Building strong relationships with the Department of EducationAugust 29, 2023
Teaching in a low-resource environment: how Edufundi techniques “fit”August 29, 2023
Sometimes, a question as simple as ‘how are you?’ can have a huge impact. Siphosethu Primary has taken the Edufundi programme into their hearts, and placed a lot of importance on building a culture of care and support. For the staff, knowing that someone cares about you beyond just your role at the school has brought the management team closer together - and even more impactful is how this has filtered down to the learners.
Leading with heart
Siphosethu Primary’s Head of Department, Mr M Mleya reflected on what it was like to have someone ask him ‘how are you?’. This question allowed Mr Mleya to open up, which in turn led to him feeling less stressed. He could instantly see the benefit that building a culture of care and support could have on his team, too. “Mr Bheki my coach, who asked me this questions, encouraged me to do the same with my team,” as a result, he now has a much closer relationship with his teachers. This seemingly simple question gives teachers an opportunity to open up and share what might be going on for them - whether it is something positive or negative - and be able to support one another. “We are much stronger and closer now,” says Mr Mleya.
Miss S. Mbambo, a teacher at Siphosethu Primary, who completed Teach Like a Champion in 2022, is an Edufundi Change Agent in the school and she feels the benefit too. “I work a lot closer with the SMT [school management team] and Mr Mleya now”, she reflects. As a Change Agent, Miss Mbambo is tasked with embedding the Edufundi strategies with teachers who are not part of the programme. This ensures everyone is included and it becomes part of the culture of the school as was evident in the morning assembly when strategies like Joy Factor and STAR were used and every learner engaged.
Creating bonds with learners
The notion of “how are you?” is replicated in classrooms through the use of the Threshold technique. “This technique allows us to know what is going on for our learners and take notice”, says Mr Talent Dube, Grade 4 Math teacher. “If they feel ok, they give us a thumbs up, if they are not feeling ok then it is a thumbs down and I know I need to check in with those learners.”
The aim of the Threshold technique is to meet and greet each learner individually - by name, if possible - at the start of the lesson. These small actions send a powerful message to learners; “I am in charge, I know you, you matter to me, and this is going to be a good lesson.”
Mbambo says that before using this technique, teachers were distant from learners. “Previously we would just teach the learners and you find that the learner is not writing or they are sleeping in class without knowing what exactly is the problem.” Since using this technique, teachers are more in tune with learners' needs and realities. They often find out that when a student isn’t focusing it is because they are not feeling well or there is something wrong at home.
Checking in with learners is something that all teachers do now. The school’s Learner Support Agent is able to use the information given to teachers to check on their situations at home. Head of Department, Mr Mleya says “just this alone makes learners more willing to learn because they know they can talk to us about what is going on at home.” When learners feel safe, accepted and important they are more likely to cooperate, work hard and open themselves up for learning.
Siphosethu has shown that just asking if you are ok, can have a huge positive effect on the whole culture of a school.