Wednesday, 22 August 2012

What happened to the will to learn? ... And the right to teach?

During the past week or so I have become acutely aware of the lack of a culture of learning amongst some of the pupils I teach. Still continuing with my journey of discovery into the state of Government-school education in an urban school in Johannesburg (South Africa), I am completely taken aback by the range of excuses I must listen to:

  • My textbook is too heavy and I don't want to carry it around the whole day
  • I don't have my books here today
  • Why must I take my bag off my table or open any books?
  • Sir, the exercise you have given us to complete for marks is unfair. Why must I now learn MovieMaker? I thought we will only write a cycle test and a class test. This is really unfair. (This is so strange, considering Sir Ken Robinson's views that schools are killing creativity.)

and so the list goes on... (I feel compelled to have video cameras installed in my classroom since this is the kind of footage that parents need to see). I think, once I have collected enough evidence, I can show it to our President. President Zuma said emphatically at the beginning of this academic year that learners must be in class, on time, learning. (My next letter will be to the President...)

I cannot help but be very very worried about the future of our country if the attitude of these students at secondary school level (ages 12-18) is anything to go by. (I feel even more sorry for the future employers) As I have stated in my previous posts, there is surely something seriously wrong with South African's educational system. Systems are, however, driven by people. We can have the most perfect educational system on paper, yet fail dismally since the attitudes of those we wish to serve are all screwed up. I fail to understand what the reasons are for a complete lack of interest in new knowledge or the absence of an eagerness to learn. I truly do.

In the meantime this camel's back is starting to bend in the wake of events such as:

  • The cable of my PC's mouse got cut (despite being an old computer, at least I have one...)
  •  A female student starts to abuse me verbally after I request her to pay attention to the lesson. I am covering work that will be in the up-coming test, after all.
  • Two female students, after I have spoken to them about their lack of attention in class and not doing any work, have now embarked upon a complete 'ignore the teacher' attitude

I cannot help but wonder what is going on at these students' homes and whether there is any form of discipline or respect. I wonder what morals and ethics are taught and whether the parents (or guardians) are actively instilling a work ethic. I cannot, however, take the place of parents and teach their children manners and respect. My thoughts go further... are these students' attitudes a reflection of South Africa's new growing culture that is characterised by widespread corruption, fraud and a general disrespect for the law?

Despite all these negative experiences, I refuse to become a typical disciplinarian that shouts, screams etc... I will remain the dedicated teacher that I think I am... and focus on teaching. After all, my country's constitution protects me and my right to dignified work. Perhaps its time to test our country's constitution and see if it lives up to its promise. All I truly want to do is teach my subject matter with dedication and in ways that are inspiring and creative. I get my inspiration from others like Sir Ken Robinson. Like him, I truly believe its time for a paradigm shift in education.

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