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Showing posts from November, 2014

I love family traditions

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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 Even Basil, my husband, said that " 21st keys" are outdated.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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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#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…