Guess who made it for Prize Giving? The sight of her was for sore eyes. She was the sunshine that lit up a very gloomy Thursday. She arrived with an aunt who held her pillow and lunch bag. I tell you I was grinning from ear to ear and when we walked into the classroom full of her classmates, they bellowed her name in delight and she lowered her eyes shyly.
I went to the hall to arrange a place for her and her aunt to sit and then accompanied them with my class to be seated. I proceeded to inform and request the principal to go down to her when it came time for her award.
The ceremony was beautiful with learners being awarded for their hard work. I could feel my eyes welling up as I approached this particular learners certificate. As my Departmental Head called her name, I heard teachers standing up behind me and clap for her. She received a standing ovation not only from the teachers but all learners stood up too. I welled up and blinked a thousand times a second. She walked up on crutches and our principal walked down to her and handed her her award. Not a dry eye was seen.
It was her moment to shine. She had worked hard for her achievement and I was super proud of her. She shyly received her award and took in all the love. The learner who followed her came up with eyes covered and I recalled that they were best friends in grade 1 as she wept. I held her and I tried not to shed tears myself. As I held her, I told her her friend was okay now and she would be back next year. She nodded and took her award.
Im glad my learner was brought to school as I believe she will be motivated to work harder so she can return next year. I look forward to assisting her in any way she requires next year in grade 3.
I would like to introduce you to one of my learners- let’s call him Kimi. Kimi is a year older than most of the kids in my class due to a delay in grade R. I first noticed Kimi in grade 1 as he was forever on the move. He could have been nicknamed Speedy Gonzales, that’s how much he ran. We were constantly reprimanding him to stop running especially on the corridors as they were slippery. He would nod his head that he understood and I would whisper that, Kimi doesn’t listen.
Later on in the year our Departmental Head brought him to our classes to warn the kids to stay away from a device that was on his head that would help with his hearing impairment. Well Kimi ended up in my class and I know you are asking yourself about the challenged kids I seem to be informing you about but thats just the nature of most learners. I jokingly tell my colleagues that most parents think we are a special school as we seem to be famous for “fixing” learners.
Let’s get back to Kimi. When he arrived in class, he sat far away from me and I was okay with that as I wanted all of them to get comfortable and show their true selves before rearranging them to suit me. I would constantly hear learners crying about a smell and I would need to spray air freshener. I did not know Kimi was the culprit until he sat closer to my table as he has a lot of learning problems. I can’t say his farts always smell but it seemed that they smelt often and he never denied it. I granted him permission to go outside whenever he felt one coming as he would stink up my area. As with all kids, he thrilled at farting it seemed and he would obviously get into trouble as he had been told to go outside when in need of release.
Kimi is skinny as with most kids and am sure he couldn’t hold most in because of lack of cushioning. I have yet to meet a learner who farted as often as he did and I became concerned at one point and thought to call granny in but how do you explain this incredibly smelly story?
Kimi has been in and out of hospital as well this year, and no, not for the farts but for his hearing impairment. The gadget he wore was not child friendly as it would strap around his head and the lid would fall out, the battery would be loose and he then would be hard of hearing once more. He had to travel to Joburg to a specialist who operated on his head to insert a gadget in his skull and seal him up again.
He went every so often for checkups and to add on more to help him hear. This past weekend, he went up for the last addition and he seems to be hearing better than ever. The funny thing is since his operation, his farts have been less. Coincidence? I have no idea. I’m just grateful for a less smelly classroom with a Kimi who can even hear a kettle boil(for the first time)- can you imagine?
I have the best news today. My learner in hospital was discharged on Monday. She was admitted on the 18th of May and discharged on the 20th of November. Six months of hospital smells, food, nurses and a broken leg. Considering that we all feared that she might be amputated at one stage when her heel wasn’t healing, we all let loose a sigh of tremendous relief when she came out with just a walker and a smile on her face.
The last time we spoke, was last week Wednesday when we met for our weekly lessons. I teased her as she blankly looked at me. “Uboke uncume nje ukhombis ukuth uyajabula ukungibona”- you should smile, showing that you are happy to see me. She has a coy smile sometimes almost like a new bride before her husband. She smiled lightly and I promised to tickle her, to which she smiled more.
It was my utter pleasure to be in her presence that day especially as she felt free to chat to me about going home the next day. I was thrilled I had come at the right moment and as we did some school exercises, she sighed loudly as if telling me to stop with the books already. I took the hint not long after and we chatted and laughed and took photos.
She wasn’t discharged the next day as she expected(nurses informed me that she needed to see a psychologist to help her deal with the changes that would come when she returned home) but when I called granny yesterday to check how she was, granny informed me that she had slept well and she went for her first change of bandages.
The best part of all my travels to Pietermaritzburg, was spending time with her and distracting her from her surroundings, but she blessed me with a meritorious achievement that I hold dear to my heart because it gave her hope that although she was in hospital, she was still capable of great things. This learner achieved better than 80 percent of the learners in my class this year.
Tomorrow is our annual prize giving and we invited them to come as she would be receiving an award but grandfather has an engagement elsewhere and can’t make it. I can only envision the smile on her face as she would see her friends and receive a merit award. ☺️. I probably would have had a tear in my eye as I did when I witnessed her laugh until she threw her head back last Wednesday.
She has challenges before her as she has to learn to walk with a walker and slowly learn to trust her leg to carry her to wherever she wants to go but I have no doubt she will improve in no time. Look how far she has come. 🙃. So as we close the year, I am proud of many achievements but she was my best one.
We all just want a slice of happiness in life, heck I would like the whole cake of happiness in my life. One of my favourite quotes is from John Lennon which reads
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
I read this quote in high school and I felt the same. We all just want to be happy with our jobs, our families, friends and significant other. In 2016 I was introduced to a learner who radiated happiness. She was to be in grade 2 and after checking all class lists, I found that she didn’t belong to any of us. We went from door to door checking all class numbers and right through this ordeal, she just smiled. I took the decision to keep her in my class. She happily found a place to sit and waited.
We as teachers do not favour accepting a learner that you knew nothing about but after observing her, I thought she would be okay. Boy was I misled! She was to be the most challenging of learners as she came with huge educational gaps and challenges. That first day alone, there were countless complaints about her and her name would echo within the classroom as they shouted at her. She was a pincher a biter, a fibber, she couldn’t sit still or in one place and she was a big little lady who would push kids with her tummy unintentionally. Some moments were funny but most grated at me and I would reprimand her often.
One Monday morning she came to school crying because a bigger boy had broken her glasses. I called the boy in grade 7 and investigated from other learners who use the same transport that she does and concluded that my learner was the instigator and she provoked this grade 7 learner into a fight where she was hitting and he was blocking. She really thought she could take him on and win. The grade 7 boy was slim and short and she was bigger in stature but shorter. Am sure if she sat on him, he would have struggled to move.
Last year became one of my longest years in teaching as she was not the only learner who had challenges. I had two boys who made up their own language when writing and most had letter reversals and some diagnosed with dyslexia. It was an overall worst nightmare of a class, for a teacher. There were a few who were extremely intelligent and I had to deal with the challenge of some completing an activity within minutes and others after a little over an hour.
As a teacher, parent meetings are your left hand and last year I broke my record of the amount of parents I saw. One meeting that I still recall vividly was for my happy learner that I spoke about, let’s name her Wendy, to make the story easier. Wendy’s mom requested to see me because a boy in my class had “cut” her with a scissors. Her mistake was she chose one of the quietest learners to be her victim and when I spoke to mom, I informed her of the unlikliness of this occurance but I promised to investigate this further. This parent then informed me that she works nights(nurse) and hardly spent time with her daughter. She couldn’t assist with homework as by the time Wendy came back from school, she had to get ready for work.
She opened up about her behavior and I told her of the stories that I had witnessed. Wendy really thought she could get away with anything. This one time she stood on a learners fingers purposefully and denied it. It was unbelievable that she would deny it as I had witnessed her looking down and then proceeded to stampede the fingers.
Her mom told us that if she was honest, Wendy had had discipline problems in her previous school and she didn’t understand what was wrong with her and why God was punishing her with a child like Wendy. I was saddened at that moment and I had to reassess my own biases when it came to Wendy. If her mom couldn’t understand the negative impact that she had on her daughter, this learner needed someone to fight for her.
When I investigated the scissor story the next day, I found out that she had cut herself and blamed it on the boy in class. As I mentioned Wendy had serious problems.
We then had holidays and on our return, Wendy informed me that her mom was sick and in hospital and that she was staying with her granny. A few days later her mom passed. We all wrote cards to her to console her and I had rebels who refused to do so and I had to talk to the whole class about what type of human beings we were going to be. We forgive and we love. Kids will listen but when you force them to do what they don’t want to do, it will be evident in the end result.
Wendy returned with a smile on her face and spoke about her moms funeral and all the food she ate. She told me that her father said she would be at hostel. I favored that, as she would have routine and structure and homework supervision. With regard to school work, she was at grade 1 level and she needed to catch up if she was to pass and proceed to grade 3.
She moved into hostel soon after and the change was torture for her and her wards. The smiles in the mornings became more frowns and she would often ask to stay in at break. I would allow her to stay in but also felt she needed to make friends. Hostel teachers complained about her daily and the superintendent informed me that she won’t stay at hostel long. It took her forever to adjust to hostel life as she was also careless with her clothes and often lost socks and jerseys.
She became notorious in our school and everyone knew Wendy. She didn’t pass the year and had to repeat. As much of a challenge as Wendy had been that year, I knew that she had to repeat in my class as I knew her and I honestly didn’t know how anyone else would cope with her and if Wendy herself would cope with another change. As 2016 neared its closure, I saw changes in Wendy. She began to apply herself to work and she was making sense of written work.
2017 arrived sooner than any of us wanted and Wendy returned with much of her discipline problems. I then decided to sit her down and have a chat with her. She promised that she would work harder at behaving as well as in her school work. I tried to add her to a group setting as with all other learners and she didn’t last longer than a week. She would disrupt other learners with stories and drawings that had absolutely nothing with the work we were doing. She moved back to her place where she sat by herself and she thrived. Wendy is in the top three in my class and she is my pride and joy.
We share a common factor her and I and that is what makes us work as hard as we do. Our moms passed away and she knows she can talk to me about it at anytime. She has had days where she misses her mom so much that, that’s all she talks about. Throughout these conversations she smiles. She is a beautiful young girl who just wants to be happy and to make her mom proud in heaven.
” Miss do you think my mom is happy in heaven ?”
“Do you think she made a wish before she died?”
” I miss my mom today”
Mother’s Day was hardest when she had no one to give her card to and I was caught up in administration duties and teaching, that I forgot to check who she would give the card to. I later found it in her chair bag and I remember crying in my class. She has had to overcome so many challenges and she didn’t derseve to have her mom taken away so early in life. She is coping better and I have had to fight and win so many battles for her.
Her father informed me he has never spent time with her and was overwhelmed when he had to take her home for the holidays. I felt sorry for both of them as I know how Wendy loved to get her way. She is a wonderful learner who can push boundaries if you are not firm with her. I love Wendy and she has inspired me to not only always have a smile on my face but to tackle everything with all that I have and if I am unsuccessful at first, go at it again. I feel for those without mothers as I know what it feel so like to long for that one person who always has your back to say “well done my child”. So I say it to her and the ever present smile lights up my heart.
I have only ever come across one learner who did not enjoy art of any form in my 11 years as a teacher. He seemed to actually loathe it and would misbehave in time for me to punish him by exclusion from art. I later caught on to this plan as we teachers often do. We study kids and could challenge some parents on knowledge of their kids. He is in grade 5 now, so I taught him 4 years ago. And he doesn’t even peep into my classroom to see what’s new, unlike scores of learners who do.
This year I came across a similar case of disinterest but after careful observation, I came to conclude that this chap had a problem with fine motor skills as he tired easily and would give up halfway and would seem to daydream. As I have mentioned before, we love art and my learners await Friday’s like Christmas on the eve of.
One year, I decided to theme my class parties so that we can partake in art various art activities in preparation of it. When we had our White Christmas, we went as far as sewing Christmas socks( regrettable don’t have pics). I even made a tree from recycled material. We decorated it together with green and red balls that we made together.
It turned out lovely
Classroom decor was enjoyed by the learners. The one art equipment I do not enjoy using is glitter as it creeps into every nook and cranny of your body and clothing. But I do make an exception at this time and we use it.
Angels from paper plates
Hand cutouts make a wreath
Toilet rolls and cool drink lids made flowers for wall decoration
The door was the Santa door as I have previously showed.
Second theme: African Christmas
The following year, I decided to bring it back home and appreciate the beauty that we hold in our own country. The big 5 was the main focus and giant posters lined our walls. Each group had an animal that I had cut up and each learner had a page to colour in however they liked. Hence the multi colored wildlife.
We made drums made drums from tins and material that parents had donated. We also made music with these and we danced.
By now you would have noticed that I recycle a lot of waste and I teach my learners that we can make wonderful pieces of art using junk.
The door was the zebra.
Third theme : Minion Christmas
With this theme I had to bake a cake as the big reveal. The surprise was the rainbow sponge on the inside. They were thrilled and doubted that I had baked it. Hahaha
The one thing, I regret about being myself is I often forget to take pictures in moments where I should. I didn’t take pictures of the decoration of what they had made as I got caught up in entertaining them and then it was too late to take anything as they had demolished it all.
The door had a minion.
Art brings out frustrations as well as truimphs as one sees the end result. We all love the end result but most do not like to partake in the process of it. It reminds me on life. We all want to succeed but loath working for it. I love the process of art as it is ever changing and mistakes can be creations and innovations.
Good news can transform your day and at times, your week. My good news arrived about three weeks ago concerning my learner in hospital. My principal and Head of Grade informed me that my request had been granted by the school governing body and Senior management team to go up and teach her every Wednesday. I recall being so happy that tears filled my eyes. FINALLY I COULD DO SOMETHING.
When I arrived to teach her, she was a bit withdrawn and I feared pushing her too much.
She worked herself more than she had in over four months and she surpised me with her elephant memory. She easily recalled activities we had covered and she grasped new concepts with ease. The pride I felt at that moment cannot be described as she read with me and we worked. I kept asking if she was okay, was she tired? She didn’t speak much but shook or nodded her head. As we worked, she kept looking up at the nurses and I asked what was wrong and she said the doctor would be coming to change the bandages. Her granny then informed us that she tenses up whenever bandages would be changed as it was a painful experience that required strong medication after. When the doctor arrived, I packed up and sadly bid her farewell. I left her with work that she could do if she found time. She was surprisingly ahead or on par with some of the learners who had been at school every day. I was amazed and filled with pride.
On my second visit, as I approached, she ducked under her blankets and I saw the familiar smile as I peeled away the blanket to greet her. She was even more enthusiastic about learning and working. She was speaking more as she informed me that she was now walking around the ward with her walker. I was ecstatic because she was on her way to recovery.
My last visit, which was last week was my favorite of all visits with her. We bonded more than we wrote work. We spoke in isiZulu and she told me inganekwane(folklore) and we laughed. She informed me that I was lucky I saw her because she was meant to go to Greys hospital for her heel operation but they had decided that the doctor who was to perform the surgery would be coming to her that Friday. I didn’t want her to see my confusion. More operations? Was she not better? She sure looked like she was.
After speaking to granny, we found out that she was not yet recovered. She informed us that my learner had three sores around the fracture that were not healing too well. The heel was also not growing back and so she had to get that fixed. She does look better but the road to recovery seems to be littered with thorns.
I still pray for a hand of healing and to have her back in class causing all sorts of chaos. She is laughter incarnate you see and we miss that full volume belly laughter.
One of my colleagues donated a gift basket with various activities for her to do and I know she will enjoy the colouring book more as she loves to make beautiful things. We love art and next year, I can grant her access to any art that we do as she missed out on so much of it this year.
I believe that our paths were meant to meet and I am glad she is my learner and I faught to have her educated even as far away as the hospital she lays in. She will be in Grade 3 next year. ☺️🙃☺️. He tenacity, resilience and determination will transport her there. She is indescribably amazing.
As teachers we face countless moments of confrontations with learners and they all vary in severity. These are frequent and I will introduce you to them. With so many stories of teachers caught on camera’s for corporal punishment, I decided to take it upon myself to shed a light on the situations we face daily.
There are three varied levels of confrontations. These are:
level 1- Will you please stop it, moments.
The mildest and most frequent of confrontations. When you lightly reprimand misdemeanors. When they are chewing with their mouths open, when they play instead of partaking in an activity that you planned and put together last night and they show no interest whatsoever, when they throw spit bombs(chewed up pieces of paper), when they request the toilet for the tenth time in as many minutes, when they tie another’s shoelace to the desk, when they sharpen a pencil with their teeth after you handed them a sharpener and when they become Usain Bolts on corridors. I could write a million of these, and as I stated, these are mild and often we turn a blind eye to tons of them.
Level 3- Let me get the BEEP out of here,moments.
I bet you, you are questioning where level two is. Level two will follow and you will understand when I am through. Let’s return to level 3. This is the most dangerous of levels. This is where a teacher is seething with anger and it could possibly be seeping through her pores as well. Situations that cause this much intensity could be when a learner harms another severely and intentionally, when they make a sexual move at another learner(yes,even in grade 2 – and yes it’s all from home/transport), when they paint the toilet walls with their number 2(this happened when I taught grade R)- this situation made me doubt my choice of career and I couldn’t grasp why the learner would do that. WHY??? And when they have continuously bullied another learner. This moment of confrontation is one that can leave you shaking from pure rage and I believe if you haven’t taught yourself to leave the room, you would be caught enforcing corporal punishment. I feel for my colleagues as we have not been equipped how to handle situations like the few I have mentioned. I cannot fathom the situations they face at high schools.
Level 2- Voetsek moments.
We grew up knowing that voetsek was a swear word and our parents would voetsek us if we even dared use such language. We later found out that it only meant “get lost”. Wow! As black people we rarely use it, as it’s often used when one is confronted by a snarling dog. Well there has never been a more suitable word to explain this level(none that is decent-ish)<<seeing as how we part own English, we often put a bit of Africanism in words. This level is when learners blatantly lie to you and they can seriously stare into your face and fib. I witnessed one learner poking one with a pencil in the buttocks and when questioned, she denied doing it. She insisted that she was just picking up the pencil(these are destructive weapons). I looked at her and I longed to say this beautiful word ” VOETSEK”. But alas, I couldn’t. I uttered it between gritted teeth. What came out was decent, what teachers should say ” That is not what happened, I saw you and you might have thought you were playing but am sure the other learner did not enjoy being poked with a pencil” . I could have shot myself uttering these words.
When learners destroy property and when they waste food, water and their own stationery. When they gossip about teachers and calling them lesbians because of how they are built. When they gossip about a teacher dating a general assistant. When they copy because they are too lazy to think themselves and when they trip other learners because they find it hilarious to witness one splat face first on the ground.
Voetsek moments are moments you don’t want them close to you incase your arm decides to fall on their bottom. Voetsek moments grow up- scratch that, they whimper to become “face the wall” moments.
My home has a yellow entrance door and it welcomes me home each time I get back. The choice to paint it so, was due to a feng shui belief of attracting positive energy to your home by making a statement at the entry.
My classroom has ventured to the feng shui belief a few times and the amazing part is how it attracts former students and even ones I haven’t taught before to come in and discuss art and my choice of door art.
This was one of my first door decor/art and by the time we completed it, my learners were exhausted and were not great fans of what I requested them to do. This door was for our class party at the end of the year where the theme was a Santa Christmas.
The following year, I decided to bring our Christmas party back home. The theme was An African Christmas. This was a much easier door decoration/art.
Last year, the Minions had taken over and the learners worshiped them. It was inevitable we had to theme our Christmas party The Minion Christmas
I love my doors to be welcoming and entertaining as do all my previous learners. The questions are already pouring in.
“Miss what will you put on your door this year?” They query
“Make father Christmas again” They offer advice
We are crawling closer to our Christmas party and I look forward to the visitors and curious eyes and questions. It’s my favourite time of the year and I do go all out for My Grade 2’s. I do inform my students of one thing, I do prefer to do an activity once so as to encourage creativity and innovation.
In my class is a boy, let’s name him Sam. Sam for Samkelo. So Sam is one of those learners who loses every thing he possesses at least once a day. On this one particular day, Sam seemed to excel at it. While other learners were engaged in a Maths activity, I heard a giggle and as teachers do, my eyes and ears tuned in to what was spoiling that blissful silence. Sam’s neighbour to his right blurted out
“Miss Sam doesn’t have a pencil!” . Now if you are a teacher, these words seem to always touch a nerve because that very morning I had ensured that every individual was in possession of a lead pencil. I could feel my teacher vein, ticking(if you don’t have one or know not its location, you are not a teacher). I then calmly question Sam as to the whereabouts of his pencil. At this point, every eye was on Sam and no writing was taking place. I heard snuffled giggles. Are you wondering why? Do you remember that I said he loses EVERYTHING!
“Miss I put it here”. He pokes his desk. An uproar of laughter followed.
“Miss he put it on his desk before break” adds the neighbour. More laughter. Having done this more times than I could remember, I decided to question no more and got him a new pencil. Now from there, the story took a very strange route.
Giggle-giggle. I looked up, wondering what happened now.
“Miss he lost his pencil again.” Giggle-giggle. Giggles neighbour.
I was confused as to be mad or just laugh at the absurdity of the situation. He couldn’t have misplaced a pencil in barely two minutes, could he? Sam was not amused and seemed genuinely concerned about his missing pencil. That was where I decided an adult was needed and unfortunately I was the only one in the midst of those giggling souls. I commenced the hunt for the lost pencil. Chair bag- nothing, pencil case- nada, under desk- dololo, and behind and under him- no pencil in sight.
I fear to mention that I became concerned as of that point. How could a pencil disappear into thin air? At this point not a soul was partaking in the Maths task. In the African culture we believe in Tikoloshe(dwarf-like water sprite). Could this learner have them? I continued to look, twice, three times. You know when you whisper to yourself and curse? You begin to question your own sanity as well. Did I really give him the pencil?
Of cause I did! How ridiculous was I! The question remained. What had happened to the pencil?
“Miss Noxy says she will write a story about the lost pencil”. Giggle
What a brilliant idea! We had a story writing activity that same day and what better story could we write but the one that confused us all.
THE LOST PENCIL was born
The above story was authored by Noxy herself and learners will surprise you with creativity and captivating stories. None wrote about my suspicions of tikiloshe‘s, and thank goodness for that as I have sensitive learners who scare pretty easily.
The stories ranged from the pencil that had wings and flew away to join other flying pencils to a pencil lost in the forest who met up with another pencil and met a giant and they all banded together to throw the giant into a river to get rid of him.
The above pages are from a few of the books(English is their second language, so excuse misspellings and grammar) I just love kids and their individuality if given room to be free.
Noxy will definitely be an author and she will mention how I taught her to write and I was her favourite teacher(hahaha).