Care for your kids, teach­ers told

For­mer Bethels­dorp res­i­dent shares ad­vice from US ex­pe­ri­ence

The Herald (South Africa) - - NEWS - Lee-Anne But­ler but­lerl@times­me­dia.co.za

TEACH­ERS at schools in the north­ern ar­eas need to change their ap­proach and ex­plore new meth­ods to res­cue pupils from the so­cial ills they are faced with daily in their com­mu­ni­ties.

This was the mes­sage from St Claire Adriaan, who has been recog­nised for his teach­ing and ex­per­tise in education in the US, where he is now based.

Adriaan pre­sented a work­shop en­ti­tled “Teach­ing with Poverty in Mind” to teach­ers and prin­ci­pals at three He­len­vale schools yes­ter­day.

“Our chil­dren need some­one to be­lieve in them.

“Their teacher should be the one per­son who never gives up on them,” he said.

“School could be the one place where no one is hurt­ing them, where no one is scream­ing at them.

“We need to give our learn­ers re­spect to gain their re­spect. Build­ing that re­la­tion­ship is the key fac­tor.”

Adriaan, 50, was born and raised in Bethels­dorp. He at­tended Bethels­dorp High be­fore study­ing teach­ing at Dower Col­lege, the for­mer UPE and Rhodes Uni­ver­sity.

He said he had faced a sim­i­lar chal­lenge in 2008 when he was sent to Al­bert Wicker El­e­men­tary School in New Or­leans.

As part of the New Schools for New Or­leans cam­paign, teach­ers from the Char­ter School Sys­tem were sent to as­sist in the open­ing of new schools fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Katrina.

Adriaan said he had not ex­pected to be sent to an ex­ist­ing, poorly per­form­ing school.

“Out of 56 schools in New Or­leans, it was 56th based on the stu­dents’ test re­sults.

“It is lo­cated in the pover­tys­tricken Sev­enth Ward in New Or­leans and the sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar to the north­ern ar­eas, with gangs, a high mur­der rate, poverty and other so­ci­etal is­sues,” he said.

“The kids seemed as if they did not want to learn, as if they did not care. We could have 24 fights a day.

“But we man­aged to turn things around and three years later it was named one of the top 10 per­form­ing schools in Louisiana.”

He said he had started a strat­egy of tak­ing an ac­tive interest in the pupils.

“You need to be in­ter­ested in what they are do­ing in­side and out­side the school. As prin­ci­pal, I started greet­ing each child by the hand. I made eye con­tact with them.

“As a teacher you can­not hold grudges against the chil­dren . . . You need to start off each day as new.”

He said teach­ers were of­ten the last re­sis­tance stand­ing be­tween a child and a life of crime and un­em­ploy­ment.

“If we push our chil­dren out of the class­room and out of school, we are push­ing them to­wards a life of gang­ster­ism and jail.

“In New Or­leans we started our day at 7.30am and ended at 5pm. From 5pm tol 6.30pm we had an af­ter-school pro­gramme . . . to keep our chil­dren off the streets for as long as pos­si­ble.”

Adriaan, now a Los Angeles school head, said ev­ery child de­served a champion.

“Kids may for­get your name or your face but they will never for­get how you made them feel,” he said.

Al­pha Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Dr Char­lotte Hen­dricks, said she be­lieved Adriaan’s mes­sage had had an im­pact on those at the work­shop.

“It will help to em­power them to be­come that light to give our chil­dren hope,” she said.

Adriaan also an­nounced that he was spon­sor­ing a R5 000-a-year bur­sary to a ma­tric­u­lant at Bethels­dorp High for study to­wards a BCom at NMMU.

Pic­ture: LEE-ANNE BUT­LER

SOUND AD­VICE: St Claire Adriaan and Char­lotte Hen­dricks at the work­shop

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