Yolanda, My New Zealander friend and I make the most of our Telephone dates

The telephone still fills gaps

The world is really a global village. Who would have thought that the humble telephone is STILL a powerful social medium tool?  When you talk with someone over the telephone you can still hear the person's voice, hearing all the inflections and the range of emotions that emerge during the conversation.  There is no need for emoticons to say "hey, I am now smiling or watch me crunch my nose".

The benefits of telephone conversations supercede other social media in other ways as well.  We can say much more and because of  the pauses created by the long distance travel of our voices, we have to listen more and listen attentively too.The telephone  is my key communication medium with my Kiwi friend, Yolanda. So, say once a month - or sometimes two  - if my dearest buddy, Yolanda, is in the mood to bond with her Seffrican friend, we have our telephone date.

Yolanda when she was still a teacher at Grassy Park High School

Yolanda, christened Yollie by me yonks ago, has emigrated to New Zealand a few years ago. We taught together for many years at Grassy Park High. Both of us were English teachers and we had a healthy relationship as colleagues and friends.  We had our moments, many which we still laugh about now when we reminisce about  the good old days.

Yolanda was one of the pacesetters at the school. She loves technology and was a fundi when many of us were still struggling to control the  mouse that kept on jumping all over the screen. And did she enjoy exploiting our vulnerabilities! When she taught us how to use Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, she would  deliberately choose one of the strugglers to demonstrate something just to add some fun.

I remember how Yolanda used to download information about the various poems or Shakespearean plays that we could use to enhance our lessons. There were occasions when she was so pleased with me as her subject head and then she would broadcast this loudly to all in the staffroom- much to the irritation of our other colleagues. On one occasion she even presented me with a beautiful bunch of flowers - in full view of all - and proclaimed that I 'was the best'.

Then on other occasions she would interrogate me and monitor my work.  For example, when our mark schedules, moderation material or examination papers were due, Yolanda would visit my class and insist that I show her that all my administration was complete. There was no way that she was going to allow me to make certain demands and then not model the very behaviour that was expected from my colleagues. Knowing that I could expect her to pop into my classroom next to hers at the start of day or even the day before, I would burn the midnight oil to ensure I was ready.  I often tell her that she has no idea how much she has shaped me via her unorthodox mentoring style.

Yolanda and my class are on the far right, hidden by the shrub

Our relationship still continues 

Even today, with Yollie in the Deep southern corner of the world , we still connect on this level.  When she phones - sometimes at odd hours like when I am just about to go to church on a Sunday morning or like today, when I was in the bathroom and given 2 minutes to take her call, I know we are going to have a fantastic bonding time. Then the  physical distances, the time difference and the face contact become irrelevant.

 We would catch up on all the latest gossip and then invariably our conversation would drift to education and all its dynamics. Both of us are vociferous readers and we are fairly well informed of the education research available and both of us are passionate about education - two plusses that already pave the way for rich conversations about education, our roles and our impact.

We would discuss the universal trends in education and use our own frameworks - hers as a tutor at a distance-teaching institution now and mine as a district official - to discuss various aspects.  What I liked about today's discussion was our focus on the challenges of inclusive education - teaching learners from diverse cultural groups and the gaps in teachers to orientate themselves to this huge task.

 Internationally, teachers are grappling with this thus New Zealand and South Africa are no different. One of the questions we grappled with was: how does one help teachers bridge this gap to shift their teaching to truly service all the educational needs of learners? How does one help teachers to develop professionally in a meaningful way so that they can be equipped with a broad spectrum of teaching pedagogies and teaching methodologies?  This is such a heavy responsibility on teachers who are being swamped with accountability tests and increasing administration that many can barely create time for these deep professional development programmes.

Tables made from recycled benches- this section was often used  for outdoor classroom  teaching

And today's lesson is...

The one thing that Yollie and I agreed on is that if we want to make a difference in education then it all boils down to relationships. As Yolanda said:" It's that simple, Sharon, it is all about relationships - how we relate to the child - understand the child's world - and then work from there." Amen to that.

75 minutes later, our telephone call ends, both I am sure, again enriched by this exchange made possible by the forerunner of skype and all kinds of modern social media.  I must say I enjoy my translantic professional development sessions with Yolanda.   Mind you, I should log these sessions as part of my appraisal in future.

Do you have a thinking partner? Share with us how you are coping with life at the coalface - we love sharing!


  1. Thanks Sharon. I was very fortunate to have had a telephonic conversation with Yolande this morning! And did we laugh. What a refreshingly honest & quirky soul she is. We laughed until our tummies ached for her recognition of herself in the Mark Lottering character, Colleen, the permanent casual @ till number 13! Thanks Yolande for maintaining the good frienships and continuing to sharpen your tools. We are richer for knowing you & education has found in you a commited work horse. Vernon R. Titus

  2. Only my pleasure Cuz Vernon. I can imagine the fun the two of you had. Yolanda is a real cracker. I just wished I had one of those quirky pics to add to the post - then we will see those Kapie ways surfacing!


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