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Showing posts from April, 2015

Colleen, our Foundation Phase Subject Adviser, takes her bags but leaves a rich legacy behind.

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The day I reported to Fish Hoek Education Circuit office as my new workplace, I should have smelt a rat when I saw the truckload of bags with a blonde head moving into the building. My goodness, I remember thinking, is this what I was going to morph into?  The bags plonked themselves on the floor in the conference room and in their place, stood Colleen, my new colleague, the Foundation phase subject adviser that I would be working with for the next six years!

As time passed,  I realized THE BAGS are the South African curriculum in motion. Over the years, THE BAGS, like our curriculum, adapted to the change, without losing their volume, though. Their contents writhed and grappled with the change from plain Jane NCS and its Gazette, 29626, that prescribed the requirements for progression in the GET band, to CAPS Gazette, 34600. Where Colleen went, THE BAGS followed.


It was during our circuit meetings that these BAGS dominated our space. When it was Colleen's turn to speak, we prepa…

What Freedom Day means to me as an Education Official

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On thisFreedomDay,
I want to remind myself that first and foremost, I am in education because of the children we serve in our schools and that I should...
remember that our children are wonderfully and beautifully made no matter how difficult they make our lives at times;
realize that we as adults are the ones who should change our beliefs about children and their potential to learn so that we can unlock their amazing gifts;
work with principals and teachers to help them deepen the quality of leadership and teaching so that our children's brilliance can be unearthed;
remind myself that I am learning all the time and that I do not have the answers and therefore depend on others to help me grow;
continue to encourage our schools to make all our children avid readers so that they can help to speed up their learning;
be mindful that principals are human and that sometimes the responsibilities of leading a school can be overwhelming;
allow myself to be vulnerable and continue to find ways to s…

World Book Day 2015 is one of the highlights on primary school calendars

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World Book Day is one of the highlights on the calendars of our primary schools. It doesn't matter which primary school you visited last Thursday, 23 April, you would have experienced the joys of schools celebrating the reading of books.  In fact,  all the schools form part of a spontaneous inter-school Book Gala Festival event here. The colourful flamboyancy around World Book Day makes the event irresistible. It is one of those school events that most parents become involved in.


Each school organizes their own World Book Day festival based on the central theme: Celebrating the importance of reading.  The entertainment line up includes open-air poetry recitals, book reading, musicals and drama skits. Children dress up as their favourite storybook character and teachers join in on the fun as well.  

Interestingly, the children always choose to impersonate the main character in the story. This should tell us something. The storybook heroes are usually the ones who are fun loving, n…

When Office life is transformed by a chat with the principal of Reddam Preparatory School

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On Wednesday morning, I was minding my own business in my office. I was doing the boring, but necessary task of phoning schools about some administrative task. The school secretaries breathe life into these business calls. Most of them are chirpy and we love our engagements. I usually make quick enquiries about their wellbeing or exciting things happening in their lives and then we dive into our business chat.  By the time I put the receiver down, I would have the information I needed and I would have enjoyed an uplifting moment with these guardian angels.

I was happy with my progress and just had two more calls to make. I dialed the number of Steenberg Primary school and I was ready to tease Patricia, the school secretary, about her drooling for the long weekend that was pending.

A different, firm voice answered the phone and the person rattled off the business name.  Huh? That was strange. I couldn't make out the name that definitely didn't sound like "Steenberg Primar…

Teacher negativity may be one of children's major barriers to learning.

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Negative attitudes by teachers can be a major barrier to learning

The biggest barrier that children often face in classrooms  is the teachers' belief that the children are lazy and don't want to learn. This is especially the case where the majority of learners underperform. Of course, there are children who fall into this category, but when all the children are labelled like this, there is a much deeper issue at play.


We know that children won't naturally gravitate towards things that do not interest them, that they have difficulty understanding or that seemingly have no immediate benefits for them. It is also true that children are wired to be curious about their world and new experiences. In other words, they want to learn.


It is no different in a classroom. There will be those learners who are already self-motivated and will learn eagerly, but the masses may not have reached that level of self-motivation yet.And guess who is responsible for unlocking that learning spi…

Keep perspective when you plan for Standardized Testing.

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Standardized tests are under the spotlight this week.  In Atlanta, USA, a widespread conspiracy to tamper with students' standardized test results has been uncovered and those teachers were sentenced to prison after a year long trial. Ten teachers, principals and education officials were convicted of racketeering charges. These teachers received at least a year jail sentence, while three education administrators were given 21- year sentences.


What confounds one is that the same criminal law that is used to nail down serious organized crime like drug trafficking and money laundering has been used to prosecute these teachers.  Of course, the teachers and the education authorities have to be punished for breaking the law and acting unethically, but to charge these teachers with racketeering and then using the full might of the law to bear, is disturbing.


Examining Standardised Testing
An equally important concern is what drove the teachers and the education support officials to act …

Up close with my district colleagues.

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Setting the scene
I love visiting the offices of our Corporate Services. When you enter the room, the energy spikes. When I arrived today, Juleen immediately introduced me to their new colleagues, two young women who already looked comfortable in this office.  Before long we were talking about weight loss and why switching to sweet potato bread was a better alternative to traditional bread.

" Ah no... sweet potato bread? No... that can't be", said Nellie.

The sweet potato bread, recommended by one of our new recruits, was a serious distraction. Juleen got up from her seat to get her head around this story. She was clearly puzzled.

" And exactly how many slices of bread can you get from such a bread? How many slices of bread are there in a normal bread?"

Robin, another newish colleague who was also standing by now with a wad of documents in his hands, confidently stated that there are about twenty slices in a loaf. We had a crisis on our hands. Nellie was still…

Welcome back to a hectic Term Two.

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How time flies during the school holidays. Parents will breathe a sigh of relief while most children will curse tomorrow morning.  We can of course, understand why principals and teachers need more time to rest because they will need all their reserves for term two.


A VERY WARM welcome back to all our teachers. We hope you have found the time to recharge because as all of us know, the second term of the school year is the acid test.

Life is hectic at schools.  If you don't plan your time well and structure the activities - inside and outside the class meticulously - you will become overwhelmed.


Know the actual teaching time you have
There are eleven weeks this term and this equates to 51 teaching days.  There are about three public holidays and one day that has been declared a school holiday.  The number of teaching days may be deceptive therefore you need to know the actual teaching time you have.

Although the number of teaching days is 51 days, the real number of teaching days…

A school's vision is its dream that should become reality.

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Generally, every school has a vision statement.  The problem is that the vision statement is exactly that; a well-written document only. Sadly, in many cases, the SMT and the teachers themselves do not know the vision of the school. Why would schools disregard their own dream for their organization? What then, is a vision?

What is a vision.
A vision is what gives an organization purpose. A vision statement captures what your school wants to be and where the school sees itself in the future.  Your core values will be the foundation on which your vision is built.  Your vision is your BIG dream, the destination that you want to reach. Your vision is there to guide you and to inspire you to work towards the future that you see for all the learners at the school.


Think of President Nelson Mandela's closing lines  of his speech in 1964:

"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have carried the ideal of a democratic and free society in w…

Why schools should plan for the exit of their teachers - their key resource.

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I wonder how many schools are paying attention to the age profile of their teachers - their key human resource that schools depend on? Are you aware that many of your talented, experienced teachers are close to retirement or have intentions of leaving the teaching profession?
Impact of the loss of experienced teachers
Schools can no longer allow their human resource management to be an ad hoc arrangement. On the SA Breaking News website it was reported in 2013 that 41% of the current teachers will be retiring in the next 15 years. This pre-retirement group includes principals, deputy principals, heads of department and highly skilled, knowledgeable, experienced teachers. Read the news article here but have a cup of strong coffee handy if you are the Head of a school. If schools do not take these statistics seriously and start prioritizing their human resources management strategy, they are going to suffer badly.
Teachers are a scarce resource.
Teachers are becoming a scarce resource. In S…