By Jessica de Klerk, Grade 3.1 teacher
Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
This statement has resonated with me for many years, and I try my utmost to live up to it. Lately I have come to realise that my profession is a channel to be the change we want to see in the world.
My life began in Grahamstown (now Makhanda) where I grew up and lived for 26 years. Looking back now, I am most grateful to have grown up in such a culturally rich and diverse city. Riding my bicycle to a friend’s house, walking to King Pie from school just before sport in the afternoon to get one of their delicious chicken pies and picnicking in the Botanical Gardens in my later varsity days. Being very family orientated, I am extremely lucky and grateful to have grown up in a small and safe haven.
My teaching journey began as a Teaching Assistant at Graeme College. “The Leopard” quickly crept into my heart and I soon became part of the Graemian Family. I was certainly blessed with the best mentors!
From there, I have learnt the ins and outs of what it takes to REALLY be a teacher. Ongoing training in the education field, practical hands-on experience during my studies towards my BEd degree and involvement in all sport, extra-mural and curriculum activities helped me to be the best I could be.
So, what does it mean to be a teacher? Yes, it does unfortunately mean early mornings and late evenings. Endless marking and copious amounts of coffee. Frequent meetings and lots of planning. Afternoons and weekends filled with sport or cultural activities. Late nights spent lying awake worrying about the well-being of a learner in class, or several learners. Phone calls back and forth with parents and stakeholders to ensure each child is happy, safe and that they have everything they could possibly need to achieve their potential. Teaching and sharing with children how best to survive the real world out there! To prepare them as best we can for the often harsh and cruel world, that things are not always just handed to us and that it takes real dedication, grit and a humble heart to overcome obstacles in life. Social and family life take a backseat more often than I would like to admit.
But let me tell you what being a teacher is not. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Being a teacher takes patience, love, commitment, sacrifice, passion, perseverance and grit. It is not a half day job – on the contrary actually. It is not going to make you rich. I am sure I speak for many a teacher who can say that they definitely did not take up teaching to make pots of money!
My teaching journey, although perhaps not as long as many of our veteran teachers, has been a tough one. But it has been oh so rewarding! Yes, the presents are great! So are the holidays – and by golly, do we need the holidays! But the best part, the absolute best part about being a teacher, is that feeling you get inside when you know that your impact on a child’s life has made a meaningful difference. We refer to these as ‘light bulb’ moments. When a learner finally understands that maths concept, when they finally grasp a certain language rule. The enthusiasm and excitement when they cannot wait to tell you all about their weekend news, or how they helped their little sister draw a picture. That is what makes teaching worth it and what makes it so rewarding. It is change in action.
The passion and enthusiasm I feel in the morning, entering that classroom, knowing that today could be the day that I really am able to be there for a child. That I get this opportunity every day to bring about true change! Yes, I teach them maths, languages, life skills. But it is the ‘hidden curriculum’ of manners, respect, compromise, empathy, compassion, love and honesty that counts the most. How to be responsible, loving, and decent human beings.
We spend lots of time with our children. For some, we are the main and most constant individual in their lives as we see them for the most hours in a day. Being able to comfort, reassure and guide a child in life’s daily ups and downs is quite an important job.
There is a saying by Confucius that goes something like this: ‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never work a day in your life’. I am so grateful to have found my calling, my passion that ignites my heart and soul and makes me want to be the best person and role model I can be! I pray that I continue to learn daily and that this passion in my heart never dies. If my children, my learners, could remember one thing about me, it would be that I always believed in them no matter what!
So, while I have recently changed towns and schools, I am still committed to my calling. And today I am proud and excited to have “The Lion” in my heart. I cannot wait to see what the future brings at my new Family School by the Sea!