Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Orientation Week, Day Two: The state of Schools in SA and Teaching our Own Lessons

Whoops, this post is a little late. To tell the truth, I was so exhausted by the time I got home that all I managed to do was a little emergency grocery shopping before collapsing onto my bed at about 7pm.

So here's a little catch-up post about what happened yesterday.

Schools in Post-Apartheid SA

 Di showed us Molly Blank's film, "Testing Hope" which follows the lives of 4 South Africans in a township school during the build-up to Matric, the exam, and the aftermath. And I cried like a baby. Beyond what I've already discussed, about the language barriers and so on, these kids have to learn in classrooms that don't have all the facilities available to those in ex-Model C and Independent Schools. And they have to compete with students from those schools for places in Universities. Even if they're the top student in their school, they might lose out to the worst student in an Independent School simply because that student has access to a well-stocked library, computers, the internet, sports facilities, and even basic nutritional requirements.

Di told us that one of her research students has discovered that the biggest barrier to education in South Africa is fetal alcohol syndrome. Teen mothers are given a grant which is supposed to be spent on food for the child, but instead they spend it on alcohol for themselves. And if the father is drunk at the time of conception, the risk for FAS is increased as well.

My, what great role models they have.

Watching it made me wonder if my decision to go to South Korea is a selfish one. But I thought about it some more, and now I think that if I can rake in quite a bit of money in South Korea, then I could possibly return to SA and work in a State School for a year or so (as my salary then won't be as important) and maybe in that way I can try to help. I can always go and teach overseas again after that. I've also decided to apply to tutor English Home and/or Second Language at the GADRA Matric school, which helps matrics who have failed or not achieved the marks they need for university to do so.

Teaching our Own Classes
 A major part of the course consists of us teaching our own classes. First we'll present lessons to our peers - today I am going to be teaching a lesson about Scuba Diving - and then later in the year we'll go to schools and teach real classes. So, last night I planned my very first lesson! I'm starting with a fun quiz about dangerous fish as an ice breaker, bringing in my gear and log book to hand around, and most of the class will (hopefully) consist of them providing the knowledge - I was really impressed with the sense of "Communal Development of Knowledge" that I noticed in Hennie's lecture on Day 1.

Of course, last night I dreamed that I couldn't log onto the computer in the venue in order to play the slideshow, and that the password was "Sparky", and woke up with a sore jaw from grinding my teeth. I woke up at 6 this morning to make sure I was ready in time. Well, I am. An hour and a half early. Gawsh. Anyway, my nerves are killing me, but I think that starting the lesson by standing in front of them with my scuba mask and snorkel on should help to break the ice a bit more. One guy taught the entire year group yesterday, and he was very good and very brave. The class seemed to be very supportive - I think we're all so scared of teaching an unresponsive class of blank faces who can only criticise and are unimpressed that we're also all trying not to be that class. Hal asked a lot of interesting questions in the class, and all the comments on Brett's teaching were in the form of [compliment]+[criticism], which worked nicely and naturally.

So I'm afraid. But I think it will go well.

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