This is the 3rd week working in the crèches in Vrygrond. I am currently working at Little Angels Educare and Overcome Educare. When first entering the crèches, I was nervous about meeting the teachers and children. I was unsure of what my role in the classroom as a volunteer would include. In the SFSU Early Childhood Special Education Program, one of the important concepts emphasized was relationship building, and collaboration between teachers, families, and children. As a result of what I have learned building trusting relationships with the teachers and students became my main focus in the crèches. The teachers I have worked with and met have been very excited for the support that we as volunteers are bringing into the classroom. They have shared so much information about their lives, children, and the challenges they face working within the township. Even throughout the challenges, they continue to come to school for the children that they serve. They have a passion and a love for the children they work and interact with which drives me to work harder to support the teachers in Vrygrond.
I have enjoyed working and interacting with the children in the classroom by assisting teachers with activities, helping with set-up of activities, doing observations, and supporting in terms of classroom environment. Although I enjoy building relationships with the children and assisting with instruction in the class, I am constantly reminded to be mindful of the teachers. As a result of being in South Africa for a limited amount of time, I keep asking myself ” What resources or knowledge can I provide that can help and assist the teachers while I am present that can be used when I go back to California. While in South Africa, a man asked me “What will happen to the children when we (volunteers) leave?” After this was asked, I realized that I did not have a answer to the question. All I knew was that the children would continue to go to school and be taught by their teachers. Contemplating this answer helped me to see the importance of working with the teachers to provide them with tools and knowledge that they can use and implement in their classrooms while I am gone. Two months is a short amount of time but is enough to provide an impact in the lives of the teachers and staff in the crèches. Similarly to True North ” we are not here to resolve the problems we observe, but can help pose the questions and begin the process.” As volunteers, we are starting the conversation with teachers which can contribute to the changes made throughout the year. So even though I love working with the children and interacting with them, I constantly have to remember that I am only in South Africa for a limited amount of time. A larger impact can be made by building those relationships and providing the resources and foundations for the teachers and principals to use with the children after we leave.
Working with teachers and children from South Africa helps me to think outside the box and become creative with the limited space and materials that the schools are presented with. The daily experiences within the crèches helps me to learn and understand various cultures and learn what teaching strategies, songs, and activities are used and can be adapted for teaching within California. This is a great opportunity to learn, understand and collaborate ideas with one another to better our both (teachers and volunteers) teaching styles and strategies.