A few weeks into our trip, I had a conversation with someone that resonated with me. He shared how he felt about the work we’re doing in the townships. He shared that while he felt there was value in it, he expressed concern about the sustainability of our work. He explained that we often build strong relationships with the students and likely show them affection and care that they may not normally receive in the classroom, and then we leave. He expressed to me that this could be very difficult for some children and that he hopes we will work on focusing on supporting the teachers because this could have longer-lasting effects.
The conversation began to shape my ideas for how I wanted to support my crèche teachers. I thought about the teachers I’ve been working with: both teachers have many strengths. Teacher C has a wonderful warmth with children. She has been a crèche teacher since May and is beginning to make wonderful changes to the classroom environment. She smiles and laughs with the children. She supports learners with patience and kindness. I don’t think she knows how great she is. Teacher L, the preschool teacher at my other crèche, is also a skilled teacher. She plans activities that support a range of developmental skills, has wonderful movement activity ideas, is organized, and is inclusive of all students. I also think she doesn’t realize how great she is!
I reflected on my own experiences and how I have evolved as a teacher. I thought about how impactful it is when I get meaningful, specific feedback on what I am doing. It is uplifting to hear what I am doing well and motivates me to work with passion and purpose. I wanted to give this to the teachers.
I decided to create a book for each teacher that would include anecdotal notes highlighting specific things they are doing that reflect great practice. The book would include notes and photos that would hopefully encourage teachers to continue to support students and give them motivation to continue to strengthen their skills through education and trainings.
I worked on a book for Teacher C., and plans changed at my other crèche. We felt there was a greater need in the infant/toddler class and my partner and I ended up working with the littlest children in the crèche.
It’s been six weeks of ups and downs– last week, I wasn’t able to work in the crèches (I had mumps!). Mumps and taxi strikes caused some missed days, but in the end I am happy with the work that we’ve done in the crèches. Some of the work we’ve done seems so minimal, but after some reflection I know that the little things are powerful and are stepping stones to bigger, positive changes.
– Melanie (Mel)