I thought it would be fitting that the first theme that I focus on is one close to my heart. It is the theme of my country, South Africa. Despite all that is in the media, it is a truly amazing country. Not many countries have the variety of people, cultures, wildlife, activities, cities and landscapes that our country boasts.
“Proudly South African” was our theme in the second term when I was teaching Grade 5. It was always one of my favourites. I was able to link my English, natural science, geography and history curriculum all into this theme. Activities included discussions and activities based on our national symbols, creating our own recipes for a good South African sandwich, a look at early South African societies as well as the history of our provinces. We spent time learning about the different landscapes and vegetation we had in our country as well as the weather and climate patterns.
When I made the decision to concentrate on South Africa as my first theme to share with you, the first thing I did was open up my files and have a look at my planning and my worksheets that I had used. It felt like I had taught that all yesterday and not four years ago. I also looked through and realised how much I have changed since teaching that scheme of work. I always tried my best when planning and creating my work that I taught, and I was quite happy as it was pretty good, but it needs a revamp now. One of my activities was for the learners to research a famous South African person of their choice, and then present an oral to the class about the person they had researched. Ninety percent of the class always spoke about Nelson Mandela or Christiaan Barnard. Although great and fascinating people, it certainly got boring hearing about the same two people year in and year out. Something as simple as getting each child to draw a different name out of a hat would have helped add variety to the speeches we listened to. Why then did I not change it?
I’m not sure about any of you, but often I got caught up in how much time and effort the work took me the previous year/s, that I often didn’t look closely enough at how I could improve it. “I worked so hard on this last year and it worked well, so it will be fine for this year” were often the thoughts that went through my mind. I would then simply slip it out the file and send it off to be copied and ready for the term. For the most part it was good and more than fine.
Another factor was time. There never ever seems to be enough of it. At school, I was always so busy with so many things that teachers need to do; staff meetings, parent meetings, paper work and coaching just to name a few of them, that I simply did not have the time to better the work that needed improvement. Maybe taking the break from the classroom, and looking back at it now has made me see the need for improvement. Maybe I have matured as a person and a teacher and that helps me to see what I need to change. I actually don’t know. All I do know is no matter how good we think our work is, there are ways to better it. The world around us is constantly changing and we as teachers need to understand that there is always going to be a need for change and improvement.
So here is a small challenge for those keen enough to take it on: Find one lesson this month that you have been doing year in and year out. Decide, does it still have value for the class you are teaching this year, and if so, can you improve it? If it doesn’t, what could you rather do that would benefit the students you are teaching? My “Famous South African Person” oral is the first lesson I have changed. Follow the link to my store. There I have uploaded my new version of this lesson. I hope that it is user friendly and works well in your classrooms. Oral Famous South African Person
I will leave you with a quote I often repeat to myself
Good, better best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best! (Author Unknown)