[notice]Musings around children’s ministry. Reflections on week 4 of 10 weeks teaching stint.[/notice]
Have you ever volunteered to help someone and then just as promptly wished you’d kept your mouth shut? One of the staff members has been off sick for more than two weeks now, and during this assessment week there was concern that the children would fall behind in Maths. In my zeal and eagerness to ‘make a difference’ I volunteered to teach while the proper course of action leading to a substitute being appointed was being followed.
“It’ll keep the momentum going and the learners won’t fall behind!”
Famous last words!
In an earlier article I acknowledged that 50 learners in a classroom were too many. I said that having had the assistance of a guardian teacher when things got wild. Now this week, alone with over 50 children, with a long day of Maths catch up ahead…I felt the heat!
Firstly I was introducing the concept of fractions to the Grade 4 class. I introduced the concept, gave examples and used a fraction wall to help with my illustration. I whipped out everything I could to get the children to understand. We did examples, drills, and practice exercises and when I was confident that they were getting the hang of it I assigned them an exercise and let them try on their own.
I was shocked when they got everything wrong and kept putting up their hands to ask me to help them. I thought perhaps I hadn’t been clear. So I got the class’s attention and explained again using different figures for the practice questions in their books. It took another round of explaining for me to cotton on that they didn’t want to understand how to do the work. They wanted me to work out the sums so they could copy the answers!
It was so discouraging when other teachers would come into the classroom to help me control the class. I eventually got sent an assistant and even then the children took advantage. So contrary to every instinct I have, on day two, I unleashed the dragon. I barely cracked a smile all day! I was liberal with compliments where they were due but otherwise I was stern, stern, stern!
After the first day I got individual pep talks from some of the staff members and after some wonderful praise and worship in assembly, I was prepared for the Grade 4s on day two. Before they even got started I put a clamp on any nonsense. I warned them that I wasn’t going to repeat myself and that the second offence guaranteed staying in for break! My face must have shown that I wasn’t joking and most of the children complied. I had one boy who tried to ignore me but my booming voice and scary face got him obedient pretty quickly! I’m sad to say but as much as I wanted to avoid being a dragon lady, ‘warm and fuzzy’ teacher was getting no work done. Dragon lady got the Grade 4s through an impressive amount of work. It is sad to admit, but dragon lady motivates the children…now I have to pray that none of my learners come across that movie “How to train your dragon!”
Anyway, after surviving the first day I posted about the day’s events on my Facebook. A teacher promptly responded saying that the media are insensitive to what educators go through. He quoted a headline about how educators are useless. Then another teacher commented about how many children are in the classes, people have no idea the kind of pressure educators face. So in conclusion, I’ve had to concede that there is a place for dragons in today’s public schools just because of how daunting the task in front of teachers is. But I think that the judgments cast against our educators in the media need to stop. I made a decision to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ and I am getting a rude awakening to the realities of what education in South Africa is like right now.
Please continue to pray for schools and that more people would get involved in education. The children desperately need more educators who are willing to step into the fire and breathe flames out every now and then (for the children’s good of course!)