Today I started my day thinking that I was going to "Rhini"Primary School(this is not the actual name of the school) simply to observe teacher practices in order to help me frame my research for the Masters in Education I am reading for. Much to my suprise I realised that the teacher I was allocated to for today was not coming to school.
There are 4 grade1 teachers in the school with classes over 30,a third or more of the children in each class have learning disabilities or behavioural problems. 3 of the teachers have been have teaching longer than I have been alive and they are all older than me. None of us are entirely sure why I keep going to their school, but they are all welcoming and indiluge my curiosity and patience in their class.
So today I entered the school as a psuedo-researcher from THE university and I left as a teacher. I was handed over into a class of Grade 1s with no preparation, no knowledge of the children's name and abilities, no knowledge of the classroom code on how to indicate that learning is going to begin.
Thankfully I am Xhosa so language wasn't a problem.My main problem was what to do from 9am until 1 pm-the longest morning of my life!My practice mirrored the teachers I had seen, asking the children to count, writing number patterns on the board, writing sentences on the board, pretending I knew what I was doing. The whole days was bizarre but the best moment was when one of the learners, a 6year old girl, realised I wasn't swimming like most teachers,I was drowning. She kindly approached me when I realised that a third of the learners couldn't write their names and the date from the board and the rest of the class was making a noise. She kindly informed me that there was a pipe on the teacher's desk that I could use to make sure that everyone keeps quiet while I gather my thoughts.At first I didn't understand her, but when she repeated herself, I realised that she was giving me a strategy for keeping peace in the classroom.I thanked her for input but realised I didn't have the courage to give them a hiding.I spent the entire day devising activities and stories to reach their levels.Our work can be measured on two pieces of paper from each kid, one with patterns and one with words and random sentences.
I realised leaving the school that I still have alot to learn about what it means to be a researcher in a context where the people I work with see me as an eager young girl trying to make sense of the big world, the school's classrooms. I don't know what to anticipate tomorrow, but I've learned that walking in with a willing heart and mind,I will be able to understand the school and the teachers better than I think. Conversations during tea time range from failed marriages, irresponsible boyfriends to laments about what it takes to raise a black child in a poor community.There's more to being a researcher tha simply being objective,it's often very difficult not to get involved.