Today is my last day at my current school. I have been here for the last two and a half years and this is the place that has truly made me into the teacher, and person, that I now am. When I first started here, it was ROUGH. Just the appearance of the school made me feel uneasy. Graffiti everywhere, broken windowpanes and cigarette butts on the ground. However, after a while I learned to see past those surface elements and I focused on what is really important at a school: the learners, the teachers and of course, learning.
On Monday I treated my learners to some cupcakes and chocolates. It took me a few hours to make personalised labels (and thanks to my sister the master baker) as well as set it up for them but the looks on their faces, shrieks and tears made it worth it.
Being a teacher means many things to different people. For some, it means long holidays and early finishing hours. For others, it means frustration with school administration and an endless cycle of paperwork. For me, it was all about moments; moments you can only experience when you are a teacher.
- That moment when you finish explaining something on the board, drop the chalk triumphantly, turn to face the class and realise that half the class is still confused.
- That moment when you want to laugh because the learner has written a paragraph describing the ‘beggar’ as delicious with two buns and a juicy patty.
- That moment when you feel that wave of anger sweeping over you because the learner has fallen asleep and isn’t paying attention to your entertaining lesson that you spent hours planning.
- That same moment when you realise that this learner has gotten up at 4am to get himself and his little sister ready for school because they live alone and have to catch two buses from the township to make it to school by 7h30.
- That moment your learners do imitations of you and you realise how scary you must seem to them.
- That moment when you are alone in your class after you’ve taught the same lesson to 5 different classes and you’ve seen how differently each class responds to the same lesson.
- That moment when your learners asked you what you did over the weekend and you tell them you spent it with friends. Their shocked expressions as they say, “You have friends?”
- That moment when we are reading aloud and you pick a learner to read and they spend ten minutes on one sentence. Then you are stuck between asking them to stop (and risking offending them) or enduring their slow but loud battle with words.
- That moment when you meet your principal’s brother for the first time and he tells you that he is a skipper. Then you ask him how long has he been a stripper for.
- That moment when you have explained the difference between a metaphor and simile for the 4th time…and just when you are giving up hope of them learning… their face erupts in excitement and they suddenly understand.
- That moment when your learner mispronounces a word and you want to laugh along with the rest of the class but since you’re the teacher, you bite it back and correct them gently.
- That moment when a 13-year-old girl is crying in your arms because her 18-year-old boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex.
- That moment when you have a class discussion and your learners teach you things you never knew about their cultures, lifestyles and conflicts.
- That moment when its Friday night and you’re on the dance floor with your colleagues and suddenly you recognize that they aren’t just your colleagues anymore.
- That moment when you think better of chastising a learner about her untidy hair because you know she is sensitive about her ethnic hair and a lack of money to style it the way she would like
- That moment when you are cranky after a broken night’s sleep and a learner sincerely tells you how beautiful you look.
- That moment when you give your learners cupcakes and they cry; not because you are leaving the school… but because no one ever does nice things for them.
That moment when you realise that a strong bond can develop despite class, race and language barriers. And you think about how sometimes they use the phrases you use and take your advice. And that special moment when you realise that a part of you has become a part of them. And then you remember the special teachers you had when you were in school and realise… you will be remembered in the same cherished way by these learners.
Here are a few more pics of my amazing learners!