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The Magazine for South African Teachers - Fourth Term 2020 - Volume 3 Issue 4

Bringing purpose back to the classroom





In this issue Editor’s letter 07 Creating a calm classroom 10 Teaching the socially digitised generation 14 Social pedagogy: A ‘head-heart-hands’ approach to education 16 Culturally responsive pedagogy 20 A hybrid pedagogy 23 Facing the future: A student-centered approach to learning 27 Bringing purpose back to the classroom 32 P4C in the classroom 34 Teaching according to your personality 37 COVID-19 school closures in South Africa and their impact on children 39 COVID-19 disruption could be a chance to lay a firmer school maths 42 foundation in South Africa Online and in the classroom, COVID-19 has put new demands on 45 teachers What South Africa’s teachers brought to the virtual classroom during 47 COVID-19

Creating a calm classroom, Page 10


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Only the brave teach While I was still teaching, I used to head over to Pinterest and spend a bit of time (okay, too much – that’s probably why my marks were always handed in late) pinning teaching ideas and cheesy quotes about my profession. The memes included “There’s no tired like teacher-tired”, that one about the candle that consumes itself, and this favourite of mine: “Only the brave teach!” Though these cheesy quotes won’t make your job as a teacher any easier, they do sometimes offer us that recognition of the effort that goes into our teaching – something that others outside of our profession don’t always see. In President Ramaphosa’s Teachers’ Day speech, given at the 30th anniversary of SADTU, he spoke about the importance of teachers, acknowledged the difficult circumstances we faced in 2020, and noted that we are “true nation-builders”. Teachers really did rise to the challenge in 2020, working countless hours on restructuring the curriculum and ensuring that their learners end the year successfully. Not only have teachers tried their hardest to deliver quality education but they also looked after the well-being of our nation’s children. From “Jerusalema” challenges to silly Tik-Toks, creating makeshift drive-through

schools for parents to collect work, spending hours teaching online, and learning new skills at the speed of light to enhance their teaching, the efforts of teachers did not go unnoticed. I hope that the last few weeks of this term will be productive, and that you will be able to rest well during the December holidays, returning to school in January with a renewed sense of purpose. Look back at this year and think of everything you’ve accomplished, and remember: Only the brave teach! In this edition of Teacha! Magazine, teachers share various ways of teaching. Jenna Swano gives tips about creating a calm classroom environment, which our learners and teachers need so desperately right now. Stephen Bestbier reframes the 4Cs and encourages teachers to start on a clean slate next year, and we explore the effect that Covid-19 has had on education this year. As always, we invite teachers from all over South Africa to share their ideas and innovations, tips and tricks – and anything else worth spreading the word about. Email your suggestions, contributions or letters to editor@teacha.co.za. Teacha! Magazine | 7


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Teacha! is a collaborative effort between South African & international teachers. We would like to thank the following contributors: Editor: Jean Vermeulen Subeditors: Ali Mills Kelly Norwood-Young Contributors: Jenna Swano Lauren Brown Stacey Kirk Wilmari Pretorius Pamela Diesel Stephen Bestbier Emme Scholtz Mmaki Jantjies Nhlanhla Mpofu Craig Pournara Lynn Bowie Servaas van der Berg

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Creating a calm classroom Notes from a not-so-calm teacher, on how I created my calmest space in eight years.

Towards the end of last year, I took a moment to reflect on a particularly manic day with my Grade 5s. It was a busy time of the term. Exams were coming up and we were pushing to finish the curriculum in time. I was anxious about it and my learners were picking up on that and acting out in their typical ways. I knew then that something had to change. The research is clear. Anxiety in the classroom does not make for a good learning environment. This meant that all my rushing and stressing in an attempt to get everything done was having the exact opposite effect of what I wanted.

Classroom décor General décor Bright and colourful was out. I muted the colours in my class to blues, greys and a dash of pale yellow in what I referred to as my ‘zen nature’ theme. I incorporated plants and pictures of mountains and because I will forever be a supporter of the Growth Mindset, I turned my students into little mountaineers and told them that we would climb the mountain together. The most important part for me is that the classroom environment reflects how I want my students to feel – calm.

I decided to plan my future classroom using two strategies: décor and procedures.

Posters Informational posters were also a useful addition. I decided to reduce the number of posters after reading that having too many can be overwhelming for learners. I focused on a few key skills that I wanted learners to be able to reference. This included a series 10 | Teacha! Magazine


of breathing activities and a poster with yoga poses. I also made sure to include my five classroom rules that I obtained from Whole Brain Teaching some time ago.

break or after school to finish the work, as it is important that the work gets done. Having a natural consequence makes it easier to be consistent because the emphasis is on the learner’s choice and their level of control. Having and being able to exercise choices in the classroom can have a really positive impact. I try as far as possible to give my learners multiple choices throughout the day. For example: where they sit, who they sit with and even sometimes the order in which they complete work. It’s crucial to have boundaries and a shared understanding of how we want the class to run for this to work. With choice comes the understanding that if my choices negatively impact others’ or my own learning, there are consequences.

Classroom procedures Once the feel of the classroom was right, I needed to plan the classroom procedures. Setting clear expectations with natural consequences The most crucial change that I’ve made towards a calm environment is making sure that the expectations are clear. Setting clear expectations means that learners can feel safe in their environment as there are consistent boundaries with predictable consequences. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, often refers to Choice Theory in her talks and books and this really resonated with me. Choice Theory confirms that we all make our own decisions about our behaviour on a daily basis and those decisions have consequences. Therefore, when we choose to behave in a certain way, we choose the consequence that goes with it. A practical example would be that if a learner chooses to chat with a friend when they are supposed to be working, their work will not be finished. The natural consequence might be that they will need to stay in at

Morning yoga I am not a yoga person. I am the type of person who wants to be a yoga person, but never actually gets around to it. However, I decided to try doing five yoga poses each morning with my learners. As we do each pose, we say each phrase together. I am strong. I am brave. I am kind. I am wise. I am friendly. This is a great way to come together in the morning as a class community and set the tone for the day ahead. Daily Check In Once we have done our five minutes of yoga, we do a Daily Check In to see if anyone in the class has had a rough night or has had something happen that may affect them and their learning.

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awake and alert. We take regular Brain Breaks throughout the day to keep us on our toes. Our favourites are dances on YouTube (for example JustDance videos) or Go Noodle and simple meditation and breathing techniques on Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Brain breaks and breathing Brain Breaks are crucial for keeping everyone in the class (including myself)

It’s been a term of our new and improved classroom and it is by no means perfect – we still have the odd manic moment. But the classroom is certainly a lot calmer, and despite us taking time out for things like yoga, brain breaks and daily checkins, I have found that we are a lot more productive in reaching our learning goals.

Author: Jenna Swano Once an English FAL teacher at a Cape Town high school, Jenna Swano now has the joy of being a Grade 5 class teacher. Jenna runs the blog Thinking CAPS, which highlights her lessons learnt in the classroom.

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Teaching the socially digitised generation ‘You don’t understand ... I was born with social media around. If I lose my phone, it’s like … well, I lose an arm.’ This was said to me by a 15-year-old learner who had just lost her phone. I am sure you can relate somewhat: who hasn’t been in the same situation – that slight feeling of panic creeping up as you frantically rifle through bags and pockets to locate the missing device?

we were their age, forced to research for our school projects in BOOKS at the LIBRARY, having to WAIT to find out what happened at the party we missed on Friday night.

Probably one of the most significant findings for us as teachers when it comes to the socially digitised learner is that many of our learners report feeling anxious when they are unable to access their devices. This appears to be the result of a perceived and perhaps overwhelming obligation to remain But to lose an arm? Really? Once her phone constantly connected to various social was found (such a relief), I contemplated her networks through their phones (Lepp et al., comment. Perhaps she was right, and I really 2014). Adolescence is a time characterised didn’t understand. Coming to this realisation by much change, turmoil, exploration and helped me, as a teacher, to take the first step often confusion. We cannot ignore the fact towards understanding the socially digitised that a difficult period in any individual’s generation, approaching them with patience development has now been compounded rather than judgement. And let’s be honest significantly. – we do judge them. It’s hard not to. They certainly don’t get how life was for us when Studying for tests has become more 14 | Teacha! Magazine


challenging. Researchers have observed the study behaviours of a sample of primary school, high school, and university students and found participants typically became distracted by social media such as Facebook and texting in less than six minutes after initiating a studying session (Rosen et al., 2013). Our learners need to muster far more willpower than we ever needed in order to sit down and study. The ways in which we take in information have changed, quite fundamentally. Firstly, reading skills are declining. Learners have less experience reading longerform print, especially books, which makes it more difficult for them to complete reading assignments and access hardcopy textbooks. Secondly, young digital-media users tend to switch between tasks at a rapid pace, often every few seconds (Tweng et al., 2019). Perhaps this is why many teachers are reporting that it is becoming increasingly difficult for learners to focus on a specific topic in class for longer than ten minutes. We expect learners to be able to concentrate, persevere in their learning, and put in the effort needed to achieve. The question that arises then is this: have we provided the environment in which life is able to teach them these skills?

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our lives have been transformed with the invention of social media. The positives are numerous, for all of us, both professionally and personally. However, in order to increase our level of empathy for those we teach, we do need to be cognisant of how life has changed. This is certainly something we can offer our learners that they will never be able to receive from Google.

References Lepp, A., Barkley, J. E., & Karpinski, A. C. (2014). The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 343-350. Rosen, L. D., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 948-958. Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Spitzberg, B. H. (2019). Trends in US Adolescents’ media use, 1976–2016: The rise of digital media, the decline of TV, and the (near) demise of print. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(4), 329.

Authors: Lauren Brown Lauren Brown is the Head of the Student Development Centre at a Helderberg school in the Western Cape. She is an Educational Psychologist and Cognitive Development Specialist.

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Social Pedagogy: A ‘head-hearthands’ approach to education ‘A true community is not just about being Geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.’ – Yehuda Berg Alongside many global trends in education, Social Pedagogy is an approach to working with children and youth that is commonly practised in top-ranking countries in education, such as Norway, Finland, 16 | Teacha! Magazine

Germany, France and the Netherlands. However, little is known or understood about it in most English-speaking countries. According to Futurelearn.com, the term Social Pedagogy is defined as ‘a socially constructed approach that exists in different forms across various different countries, taking into account various cultural and societal norms and expectations’. It is also not a prescriptive methodology which can be very easily picked up and applied. Instead, it is an approach to learning that requires us


as professional practitioners and caregivers to think about how it can be applied within each of our country’s own unique social and cultural settings.

Where care and education come together

Despite how diversely interpreted Social Pedagogy may be worldwide, Claire Cameron and Peter Moss (2011) state that there are few common components that help us to make sense of it: • Social Pedagogy emphasises a strong focus on the child as a whole person and therefore supports their overall development. • The practitioner/educator sees themselves as a person in close relationship with the child that is nonhierarchical i.e. they are both equal. • The focus on relationships emphasises the importance of practising good listening and communication with children and youth.

At its core, Social Pedagogy is concerned with well-being and holistic learning, empowerment and relationships with children and youth. It is underpinned by the idea that each person has inherent potential, is valuable, resourceful and therefore able to make a meaningful contribution to their community and society at large – if we are able to find ways of successfully including them. We are able to look at Social Pedagogy through the lens of education as a means of influencing society and offering solutions to social challenges. It is an approach that calls for both CARE and EDUCATION to meet. As educators, this is important given that we aim to support and encourage a positive change in the world through the environment we are able to create and model in our own classrooms. We seek to be change makers and positive influencers. However, in order to make a meaningful impact we need to be adopting a holistic approach which acknowledges not only the individual and how they see themselves, but also the meaningful connections made and the influence each one of them have on their families and communities.

Making sense of Social Pedagogy

With these components in mind, Social Pedagogy is about constantly creating and providing opportunities for learning through interactions, joint activities and being in relationship and connected to others.

Head, heart and hands

The holistic approach required to do so involves a combination of both the HEAD, HEART and HANDS as first thought of by educationalist, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827). Pestalozzi believed that the spirit of teaching truly came to light through the synergy of all three of these elements. Teacha! Magazine | 17


We can think of this approach as seeking to create a balance between the 3 Ps: 1. The professional (head) – the reflective teacher with theoretical knowledge and content 2. The personal (heart) – the person with individual feelings, personality, attitudes and relationships 3. The practical (hands) – using certain methods and creating activities which enable positive relationship-building and meaningful contributions to society and the environment

Adopting this approach as a teacher What does all of this mean for how we as teachers view ourselves within this approach? As social pedagogues/practitioners in the classroom (Cameron, et.al. 2017): • Teachers are to focus on the child as a whole person by recognising and acknowledging their unique feelings, personalities, physicalities and social backgrounds, which feed into what they bring to the classroom environment every day. • Teachers are to be reflective in their practice. They need to draw on their theoretical knowledge and training to help them navigate through challenges, but also need to be flexible in their thinking so that they are able to always make decisions that are in the best interest of every child. • Teachers bring their heart to work every day. Through their emotional awareness they are able to act with empathy and respect. • Teachers are to be both practical and creative in their teaching approaches. • Teachers are willing to share their

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space and function within a communal environment that is shared and nonhierarchical. • Teachers value teamwork and actively seek the contributions of others working to support the needs of children. They are able to form positive working relationships with fellow teachers, caregivers, parents and members of the community.

Teaching is tied to relationships In conclusion, Social Pedagogy can be considered a dynamic and humanistic approach to education that goes well beyond just that of subject teaching. It is humanistic in its approach because it focuses on developing the potential of a child through positive relationships, overall wellbeing, holistic learning and social empowerment (Cameron et.al, 2017). In my personal opinion, teaching is and always has been about more than just content knowledge and assessment. By empowering our children to take ownership of their own identities, strengths and abilities, we are empowering them to go out into the world confident enough to make a valuable contribution. At a time such as this, where practices of distance/remote learning and social distancing have impacted on education and are fast becoming our new norm, the threat of loss for social connection relationships looms. Never has it been more important to nurture relationships and seek creative alternatives to maintaining connections.

‘No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.’ – Dr James Comer


References

Publishers.

Cameron, C., & Moss, P. (2011). Social Pedagogy and working with children and young people: Where care and Education meet. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher.

ThemPra Social Pedagogy. What social pedagogy means. Accessed on 21 October 2020 at: http://www.thempra.org.uk/socialpedagogy/

Cameron, C., Black, E., & Bettencourt, M. (2017). Social Pedagogy in the Classroom. In D. Colley, & P. Cooper, Attachment and Development in the Classroom: Theory and Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley

University of Strathclyde. Social pedagogy. Accessed on 21 October 2020 at: https:// www.futurelearn.com/courses/vulnerablechildren/0/steps/5923

Authors: Stacey Kirk Stacey Kirk is currently practicing as a Grade 4 remedial teacher at a remedial school in Johannesburg. Having entered into a remedial teaching environment five years ago after gaining four years prior experience in a mainstream school as a Grade 6 English teacher, she found herself in the fortunate position of living out her passion while enriching her knowledge of practice on a daily basis.

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Culturally responsive pedagogy As part of the Rainbow Nation, we often get to experience a variety of cultures, races and religious beliefs in one classroom. Being mindful of this enables us as teachers to make teaching more relevant. Where you teach will influence how you teach, as each culture has their own traditions and needs. Being an effective teacher means that you will have to adapt to the culture of each school and group of children in front of you. Each culture has their own habits, likes and dislikes, and interests. What this means for education is that we need to change our approach to speak to each culture, ensuring that we are on the same level of understanding and thus optimising learning by inclusiveness. Including different cultures means that our pedagogy needs to be changed to focus on creating a situation where different cultures can thrive. All of this sounds almost impossible as we sometimes deal with a multitude of different cultures in one classroom. It is therefore important to remember that there are often cultural similarities in each class, whether it is pupils’ social-economic status, area, environment, or other similar examples. And while we rejoice in our similarities, we can simultaneously celebrate each other’s differences, creating curiosity and respect among our young people, and ourselves. 20 | Teacha! Magazine

How to be culturally responsive in your teaching 1. Reflect on your own culture Who you are, where you come from and what you believe will have a massive influence on how you teach. We all have our individual teaching styles, but being mindful of how different the kids in front of you are, teaches you to be more sensitive to their cultures. This will also have an effect on how you deal with the various caregivers of your learners. 2. Change or adapt content It is important that our learners’ backgrounds are taken into consideration when creating content. Get to know your students. Learn about their backgrounds, beliefs and struggles. Talk to your learners about their traditions and also include the other teachers in the conversation when getting to know about the community and their various obstacles. Family dynamics can also be included in culture. This means that it might be normal in a specific culture for the children to be raised by other family members instead of their biological parents. If you keep saying things like ‘Will you ask your mom …’ it may have a


negative influence on the learner. Including names and real situations in word problems or comprehensions will also go a long way. For example, only using names like Sarah and James when you teach in Mitchells Plain is not an example of cultural responsiveness. It is also important to focus on the challenges of specific communities. If illness is caused by bad hygiene, use it in your teaching. Projects also need to be relevant. A project about keeping the ocean clean is not as pertinent in Johannesburg as it will be in Durban.

process. Learning from them and learning from each other creates an environment where learners feel accepted and safe. They learn to take each others’ feelings and viewpoints into consideration and to be more respectful towards each other. Learners can be asked to teach a concept that they know more about or they can make use of techniques such as the flipped classroom to show what the class’s different cultures entail. Using different ideas and approaches will teach learners to solve problems using their differences.

We need to use different cultures in The opposite also applies in this step. all of our subjects and classes, but we Include videos and examples of other also deliberately need to teach different cultures across the world to illustrate how cultures to our learners in subjects like different we are and that this should not Geography or Life Skills. be something to separate us, but to unite us. It is a big responsibility that we have on our shoulders, to ensure that we use a culturally 3. Keep the conversation open responsive pedagogy in our classrooms, but Create an environment where your it doesn’t have to be a problem. It should students are comfortable to ask rather be a decision to change our set questions or add examples. This also beliefs and learn with our students. It is not means that your students will be curious impossible to have a healthy multicultural when something is different to what classroom where our learners are nonthey are used to and then asked to judgemental with a positive attitude towards learn. You as the educator should also show interest and ask learners if there is something about their culture that you don’t fully understand. This can also help the learners in respecting each other and each others’ differences. Learners should feel that they can share their ideas and feelings without being judged. To get your learners to engage in conversation, you will have to build a relationship with them. This means that you need to know them, get them to trust you and feel loved and cared for by you. When this is established, they will be more likely to follow your example and treat other learners in the same way. 4. Demonstrate shared learning Teachers need to show that they are still learning by being interested in what their students have to say. Children learn more effectively if they are part of the learning Teacha! Magazine | 21


the class’s different views. The solution is to be proactive and adaptable and to demonstrate that being an effective teacher does not mean that you know everything – but rather that you have respect for each child, and you never stop learning.

References Deady, K. (2020). 5 steps to becoming a culturally responsive teacher. Accessed 21 October 2020 at: https://www.teachaway. com/blog/5-steps-becoming-culturallyresponsive-teacher Guido, M. (2017). 15 Culturally-Responsive Teaching Strategies and Examples + Downloadable List. Accessed 21 October 2020 at: https://www.prodigygame.com/ blog/culturally-responsive-teaching/

Lynch, M. (2012). What is culturally responsive pedagogy?. Accessed 21 October 2020 at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ culturally-responsive-pedagogy_b_1147364 New Zealand Government. (2019). Effective teaching is culturally responsive. Accessed 21 October 2020 at: https://seniorsecondary. tki.org.nz/Science/Pedagogy/Culturallyresponsive Wlodkowski, R. J. and Ginsberg, M. B. (1995). A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Strengthening Student Engagement, 53(1), 17-21. Accessed at: http://www.ascd.org/publications/ educational-leadership/sept95/vol53/ num01/A-Framework-for-CulturallyResponsive-Teaching.aspx

Author: Wilmari Pretorius Wilmari Pretorius is an Afrikaans educator in Gauteng. She has a BA in Language and Culture and has obtained a postgraduate teaching certificate from the University of Stellenbosch. She is passionate about two things: Afrikaans and children. In her five years in education, she has realised that a lot of time and creativity is needed to motivate learners to learn. From this sprang her love for technology.

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A hybrid pedagogy Following a textbook-style pedagogy is not an easy feat. Classrooms are complex, multifaceted, demanding, challenging places in which to work, and even more challenging to be successful in. Each child is an individual and unique learner; therefore each classroom environment will be different.

constructivism, social constructivism and liberationism pedagogies.

Pedagogy is another word for education, the profession and science of teaching. Pedagogy also defines how a teacher and class interact during learning, which is essentially, the ‘act of teaching’.

Personally, the pedagogy that I have created can be defined as a ‘hybrid pedagogy’, which includes a variety of techniques. It is a mixture of what I have read, researched, listened to and experienced. Years of trial and error and passion for working with the youth have helped shape my pedagogy and in doing so, my hybrid pedagogy is continuing to help me help my learners to

Pedagogy is essentially the relationship between learning techniques and cultures. Therefore, the teacher’s own beliefs and ideas will certainly play a huge part in determining the pedagogy of their How can we as educators create our very classroom. An effective pedagogy will then own pedagogy, where we hope to achieve depend on what a teacher does, what a a personal understanding of what good teacher knows and understands and why teaching methods entail, particularly through teachers act as they do. detailed planning and practice? This, along Mixing it up with research and passion, can be achieved in every classroom. In our South African context, this already But what exactly is a teaching gives education a new look. Therefore, pedagogy? choosing a pedagogy that is your own can be both exciting and scary. You will need to Firstly, we need to understand what the word have very clear and crucial skills to develop pedagogy actually means. Broadly, the word one that is meaningful and has respectful pedagogy means the theory and practice of interactions between your learners and you teaching. as the educator.

Historically you get five different pedagogical approaches. They are authoritarianism, behaviourism,

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become successful, happy and kind adults in this ’not so easy’ world. In South Africa, where diversity is so necessary for the success of a classroom, you need to open your mindset and mix the ‘melting pot’ with many different concepts. Let’s see, what we can add to our mixture? • Understanding readiness at different stages • Whole class teaching • Structured group work • Guided learning • Observation • Independency • Productivity

• Assessing with meaning • Constantly researching and changing when needed It is imperative that educators are flexible when accommodating diversity and the social and economic needs of their children. For pedagogies to be effective, teachers will need to focus on the outcomes. A clear thought process needs to go into the long- and short-term goals of learners. It is important that as teachers, we have a good understanding of our children’s mental well-being. Have we catered for children with social and emotional needs? Do we as teachers have good self-esteem, selfregulation and a growth mindset?

Practical considerations The information above is all good and well, but how can we see this hybrid pedagogy working practically in a classroom?

• Individual activities • Developing higher thinking skills: problem solving, exploration, thinking out of the box, etc. • Building onto pupil’s prior skills and knowledge • Extending vocabulary and knowledge through effective use of dialogue or communication and questioning techniques • Managing and planning of teaching time – this is crucial for success

Let us go through a day in the life of a ‘hybrid pedagogy’ in a Foundation Phase classroom. 7:40 – Line up with the whole school. Announcements for the day. 8:00 – Greet the teacher and friends. A hello song is sung. This releases happy endorphins and helps the children to settle into their day. The teacher can greet in as many different languages as she sees fit. A breathing or yoga-based exercise always works well early in the morning. This helps the children to ground themselves and be ready for a productive day.

• Positive nurturing • Trust and respect • Ethos, e.g. kindness, gratitude and recycling • Growth mind-set – it is okay to make mistakes • Seeing each child as an individual 24 | Teacha! Magazine

8:10 – Getting ready time. This is where the children have a chance to fulfil their classroom duties, use the bathroom, fill up water bottles, get tissues, unpack their readers and homework books, prepare their stationery needed for the first activity, etc. This routine allows the children to realise that they have responsibilities and duties and can foster a sense of independence and planning. Learners need to understand


that planning and being prepared is very important for any activity that needs to be done.

will need to be taken into account when lessons are presented.

Throughout the day, the teacher needs 8:20 – Lessons in accordance to your daily to embark on a planned path of growth timetable. Here, the teacher will engage in a mindset activities. For example, if a child variety of methods that match the topic and says at any stage that they cannot do a nature of achieving effective learning in the Maths problem, we encourage the power specified area. of YET. ‘The child cannot do the Maths problem YET.’ Throughout the day, we are Each lesson that is completed requires also building self-esteem, positive thinking involvement of the ‘whole child’. Therefore, and affirmations. Brain Breaks are crucial aspects of the child, like their physical, throughout lessons, movement between intellectual, social and emotional sides have the different learning areas and many, many to be incorporated. A teacher needs to be incidental teachable social moments are mindful of their learners’ preferred learning necessary. Teachers in a hybrid pedagogy style (visual, auditory or kinetic). Each type need to be mindful of all of these skills in needs to have a method of learning to follow. each and every lesson. Therefore, when instructions are given, this needs to be first and foremost on the Now you may say that this sounds quite teacher's mind. exhausting and emotionally draining. NOT AT ALL! It actually has the opposite effect For example: An auditory learner will listen to on a teacher and the pupils. It is a refreshing what is being said; a visual learner will cope and energising approach to learning. better if the instructions are written down and shown; and a kinetic learner will respond A few more examples: better when an actual item is physically used to assist with the explanation. Through onHandwriting – This is a directive lesson going observation, teachers using the hybrid where important skills need to be taught to pedagogy will need to be aware of learners the learner. For example, fine motor skills, who have learning difficulties. These learners eye exercises, correct pencil grip, correct

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posture and the importance of such, as well as the correct letter and number formation and the reasons why. Reading – This can be done using a variety of methods. Whole class reading or group work. The learners will learn different reading skills, directed by the teachers, but on different platforms. Here learner-tolearner knowledge will also be used. Spelling – This skill can be taught in many different ways. Through a formal lesson, dialogue, games, activities, group work, STEM classes, etc. Mathematics – When mathematical concepts are introduced, it is recommended to use a variety of ways and means. Every learner is different. Again, whole class teaching, group work, games in and outside of the classroom – many skills will need to be covered.

Life skills (theme-related topics, creative arts and physical exercise) – A great deal of media resources and teaching methods are brilliant for this area of learning. STEM is an excellent method to use. Life skills incorporate all the learning areas and methodologies. A hybrid pedagogy is an excellent way to make learners aware of the global sustainable development goals that our world is facing – from addressing injustices, to looking after our environment. There are many ways in which these issues can be brought into lesson plans.

Love your teaching, love your pedagogy In order to have a successful classroom and successful outcomes, teachers have to have passion and love for the learners in their care. Creating one’s own pedagogy may feel overwhelming, but if, and when you approach it with a positive attitude and a love for teaching, creating the pedagogy of your own is easy!

Author: Pamela Diesel With more than a quarter-century of teaching behind her, Pamela Diesel is passionate about education – whether it is sharing exciting ideas with children in class or helping other teachers to upskill themselves through her numerous workshops.

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Facing the future: A student-centered approach to learning ‘Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I may learn.’ – Benjamin Franklin. Currently, as both teachers and parents, we are living through a time when this famous quote has never rung truer. In a world of fast-paced and instantaneous communication, rapid new developments and technologically driven processes, it is safe to say that times are changing. This year, we’ve witnessed the world changing before our eyes, and as teachers, we’ve had to adapt or get left behind. This adaptation extends beyond the challenges of teaching during the pandemic. When it comes to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we can either stand on the platform and watch the train pass by or take the leap and jump on board. There has never been a more pertinent time to be raising a generation of quick thinkers, innovators and problem-solvers; a generation that is confident, self-assured, accountable and prepared. As the world changes, so too do the measures that are needed to equip our future generations to succeed. Twenty-first century learning is not a ‘one-size-fitsall’ solution. It is more about the development of necessary skills, rather than mindlessly absorbing daily information. Teacha! Magazine | 27


What does this mean for education then? Well, in my opinion the answer is very clear – our traditional model of learning needs to change as well.

Teaching and learning in the 21st century Gone are the days of old-fashioned modelled instruction and self-imposed content knowledge, where teachers stand up in the front of their classes and babble on whilst their students drift in and out of focus. Gone are the days of a system that allowed for some learners to excel while others simply got by or were left behind. Our futures depend on it, and so we need to be creating a system of education that seeks to actively engage our learners like never before. Student-centered learning is an approach to education that is gaining momentum as more and more schools and teachers become aware of the growing need to adjust and adapt the existing system. By simple definition, student-centered learning is an instructional approach that seeks to place the focus of learning on the learner and not the teacher. It is an approach that promotes a partnership of learning between both the learner and the teacher, and aims to create communicative, collaborative, critical and creative learners – the 4 Cs of 21stcentury learning.

Benefits of student-centred learning As a teacher who actively tries to promote a student-centered approach in her own classroom environment, I can advocate for the numerous benefits of this seemingly ‘risky’ approach: • Learners are given avenues in which they learn how to express themselves and their own unique ideas and opinions. • Teacher enjoyment is guaranteed because learners are actively engaged and on task – although one needs to be prepared to loosen the reigns of control a little and prepare for ‘productive chaos’ as opposed to mere silence. • Learners are constantly working which means that they are utilising and developing much-needed higher-order thinking skills through an enquiry-based approach to learning and problem-solving tasks. • Learners have the benefit of working at their own pace, which helps to ease anxiety and promote opportunities for more timely intervention and support. • Learners learn to become creative thinkers, effective communicators and team players – all skills that are needed to survive this new age.

What a student-centered classroom might look like Firstly, brace yourself: a student-centered environment is not necessarily a quiet place. The air should be abuzz with the productive and joyful ramblings of learners hard at work as they collaborate with one another. Obviously, this means that as the teacher, you exercise good classroom management and distinguish between the more ‘organised chaos’ and just plain chaos! Learners should also actively be working on assignments and projects while the teacher facilitates in a meaningful and engaging way. Both the teacher and learners should work 28 | Teacha! Magazine


together in partnership with one another as they work towards achieving mutual goals. Individual work should be evident and displayed with pride – no matter how imperfect or messy it may be. It is important that learners feel that their classroom is a shared space in which they are individually recognised, valued and accepted. A student-centered environment should create opportunities for learners to feel as though they are given a voice and are empowered to be themselves.

Tips for creating a student-centered environment • Teach the BIG IDEAS and allow learners to self-discover the details of these ideas through enquiry-based projects, tasks and collaboration with one another. • Provide opportunities for learners to evaluate their own learning regularly. Selfassessments and self-reflection tools can be used as part of grading and assessment. This also provides valuable insight into the level or understanding each child is at. • Teachers should not be static and confined to being behind their desks. By constantly moving about you are able to ask questions to gauge levels of understanding and probe thinking in an informal, friendly and non-threatening way. • Where possible, make use of digital platforms and technology to support and stimulate interest, skills and individual needs. Being digitally savvy is essential nowadays. • Create platforms for empowering the student voice. Hold regular debates, chat sessions, class shout-outs and a suggestion box. Provide learners with opportunities to develop and expand on their interests by giving them choice. The freedom to choose is about so much more than simply picking a task/topic. It is about them taking ownership of their entire learning process.

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Effective teaching in the 21st century is not about what teachers are able to cover, but rather what learners themselves are able to discover. When the individual learner in our class becomes more empowered, focused and engaged, we are achieving together, laying the foundation for them to become the new generation of innovators and change-makers.

References NellieMaeEdFdn. (2015). Transformation. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=e6ieXLVCss4 Pearson Education Inc. (2016). Student-centered learning. Available at: https://www.pearson. com/content/dam/one-dot-com/one-dot-com/global/Files/efficacy-and-research/ methods/learning-principles/Student-Centered_Learning.pdf Teachings in Education. (2018). Student Centered Learning: Why, How, & What. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvzVAQkuSqU

Author: Stacey Kirk Stacey Kirk is currently practising as a Grade 4 remedial teacher at a remedial school in Johannesburg. Having entered into a remedial teaching environment five years ago after gaining four years’ prior experience in a mainstream school as a Grade 6 English teacher, she found herself in the fortunate position of living out her passion while enriching her knowledge of practice on a daily basis.

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Bringing purpose back to the classroom Snapplify’s Edtech Teacher Stephen Bestbier encourages educators to reflect on the reasons we teach.in the time of Covid-19 Before joining Snapplify, I was a high school English teacher for 14 years. At the beginning of each year, I introduced my classes the same way. As my students took to their seats, staring up at me, sussing out this guy they’d be spending the year with, I would ask them, ‘Why are you here?’ Each year, I received the same responses (to learn grammar, to pass the exams, because the timetable said so …) and the same incredulous faces when I told them they were wrong. We all need to know the purpose behind our pursuits if we are to find them worthwhile and meaningful, and the eve of a new year is the ideal time for teachers and students to reflect on this. If what we’re teaching or studying doesn’t seem relevant, we’re likely to feel discouraged. So what are we actually trying to achieve in the classroom every day?

The four Cs of 21st-century learning We all know that the world is very different to what it was 50 years ago. If the purpose of the education system is to prepare students for today’s working world, we must adapt our educational approach to align with real life. As Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.’ Many teachers will already be familiar with the Four Cs. This is a set of skills that have 32 | Teacha! Magazine

been identified as essential for the next generation to succeed, both in their careers and as citizens, in the 21st century. These Four Cs are: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. In the Information Age, where digital and media literacy are more important than ever; in an interconnected world, where technology facilitates meaningful teamwork across cultures and countries; in a global economy, where tasks are automated and innovation is rewarded, every interaction calls for a combination of some or all of these skills. As an English teacher, I worked through a curriculum that included reading, creative writing, poetry and grammar. But at the end of the day, this was not what I really taught, and not what I hoped my students would ultimately take away. To help my students with this paradigm shift, we all took out our time-tables, scratched out ‘English’ and rebranded the class Creative, Cognitive and Communication Skills. When my students really understood how the content of the curriculum was a mechanism to develop our skills, like lifting weights in a gym to build muscles, they could take more ownership of the learning process, and were more motivated. I made it a habit to regularly explain the purpose of whatever we were busy with and what skills we were developing and why they were


important. Soon, whether we were working our way through Macbeth or presenting orals, English may not have always been their favourite subject, but they approached it with a determination and purpose that made the class a valuable way to spend almost an hour each day.

The fifth C: Courage I also believe that courage is as important in today’s world as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Courage is needed to take healthy risks to achieve one’s goals. There are few times in history that learners have had to face a future as uncertain as ours. The implications of the rapid changes taking place in world politics, the global economy and even the climate mean that it becomes increasingly difficult to prepare for an unpredictable future.

But how do we teach courage? To teach courage, we have to have courage, and teach by example. There are many ways educators can model courage in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. Admitting when we don’t have all the answers, and embracing methods and technology that we may not be familiar with, is just one example of how brave and brilliant teachers have relinquished control in the classroom in favour of courage. By modelling risk-taking and ‘successful failure’ – dealing with the discomfort and disappointment of failing, in a way which allows us to grow and learn – we can show students how to avoid shrinking into shame and self-doubt, and to continue with selfawareness and steadfast determination on the road to success.

As we begin to prepare for next year, So much of the teaching year can get before we get swept away by educators’ bogged down by pushing students to get daily admin, let’s take some time to reflect a passing percentage on their final reports, on educational outcomes – why we’re but let’s not forget that, so often, the pursuit here, what we’re really doing. Beyond the of good marks cloaks the true value of lesson plans that take so long, beyond all education. A valuable education system is the assignments and endless marking, is a not one which churns out A students, but love for learning and a deep desire to make rather, one which sends students into the a difference. Let’s pick that purpose up, world with essential skills and a strong sense put it in our pockets, and carry it into our of self-esteem, so they are able to flourish. classrooms every day. You’ll be amazed at the energy and excitement it’ll bring you and your students.

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P4C in the classroom For many of us, our exposure to philosophy is limited to an introductory module of the field at university, something that has resulted in our questioning the existence of our own souls for a semester. If you managed to get through that relatively unscathed, it may interest you to know that there is a growing school of thought called P4C – Philosophy for Children. Unlike Introduction to Philosophy 101 (taken by practically everyone with a teaching degree), the concepts of P4C really do make sense – and it can be an extremely useful addition to any teacher’s toolbox. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway, at a luncheon with close friends, bet the table that for 10 dollars he could construct an entire story using only six words. After the winning pot was collected, Hemingway supposedly wrote: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ on a napkin, passed it around to his friends, and collected his prize. As our English teachers would know, narrative elements to a well-constructed story include an event, characters, and time. This story lacks all three, yet this little tale is the perfect example of something one would use to stimulate philosophical thought. Consider the questions (and assumptions) that may arise in the reader’s mind. Who placed the ad? When? Why? Was the baby stillborn? Did the baby have large feet? Are some things simply too precious to sell? How long should one keep something? P4C aims to do in the minds of children just what this story has done in the minds of its readers – spark critical thought, dialogue and questioning. Here follows two steps that might assist you in sparking debate and critical thinking about even the driest of content. These two steps can be done at the start of a lesson, and generally take about 10–15 minutes to engage the learners in the day’s content.

1. Start your lesson with a stimulus and ask questions 34 | Teacha! Magazine

A stimulus is something that sparks thought, debate and questioning. A good stimulus generates doubt, and values live experience over fact. A Maths Example: Share with your learners that the Mayan number system (see image) was not influenced by, nor did it influence other systems of mathematics. This can then lead to the question: Was maths invented? Or was it discovered? If it was discovered, is this a reason for children to become mathematically literate? Alternatively, bring questioning into your lesson. For example: If you multiply two numbers, will you always get a bigger number? A Science Example: An example of a science stimulus when covering natural selection, ecosystems, various species etc. could be to show the class a picture of a dinosaur and pose the question: Is a successful species one that has lasted the longest unchanged, or one that has evolved the most, or one that has made most intellectual strides, or is the most numerous? An English Example: An English lesson on poetry could start out with the following stimulus: What are the meanings of the following bolded expressions? Ahhh!

Aaah!

Aha!

(That’s so sweet!)

(That hurts!)

(Now I’ve got you!)

Then ask the class: How much of what you mean is in the actual words you use? If 80– 90% of communication is non-verbal, then what is the role of poetry in communicating ideas?


2. Listen to ideas and create a space for discussion The next step is simply to listen. It is essential as a teacher to establish an environment conducive to sharing ideas. Some ideas on how to do this can be to: • Establish some ground rules for good dialogue. Things like using a talking stick (whoever holds the stick gets to talk) or using thumbs-up to indicate the desire to say something (rather than hands-up, which can be distracting). • Establish the understanding that respectful argument/debate is healthy. • Provide learners with examples of how to go deeper. For example, thinking of alternative points of view and speculating about the consequences of each one, giving examples, noticing similarities and differences, examining reasons for things. There are a variety of websites out there with fantastic P4C resources. A Google

search will generate many for you to explore. A few of the good ones that I have come across include: • https://p4c.com/ • https://www.thephilosophyman.com/ p4c-stimulus • https://www.philosophyforchildren.org/ resources/lesson-plans/ Enjoy using these two basic P4C strategies to spark some interesting debate in your classroom. You will be surprised that learners have fresh, interesting ideas and opinions. Why not give them the platform to explore them?

References Hymer, B. & Sutcliffe, R. (2012). P4C Pocketbook. Teachers Pocket Books: UK. Lipman, M. (1982). Philosophy for children. Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children, 3(3/4), 35-44. Trickey, S. & Topping, K. J. (2004). Philosophy for children: a systematic review. Research papers in Education, 19(3), 365-380.

Author: Lauren Brown Lauren Brown is the Head of the Student Development Centre at a Helderberg school in the Western Cape. She is an Educational Psychologist and Cognitive Development Specialist.

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Teaching according to your personality

‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’ – Dr Wayne Dyer As individuals, we all have specific ways that we experience life. This is influenced by our personalities and our personalities define who we are as teachers.

Same personality, different teacher I am a very different teacher now than I was when I first started teaching. Early on in my career, I completed the Myers-Briggs Type questionnaire. The conclusion was accurate and helped me to see what, or who I was bringing into the workplace. I am your typical teacher personality type (ISFJ) – helpful, or so I thought! I was the ‘perfectionist teacher’, spending hours planning and preparing for lessons, making sure every lesson was perfect. I set high standards for myself and learners, and there was always something more that could be done. In my mind, a teacher’s job was never done. I enjoyed the traditional teacher-centered approach as I felt in control of my lessons. ‘Burnout’ while teaching is a reality, and for me it was a reality. I was forced to take a pause, stop, and look at my personality. I can’t change my personality but using the knowledge I had about myself from the Myers-Briggs personality test, I was able to make changes in the way in which I was doing things. I had to learn to work smarter. I had to learn that it was okay to ask for help and to delegate tasks to others. By doing this, it made me look at teaching differently. It helped me relax and enjoy teaching more, rather than trying to micro-manage every aspect of the classroom.

Know who you are I highly recommend that you go online and take a personality or strength-finder test because knowing who you are is invaluable. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses makes a big difference, not only to yourself but to the school you are a part of. 36 | Teacha! Magazine


Who are you? What are your interests? What are your dislikes? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Are you a leader or a follower? A rule breaker or a law abider? Are you observant, authoritative or withdrawn? Are you the popular teacher at school or are you respected for your wealth of knowledge? Do you know yourself?

Embrace your unique teaching style Your approach or method you choose to follow in your class depends on what fits your personality best. When a learning programme or school tries to standardise or control teaching methods, teachers often find it difficult to find the balance between what is expected of them and what they feel comfortable with in their own classrooms.

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It is up to you as an educator to know yourself in order to choose the best teaching approach, what your teaching philosophy is and what works for you in your classroom. Change is often necessary and positive, but we do not have to change everything about our personalities in order to fit into the expected boxes. Here is a breakdown of personality types as described by Myers-Briggs*. By taking a good look at these, you can already see which teaching pedagogy you are most likely to favour in your classroom:

Take a free personality test on 16Personalities.com. *The Myers-Briggs test and personality types are not seen as a scientific way to determine personality types. This can, however, be a helpful tool to guide you – both in learning more about yourself and gaining a better perspective on how other people function.

Author: Emme Scholtz Emme Scholtz is a Foundation Phase teacher who, after five years, has taken a break from teaching to focus on creating a love for learning in her two children. Her store on Teacha! is called Anna & I and is full of fantastic Foundation Phase resources!

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COVID-19 school closures in South Africa and their impact on children When the new coronavirus rapidly spread across the globe, evidence of its effect on children was still scanty and closing schools seemed the responsible thing to do. Now that there is more evidence, my colleague Nic Spaull and I have investigated whether the gradual reopening of schools in South Africa is in the best interest of children. We drew from many data sources and paid greatest attention to the accumulating evidence on the age patterns of infection and mortality around the globe.

The mortality risk for children of opening schools is low Using StatsSA data for 2016, “regular” mortality risk in South Africa ranges from a 1-in-1,000 chance of dying aged 0-19 to a 1-in-7 chance for those aged 80 and older. The most pessimistic scenarios for deaths from COVID-19 range up to 48,000 in 2020, considerably fewer than the 435,000 annual deaths in South Africa from “regular” causes. Applying the Western Cape province’s COVID-19 age fatality distribution, we projected COVID-19 mortality for 2020 by age under the most pessimistic scenario. The risk of death from COVID-19 in 2020 ranges from a 1-in-76,878 chance (0.001%) for children under 19 years old to a 1-in-94 chance for those aged 80 and older.

Comparing risk of death in a normal year and risk of death from COVID-19 infection by age. Provided by author.

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Evidence from US schools and crèches that remained open during the lockdown for children of essential workers shows that infection rates of such children and teachers were not significantly higher than normal. Since our paper was written, both the American Association of Paediatricians and the South African Paediatric Associations have come out in strong support of reopening schools. The latter cites “mounting evidenceâ€? that transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place. So after determining that the risks of schools reopening are extremely small for most children, it is worth considering the costs of continued closure of schools.

The costs of school closures Even before the lockdown, 2.5-million children experienced hunger and almost a third of children who died were severely malnourished. Rapid surveys by StatsSA and the Human Sciences Research Council show increases in hunger since the lockdown, since many workers lost their income and children no longer received free school meals. Recent international reviews show that lockdowns, school closures and natural disasters raise levels of substance abuse, depression, fear, loneliness, domestic violence and child abuse. Financial worries add stress to many households, raising levels of emotional exhaustion, depression and anxiety. Recent surveys in many countries have shown that children are at higher risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. For instance, after one month of school

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closures in Hubei – a province in Central China – a quarter of children between the ages of eight and 12 years old showed symptoms of depression. By early August, South African children will have lost between 30 and 59 days of school, depending on their grade. It appears that many will attend only half the school days in the second half of the year because of how schools implement social distancing. Teachers will not be able to complete the curriculum, leaving many gaps in children’s education. Poorer learners and schools are least able to catch up. International research shows that such learning losses could have lasting implications, even stretching into the labour market and affecting lifetime earnings. Re-opening the economy while schools remain closed increases the risk of children being left home alone. If all employed workers returned to work, more than 2 million children aged 0-15 years would be left without an older sibling (15 years+) or an adult caregiver. Of greatest concern are that almost one million children (974,000) below age six have no other adult caregiver except a working parent. Thousands of these children could be left home alone if their employed caregiver was forced to return to work to sustain the family. Even though most sectors of the economy have re-opened, early crèches and day-care centres remain closed.

Going forward Reviewing the data on class sizes in South Africa in conjunction with government regulations and the spatial realities of South African classrooms, it’s clear that at least half of South African learners will not be able to practise social distancing within a classroom. Teaching big classes outdoors would be difficult even without weather considerations. Given that COVID-19 mortality risk is very low compared to regular mortality risk, and virtually non-existent for children, the Department of Basic Education should acknowledge that it’s not feasible for most South African schools to practise social distancing within the classroom. But it should require mask-wearing for older children and social distancing on the playground. It’s our view that we should no longer keep children out of school. The profound costs borne by children and families will be felt for at least the next 10 years.

Author: Servaas van der Berg Servaas van der Berg is a Professor of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch and holds the National Research Chair in the Economics of Social Policy. He widely consults for government departments and international organisations. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Education and serves on the Scientific Committee of SACMEQ.

This article was originally published online by The Conversation.

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COVID-19 disruption could be a chance to lay a firmer school maths foundation in South Africa In South Africa, when Grade 9 learners return to school after the COVID-19 closures, they will have a maximum of 76 teaching days left in 2020. But given the safety requirements and the limited infrastructure in most schools, it’s highly unlikely that they will be able to attend school every day. This means the average Grade 9 learner in 2020 is likely to have less than half of a normal year’s time in class. While learners in schools for the middle class and independent schools have had access to online learning, learners in schools for the poor and working class have had no such access. And this is unlikely to change in the near future. There is evidence that, in mathematics, learners in less well-resourced schools are four years behind their counterparts in well-resourced schools by the end of Grade 9. It is therefore likely that most Grade 9 learners will fall further behind in 2020. This situation needs urgent attention. It is time to think beyond 2020, and to treat 2020 and 2021 as a continuous learning opportunity. It’s also time to be more strategic about what is taught. In the COVID-19 discussions on schooling there has been too little focus on what learners will learn – whether at school or at home. Indications from research conducted after the Pakistan earthquakes of 2005 showed that, although learners in the affected areas had only a three-month break from school, four years after the earthquake they were 1.5 years behind their peers. In South Africa, most Grade 9 learners will have been at home for about five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic before they return to school. A curriculum that does not adapt to learners’ levels may leave them further and further behind. The need to prevent this has led to calls to “build back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence suggests that the way to do this is to focus on core concepts and identify what learners need to know but may have missed or forgotten.

The legacy After Grade 9, South African learners must choose between Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy for the remaining three years of secondary school. Mathematics is essential for entrance into science-based programmes in universities, but the majority of learners lack the knowledge to cope with Mathematics from Grade 10 onwards. For example, in the Annual National Assessments for Mathematics, administered from 2012 to 2014, the average mark each year for Grade 9 was less than 14%. Similarly, in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study assessments in 2015, only one third of South African Grade 9 learners achieved at the minimal level in mathematics. A recent study of Grade 9 and 10 learner performance on negative number, basic algebra and functions yielded an average score of 28.3%. Clearly Grade 9 performance is far below desired levels. Add to this situation the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In most state schools, Grade 42 | Teacha! Magazine


9s are scheduled to return to class on 24 August 2020. Research indicates that long breaks from school lead to learning loss, with maths scores being particularly badly affected. And these breaks have a greater negative impact on learners from lower socioeconomic groups. A US model based on studies of the known effects of long breaks suggests that learners in the US could end the school year with only 37%-50% of the average gains they would have made in a normal school year in mathematics.

What’s needed We suggest the solution to the pandemic interruption of learning is to identify a limited number of core concepts and skills for Grades 8 and 9 that will provide a strong foundation for further mathematics. This involves, firstly, a carefully designed curriculum to address learners’ difficulties, starting with whole number, fractions, negative number, introductory algebra, linear patterns and functions. Secondly, teachers need a range of supportive materials – not just fixed lesson plans. It should be clear what must be done face-to-face and what can be done alone at home without technology. Teacher materials should help to identify gaps in learners’ knowledge and to provide guidance for re-teaching what learners have missed. Thirdly, tests should focus on revealing what learners understand and what they are battling with, instead of putting pressure on them to “pass” a certain level. Encouragingly, recently released documents (S2 and S3 of 2020) from the Department of

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Basic Education are promoting these principles. These documents emphasise the need for teachers to work with learners where they are, to take time to remediate when learners don’t understand and to assess only what has been taught. This is arguably the most forward-thinking policy produced by the department in recent years. What it lacks is a carefully considered implementation plan, informed by the realities on the ground, to identify the core mathematics content for learners, and a teaching and learning pathway for what remains of 2020 and into 2021. In the short term, if learners are able to master the content we have identified, they may well end 2020 with more mathematical knowledge than they would have gained ordinarily. COVID-19 could be the unexpected catalyst that makes the education system accountable to learners and their learning. But we need to get Grade 8 and 9 learners back to learning as soon as possible. It is crucial that they are not neglected because of an overwhelming focus on Grade 12.

Author: Craig Pournara & Lynn Bowie Craig Pournara’s teaching and research work is in maths-teacher education, with particular focus on knowledge of pre-service secondary maths teachers for teaching financial maths in schools. Lynn Bowie is a Visiting Associate at Wits University and the mathematics coordinator for OLICO Mathematics Education, an NGO supporting South African learners in mathematics. She has taught mathematics at all levels from grade R to university level.

This article was originally published online by The Conversation.

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Online and in the classroom, COVID-19 has put new demands on teachers As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were on lockdown in South Africa from March 2020. They only partially reopened in June, despite teacher unions’ concerns about the timing and lack of adequate protection for teachers and learners. The unions’ objections about having to work in conditions that posed a risk to health were understandable. But they have been less vocal about the teachers’ need to be equipped with the skills and infrastructure to teach during a pandemic. The unpredictability of the pandemic and the restrictions on social interaction remain in place. No immediate end is in sight. Teachers have had to move from a space in which they have years of experience to the unknown and challenging world of

online, remote, correspondence and socially distanced teaching. The Department of Basic Education produced a COVID-19 guide for teachers focused on creating learning environments using technology. In practice, this meant the teachers needed to facilitate learning with the help of digital tools such as e-learning platforms, online videos and audio tutorials. But the guide isn’t enough. Teachers are teaching with limited support and skills. My experience as a teacher educator, a researcher in teacher education and as a former high school teacher point to the fact that teachers are woefully under prepared to deal with the current situation. The average age of South African teachers is 43. This implies that many left teacher

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training over 20 years ago and might have limited knowledge of designing learning that differs from the face-to-face classroom methods.

Vision for technology The use of technology to design and transform learning and assessment has been a strategic goal for some years, as captured in the 2004 White Paper on e-Education. Over the years, the Department of Basic Education has added detail to its vision in documents such as Guidelines on e-Safety in Schools: Educating Towards Responsible, Accountable and Ethical Use of Information and Communication Technology in Education and Guidelines for Teacher Training and Professional Development in Information and Communication Technology. But the department has experienced a number of challenges along the way. One main challenge has been the expense of investing in technology, and whether it’s justified by the return. Even before the pandemic there were challenges with the use of technology in public schools that included inadequate infrastructure, poor internet connectivity and lack of digitally competent teachers. During the lockdown this reality was made clearer as many public-school teachers who didn’t have the experience, knowledge or infrastructure to facilitate online learning found it challenging. Based on earlier research it’s much more

likely that they didn’t use the technology to its full capacity. For example, previous studies showed that teachers didn’t use technology to help learners produce knowledge. There’s also the fact that the teacher workforce is largely ageing and technophobic. The instructional methods in an online learning environment differ from the face-to-face classroom that most teachers use. The online ways of supporting learning and attending to different learning styles require skills that teachers from traditional classrooms don’t have. Added to this is the fact that there is uneven access to digital tools across the country.

The new challenges in teaching The pandemic has taken the known interactive, collaborative and cooperative classrooms and predictable timetables from teachers and replaced them with uncertainty. These are perilous times, but teachers are transforming and adapting their knowledge to ensure that learning takes place. Research shows that teachers are able to reshape their knowledge and dispositions to function and respond to any challenging situations. There is no manual for this situation. But there is an opportunity to rethink and redesign what it means to teach and learn during and after the pandemic. Importantly, it’s a chance to address the gross inequalities and inadequacies in South African education.

Author: Nhlanhla Mpofu Nhlanhla Mpofu is a Y-rated researcher and an Associate Professor in Language Education. Her research focuses on two interrelated fields: firstly, bridging theory and practice in ways that English is used as a second language in different disciplines in multilingual spaces; and secondly, seeking to understand and describe culturally sustaining pedagogies in teaching and learning across the formal education curriculum.

This article was originally published online by The Conversation. 46 | Teacha! Magazine


What South Africa’s teachers brought to the virtual classroom during COVID-19

While celebrating this year’s World Teachers Day, we should recognise how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the key role that teachers already play in South Africa’s schools. Before the pandemic, many teachers in the country had not received substantive formal technology training, either to support blended teaching and learning or to fully apply online learning. The decision by the Ministry of Basic Education to shut down schools in response to the pandemic forced teachers to adapt and innovate to ensure that learning continued despite the challenges faced. South African schools are clustered into quintiles ranging from one to five. This was

done to ensure an equal and fair distribution of resources across schools. Schools in the lower quintiles are often based in underserved communities where resources are limited, while quintile five schools are well resourced. This approach was introduced to address past inequities which affected schools. Regional variances, therefore, exist in terms of access to computer labs and related computing resources. Although many rural and peri-urban schools have some form of computing or information technology resources, some have none at all. The Basic Education Department created a COVID-19 guide for teachers addressing aspects of health as well as Teacha! Magazine | 47


potential resources that they could use when teaching from home. This is how teachers across South African schools have responded to COVID-19: • Having little to no previous experience, they have had to adapt to online learning platforms while learning how to use learning management systems during the pandemic. • To keep supporting learners, the teachers used online teaching resources and conducted one-on-one consultations using platforms like Zoom, WhatsApp and Google messaging services that allow video calls. • The WhatsApp messaging service has been repurposed for learning. Schools have created WhatsApp learning groups to take pictures of book pages and send them to parents, while learners receiving teaching material through their smartphone apps have enabled classes to continue. The Department of Basic Education also launched a complementary WhatsApp portal to provide teachers with information about COVID-19 and educational material. • • In some instances, teachers pasted pieces of paper on the wall and used them as “whiteboards”, then recorded themselves on their phones to teach learners from these whiteboards. They

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shared the videos with parents via the WhatsApp groups. Schools have also used platforms such as Facebook to share information and send learning material to parents. Radio and television have also been used by teachers to supplement learning. Prior to the pandemic, these had lost popularity as key learning media. But, teachers now recognise that since most learners have access to them, they should be incorporated into remote learning material. The Basic Education Department also recognised that pupils were more likely to be able to access radio and television compared to any other technological medium of learning. While South Africa’s focus prior to the pandemic was on digital transformation in the fourth industrial revolution, teachers have emerged as key players in digital skills development and sustainability.

Going forward Beyond COVID-19, a lesson for South Africa and many other countries is the role that teachers play in co-creating a digital learning environment. For technology to be adopted in schools, the school leadership and teachers play an important role in the sustainable use of any educational technology. Indeed, teachers are best placed to adapt


lesson plans to suit the child’s home environment. For some, online devices may be readily accessible, while others will need to receive printed materials or tune into radio or TV lessons. Having a range of options is critical in a country like South Africa, where there are enormous variations in income and access to resources. How technology is introduced also makes a difference. I’ve been working with a number of schools to help provide digital skills that can be used in science, technology, engineering and maths lessons. What we have found is that giving teachers and school principals ownership of the process is vital in the technology adoption process. To this end, teachers should be encouraged to support each other through the learning journey. Champions of technology in schools need to be recognised and rewarded in

order that technology adoption is not seen as just an additional task or burden for teachers. The education system needs to build e-learning ecosystems involving national and provincial governments, schools, teachers, parents, telecommunications companies, NGOs and the private sector. Most importantly, teachers need to be supported and trained in digital education. These interventions should look beyond the pandemic as critical components enabling learning with technology in and beyond the classroom. Education professionals and researchers should listen to teachers, work with them and reward them for innovating with technology in schools. Teachers still hold the key to children’s learning and no keyboard or screen can replace their role.

Author: Mmaki Jantjies Mmaki Jantjies is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Systems at the University of the Western Cape. She is a Researcher in Education Technology, Electronic Governance and Electronic Health.

This article was originally published online by The Conversation. Teacha! Magazine | 49


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600 500 400 300 200 100 0 1

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Teacha! Magazine is also published every term. Find it on Snapplify or on Teacha! www.teacha.co.za www.teachingresources.co.za

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