Today is my last day at school! I’m kind of happy because that means I’ll be heading home soon, but I’m also sad. I’m definitely going to miss these crazy kids and the outrageous things that they do.
It has been quite the experience getting to work in a South African school for 4 weeks. I have worked in many different schools in different places, and none can compare to this. The way school is conducted and thought about in this country is completely different than what I am used to. I came into this experience with an open mind, knowing that I would be challenged and would have to adapt my mindset and theories about teaching and education in general. I certainly was challenged during my time here. Even though I knew things would be different, I was not prepared to see what I have seen. My home classroom, where the school placed me, has been the most difficult. The teacher in this classroom has a very different approach to teaching than I do. I am sad to say that I am disgusted by the actions of this teacher. Everyday, I saw things happen in this classroom that should never be done to a student or occur in a school. Shouting is a common occurrence, along with public shaming, name calling, and worst of all, hitting of the students by the teacher. The first time I saw this, I almost cried. The most horrifying part of it all is that these incidents happen at the most inappropriate times. Not that there is an appropriate time to hit a child or call them stupid, but it is definitely not when they get an answer wrong or are late for class because they had to walk in the rain. I am shocked that this is standard here in South Africa. As I leave, I realize that I am only an outsider here and I cannot judge or criticize the way that things are done. I can have my own opinion and take it back with me to better my own teaching practice.
In my teaching practice I want to believe that students should be praised for their accomplishments and supported when they don’t quite understand. I also believe that respect is very important in a classroom community. If I do not respect my students, how will they respect me? The biggest thing that I think I have learned from being in this classroom is that I need to be able to teach my students in a way that they are able to learn. By just telling students what they need to know, they see no importance or significance in the information. It merely becomes facts that they memorize and will forget come the next term. One of the many teachers that I have seen here does a great job of relevant teaching. She communicates to her students why they need to know things and relates it to their lives. I enjoyed spending time in her room as well because I see many techniques that she uses that I someday want to teach to my students.
Besides some good teaching and some not so good, I still find myself saddened over this school. It seems to me that there is a lot of negativity surrounding education. Teachers are frequently here for the money and not for the students. No one seems to think that it can ever change, and few are in the education profession to make a difference. I have seen a few teachers in this school that I strive to be like in the future. As I mentioned before, I have seen them relate to their students. The great teachers create classroom communities that foster genuine learning and respect. I plan do the same someday to become a great teacher. When I become a teacher, I am not going to sit back and let pessimism and lack of enthusiasm rule the education system. I know that I will be able to make a difference in my students’ lives.
Besides having some not so great days, today was great. During our second period, my students threw me a going away party. Before today, I wasn’t very pleased with my experience. I felt like I had not been making a difference in these students’ lives. But now, I know that I have made an impact. All 38 students stood up individually and gave a speech to me about how much I have affected them. They all thanked me and told me they loved having me in their classroom. Some students were funny and told me “even though you yelled at me and sent me out I still love you” and some genuinely spoke about how happy they were that I was able to teach them new methods in math. We had some snacks and played a game that I taught them while they crowded me to take pictures and give hugs. I now feel that I have influenced these students in a positive way. My dad texted me this morning and said “take memories and leave impressions.” This really stuck with me after being in the classroom today. I feel that I have left an impression on my students and the staff here. I have taught them many new teaching techniques that I have learned at Michigan State. I have had some laughs and disagreements with teachers about what we believe to be best. I also have taken memories from this school that I will never forget. Even though their system is not necessarily one that I always agree with or would use myself, I have learned so much about myself and the teacher that I want to become.