Youthful Teachers

In the month of June we celebrate what is known as Youth Day on 16 June in South Africa. It got me thinking about my profession, and my youth in relation to it.

Youth Day commemorates the Soweto youth uprising of 16 June 1976. In 1975 protests started in African schools after a directive from the then Bantu Education Department that Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with English as a language of instruction in secondary schools.

SA Government

I teach in a high school whereby the learner accepted can be as grown as 21 years old. Foer some or other reason they (or the parents) sought out a second chance for their education. It is wonderful given that education is a basic human right and not many schools can make space for adults (according to the law).

The wild thing is that, up until earlier this week, I was a 22 year old teacher, being a year older really makes no difference at all. In fact most of the new teaching staff, including myself, we are all in our early 20s. It is not a weakness, but it is a difficult inspiration to live up to. The inspiration is in knowing that there are young people willing to help shape a future generation, and seeing that education (in all its forms) is an important tool in which to do that. My difficulty is when that one or two self-absorbed and/or overly confident learner says “I’m literally 2 or 3 years younger than you” or “Back home I chill with people older than you.” Although it would feel so satisfying to say a few words back, professional ethics is a bit of a tricky thing.

I have said it before that over the next few years, by 2030, we will lose a large number of teachers due to retirement and other reasons. This means that there is a lot of pressure on higher education institutions to produce about 20 000 new and qualified teachers. Equally as such, it means that schools need to be more accepting of young teachers into the space and be willing to groom them instead of seeking experience above all else. For any young professional that is always a hope that someone will just take a chance on them as a fresh graduate.

Being a young educator has proven to be challenging when faced with your seniors who would prefer for you to conform. Sometimes you do not have much to stand on so you do in hopes that it doesn’t break a piece of you in the process. It is not to say that the young and the experienced do not have the learners’ and the school’s best interests at heart, but we do have very different ways of seeing problems and thinking of solutions. I would never disregard experience but I cannot believe that it always trumps innovation from the youth. I think I need a course on this because I seem to be failing. I’ve been in the principal’s office more times in my career than ever in my own schooling days. Hard to believe about a sweet person like me.

It is possible that because of my youth, I am too relating to the people that I teach. I am understanding of their frustrations and maybe it frustrates me to too. I might be too trusting that they are capable even though there is evidence that some need to be under tighter restraints. I just like the idea of learners taking charge (under adult guidance of course) of who and what they want to be, especially seniors (grade 11 and 12) because at some point they will go out of school and have to face the world and take charge of it and what better place to start than in the safety of school.

I have a long way to go, I know. I do this because I like the idea of learning, growth and development not just for me but for my learners as well, whether they want it or not. I hope to see change and improvement one day, and I hope to be a part of it.

Many blessings to you all. Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for your time in reading this post!

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