Shanitha Gounden

1) What does it mean to you to be a TEACH Ambassador?

To me, being a TEACH Ambassador means finding innovative ways to teach in a classroom. It’s about knowing that your class is not going to be less than 45 students but making it work. It is about utilising 33 minutes every day to teach over 45 students and ensuring that I know their strengths and weaknesses, and then making a point to strengthen their weaknesses. In addition to that, being a TEACH Ambassador means knowing each child and their capabilities. I get to impart years of knowledge through teaching. I do not only teach my subject, but I teach my learners life lessons as well.

2) What impact do you believe you are making in the lives of your students and colleagues?

As a TEACH Ambassador it is not easy to change every child’s life, but I see myself opening my students up to other options in life, exposing them to books and competitions. I may not touch all 350 students whom I teach, but I have grown relationships with many. I’m the young new teacher on the block and I notice that many students come to me when they need help. I find that they come to me because they are able to relate to me more easily. I remember on arrival at my school I was told by a teacher that the students are good, I must just get to know them, and that’s what I am doing.I also believe that it is the students who impact my life. They have made me step outside of my comfort zone, appreciate the little things in life and also to utilise my resources to their full potential. I can most certainly say that I don’t need a lot of tools to do what I do, because they have helped me think on my feet. When something doesn’t work out like I have planned, I have to alter it as I’m teaching and improvise. My colleagues impart their knowledge and years of experience unto me. We all share our knowledge with each other and that is the great thing about working with people who are open-minded. In addition, all my colleagues speak African languages and I’m convinced by the end of my two years I’ll be speaking Zulu.

3) How do you think the TEACH programme is changing education in South Africa?

It allows graduates like myself to see the reality of education in South Africa. I am more determined now to improve myself as an educator, so that I can improve the way I teach my learners. TEACH is trying to take young, energetic and educated individuals, and put them into a classroom where they can find new ways of teaching; teaching in a fun way, so that students engage with the material and interact in class. You will notice in the environments that we teach the students only learn at school, in the classroom through how we teach. Many students do not make notes; they listen to the teacher and reproduce what they have learnt in the exam. If material is not engaging or they can’t relate to the work, then they are simply left with a gap in their respective area of studying. The TEACH programme allows graduates to see that they are needed in the education field and after two years, they are most likely to stay in the field of education. I can most certainly stay that I have done many jobs in my short years but teaching is where I find myself long term. Before joining TEACH I did not know what I wanted for sure in terms of career, but I most definitely can say that teaching is what I am meant to do.

4) Describe a moment in a classroom since you have been an Ambassador that has reinforced your decision to take this opportunity as a teacher in South Africa.

My best moment thus far in the classroom was when, after a break, I had a Grade 9 class, and before going to the class I was told I’d be observed. A teacher in the break told me she had just had that class and they were noisy and ill mannered, and she wished me luck. Normally after a break it takes at least 15 to 20 minutes to settle a class down. Many kids come late or eat in your class, thus disturbing the teaching process. However, I had no choice but to get the situation under control. I went during the short break to organise the class and while doing so, many of the students helped me. The first thing I had to be was honest with my learners. I told them today we are having a visitor who has come to see how I teach, and if I am doing my job correctly. I was nervous as the bell rang and as the visitor approached. I knew I was prepared for the lesson but the question really was, would they allow me to teach? To my surprise, within seconds the class got themselves quiet, they took books out and started listening.I gave instructions to the learners beforehand, and they followed through on it. That class listened so attentively, engaged in my lesson like never before, that at one point I just burst out laughing while the visitor was in my class. I literally could not stop myself from laughing. These kids were so well behaved. I was so impressed at their behaviour. Once I got myself under control, I carried on with the lesson and it went surprising well. This class is known for their bad marks and not allowing teachers to teach but I must say, if you as a teacher come in prepared and do what you are supposed to do, they automatically listen. However, not all of them, but at least some. The fact that I see my learners engaging and learning while I teach makes coming to school worthwhile every day. There are many more experiences that I have had at my school that encourage me to attend every day and teach to the best of my ability.

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