It is no doubt that starting up a school year is breath-taking in many ways! New students, staff, timetables, logistical challenges – and all the unexpected issues that pop up every day. The biggest change and excitement is always the new students and what they bring and this year, we have doubled our number of learners from last year. In January, we received 60 new students who had to be integrated and included in our school model, academically and socially.
Each and one of them comes to us with his/her individual story and background that shape his/her ability and understanding of how to be a student, and each one requires different care, attention, and support from all of us. They all have their individual combinations of strength and challenges, and together they create a web of 1) problem-solving processes, decisions and priorities to make; 2) resources and tasks to be aligned; and 3) pedagogical and social issues to be handled.
It has been a hectic term, and I gave myself an exercise at the end of it to check in with the teacher team on how they have experienced it. Is it aligned with how I experienced the term from a school leader perspective? Are their sense of achievements and challenges similar to what I considered to be our biggest tasks?
During the last week before we went on break, I conducted end-of-term meetings with all the teachers and teaching assistants and their responses, did exactly that – it gave me such an excellent reflection of our first term, from the personal and professional issues to the more advanced social and pedagogical issues we have been facing:
Paul. Senior Teacher/Grade R/ Literacy and Numeracy
My biggest achievements this term has been to see the academic progress of my students! They came here in January “blind,” without any understanding of how to be a student, how to learn, how to use learning material such as pencils and books. And now, after one term, most of them can write their names, read simple words and count to 10 and forward.
My second achievement has been to learn and implement the Workshop Model. In the beginning when I was new to it I was so frustrated, thinking that this would never work, but with great support from my colleagues, I am now quite confident and very happy to see how it engages the students in learning. The academic progress we`ve seen is thanks to the Workshop Model.
Dionne. Tutor/Grade R/ Reading & Writing Workshop, Theme & Art, Play based learning
My biggest achievement has been the effect of the social training in our classrooms and that they have grasped the idea and expectations of being a student at Streetlight Schools. Also, I feel so proud that our Grade R students have developed their ability to express their thoughts so well. They come up with so many creative and inspiring ideas! At the same time, I feel that what has been challenging is related to the social challenges our learners bring in, their lack of self-control and limits which we constantly have to address and deal with.
Aletta. Tutor/Grade R/ Fun Math, Play based learning, Theme & Art, PE
I have gained much confidence this term. Being a bit worried whether I would be able to run classes and teach them well, I now feel that I have found my teacher role. The challenge has been to balance energy with focus, to keep my students engaged and concentrating at the same time. It has also been a challenge to be creative with my lesson planning, and it requires much research. For next term, I will focus on being even more consistent with my classroom management and further develop my unit plan and lesson planning, including rubrics.
Christina. Senior Teacher/Grade 1/ Literacy and Numeracy
The progress in Literacy! Half of our students in grade 1 came to us in January and many of them without knowing how to communicate in English. Now, all of them can follow and respond to instructions and can share their work in class. The levelled Literacy courses have been very helpful in this regards. I also have enjoyed our Responsive Classroom work where every morning, we focus on their social skills and choices and combine conversations with practical exercises. For the next term, I intend to take my learners far! To ensure that they progress further academically and socially on a grade 1 level and eventually are ready for year two next year.
Anna. Tutor/Grade 1/ Reading & Writing workshop, Theme & Art, Zulu
I am so proud of myself! I have been able to differentiate work and personal life and to handle challenges more professionally, which has made me more confident as a teacher. I have managed to make my new learners understanding the Workshop Model which was hard in the beginning, but now they all know what is expected of them. Thanks to an all-supportive team around me and our culture that is not judgemental but where observations and feedback are about improvement and development!
Pfano. Tutor/Grade 1/ Practical Math, Theme & Art, Zulu
I am enjoying my teacher confidence! I feel that last year, I laid the foundation for what kind of teacher I am and want to be, and that this year, I can enjoy my good relationship with my students and that they respect me and know my standards. The professional development training that we receive from Instill Education (http://www.instill.education/) is so useful, and I see every day the effect it has on my teaching and my students. Still, being new to teaching, I am always surprised by the challenges you don’t know before they hit you…
Tatenda. Senior Teacher/Grade 2/ Literacy and Numeracy
My biggest achievement this term has been establishing a culture where the learners trust my good intentions! I have been building a trust between the students and me which allows us to also take the difficult conversations in the classroom. Even though I have to address personal and challenging issues with them, we always give a hug and are friends after. Academically, I have achieved this term to set the standards I want to have for learning in my classrooms. I feel that we have made the right foundation for the rest of the year. My primary objective for next term is to further close the educational gap that our students are facing and to even more strengthen and improve on our Responsive Classroom approach with a particular focus on respect for yourself and others.
Brian. Junior Teacher/Grade 2/ Practical Math, Theme & Art, PE
I am so proud of my projects this term! It has been so inspiring to work with the students, from planning and research to drafts and end products. I also feel that my biggest achievement this term is my relationship with my students; I know them well, and I see that they trust me. The biggest challenge has been the huge academic gap between our new and old students and how to accommodate everyone during my classes. My primary objective for next term is to close this gap, and I think with what we have achieved so far, that I will be able to do so.
Nadia. Tutor/Grade 2/ Reading & Writing Workshop, Theme & Art, PE
Thanks to our Curriculum Plan and professional development training, I have been able to implement the unit plans and lessons according to my and the team’s expectations. I have also been able to run my classes well even though I am new to teaching. I still have to work on how I use my voice though and be even more confident as a classroom manager, but that is one of my main objectives for term 2 and with the help and support from our PD training, my mentor, Tatenda, and the other teachers, I will succeed.
To sum up, three strong themes came out of these End of Term meetings with the teachers and tutors:
1. Teamwork: Our teachers are so supportive and appreciative of the support they give to and receive from each other! “Our culture is not judgemental, but where observations and feedback are about improvement and development.”
2. Trust: Our teachers recognize the importance to our culture of building relationships and trust with their students, as well as among the students! “My biggest achievement has been the effect of the social training in our classrooms and that they have grasped the idea and expectations of being a student at Streetlight Schools.”
3. Term 2 objectives: Our teachers recognize they have made progress, especially with the Workshop Model, but are eager to build on the foundation from Term 1 and to continue making academic progress! “My primary objective for next term is to further close the educational gap that our students are facing.”
It feels very good to have Term 1 behind us and looking forward to Term 2! Most importantly, our school model, with the Workshop Model and the Responsive Classroom Approach as our main pillars, has proven again to be a solid foundation and to enable students and teachers to grow academically and socially.