The Magazine for South African Teachers
First Term 2020
Volume 3 - Issue 7
Take Back 2020 Teacher Toolbox: Food Allergies Back to School Ideas
In this issue Editor's Letter: Things We Should Leave Behind in the Previous Decade 4 6 Hacks to Taking Back 2020 6 10 Back to School Ideas for Primary Schools 10 20/20 Vision: Pinterest Perfection vs Realistic Imperfection 14 Bullying vs Conflict vs Being Mean 16 A Fresh New School Year 18 Toolbox Talk: Food Allergies 20 Encourage, But Don’t Praise: A New Theory of Affirming Children 22 Our first PBL adventure - why we’re trying it again even though it ‘flopped’ 24 Icebreaker with a Venn Diagram During the First Week of School! 27 Teacher to Teacher: Beatrice Miller 28 Why South Africa’s Declining Maths Performance is a Worry 30 Student Success is About More Than Hard Work 32
Pinterest Perfection vs Realistic Imperfection Page 14
Teacher to Teacher: Beatrice Miller Page 28 Teacha! Magazine | 3
Things we should leave behind in the previous decade This year marks my sixth year of teaching and it may potentially be my last! Since I started teaching I have learnt many things, but a few have stood out as either time-wasters with no educational value or creators of rifts between staff members - as what counts for one doesn’t necessarily count for others. Here are four things that we should denounce for 2020. Do you want to increase the rate at which young teachers leave the profession? Give them the most difficult classes in the school and you will succeed. Rather keep the teachers who are comfortable at the top on their toes by giving them the challenging classes. If they are master teachers, they should be able to handle the most difficult classes. What’s even better is getting these experienced teachers to take new teachers under their wings - making them sit in their classes to see how it can be done! Being a young or new teacher is scary enough, you don’t need any extra challenges for the sake of a staffroom hierarchy masked as character building. The well-known phrase, “You are in control of your own classroom.” is unsupportive and is a cop-out used by school leaders to not get involved with what’s happening on the ground. If schools really care about the wellbeing of their teachers, they should offer in-class behaviour management coaching, have a school-wide consistent discipline plan and not accept condescending remarks from colleagues such as, “But they are fine in my class...” or “you should just put your foot down.”. I have read too many articles that show that marking books has very little impact on learner achievement. Yet, some of us, including me, are obliged to correct learners’ mistakes in their books and write, “Well done!” for no reason whatsoever. When should marking take place? On the spot, with the learner present, so that they can be guided through their thought process so that scaffolded learning can take place. Unfortunately, a red cross or a word 4 | Teacha! Magazine
that’s underlined isn’t going to enable learners to do better. Since 2013, I have also been somewhat of an EdTech evangelist - trying to get as many teachers to use these tools in their teaching. Today, I look back and think of all the time I wasted having fun and not really teaching properly. Though I cannot imagine teaching without technology, I think it took a while for me to find a healthy balance between using tech for the sake of using it and using tech to actually improve learner understanding and promote learning. Innovation in teaching doesn’t mean using EdTech in your lessons anymore, it means finding the best possible way for your learners to learn. Rant over! Now let’s focus on the excellent teachers who have contributed to the first magazine of 2020. Fiona Beal - master innovator, gives us some excellent ideas to start our year in primary school with excitement. Lauren Brown gives us some insight into the best possible way of building resilience in children and Renate Rohrs gives us tips to take back 2020, to work smarter and not harder! As always, we invite teachers from all over South Africa to share their ideas and innovations, tips and tricks and anything else worth sharing with us. Email us your suggestions, contributions or letters to editor@ teacha.co.za. We wish you your best teaching year yet, now let’s leave the negativity in 2019!
Teacha! is a collaborative effort between South African & international teachers and organisations. We would like to thank the following contributors: Jean Vermeulen - Editor Ali Mills - Subeditor Teachers / Former Teachers: Ali Mills Fiona Beal Juffer "My Klaskamer" Renate Rohrs Lauren Brown Stacey Kirk Nolene Theron Organisations: The Conversation Teacha! is published by Onnie Media Pty Ltd. www.onniemedia.com Support South African teachers by advertising on our platforms: firstname.lastname@example.org
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6 Hacks to take back 2020
When last did you have a 40-hour workweek? Actually, have you ever had a 40-hour workweek? Chances are that if you are a teacher, the answer is a resounding NO. Don’t get me wrong, working long hours is not unique to teaching, recent research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that since 2001 South Africa has consistently had one of the longest workweeks in the world. But teaching tends to be a very “leaky” job; it oozes outside the confines of your
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workday and before you know it your job has taken over your weekend, your kitchen table and eventually your life. But just because it has always been that way does not mean you cannot change it. The start of a new year is always a time to contemplate, reassess and set new resolutions for yourself. Here are six hacks to take back your time.
Saying No According to James Clear, the ultimate productivity hack is saying no. The truth is that we say yes to a lot of things that we don’t want to do and often don’t need to do. At the root of this is the fact that we treat ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as carrying equal weight – which should actually have a completely different effect on your life. When you say no, you are only saying no to one option, but when you say yes to one option, you are effectively saying no to all other options. The fact is that we can only do one thing at a time. So when you say yes to attend that meeting this afternoon, you say no to the extra research you wanted to do for tomorrow’s classes, you say no to the activity you wanted to plan for next week, you say no to having some quiet me-time after school. When you say yes to take on extra responsibility at school, you say no to spending that time on your own professional development, or your family. As Pedro Sorrentino put it, “If you don’t guard your time, people will steal it from you.” Track your time Tracking your time might be a scary idea, but you can’t start to use your time more effectively if you don’t know what you are spending your time on. I would suggest every teacher keep track of what they spend their time on for a couple of weeks. The easiest way to do this is to download a time tracking app like Toggl; you will be surprised at what’s really filling up your day. Once you know what is taking up your time, you can decide where changes need to be made. Cut the leash Technology has made communication and flexible working so much easier, but it also means that you tend to work 24/7. Both parents and colleagues expect your attention all hours of the day. Ideally, this problem should be addressed on a whole school level, but there are also a few things you can do on your own to cut the electronic leash. First, it was Mxit, then it was BBM and now it’s Whatsapp that have and are completely
changing the way we communicate. And yes, the convenience of using Whatsapp for work can save you lots of time, but it comes at a price, a very steep price. The nature of Whatapp is that it demands your immediate attention, no matter where you are and what you are doing. Even if you decide not to respond to a message immediately, the fact that you saw it already took you out of the moment you were in. And then I am not even talking about the time you spend scrolling through posts on Whatsapp groups that do not even pertain to you. Groups might be an easy way to keep everybody in the loop, but in the long term, it is an ineffective way of communicating. Not only do you receive a lot of messages that do not involve you, but essential information gets buried underneath all those messages, making it difficult to find when you may need it. Thanks to smartphones, emails are not necessarily a better option to keep your job contained to office hours. But at least you have the option to keep your work and private emails separate. And unless there is a reason you need to be contacted 24/7 don’t ever allow your school email to push through to your phone. It might be convenient to read your emails in the queue at Checkers, but it is not worth it. You might even want to go as far as setting an automated reply on your school email informing parents that you will attend to their email the next day at school. Set up systems Somebody once told me that resolutions fail, but systems last. Spend a bit of time at the start of the year to create systems that will save you time. Having an effective filing system in your class and on your computer ends up saving you hours of searching for things that you know should be there. The same applies to checking books, marking tests, photocopying and most other time-consuming tasks. When creating time-saving systems, I find checklists super valuable. Most of us have a to-do list we use to keep track of everything we still need to do - but checklists can go so much further. We spend hours of precious time trying to remember what needs to be done, where a
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checklist could solve the problem. For example, have a checklist of everything that needs to be done at the end of each term. Or a checklist of everything you need to do when you set an exam paper. This will eliminate the time wasted by trying to remember what needs to be done and cleaning up the mess caused by the things you forgot. Batch tasks When I started blogging, I learned all about batching. Since then, I have saved hours by using batching with my school work. Batching is based on the principle that doing similar aspects of different tasks together takes less time than doing a task from start to finish. Just think about it, doing all the photocopying for the next week or term is a lot more efficient than running down to the photocopier for every class or activity you plan. For example, when you plan lessons for the next week, the first batch would be to plan all the activities while making a list of everything you will need to create, photocopy or get ready for the activities. But donâ€™t get distracted by actually creating these resources - that would be the
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next batch. Now that you know what you need to create, you can focus solely on finding and creating what you need. The last batch would be to do the photocopying or posting of the tasks. This way you can prepare for 5 - 10 lessons in the time it would have taken you to prepare one. Divide and conquer. It is unlikely that you are the only teacher at your school, and even if you are, social media makes it very easy to link up with teachers all over the country. Spend a bit of time in 2020 to join or create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) of awesome teachers with whom you can share ideas, resources, and collaborate. Collaboration starts with your colleagues at school. Set up systems - yes, we are back to that - that enable you and your colleagues to share your planning and resources quickly and easily. Teaching will never be a nine-to-five job, but by implementing these six hacks, you may just find that you are able to keep your job from taking over the whole of 2020. Renate Rohrs
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10 Back-to-school ideas for primary schools The first week of school is very different to the rest of the term. It is a time of getting to know one another, getting to know classroom routines and discipline procedures, and setting goals for the rest of the year. It’s a time of leaving behind the summer holidays and settling down to hours of work routines for the rest of the year. A teacher can make this first week a special time for the learners. This article presents ten useful Back to School ideas, some of which have a digital spin for those who have access to digital devices with Internet access. 1. GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER’S NAMES Play the name game A new class, new teacher, a new year! After telling the class a little about yourself, think about playing the Name Game. There are many variations of the Name Game, so you can make up your own. One variation is to do it rhythmically, with clapping. Everyone stands in a circle. The first person starts and says their first name and mentions two things they like doing. Take a look at this YouTube video which shows a class doing a variation of the Name Game: Jump In, Jump Out (Ice Breaker Name Game) http://bit.ly/2yM7Xkm (2.01 mins) Create a name wordsearch After this the class could individually complete a ‘Who’s Who’ wordsearch to see how many first names from the class they can remember. You can easily create this wordsearch at Discovery Education’s Free Puzzlemaker site: http:// puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/ Create an avatar What about doing a name activity with a digital twist and getting your learners to create an 10 | Teacha! Magazine
avatar? An avatar is a little character that represents a computer user. It takes the place of an actual photo of a learner. Often an avatar is only a replica of the learner’s face. There are many free programs one can use, but the one site my classes love is www.cartoonify.de. You could set up a shared Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation and each person could add their created avatar with their first name and two things they like doing, so that everyone can take a look. 2. DEAL WITH THE PHRASE ‘I CAN’T’ An activity I love is called “Let’s deal with ‘I can’t’”. Many teachers will be familiar with hearing the phrase ‘I can’t…’ coming from a learner’s lips. This is the start of a defeatist attitude. We want out learners to see struggles as a productive part of the learning process. A great way to tackle these ‘I can’ts’ is to hand out strips of paper for each learner to write out their three main ‘I can’t’ phrases.
Then collect them in a container and explain that you will be burying them and they are not to be repeated again in the classroom. You can read more about this activity in Cassie Tabrizi’s blog post http://bit.ly/34vMIR7
find lists of these on the Internet – here is one created by Brightdrops: http://bit.ly/2r2VtEx. Let your class each choose a quote that inspires them, and illustrate it. To add the digital twist, use www.quozio.com to create an online quote and download it.
3. SET GOALS FOR THE YEAR 5. CREATE A POSITIVE CLASSROOM CULTURE Dear Myself It is a good idea for the learners to think about the year ahead and create goals for themselves. Let them write a letter to themselves at the beginning of the year. You could provide them with an attractive paper to write this on. Let them write about the goals and hopes they have for their upcoming school year. Encourage them to give themselves advice on how to reach their goals. You could even let them measure themselves with string and cut off a piece that is their exact height. They then roll up the letter like a scroll, tie the string around it and place them in a box. You can bring these out right at the end of the year to see if they achieved their goals. You can read more about this activity in Cassie Tabrizi’s blog post http://bit.ly/34vMIR7. To give this activity a digital twist, the learners could open Google Docs or Microsoft Word and use voice typing to write their letters to themselves. They would then add their height to the letter, and share the document with you. Dr Seuss quotes as a source of inspiration Dr Seuss created some of the world’s most famous children’s books and illustrations. He is also remembered for his life-changing quotes. You can
Do you have a motivational system set up in your classroom? Class Dojo, www.classdojo.com, is a free, online behaviour management system intended to encourage positive learner behaviours and classroom culture. Learners earn 'Dojo Points' based on their classroom conduct. Teachers use Class Dojo to keep parents up to date on their child’s progress and classroom happenings. This site will motivate your learners. 6. INTRODUCE CODING The Hour of Code Why not introduce coding to your class right in the first week? Coding is said to be the new literacy. It equips learners with skills that are important in future. In order to compete in the current global economy, learners need to have a comprehensive skill set that includes technology. The best time to introduce this is when they are young. You could get all your learners to join https://code.org/. They could start with K-5 activities and even do these at home. The Hour of Code is part of Code.org. Millions of learners in 180 countries complete the hour of code every December – but it is available all year with no experience needed. Coding offline If you don’t have Internet access or computer devices, your learners can practise coding offline. Download these free, printable Scratch blocks for them, found at at http://bit.ly/2M45pVs. They could also have fun making a free binary code bracelet. http://bit.ly/38ICAHY You would need to join Instructables first to sign in and download the binary code instructions. 7. THREE EXTREMELY USEFUL WEBSITES FOR ANY TEACHER Classroom Screen Have you tried this free web tool called Classroom Screen? It can be found at https:// classroomscreen.com. Classroom Screen is a one-stop-shop with 12 useful widgets you can use Teacha! Magazine | 11
while teaching or while your learners are working. No matter what you teach, as long as you have a projector, interactive whiteboard, or television in your classroom you’ll be able to use Classroom Screen to: write and display text in a large range of languages; customise your background; use the random name selector or roll dice; monitor classroom noise levels; generate QR codes; draw; provide work symbols; provide a visual reminders of when to move around, begin a task, pack up etc; use a timer to count up or count down, record “laps”, and more, and show a clock and calendar. It is an amazing tool for any teacher. Class Tools.net Class Tools.net, www.classtools.net is a free site for teachers, created by teacher Russel Tarr. This site has useful free tools to integrate into your lessons, including Fakebook, graphic organizers, generate a QR code scavenger hunt and video game makers. These are great to use in the first week of school. Chrome Music Lab The Chrome Music Lab (CML) https://musiclab. chromeexperiments.com/, created by Google , is a fantastic online resource for teachers and learners. It’s simple to use and its main aim is to allow users to explore sound and create with sound. Perhaps you would want your learners to create rules for a Maths concept or a language concept, or classroom rules for the year and then express this as a song. 8. BLOGGING Think about getting your learners to create blogs if they have access to the Internet and computer devices they can use. We use Blogger in my classes, but Edublogs is also free. Blogging develops writing, reading, speaking, listening, critical thinking, problem solving and a host more of creative skills. Learners can add colour, movement, images, video, audio, and multimedia to their blogs. Think about joining the free Edublogs Blogging Challenge which is held twice a year with the next one probably starting in February or March 2020 https://
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studentchallenge.edublogs.org/ . Your learners will learn everything they need to learn about blogging, while they connect with learners from around the world. 9. BRAIN BREAKS Have you experimented with brain breaks in your classroom? Brain breaks are mental breaks designed to help learners stay focused and attentive. The brain breaks get learners moving so as to carry blood and oxygen to the brain. The Learning Station presents 32 great, free, brain break videos online – my classes really enjoy these. http://bit.ly/38RYo4f 10 READING SITES FOR LEARNERS Reading is vitally important because it improves a learner’s vocabulary, leads to more highlydeveloped language skills and improves the learner's ability to write well. .A person who knows how to read can educate themselves in any area of life they see fit. Introduce your class, right from Day 1, to some of the free reading sites that are available on the Internet. Examples can be found at 11 Free Reading Websites for Kids https://blog. reallygoodstuff.com/11-free-reading-websites-forkids/. Think about trying out some of these ideas in 2020, and, why not share some of your own back-toschool ideas with us as well! Fiona Beal
STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS DISCIPLINE IN THE CLASSROOM PD points: 5
Understand what positive classroom discipline is about
Recognise the meaning of ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’
Learn how to design a classroom discipline plan
Develop strategies to manage learner behaviour in a positive way
Realise the importance of character development and instilling values in maintaining positive discipline
WORKSHOP OVERVIEW This is an interactive workshop about developing strategies to manage learner behaviour. It focuses on positive attitudes and the development of supportive relationships with learners to create a disciplined learning environment.
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20/20 Vision Pinterest Perfection vs Realistic Imperfection
Stacey Kirk 14 | Teacha! Magazine
We have all seen them, those Pinterest posts of brightly coloured, themed and seemingly perfect classrooms. Those classrooms that are colour-coordinated, meticulously labelled and functionally systematic. Those classrooms that, let’s be honest, put the ordinary to shame! As a teacher who frequents Pinterest territory for ideas and inspiration, I can admit that I have on many an occasion, experienced “Pinterest Pressure”. That commonly diagnosed condition amongst teachers of which the symptoms are: increased expectations, self-doubt, unnecessary comparisons and a sense of longing. I am by no means disputing the fact that Pinterest, in all its glory, serves as a melting pot for creativity and inspiring classroom ideas but I am cautioning against using it as a measuring stick for one’s own reality. The fact of the matter is, that while we all aspire to reach perfection within our professional capacity, we can just as
an imperfect place of wonderful learning opportunities, joy and magic moments. Together with my learners, we experience success, we experience failure and we experience success through our failure. We learn to embrace the quirkiness, our differences and similarities. We learn to support one another through the challenges and understand that everyone’s measure of success is different. We build character and learn to value our little community. My classroom may not be Pinterest perfect but that does not mean that good things don’t happen. In fact, my classroom is perfect because we are all wonderfully imperfect! This is a fact that I can admit has taken me a while to acknowledge and embrace. It is important to note that that is not to say that every year I don’t strive to enhance my skill set, better my practice and improve on my areas
"What we do matters and it matters every day" easily drop the ball and shift our focus from what truly matters. It is only natural for us to start the year off brighteyed and bushy-tailed, our inspiration tanks filled and ready to go but as soon as we hit our first pothole we stumble... We waver, we tire, and we doubt. At some point, the everyday challenges that we as teachers face catches up with us and we realize that no matter how much we try to hide behind our beautifully coloured classrooms and wall charts, on the inside…we are not perfect. What happens when no one is watching is not perfect. Our children are not perfect and sometimes things get messy. Yet in the midst of the messiness and the imperfection, the most amazing and meaningful learning opportunities may arise. In allowing yourself to loosen the reigns of perfection a little, and allow your space of learning to become safe environments that welcome imperfection, we unlock the magic found in the ordinary. In essence, we enhance the ordinary and allow it to evolve into the extraordinary. Along the way on my personal teaching journey; I have made peace with the fact that I am an imperfect teacher with an imperfect classroom and imperfect planning skills! Yet despite my imperfections, my classroom has become
of weakness. As teachers, we are called to be reflective practitioners in our own right - We reflect at the end of every lesson, at the end of every day, at the end of every term, and at the end of every year. Reflection leads to correction and improvement. However, I encourage you to not get so wrapped up on the reflecting and correcting part that we lose sight of the magic moments that inadvertently take place in between. Everything exists in a delicate balance – allow your search for perfection to exist in a balance with your acceptance of imperfection. What we do matters and it matters every day, which is why it is not always easy. Be kind to yourself and others. Just as we encourage our children to make and learn from mistakes, allow yourself to make mistakes so that you too can learn and grow. Whether your classroom is Pinterest worthy or not, know that YOU, as a teacher, are worthy! Success and excellence is subjective, so set your own bar from which you choose to measure your greatness – align your vision for your classroom in the New Year with values and principles that you hold dear. Seek to be the best version of yourself that you can be – we may not all be Pinterest perfect but we are WONDERFULLY IMPERFECT and that counts too!
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Bullying vs Conflict vs Being Mean Anyone in a relationship, or even in contact, with another person will probably at some stage experience conflict. For example, one friend might want to play video games; the other might want to go outside. One friend thinks he should be the goalie in a soccer game; the other feels that she is the one who should be the goalie. Conflict is a normal part of life. Bullying, however, is different from conflict. Bullying is done with a goal to hurt, harm, or humiliate. With bullying, there is often a power imbalance between those involved, with power defined as elevated social status, being physically larger, or as part of a group against an individual. Then, to make things more confusing, it can also be said that all bullying is mean, but not all mean behaviour is bullying. Children can be mean to each other. They can be rude, and they can be unfriendly. Know that your child will most definitely be the recipient of one or more mean comments or actions at some point during his school years, but unless it is ongoing, repeated intimidation or meanness directed at your child, it is not bullying. So how does one tell the difference? Bullying scenarios might look like this: Someone convinces a group to tease another student based on their looks; someone threatens to beat a person up because of how they talk; somebody posts something untrue and hurtful online about someone else; or someone trips a classmate and makes everyone laugh at the person falling down. Oftentimes, behaviours labelled as 16 | Teacha! Magazine
bullying are better defined as socially-concerning situations that need support. Rude behaviour (based on thoughtlessness or manners forgotten in the moment but not meant to hurt someone) or mean behaviour (intentionally hurting someone’s feelings once or twice and usually motivated by angry feelings or low self-esteem) can often be resolved with careful, active support from educators and parents. When children are in confusing situations that involve conflict and invariably, hurt feelings and tears, it can be very difficult for parents. The following questions might guide you in figuring out if the situation should be classified as bullying or not • Are the children involved equals in the situation? • Does your child feel victimized or targeted by an individual or a group? • Does your child feel safe? • Does your child feel that the person or group has intentionally hurt or humiliated him/her? • Is the situation one that occurs regularly? Reference: Rigby, K. (2008). Children and bullying: How parents and educators can reduce bullying at school. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
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A fresh new school year
As we enter the beginning of a new school year, it is the ideal opportunity to start anew. Freshen up your ideas, the dĂŠcor in your classroom and the way in which you approach the New Year.
(such as sequin pillows or rubber tools) ready for those who benefit from it and check whether an occupational therapist has given specific suggestions.
Begin the year by looking at the class list and ensuring that you have enough furniture in the room. Step back and have a look at the room. Would each individual learner be able to see the board? Do you need curtains to limit the glare or to block out the heat? Is your room tough to negotiate or are there several ways to get access to the different areas? Are there areas, which are always messy, and how is it that you could tidy it up?
Tired of posters curling up or marked with holes? Use strong fold back or bulldog clips to hang your posters on wire hangers or use trouser hangers. You could also file smaller pictures or A4 posters with your lesson plans. You do not need to laminate everything at first. Use clear plastic to cover your posters or plastic filing sleeves and cover smaller items (such as flash cards) with clear packaging tape. Once you are sure that you like the specific resources and find that they are useful, you could then have them laminated.
Organising storybooks in magazine bins (according to theme, author or level) has been really helpful in cleaning up my bookshelves. Simply take out the specific bin and keep the rest of the shelf neat and tidy. Think of ways to support learners who require more movement. A latex band around the front legs of a chair provides a simple way for the feet to bounce and move. Have fidget tools 18 | Teacha! Magazine
Clean your writing board well and ensure that lines are drawn prior to the first day. Remove the clutter on your walls and decide on having basic information such as number charts, an alphabet frieze, a weather chart and a calendar. Should you decide on decorating your door, think of connecting the design with a theme or an age appropriate design. You could connect a basic
colour scheme to various themes, e.g. yellow with bees, lions, leopards, cheetahs, stripes or dots and blue with aspects of flight, space or the ocean. Go through each learner’s profile and check in with the previous classroom and support teachers. Are there pertinent details that you should know about or information that would help you to start off on the right foot? Keep confidential information locked away and secure computer files with a password. Most schools keep personal data and records in the school’s vault, but you may often need to access certain information (such as assessment details) more regularly. Keep track of important dates – using an electronic or printed calendar. A hardcover workbook could be an ideal way to write down information, to track attendance and to use as an assessment or mark book. It would always be best to have digital copies or to add marks to the school’s assessment software. Talk to the office personnel and computer experts about how you should store digital information securely. Line containers with plastic bags to create mini garbage bins for groups or desks. Create pigeonholes for worksheets and decide if you are going to provide enough for various groups or just for each subject. It could be beneficial to have a filing system for the days of the week, so that learners can access worksheets they had missed out on when they were absent. Does your school support recycling and how would you promote it in you class? There are various programs available (such as tabs and tags for wheelchairs), which could generate money for a good cause or for the school. You do not always need to have a specific cause in mind and could simply recycle items such as paper and food scraps to be used in the school’s compost heap. Think of simple ways in which you could make a birthday memorable or make a learner feel special. Decide how you would like your learners to line up and how you would address aspects such as having them go to the bathroom (e.g. younger learners at a specific time before each break, older learners one at a time when they need to go, etc.).
Ensure that you know the protocol regarding excursions and plan trips well in advance. Brush up on your knowledge of the school’s rules and confirm what the school’s dress code is before buying a new wardrobe. It is always better to make a good impression and to have more professional articles of clothing ready for assemblies or special events, but you would need something more practical to wear when you are working on the carpet or hanging new curtains. Prepare something special for the first day, such as introductory activities about the first themes or the school on the respective desks. Have nametags ready to pin or use stickers. Older learners could write their own names as they enter your classroom. Should you have much younger learners, their parents might want to take pictures of the special day. Ensure that they have a welcoming message on the board or a few spaces where they could take a memorable photo or two. Write a welcome letter to the parents of your learners and tell them about your basic expectations. You could add it to your classroom blog or website and share how you would like to be contacted. Should you choose to use specific apps to communicate with parents, mention it in your letter and show them how it works at your first parent information evening. Prepare ideas for future activities and brainstorm ways to implement it. Ask your colleagues for advice – as they would have had experience with best practices at your school. Sharing ideas and checking in for a few minutes each day, helps to build a sense of camaraderie and could be valuable in the long run. Reflect on the successes of the first few days and write down aspects, which could use some changes. Brainstorm ways to make these changes and discuss it with your grade level partners. After all, teachers are life-long learners and this is how we model teamwork. May you have a wonderfully successful school year in 2020! Juffer "My Klaskamer"
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Toolbox Talk: Food Allergies With the new year, comes the excitement of a class full of new learners…with their own set of new personalities, but for teachers of children with food allergies, the excitement is quickly replaced with nervousness. Teachers play a vital role in keeping children with food allergies safe at school. There are many sources of allergens that can cause an allergic reaction - but one of the most common allergens is food. So, whether you are at a school that provides learners with food or at a school where parents pack lunchboxes, children are constantly being exposed to allergens. Some parents might be aware of allergies their child might have and disclose this to you as teacher, but other allergies might be discovered for the first time at school (especially when working with young children.).
• • • • • • • • •
Repetitive cough Shock or circulatory collapse Itching or tightness in throat, hoarse throat, trouble swallowing, Swelling or itching of tongue, lips, mouth or eyes Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose Weak pulse and/or lowered blood pressure Pale or blue colouring of skin Dizziness or feeling faint Anaphylaxis – life threatening
There is unfortunately no medication to prevent food allergies. The goal of treatment is to avoid the foods to which the child is allergic to – like the Edward Coke quote, “Precaution is better than cure!” Anaphylaxis:
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies are estimated to affect 4 – 6 percent of children. The most common foods that cause 90% of allergic reactions are milk, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, shellfish, fish, wheat and eggs with milk, peanuts and eggs being the most common among children. Once the allergen is consumed it usually causes a reaction within minutes up to two hours. Allergic reactions to food most often involve the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system and the respiratory tract. Symptoms can range from an uncomfortable reaction to life threatening. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergic reactions to food may surface in the following ways: • • • •
Vomiting Diarrhoea and/or stomach cramps Hives, Eczema or red spots Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and/ or wheezing
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Anaphylaxis is the most serious reaction to allergens there is. This reaction is lifethreatening, causing a whole-body allergic reaction that can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pleasure and effect your heart rate. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment. If not treated properly, anaphylaxis can be fatal. Some health care providers may prescribe an emergency kit that contains epinephrine, which helps stop the symptoms of severe reactions. Prevention: Most children who suffer from food allergies attend school happy and safely every day. The key to success is to form a partnership with clear communication between the parents, the child and the school. •
Teachers must be aware of the child’s allergies and know what triggers the child needs to avoid at school.
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Teachers need to be familiar with signs of an allergic reaction. Teachers should raise awareness of food allergies among learners in the class. Teachers should have name lists of learners with allergies, visible in their classroom. Teachers can create the “no-sharing” rule. Teachers can ask parents for “safe snacks” for unplanned events. Teachers should make sure children wash their hands on a regular basis. Schools with cafeterias can post the menu in advance to allow parents to identify potentially unsafe meals. Pictures of the children with food allergies can be placed behind the counter in the cafeteria. Special seating arrangements can be made in the cafeteria to minimize exposure. Children that are old enough should know
their allergies, learn how to recognise the symptoms of a reaction and if an issue occurs, tell an adult immediately. In severe cases teachers should discuss an emergency action plan with parents and have the necessary medication authorisation forms completed. Epinephrine injectors should be clearly marked with the child’s name and these should be checked on a regular basis that they have not expired during the school year. Learners with severe allergies should wear medical identification jewellery.
Let’s strive to live by the wise words of Charles M. Hayes – Safety first is safety always. Nolene Theron
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Encourage, but don’t praise: a new theory of affirming children Lauren Brown, Student Development Unit/Cognitive Development Specialist
What makes a child do well in school? Common answers to this question normally include a high IQ, a terrific school, well-run lessons, skilled teachers, a creative curriculum, and high expectations. Although all these things help,
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the real secret of great learning lies elsewhere – inside children themselves. A child’s view of his/her own ability to achieve a goal (a concept known as self-efficacy) is a powerful indicator of school success.
Carol Dweck, author of Mind-set: The New Psychology of Success (2006) believes that implicit or inner views of ability have a significant impact on a child. Children who have a “fixed mind-set” believe that success is based on innate ability. Results or outcomes are normally seen as a measure of this innate ability. The problem with the fixed mind-set is that it is a breeding ground for distorted assumptions. For example, if I achieve a below average result on a test then I could mistakenly deduce that my innate ability is below average. It is mistaken because there are a number of external variables that influence test scores, including whether or not I ate breakfast that morning. In contrast to this mind-set, having a growth mind-set views success as something based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness. Under this perspective, what becomes far more important than the actual test score are the child’s inner qualities, over which he/she has more control in the first place. Changing how one affirms one’s child can be a very powerful way of formulating a growth mindset. It all comes down to the difference between encouraging a child and praising a child. Gunderson et al. (2013:1526) explain: “Encouraging a child’s effort helps him to adopt incremental motivational frameworks: he believes ability is malleable, attributes success to hard work, enjoys challenges, and generates strategies for improvement. In contrast, praising a child’s inherent abilities [to which the outcome is attributed] helps him to adopt a fixed-ability framework.” Praising focuses on outcome and innate ability: “Wow, you got an A for your test!” Encouraging involves affirming a child’s character and personal decisions: “Wow, I’m so proud of how hard you chose to prepare for this test!” It may seem like a simple shift to make, but it is not as easy as it seems. Society, in general, seems to focus more on praise, to which we, as adults have become accustomed. Encouraging a child requires an awareness of the inner qualities that contribute towards success, some of which include:
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Self-disciplined Courageous Confident Determined Enthusiastic Goal-orientated Orderly Persistent Responsible Creative Energetic Reliable Self-assured Patient Resourceful Tenacious Helpful Insightful
Not only is the development and exercising of these qualities within a child’s control, but these qualities are also longer-lasting and more farreaching in terms of impact than, for example, an A on an English assignment. So next time your child tells you his Maths mark, try saying, “Well done for being so persistent in the work you did to get that mark!” or “You approached your studying in such a goalorientated way, and it seems that this really paid off!” You might be pleasantly surprised by the impact it has. References De Lisi, M. & Vaughn, M. (2011). The importance of neuropsychological deficits relating to selfcontrol and temperament. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies. 1 & 2: 12-35. Gunderson, E.A., Gripshover, S.J., Romero, C., Dweck, C., Goldin-Meadow. & Levine, S.C. (2013). Parent praise to 1-3-year-olds predicts children’s motivation framework 5 years later. Journal of Child Development. 84(5): 1526-1541. Skinner, E., Johnson, S. & Snyder, T. (2005). Six Dimensions of Parenting: A Motivational Model. Parenting: science and practice. 5(2): 175–235
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Our first PBL adventure - why we’re trying it again even though it ‘flopped’ During my first few weeks of teaching in a primary school, I did not know what was about to hit me when our group of schools announced that we would be following a Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach and that our third term content should be transformed into a PBL module. At first I was quite negative about this approach, as I am convinced by research that explicit instruction is more effective and that so-called innovative pedagogies can be a waste of very valuable teaching time. When I hear “Fourth Industrial Revolution” “The 4 Cs” or “Preparing students for jobs that don’t exist,” I zone out as I know that proper domain knowledge is required in order for kids to engage with it. However, after seeing the end result of our project, I would highly recommend the use of PBL, or at least some kind of hybrid version in the classroom. What is regarded as Project Based Learning? PBL is not just a fancy word for a project, there are a few important elements that make PBL, PBL: Comprehensive project-based learning, according to Wikipedia: • is organized around an open-ended driving question or challenge. • creates a need to know essential content and skills. • requires inquiry to learn and/or create something new. • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of
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• • •
communication, often known as 21st century skills. allows some degree of student voice and choice. incorporates feedback and revision. results in a publicly presented product or performance.
HOW DID WE GET STARTED? We were fortunate enough to have had Lindsay Wesner, Chief Edumagineer at Teach.Learn. Innovate guide us through creating our first PBL unit. Over a few weeks (it was a bit drawn out) we were able to break down the silos of our curriculum and see how we could integrate our content into one amazing PBL unit. The most difficult part of this process was definitely the question setting aspect. Once you have your driving question, as well as the content that needs to be covered, the rest of the unit almost flows naturally into a masterpiece of interlinked activities. My teaching environment includes more than 5 class teachers in every grade and since we teach at different schools, we have many different perspectives. This also helped us to create the project, as one school might have tried something before that another school hadn't. Working together as a group of teachers really made a huge difference. We were also able to split up the preparation work according to our strengths. During our final design process, we also had extra input from our EdTech leaders in our schools,
as well as Lindsay. This was the final push we needed to get everything ready for our big launch. MORE ABOUT OUR PROJECT • Our grade 5s were asked “How can we make our school more energy efficient?” We worked hard to ensure that we had a cross-curricular approach. Mainly, however, this was between English and NST. We had a detective theme and called ourselves Energy Detectives. This enabled us to make investigations more fun, such as using clues to find out about new tasks, cracking codes at the launch to find out exactly what our theme was and investigating where and how electricity was being used at our school.
do away with reports in the third term. This helped us to focus less on getting marks in and rather on getting everyone to meet curriculum requirements. Behaviour. I would suggest tailoring the project on how well your children can work independently, without being policed. It takes time to change kids’ mindsets to “It’s okay to fail and struggle” - especially in an environment where they are used to being over-nurtured. Due to some lawnmower parents, PBL was given the nickname “PBHell” which is unfortunate. Do parents not want their kids to be challenged? Do they prefer being sent home a task that they or their child’s tutor can do?
WHAT WENT WRONG? SOME EXCELLENT THINGS THAT HAPPENED •
It took too long to complete, we didn’t realise how many disruptions we have as a school, we lost a bit of momentum, we planned activities that we didn’t get to and while we were working through some of the activities on our roadmap, we realised that at times it was irrelevant or rather seen as a “filler”. Because we ran out of time, we didn’t end our project as we had planned. One school managed to have an authentic audience to present their findings to, but we only had the principal and management team come in to view our kids’ final presentations. We didn’t implement any of their findings.
As in any other school, we have children with a very wide range of abilities. Pairing the children (even though they think it is random) is imperative in this regard. We need marks! We were lucky enough to
Our launch was excellent and the kids enjoyed working through the clues to find out what their project will be. If a visitor walked into the class and asked what they were doing, they would tell you “We are busy working out how we can make our school more energy efficient.” Though we did very little formal teaching, kids really have learnt a lot. We know this because of the questions they can answer about the topic. I sat in on another class’ presentation about geothermal energy and if it would be possible to use this at all in our school. Their peers asked them many valuable questions about the topic that they could answer in depth, for example, what is the impact that geothermal energy has on the environment? For a grade 5 student to ask and answer these questions accurately is quite remarkable. Though we do not want our kids to be under too much pressure, pushing them to achieve
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more and to have high expectations enables them to produce excellent work. Our final presentations were judged by grade 6 teachers, the principal and deputy principal, we chose these judges as they have the perceived power to make a change in school policy. Having an authentic audience to present to is essential to the success of the project. It gives them a chance to be heard and their ideas to be implemented. It also teaches them to keep their new audience in mind. When we usually do orals or some kind of project where our learners need to do verbal feedback or a presentation, we do not often give them a chance to do a practice run where we can give them feedback to improve and try again. I was amazed by how the learners took advice from “I like” and “I wonder” - watch your language - and then changed up their final presentations to include the recommendations. I found myself saying that their work was good and asked them what they need to do in order to make it excellent. A good example of this was the way that kids always introduce orals - “Good morning Mnr Vermeulen and class, today we are going to bore you with our presentation.” I referred my class to some Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den episodes and asked them if they ever see anyone saying “Good afternoon, Sharks, my presentation is about...” when they start their presentation. One excellent example in my class was a group who worked on incorporating solar energy in our school. They posed a question to the class “How many hours of sunshine do you think we have in South Africa?” and the class was immediately engaged. After this group was complimented by the judges about their intro
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and we had a debriefing session, one member gave me a hug and thanked me for the advice with the words: “You know, Meneer, it helps to listen to your teachers every now and again!” See, we are still needed, and PBL is not just a process of throwing a topic at kids and making them learn skills and content through osmosis. The learners actually solved the problem. Most suggestions were well-researched, they were and are implementable and will be able to make a real change. Some, of course, were not. However, this does not mean that the “outcome” wasn’t reached. Mostly it was because of a grade 5’s vivid imagination and dreaming big, and as our school motto says “If you dream it, it is no legend” - an idea might seem unattainable now, but it can develop into a solution that could prove to solve many problems in the future.
My colleagues from all three of our schools deserve a standing ovation for their effort and perseverance to make this happen. When things are new, it’s scary, and after our feedback session to reflect on our projects it was great to see teachers acknowledging where and how they went wrong. We have learnt from each others’ mistakes and have adjusted the project accordingly for 2020. I’m excited to make the improved project happen this year! I have shortened the article due to space constraints in the magazine, but check in to teacha. co.za for the full outcome of our PBL Project. Jean Vermeulen is a grade 5 teacher, the founder of Teacha! and the editor of Teacha! Magazine.
Icebreaker with a Venn Diagram during the first week of school! What is a Venn Diagram? A Venn Diagram is an illustration that shows the relationships between sets or groups that share something in common - it shows what two things may have in common or where two groups or objects intercept. Why make use of the Venn Diagram? • Using an icebreaker as the first activity (opposed to going through the class rule for instance) will get the school year off to a great start. The children will get to know each other and their nerves may calm down a bit. • The Venn diagram makes it possible to find similarities and differences. This helps with organizing both new and known information. In the process, critical thinking is developed. Research has found that activities that
Questions: • Boy or girl? • Birthday? • Favourite colour? • Favourite TV show? • Movie seen during holiday? • What do you want to be when you grow up? • Favourite takeaway?
engage children in comparative thinking has the greatest effect on student achievement (Marzano et al, 2001). How? First explain to the class how a Venn diagram works. Gather groups of two or three children and supply each group with the appropriate Venn Diagram. They then complete the diagram according to provided questions (a typed handout or written on the blackboard). Put their completed diagrams up on the classroom walls and see them reading each others’ answers during the first few weeks! Mari Buys, Speech Therapist
• • • • •
Brothers or sisters? Do you like reading? Colour of eyes? Pets? Etc...
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Teacher to Teacher: Beatrice Miller
All of us have had our different ways of finding teaching as our careers, and after one of my favorite Teacha! articles, Teaching English in South Korea in the previous edition of Teacha! Magazine, it was lovely to delve a bit more into the subject of teaching abroad. This is where our teacher of the term Beatrice Miller comes in. Beatrice dreamed of being in theatre and performance. Ended up studying Linguistics; and then found herself teaching English in South Korea. It was quite a journey, but she did end up finding her path to Disa Primary in ImizamoYethu, where she is now the class teacher for grade 4s and additionally teaches isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Physical Education.
South Korea - which was an amazing experience - but I ended up feeling redundant and I was no longer being challenged by the job (Little did I know then what was waiting for me when I would eventually have my own classroom here in South Africa). After that experience, I felt that I wanted to have an official position in a school and I wanted the responsibility of having my class and a chance to see learners grow through my teaching. On arriving back home, I did my PGCE. I thought it would be easy getting a teaching post after this - but there were only a few availabilities after my graduation. Someone actually let me know of a post opening a Disa Primary over a WhatsApp group. I applied and, as they say, the rest is history.
So Beatrice, you said that you dreamed of having an entirely different career choice, how was it that you ended up in a classroom?
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your teaching?
As I previously mentioned, I taught English in
At Disa, we are blessed as our school is funded
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by the Andreas and Susan Struengmann Foundation - we have great financial support, which provides the school with various resources such as technology, specialist teachers and teacher training. We strive for our learners to receive an excellent education. For me, I find that the biggest challenge for me has been ensuring that I am on top of things without sacrificing my own personal (me) time - but isn’t that every teacher’s struggle? Over your years, have you found that your lessons or approach to teaching has changed at all? Yes for sure, it is important that my lessons are relevant to the learners. I also focus on the learners doing and practicing the work on their own - opposed to me standing in front of the class for most of the lesson and me thinking they understand what I’m saying (Disa Primary introduced Project-Based Learning (PBL) into the mix in 2019, and have had great outcomes: Read more about their experience with PBL here). What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers? My two bits of advice would be the following: Get exposure to schools first (volunteering/
work shadow) so that you can figure out what age group you are best suited for. Just because you like children doesn’t mean you will be a great teacher. Secondly, you need to be passionate about education and love what you end up teaching, if you have a negative attitude about what you are doing, your learners will pick it up and become apathetic. As corny as it sounds, when one is feeling the negatives of being underpaid (we all feel it at some stage), it is the children that keep us going. Teaching is extremely rewarding and to see learners improve emotionally, socially and intellectually because of your input is something no one can take away from you. And any last thoughts for those starting afresh this year? Yes, take time to research classroom management strategies and implement a manageable one into your classroom, making sure to be consistent with it. Try to plan ahead and keep on track with marking and assessments to give yourself more personal/ family time over the weekends. Remember, not every day is going to be difficult, it does get easier the more you familiarize yourself with the school and your classroom.
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Why South Africa’s declining maths performance is a worry South Africa’s Department of Basic Education recently released the country’s National Senior Certificate results for the class of 2019. These are commonly known as the “matric results” and they determine school-leavers’ admission and placement into tertiary level study. About 81.3% of those who wrote the matriculation exams passed. There has been much welldeserved celebration of this achievement of the highest post-apartheid national matric pass rate. What the country is not hearing about from the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is the drop in performance in mathematics. It is one of the “gateway” subjects, subjects which are considered critical for the country’s economic growth and development. This decline can be measured in two ways. There is a reduction in the number of students writing mathematics from 270,516 in 2018 to 222,034 in 2019. The second measure is the performance: only 54% of the pupils who wrote the exam passed it. This pass rate is down from 58% in 2018. The minimum score for a pass is 30%. This means only 54% of mathematics exam candidates achieved a mark of at least 30%. Of all the maths candidates only 2% (4,415) achieved 30 | Teacha! Magazine
distinctions. A distinction is a score of 80%-100%. This is down from 2.5% in 2018. Why does this matter? The drop in numbers of pupils writing the grade 12 mathematics exam should be of great concern. Performance in mathematics matters for university entrance. Without it, school leavers are not eligible for programmes at university in science or engineering or some in commerce. A decline signals the closing of the doors of opportunity in these fields to a growing number of students. This will only increase inequality. Economics researcher Nic Spaull’s research has shown that the top 200 high schools in the country produce 97% of the mathematics distinctions. The majority of these schools charge significant fees. The deterioration in performance is also of great concern. Getting a pass (30%) may secure a diploma or university entrance but these low pass marks will not prepare students to succeed at mathematics at university level. This development runs contrary to the needs of the fourth industrial revolution, which requires highly competent graduates in the science, technology, engineering
and maths areas. Strong performance in mathematics is essential for careers in computing, programming, finance and machine learning. Universities need to shoulder the blame Universities cannot absolve themselves of this national challenge. At the University of Cape Town data from the Courses Impeding Graduation project is being analysed to better understand incoming students’ challenges, specifically in courses like Mathematics 1. In this course a worrying pattern of performance emerged. A minimum mark of 70% for maths in matric is needed to get into Mathematics 1 at the university. Based on several years of data, an average of 33% of students fail this course. Those students who enter with a 90% mark for maths in matric score a pass in Mathematics 1 with an average mean of 64%. Those students who achieved between 80% and 89% in matric fail the course with an average mean of 47%. Those who achieved between 70% and 79% in matric fail with an average mean of 43%. Unless a student achieved a distinction for mathematics at school level they are at risk
of failing it at university level. Students who fail Mathematics 1 will inevitably take longer to complete their degree and are at higher risk of being excluded from the university. Dealing with the problem The University of Cape Town is taking responsibility for its share in these dismal results. A number of interventions have been put in place over recent years to provide additional support to students. These include â€œmaths labsâ€?, Saturday workshops, and even providing multilingual resources to support students who are not yet fluent in the medium of instruction.
Expert maths teachers have been appointed to lecture this challenging course. But the overall failure rates of approximately one third of the class have remained stubbornly in place. A decision was taken in 2019 to revise the Mathematics 1 curriculum to ensure a greater alignment between schooling and university curriculum. This kind of curriculum review raises a number of complex issues: what is the appropriate content to ensure a relatively seamless transition from school maths to university maths? Do different disciplinary areas like actuarial science, chemistry and engineering need different kinds of mathematics courses?
How can the pacing of the curriculum accommodate different learning needs? How can educational technology support innovative forms of teaching and learning mathematics? These are global issues, not unique to South Africa. The national euphoria around the national pass rate means nothing if it hides problems such as declining mathematics performance. Suellen Shay, Professor, University of Cape Town This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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Student success is about more than hard work It is that time of year again when South Africans celebrate National Senior Certificate results, ushering a generation of youth out of the school system and into the world. Of the 788,717 who successfully completed these exams, 186,058 achieved passes that potentially open the doors of university study. As we read about the results, we take delight in the success stories, like the student from a poorer background scoring multiple distinctions despite having no properly qualified maths or science teacher. Or the rural student who earned a university entrance despite walking long distances to school each day. These achievements should be celebrated, as they are truly exceptional. But the problem with these stories, uplifting as they may be, is that they often carry a subtext. “If he can do it, why can’t the rest of them?” The presumption that hard work alone leads to success – and that laziness leads to failure – follows the student into the university. Here, despite a wealth of careful research that proclaims otherwise, most people believe that success emerges from the intelligence and work ethic of the individual.
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In a recent journal article, we have argued that academics often ignore the research on student failure that shows it emerges from a number of factors. Many of these factors are beyond the attributes inherent in the student. Instead, most hold on to the simplistic common sense assumption that success comes to those who deserve it. Academics who hold this view are prone to assume that students are successful because of what an individual student does or does not do. But the reality is a far more complex interplay of individual attributes with social structures which unfairly affect some more than others. The lure of meritocratic explanations There is a widely held view that education is a meritocracy, where success is determined by the merit of the individual. The term was coined in British sociologist Michael Young’s 1958 book The Rise of the Meritocracy. In it, he described a dystopian society stratified by educational level and intelligence. The term has been appropriated to suggest that those who do well at university do so on the basis of personal effort and acumen rather than as a result of their privileged background.
University academics have access to research looking at the complex mechanisms of higher education. Despite this, many are likely to believe that the university is a meritocracy. Believing that students succeed or fail on their own merits sits more comfortably than scrutinising the role universities play in reinforcing divisions in society. In every country around the world, higher education success most strongly correlates to social class. Parental education levels, wealth, social influence and status are the strongest indicator of university success. But class does not work in isolation from other forces. Social class intersects in varying ways with race, gender, language, and so on. In some countries, for example, race is used as a means of dividing society and assigning social class. In many countries, gender too plays a role in who gets access to the powerful knowledge offered by the academy. All of these factors and more have a role to play. But it is social class that most consistently tracks higher education success across geographical contexts. If you did well at university, chances are that you worked hard and you’re bright. But those two characteristics probably account for a much smaller part
of your success than most of us would care to admit. What class privilege looks like Entering university from a middle-class family doesnâ€™t only confer financial, health, educational, emotional and nutritional benefits. It also provides less visible privileges. A middle-class student probably had role models like relatives who went to university, possibly even the same university, who could explain the university system. Itâ€™s likely that they took part in everyday conversations about professional identities, and they could probably draw on social networks to assist them in adapting to university life and then entering the workplace. The late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued that underprivileged students fail not because they are less intelligent than middle-class students but because the curriculum is biased towards what middle-class students are already accustomed to. It is this that reinforces the relationship between social class and success in higher education around the world. Many of the privileges that middle-class students enjoy are so arcane as to be invisible, even to themselves. These students often bring with them a sense that their role
at university is to engage not just with facts but with the disciplinary rules for how knowledge gets made. Typically they are willing to challenge what is presented to them and to seek flaws in the evidence provided in the texts they encounter. They also have a stronger confidence in their right to be there and to participate fully. These, and many other ways, aid middleclass students to enter the academy primed for success.
being challenged to consider forms of knowledge long omitted by the colonial order.
What needs to happen?
If some students enter the university with easier access to the practices needed for success, nobody can pretend that institutions are a meritocracy rewarding attributes inherent in the individual. Understanding the complex relationship between social class and educational success requires that educators reconsider almost all aspects of their teaching.
Academics who are committed to social justice often have to grapple with the fact that the university does not reward students on the basis of merit so much as on privilege. This calls for teaching in ways that constantly seek to make the expectations of the classroom transparent and the disciplinary norms and values explicit. Teachers need to make these practices clear to students and, in the process, harness studentsâ€™ agency to craft their own place in the world and their own contribution to knowledge. Regular feedback on student work, for example, allows students to begin to see what counts as knowledge in the particular discipline.
The university promises society that it will produce both powerful knowledge and competent graduates adept at using such knowledge to tackle societal and environmental problems. But not all university practices are inherently powerful and much powerful knowledge remains outside its walls.
Sioux McKenna, Director of Centre for Postgraduate Studies, Rhodes University and Simpiwe Sobuwa, Head of Department: Emergency Medical Care & Rescue, Durban University of Technology This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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