Sunday, May 11, 2008


I took a visit on Thursday (the 17th) to an “alternative” public school called Leap. My friend Ross is a teacher there. And this week happens to be the first week of the first 3 week teaching practicum for student teachers (these are varsity students in their fourth year; so they study for 3 years to get a bachelors degree and the 4th year is a certification year still associated with a university) across the country. So I saw many frightened student teachers given the entire classroom for 3 weeks (though many taught a few different subjects and a few different grade levels).

Leap is a school that reaches out to kids from the townships of Guglethu and Crossroads. It’s only about 160 kids and it’s a pure high school that is still building up. In other words, their highest grade is 11, and these grade 11 students will be the first graduating class next year when they are final year students.

The school is constructed so that the hallway of the school, though initially beginning with staff rooms and storage rooms on its right and left, goes through classrooms. So, to get to the other end of the building or to classroom on the other end, you must walk through 2 other classrooms. This can be very unnerving especially for the new student teachers getting certified. But after awhile they get used to it.

It was quite wonderful being back in the education field. I normally deal with South African masters and undergraduate students who are not used to coming to lecture having read the material. And so it can be a struggle. But it’s quite wonderful to reach the kids at the level where they divergence between white and black and coloured kids begins in South African society.

At Leap, I met with the Headmaster to discuss working with the school. Lately, I’ve been combining different aspects of my life which is so easy for me to do with my church since they are so socially relevant. So my life group wants to serve in the community and I was trying to facilitate this. Instead of just going in teaching or working with kids alone, I could bring a team of university students including some who would be even closer to the age of the Leap school students. We narrowed on three choices:

  1. A weekly Saturday tutoring project. If it works well and the university students can stay committed we could think about increasing it to a preferred mentoring program.
  2. A weekly Thursday afternoon (2-3:15) creative arts enrichment program. Most likely this will be drama, and it should be rather fun to have a small production finished by the end of the term (half a semester, a quarter).
  3. Spontaneous trips to go caving or hiking for which Ross (my teacher friend) leads. But he can always take more kids if we help

And so we will see. I already know it will be an uphill battle because university students do not want to commit to a weekly thing. They are thinking monthly, but the school doesn’t see that as worthy of investment or academically viable. So I’m caught between the two. Luckily I’ve met Kofi Annan and I’m going to use some of his mediation techniques to work it out. And hopefully this won’t be another bad experience with uncommitted university students. We’ll see.

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