I learned very early on in my teaching career that the training I received which allowed me to teach was woefully inadequate in terms of what I was required to do and what I wanted to achieve in my classroom. In order to change lives and to change the world like I was planning and still do I needed to learn as much as I could all the time.
As a first year teacher at Pinelands North I was introduced to the idea of ongoing professional development as our Principal, Ann Morton and Governing Body believed in the idea that teachers should be encouraged to be learning all the time.
So I started my love affair with workshops, conferences, presentations etc. As a young child I had always valued formal education and knew I would continue to study at university, but these conferences and workshops were so exciting as I could learn about a topic that interested me or I needed to learn about quickly…and try to implement.
Some of the more memorable workshops included a (NUE-NAPTOSA) weekend learning about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in 1999… Wow that changed the way I looked at the children, I have such respect for how this theory changed so many lives, yes we know children learn differently- you just need to have a sibling growing up to discover that…but sometimes when teachers walk into a classroom they forget that children are different too.
When I started teaching in the US I could not believe all the opportunities that presented themselves and I took them with both arms. I had to learn about ‘the programme that would be the gift to education for approximately 4 years’ Success For All, I went to the training and implemented it with great success as I used instinctively what I knew would work for the kids and did not just ingest the entire product. Over two years I taught many young 5-6 year old ESL students to read, write and connect with the English language in a real way. We were invited to write grants, I did and worked with the Atlanta Partnership for Arts in Learning (APAL) where I met Jane Fonda ( she did excellent work through this foundation)…. My class wrote a play through an artist in residency programme with a talented brilliant artist called Felton Eaddy and he came back a year later ( after another grant was written) to write Blues poetry with my class. I also wrote a Grant to an organisation called CINS ( the council for in-town neighbourhoods and schools) and developed an international library in my classroom- it was a beautiful, successful project!
Back home in South Africa since 2002 I have benefitted from brilliant South African speakers like Derek Jackson and international speakers through attending IACESA conferences, SAALED conferences and workshops and NAPTOSA and WCED workshops. My newest passion is Philosophy for Children which I was exposed to through a IACESA conference. I am now in the process of becoming a P4C trainer through the work of Karin Murris at UCT and the inspirational Sara Stanley who I have had the privilege of learning from!
When you learn to carry on learning, what this means for the children you teach is phenomenal. My most recent life changing professional development moment was this year, 2014. Karen Quail, a good friend (coincidently) who is based in Cape Town, has developed two series of workshops, the one is called Discipline for Peace and if you want to change your approach to discipline and need an effective, life giving, positive approach to discipline- this is the way to go! She has also developed Temperament workshops for parents and understanding your child’s temperament, If you have a spouse or partner that you are raising your child with, it is fun and valuable! Enjoy!
FAMSA is another amazing organization which does incredible work, get onto their mailing list and you will find a workshop relevant to your life or context that you should attend. I have done their beginners and advanced counselling courses and they are so well managed, developed and presented. I have also done a workshop on gender identity at PNPS with Ronald Addinall and one hosted by FAMSA, he is a genius in the area of transgender and you will learn so much from him in the short time you spend with him.
During my teaching career I also wanted to complete formal qualifications and did so… I did my Honours in Education in Special Needs when I realized I had a passion for children who learned differently and I did that through UNISA as I Iived in three different cities at that time. I did my Master’s in Education in Applied Language and Literacy Studies at UCT and had always said I would try and get funding for my Masters which I did. I applied to the National Research Foundation and UCT ( you have to apply concurrently) and I received funding which made paying for my studies as a part-time student so much more manageable! Look for these opportunities, apply for funding and allow your dreams to come true, you are not just changing your life, you are changing the lives of the children you teach and that is worth signing up, studying, traveling and waking up early on a Saturday morning!
One of my biggest bug bears is that alllllllllllll these courses I have attended have not been recorded or RECOGNISED as the teaching profession in South Africa does not have an overarching professional body but finally SACE is developing CPTD points for teachers and this is very positive!
So, in the meanwhile keep a record of all the workshops you attend, electronically or with your certificates filed or framed! We need to be proud of any learning we do, we need to show our students and pupils we work with, that we value education and will spend time and energy learning and that sometimes we too will struggle. Be proud of your big achievements, your smaller ones and the moments when you realise that because you have learnt something new you are a better teacher!
I teach to change the world….why do you teach?