What inspired you to become a teacher?
I always wanted to be one, especially for Maths and Science, because as young children we were told that those subjects were difficult and only for the clever children to do. If you were not academic, you were advised to study History and Geography and I felt that needed to change, because it limited students in terms of the careers they could eventually choose one day.
In 2009 they were starting a Promaths programme at the Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology
so I went for an interview, and then started teaching Grade 9s there on weekends, while I was still teaching Grade 10s, 11s and 12s at my school.
Part of your bursary programme involved mentoring from other teachers. Was that valuable to you?
Yes it was, very much, because starting off on your own as a teacher is difficult. In fact I’m still being taught by the teachers at Kutlwanong
every Wednesday. When I started being a Deputy last year, I had to go back and find out how they’re doing things at their school, because they are forever learning and teaching.
It also helped me deal with the challenges that I face here in terms of the social environment, like substance abuse. Learners at the Kutlwanong
centre have a very different way of behaving in the classroom, and this influences how teachers greet learners, for example. It’s not the same as teaching at a former Model C school, where you always get respect, and they know how to talk to others. In terms of the challenges that you face every day as a teacher where I am, they are not the same.
How does your role as a teacher extend beyond the classroom?
I’m not just a teacher – I’m a social worker, pastor, psychologist and mother too. I even transport some of students home at the end of the day.
This is because most of our learners come from child-headed families. Their parents are elsewhere working but as long as I have a relationship with both the child and the parent, we can solve problems together. Sometimes this involves making sure the kids have enough to eat, and sometimes it’s asking school leavers for their shoes or old shirts so the current students have the right clothes.
These children also have a lot of anger, and the parenting role is lacking and they are not disciplined. As their teacher you need to know their history, so that you’re able to discipline them in the right way. And this isn’t always easy. In Grade 8 I’ve got about 50 learners per class and managing that is very difficult.
I feel like I’m forever shouting, but my students often come back and thank me for disciplining them. Simple things like being on time for class are important so I make a point of that, in order to win their respect and show them that I appreciate them. It’s also about asking them how things are at home: “How are your parents? How is your dog?”. They get so excited about these small things, because their well-being is very important. If things are not right at home, they’re not going to perform at school.