Showing posts from January, 2015

Lessons from Crestway High School and Ocean View High School

Today I visited two of my high schools: Crestway and Ocean View High Schools.

Crestway High School

Crestway High School is one of our Robin Hood schools. Everybody is welcome here. The school has improved their Grade 12 results in 2014, surfacing from an implosion they suffered the previous year. The school principal, Vernon Safers, and his two deputy principals, Janet Daniels and Cheryl Jacobs are happy with their performance, but they are still guarded.

"This pleasing performance of our Grade 12s is the result of very hard work," said Vernon. We are learning from our mistakes. We started early with our support programmes. The tutors from the district helped. We extended the day for our Matrics and we made the telematics programme available for the students throughout. We are still drilling into weaknesses in our system here. We want to expand the model to our grade elevens. We are ready to strengthen our turnaround. Teachers must do self-reflection and be honest about their…

Six fundamental elements that should form the backbone of your school's reading strategy

Many schools complain that their literacy programmes are not yielding results although they are working very hard.
Perhaps there are critical gaps in your approach.

Does your school's reading strategy encompass these SIX fundamental elements?


1. Understand deeply why learners need to be excellent readers.

We should know by now that a child who reads fluently, with comprehension at or above his age cohort, has mastered the skills to learn better and faster. Poor readers are doomed.

If there is any doubt in your mind that this understanding of the power of reading is not fully understood by all the staff members, you will need to build this mindset aggressively. Run coaching sessions on reading while you action the reading strategies as discussed below.

2. Make the Needu National Report 2012: Summary, one of the "handbooks" for the entire teaching staff.

Most poor performing schools WILL b…

Advice for principals of struggling schools.

Often struggling schools feel powerless and think that they cannot improve. This kind of thinking is damaging. I work with many poor schools and I can see how they are rising above their circumstances, albeit slowly at times.

There are FIVE lessons I can draw from school principals who are transforming their schools by making dramatic shifts personally and at classroom teaching level.

Lesson 1: Acknowledge the gaps you have as a leader and as a person and commit to self-growth.

This is the most empowering step. Once you acknowledge to yourself that you need to develop your emotional intelligence and your leadership skills set, you will feel a sense of relief. Now you can reach out for help from your circle of peers, mentors and your supervisor. You will learn fast on the job and apply what you have learned because there are no longer those paralyzingly fears of insecurity. People want to help.

Lesson 2: Ensure that all teachers are on time at school, in class and teaching what they s…

School stationery lists drive parents crazy.

School Stationery is a lucrative business. Nowadays regular supermarkets have well-stocked stationery aisles sitting right next to the cereals and canned foods. School stationery lists often imitate the requirements of a business and suppliers and shops are laughing all the way to the bank. Use of notebooks at school is different to business records
Teachers want 192-page (or even 322-page hardcovers) as notebooks and up to 30-page flip files for projects, Why would schools want students to use such expensive, high quality stationery items for standard writing exercises? Businesses must consider their branding and the longevity of the notebooks to record important business information. Children need these writing books for one academic year. Often these books are half-filled with writing by year end. Does this high cost justify requesting hardcovers for standard schoolwork?Health risks of heavy school bags
There are also health concerns. Lugging these heavy notebooks and textbooks to sc…

Five basic classroom apps every teacher needs

School is an extremely busy place. You need to invest in time-saving devices so that you do not become too overwhelmed. The five communication tools can be regarded as a basic communication suite. The good news is that all these apps are free, except for number 4.

1. Make use of an online calendar.

I wrote in previous posts on why a Google online calendar is an indispensable tool to have. Check out my post and do further research on Google's support portal.

2. Use an Online Cloud storage system.

Make use of an online cloud and file storage system like Google Drive. Visit the website, to learn 10 ways to maximise your use of Google Drive.

3. You will need a note taking app.

Download a Note taking app like Evernote. These note taking apps are lifesavers. You can scribble your classroom notes, meeting notes and save all types of documents in Evernote. The saving feature is automatic. The date, time and place will be recorded, if you enable these features.

4. U…

Five cool websites for new teachers, experienced teachers and principals.

Here are FIVE websites that can be part of your digital starter kit as a new teacher. These websites are gold mines of teaching resources, curriculum and other policy documents pertaining to education, media resources and online communities.

Each new teacher needs a good handbook filled with instructional techniques.

1. You will love the book, Teach like a champion by Doug Lemov.There is a PDF copy of Teach like a champion at the following website:

2. a book study on Teach like a champion. This website also contains good resources and book studies on the management of classroom discipline.

Teaching resources and online communities

3. Classroom solutions website. This website has good CAPS teaching resources and an online community.

4. Make the education website of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) your home page. This extensive website has links to most policy documents and…

SIX Handy Hints for new teachers from a veteran teacher.

Welcome to the wonderful world of teaching. When you signed up to become a teacher, we already had a profile of you. We know you are a passionate relationship builder and you want to teach children so that you can help to "heal the world, make it a better place for me and for you and the entire human race", right? Are we spot on or not?

Teaching is exhilarating but it can also be downright challenging and scary. There is so much on the internet to help you but I want to share SIX empowering tips with you. These strategies helped me to enjoy teaching my amazing, often rebellious and sometimes lazy students for 25 years.

1. Set simple, clear classroom rules and apply them from day one.
This first rule is probably the most critical rule you need. If you fail to lay down how you want your classroom to be organised, you are going to have endless discipline problems in your class.

Establish your classroom rules and implement these from day one. You want a happy, disciplined cla…

Tik infiltrates all families

My heart bleeds for those young people who are drowning in the Tik hole.

Our family has its fair share of Tik victims. One of the couples visited us two days ago. They had just walked from Victoria State Hospital to our place. The beautiful young woman - mother of two awesome children- was taken to the hospital because she was acting 'crazy'. Apparently the doctor just told her to get help and discharged her.

While we sat at the kitchen table, I felt powerless. I didn't want to preach. I shot off a silent prayer, asking for guidance to talk without sounding hollow. I asked the young woman whether she wanted to come off the drugs. She gave a suppressed laugh and her eyes darted around. I joined in, telling her to laugh if she wanted to. I know that uncontrolled giggling is a sign of Tik highs and lows.

"I dunno if I want to come off Tik. I feel my brain is going. Everybody hates me and think I am bad. I think too much when I am off it, "she said. She cannot make …

Tackle your goals by planning well.

When the year starts, you have your own tinsel box of goals, right? You burst on to the scene like a firecracker and poof... you know the outcome. Let's try the chess player model this year. Start with a game plan, know the patterns that can help or block you, then move skillfully to clinch your win.

Take a common broad goal such as better time management. If you have been struggling to manage your time, you are not going to become the punctual, efficient person immediately. You need to put in the hours. Tackle your laziness to plan and do what you have committed to do. Full stop.

Here is is an example of an action chart to inspire you to design your own lazy-busting framework:

1. Start with an In-your-face planning calendar

Create a google online calendar and plot all your important start and Realistic, Doable deadlines. Stick to these deadlines.

2. Prioritise one non-negotiable key task

Identify your zero tolerance priority and just stick to it.

3. Arrive earlier at work

We are hanging up our school shoes today.

Just the other day, almost nineteen years ago, I discovered we were going to have another baby. I don't want to bore you with all the details, but Sasha was a complete surprise to us. At the time, my dad who was still here with us, was more excited than I was. He reminded an emotional me of the blessings and privilege it was to be a parent. I swear that when I was in labour (forever again), he was sitting on the armchair, keeping watch over his second granddaughter.

Today I was all soppy again. Time flies too fast. Sasha has suddenly grown into this beautiful, young woman. While we were chatting one day, she said:

" I explained to my friends that I have to take small steps so that you can get used to the fact that I am no longer twelve years old. I will go out to clubs, then take a break to allow you guys to recover, then go out again. I want to help you deal with the shock of having an eighteen year old around."

We laughed because she hit the nail on the head. We ha…