Sometimes Teaching Is About Learning

The teachers at school have been so kind and welcoming. We are fully integrated into the staffroom, and I just love it. We have been learning Tsivenda with them, which they find incredibly amusing when we greet them every morning. The letter C actually doesn’t actually exist in their language, so I am equally entertained by the way they pronounce my name (I will leave this to your imagination).

In fact, on the school register my name is “Gara Brodie”…

The teachers are also incredibly keen to share South African history with their visitors, and allow us to learn about what their country has been through- namely, the Apartheid regime. Throughout my stay, the history teacher has been giving me books to read about some of the freedom fighters during Apartheid. I guess this is my homework for while I am here.

I have got to know the economics teacher really well. He actually came to find me a few weeks ago saying “Ciara, I am very disappointed in you”. I had no idea who he was at this point so I was very confused! He was joking of course. He had discovered that I have studied economics so wondered why I was teaching maths and not his subject. Since this conversation, I have been taking the Grade 10 class every day and occasionally team-teaching. It has been so much fun. I loved economics from the moment I started studying it for A Level, and I continue to enjoy it at university. It has been wonderful that I am able to join in with these classes, whilst still fulfilling my responsibilities to teach maths.

I spent one lesson talking about exchange rates, because this is an area both the teachers and students struggle with. It is definitely one of the harder parts of economics to get your head around, made even more difficult without access to the internet. I ended up bringing some Pounds to class and the students loved them. This was the first time many of them had handled a foreign currency. We used the British Pounds and South African Rands side-by-side to discover how exchange rates work in real life.

Since then, we have moved on to learning about the Labour Market. My favourite lesson was when I split the class into small groups so they could come up with ways to increase job creation and labour force participation in South Africa.

My handwriting still hasn’t adapted to these chalk boards.

The Grade 10s were amazing, and their presentations were all so different and inspiring. These guys have so much knowledge about their country and the economic needs of it. I certainly learnt an awful lot. One group talked about increasing health care provision and education, in order to reduce HIV so that more South Africans are available to work. Another idea was around South Africa’s huge gold and diamond reserves. South Africa exports a huge amount of these minerals to other continents, where they are developed into expensive jewellery and watches. Some students suggested that if South Africa invested in technology and improve their standards of education, they could increase the value of their exports thus creating more jobs and boosting their economy. Although, we did discuss that there are broader issues at play here, particularly pertaining to the ownership of land and who profits from the countries’ natural resources.

Sometimes teaching is also about learning. This experience has been an opportunity for me to embark on a cultural exchange where I have come to understand a lot more than I ever could have done sat at home in the UK. There is only so much you can learn in the four walls of a classroom. Much of what we learn comes through experience and talking to one and other.