learners receive lessons.The performance, aptly named Into the Sun, tells the story of how young people try to find a solution for the problems of pollution and crime in their 'Hood'. The stage came alive as the young performers dazzled us with their music, dance and drama. The infusion of learner artwork evident in the props and costumes is a visual testimony of the creativity and genius of the youth. They are born to be expressive and to cross all boundaries of race, class and culture. The fact that the Grade 7s of Steenberg Primary school onl…

Conversations in the midst of the Lavender Hill Gang violence

The Elders sat and listened ...A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of. Nelson Mandela.Dear AllFYIThe taxi violence (and gang and drugs impact) have escalated in the Vrygrond and Lavender Hill areas and this is having a serious impact on our work.Yesterday (TUES) I had to shift the venue for our Maths workshop because of the killings in Vrygrond and the threat to teachers’ safety.Today (WED) I was at Zerilda Park at 08.15am. The situation and mood was already tense in the area. From early the morning, parents were frantically fetching their children. Roads were closed near the school. Michael was also at the school. We asked the school to keep a record of learners leaving and to let parents sign when they pick up their children. The principal, Ms Engledoe, kept the learners who remained until dismissal times (FP and IP) and the police were visible at these times.Michele…

Don't miss out on the last opportunity to write SA Matric on the old curriculum

There is nothing you can really do if you don't have a Matric certificate. You can have all the knowledge and skills in the world, but if you don't have your Matric certificate, doors will slam in your face. The Matric certificate is the golden ticket to create opportunities for you. You will still search for a job, but it may be easier to secure a job if you can show a Matric certificate. You may want to find a better job, but the prospective employer wants that grade 12 certificate. Only then will he or she allow you to be considered as a potential employee. Then only will your skills be recognized, no matter what people may tell you to the contrary.If you find this hard to believe, ask any one of the 141 adult learners who sat for their Business Economics examination today at just one of the Examination centres I visited today. According to the chief invigilator, Mr Charles, 100 of the candidates did not turn up. The Steenberg High centre manager, Mr Williams told me that …

You can learn how to teach Real Maths from Foundation Phase teachers

If you want to learn how to build relationships with learners, go to the gurus in the field of building relationships. Find a school and ask them to take you straight to the foundation phase teachers. There you will find teachers who are passionate and willing to try various strategies to unleash children's capacity to learn. Foundation phase teachers are always hungry for new ways to reach their little ones.

Take today's Maths conference run by Foundation phase teachers for eighty two of their peers at neighbouring schools. The presenters were energetic young teachers from Capricorn Primary, a school tucked in an informal settlement and a more experienced, live wire teacher, Cheryl Thomas and Ashley from Kleinberg Primary school in Ocean View, another depressed working class area.

I joined Melissa and her Capricorn Primary school team to hear what they are doing in their Maths classes. The topic was on teaching the South African currency. The next minute we were all first …

An injured ringed dove is given TLC by a caring janitor

Mr Cogill, one of the janitors at Levana Primary school had another duty added to his weekend roster: looking after an injured ringed dove. The dove was stroked ever so tenderly by its carer. I saw the pair standing on the stoep in the sun on Saturday morning. The dove was cupped in Mr Cogill's rather large hands for such a small framed man. Apparently children pelted stones at the harmless bird. Mr Cogill found the bird on the school's premises and nursed it, creating a warm bed for the injured bird in his store room. Because the weather was good, Mr Cogill decided to stand in the sun with 'Dove 4552'. There is a nasty hole just under its wing where the wing joins the body. If only the children knew their idea of fun - throwing stones at birds - is a cruel sport.The ring on the dove contained key information. I visited the Sonpo website as indicated on the ring to see if we could track the owner of Dove 4552. I learned that the country of origin also features on the…

Interhouse plays are a powerful mass participation activity

One Act plays produced, cast and directed by young people themselves are sure winners. I wonder why more schools don't explore the Interhouse drama competition which has so many benefits for schools and their communities? All schools have interhouse programmes, but in many cases the Interhouse is reserved for once-off sport events. But, why not develop the interhouse into a broad-based program that goes beyond just one day of fun? There are schools that have well developed, institutionalised House systems. Besides competing at interhouse athletics level, houses also compete on other platforms like drama and debating. Let's have a peek into the House play model. Features of the One Act Interhouse Plays I like the one-act interhouse plays that many schools host. The learners must produce their own play, provide their own cast drawn from their house members and direct the play themselves. There are other rules that apply as well. For instance, the play must have a minimum numbe…

Get rid of your baggage - become a crap detector

I think a good skill we should actively learn is to dump all our garbage like highly skilled crap detectors.

We should sort out the crap in our minds, thoughts and bodies, drop it into our refuse bags and then discard those destructive energy sappers into massive automated garbage mental trucks. We can give this purging process any fancy name like mental and spiritual spring cleaning or intellectual decluttering. The name means nothing. The deliberate act of ridding ourselves of damaging stuff is the target.

We have to remind ourselves that such renewal is a process and commit to performing regular cleansing. Once we acknowledge the need for constant renewal on all levels - spiritually, physically and mentally, we will gain better insight about ourselves and find it easier to live more fully.

I am already feeling lighter knowing who and what can be removed immediately from our space.

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Popping in at The Pallet Furniture Maker en route to the Voting Station

Today there is a spring in my step because we are having our national elections today. I use my vote whenever we have elections. My vote on the national and provincial ballot papers have awesome power because those crosses speak volumes and are recognized and acknowledged more than my physical presence! Why people think up all kinds of reasons not to go to the polls really baffles.So, on my way to the voting station here at the Southfield library, Brett, our firstborn, first takes me to Brian, the pallet furniture entrepreneur close to our Voice venue. In front of Brian's house we see a set of outdoor furniture made of pallets that have been whitewashed. There is a two-seater bench, two buxom chairs and a coffee table. Beautiful outdoor seating to transform any courtyard or backyard into an appealing entertainment zone. I am such a sucker for handcrafted stuff, especially if it is borne from the sweat of those who promote conservation, make a living from recycling and who can …

Our peacock genes are our downfall...

Ah... When I saw the peacock striding at Imhoff farm, looking rather bored at us, I knew it; we are like these showy birds. Just like the peacock, we know when to show off, when to lure and when to appeal to the vanity of our species! I am putting it out there now... Right, here goes... I am thinking more and more about how messed up we are. The tragedy is that our personal and collective actions come at a hefty price. Yes, other ordinary folk have to bear the brunt of our selfishness. Why can't we just look out for one another? Whenever a human atrocity makes the headlines, there is just this heightened awareness of the craziness of this world of ours. How for example, can we be so screwed up as a human race? How can close to 250 young school girls just be kidnapped in Nigeria and there is not a world outcry about this unacceptable barbaric act! Facebook statuses are providing me with more information than the regular news. Why don't the super powers use their financial, mi…