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Showing posts from May, 2013

The thinker

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I started writing this poem while pretending to invigilate an exam. After three weeks of invigilating exams, I'm learning the art of observation.

He assumes the position: slouching over the wooden desk, sinking into the black plastic chair. I place the question paper in front of him. His eyes blink countless times. He bites his short, dirty nails Chews what he can Before he reads the questions Searching for the answer Change the following words into antonyms by using a prefix. Wrinkles and creases form on his forehead. His eyes gaze at the blank wall. His hand rests on his cheek as if to support the heaviness weighing on his heart and mind. He scratches his head furiously as though he were getting rid of lice Scratching in the vain hope that the answer will be released from his head and present itself on the answer sheet. Quick glances at the clock which ticks slowly, reminding him of life, real life, passing by. The rain outside is constant and creates the background melody to the scribbling p…

Beautiful surprise

There are certain moments that I think many teachers live for. The moment when we witness the light bulb moment in our students and all of a sudden what we've been teaching makes sense. It's always a bonus when this moment finally happens because this can keep a teacher's energy from lagging. I was lucky to witness this recently when some students and I attended the Franschhoek Literary Festival. I watched my studenst blossom outside the confines of a classroom. In the midst of the exam period, a moment of enlightenment is always appreciated (I don't think of exams as a moment of enlightenment, least of all for the teacher who has to mark all the scripts).

Last week Friday was the Franschhoek Literary Festival and I was invited as one of the speakers. I was part of a panel "Rising Eighteen" alongside Sam Page, Nik Rabinowitz, Fiona Snyckers and Osiame Molefe. I travelled to Franschoek with 11 Grade 10s who were handpicked by default because they weren't …

Whose language is it anyway?

The language question has reared its ugly head again. Recently Rebecca Davies wrote an article about research that confirms “English is leading the way as the most preferred teaching language”.  As an English teacher this ought to make me happy however, I am not convinced that the findings from this research account for the complexity of language use. In other words: umnqwazi wam awuqini. Statistics about who speaks what language don’t take into serious account the context, the so-called “new” South Africa.
I am a language teacher who is able to negotiate three South African languages to accommodate the language diversity that my learners bring into the classroom. I am also an avid reader of isiXhosa literature and my favourite poet is Nontsizi Mgqwetho. My double consciousness allows me great fun in my classroom. Anyone eavesdropping into my lessons might say I am a bad English teacher because at any given time learners know they can pipe up in isiXhosa (and Afrikaans, though this is …