Thato Legodi

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

Being a TEACH Ambassador means that I have to step in where there is a need and provide that particular need at the underprivileged school I am placed in. It means that I have to be a different but exceptional educator, in the sense that I am obligated to go above and beyond what is required of me to do. I ought to be more than just an educator; I should be able to find inventive ways to awaken change – a positive change – in all parties involved (including parents and local community members), for the benefit of the pupil. It means that I have to be willing to make sacrifices in order to put my pupils’ needs before mine.

I need to be a role model to my learners. I have to encourage and motivate learners to aspire to something greater than what they can envisage; to aspire to be better, and to do better in everything they do. I have to inspire both my colleagues and learners by being active and creative. Ultimately, I need to make my learners understand that teaching and learning does not only take place in the classroom, but also outside the classroom borders. Encourage them to learn from me, from each other and the people they surround themselves with, as well as from their role models

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

I strongly believe that I make things a lot easier for both my students and colleagues I work closely with. As a TEACH Ambassador, it is my duty to make certain that I revitalise and maintain the involvement of learners in extracurricular activities (dance, drama, music etc.) It is also my duty to make sure that teachers are also involved in these activities as supervisors. Educators have mentioned several times how they have a new-found love for teaching and learning. I have also stimulated them to go and study further. They respect the fact that TEACH Ambassadors are able to obtain degrees from top-notch universities, and admire us for that. I encourage learners to come in the morning to study before school starts at 8.10am, and I persuade them to study after school as well. I have also championed a book club, which has proved to be extremely beneficial for my learners. In 2014 our former TEACH Ambassador (Mmakau Makwela) and I organised a 16 June event at our school. It was successful and it received a lot of praise from everyone, from teachers, learners and SGB members to our general workers. This year (2015), it’s been quite interesting to see our Teacher Liaison Officer organising the event and asking me to assist her. She has been inspired by us to step up and do something vital for the benefit of the learners. The response from learners is quite mind-boggling. The abovementioned proves that I have impacted the lives of educators, as well as learners, in an extremely powerful way. They aspire to be their best selves and they are very involved in improving their knowledge. They also care about each other’s development in inspirational ways.

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

By recruiting recent graduates who are outstanding in their field of study, and who have proven to be brilliant leaders to go to disadvantaged schools is a pivotal step towards changing the face of education in South Africa. TEACH is recruiting individuals who can enthuse and trigger off others. It recruits people who have critical thinking skills and can solve problems. Numerous articles have been written about teachers who are satisfied with doing the bare minimum. Taking energetic young blood to schools that have such teachers has positive results – teachers end up “getting their groove back” due to inspiration from Ambassadors, and start going the extra mile. Some teachers have lost their passion to teach, and Ambassadors are able to somehow stimulate some (even if it’s just one or two) to be passionate about teaching again. As teachers, we tend to complain about learners not performing well because it kills our spirit. This issue can be solved by coming up with different ways of approaching teaching and assessing our learners. As Ambassadors, we are mandated to do exactly that: find better ways to do things. The TEACH programme is changing education in South Africa, by sending out experimental graduates to be agents of change at deprived schools.

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.

I was reprimanding one learner in Grade 8 for his unruly behaviour. So I told him that he needed to change his behaviour and also work harder in order to improve his dismal grades. He said that it doesn’t matter because he will pass anyway. It really shocked me that learners are given the false belief that they don’t necessarily have to work for anything. The education system has somehow managed to let them know that they will receive passing grades on a silver platter. I had to have several meetings with the learner in order to make him understand how that can be detrimental to his future. Fortunately, he listened and started to behave and perform better in class. I was glad I could reach out to him and in so doing, reach out to the pupils he was negatively influencing. There are also positive instances that made me want to take this opportunity as a teacher in South Africa. These include receiving confirmatory feedback from the learners I teach. Some write about me as their favourite teacher in essays. Teachers come to me to show me what they have written about me, and what they write always amazes me. Furthermore, the learners I taught last year (2014) tell me that they miss being taught by me and they would like to have me back as their teacher again. These are some of the things that reinforced my decision.

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