Monday, June 1, 2009

STUDENT REFLECTION - Thandokhulu High School - Clint Mohs

My internship experience has been somewhat different than my counterparts that have commented upon their internships thus far. Where they are working in addressing some of the root causes of abject poverty in South Africa, I am working in the educational realm. I am working as a teacher’s aide for the English department, specifically with the eleventh and twelfth grade, at Thandokhulu high school. In working here, I hope to help in the struggle to lend a hand to those fighting to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Through education, it is believed that the students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills, which were denied their parents through the system of Apartheid, required to succeed in today’s industrialized world.
Upon arriving at my internship, I had very little understanding of what I would be doing there or about the South African education system. I was pleased to find out that I would be working in the English department and that I would be teaching literature rather than grammar. While I would have had no problem teaching grammar, and I actually expected to be doing so since English is a foreign language, I was gladly relieved to teach literature, because it is my plan to eventually be a college literature professor. After a few days of basic office work and getting comfortable with the staff and students, I was finally given the opportunity to teach a class last Wednesday. I prepared “Poem for My Mother” by Jennifer Davids, a South African poet, and was confident and ready to lead class on my walk to the mini bus taxi station. I was given a pleasant surprise that put a dent in my confidence on my walk to class that day. Mrs. Bopi, the teacher that I have been working with, was walking to class with me, when all of a sudden at the classroom door turned to me and said, “I’ll be in my office if you need anything.” This took me completely off guard, because I just assumed that she would come with me to help out if needed and maintain order in the classroom. When I turned towards the door my stomach was instantly knotted a million times over, but I took a deep breath and walked into the room. After trying to quiet the class a few times with my normal voice, I soon realized that I would have to speak much louder for a class of forty plus high school students to hear me. Once I got the class settled down, I began to teach the poem. The hardest thing to adjust to, besides talking so loud (I am usually a little soft spoken), was to speak slowly and enunciate very clearly, because, to the students, I have a very strong accent. In the forty-five minute class period, I got through everything that I needed to cover with the class, which was a great relief. At the end of the class, one of the girls sitting in the front row, who I had gotten to know somewhat talking during a few breaks, called me over to ask a question. What she said, I don’t think I will ever forget because it was probably one of the funniest things, given how nervous I was to be alone during my first teaching experience in a room full of students that speak English as a third language to Xhosa and Afrikaans. She said that she felt so bad for me because she could see how nervous I looked throughout the entire class. She did reassure me, though, telling me that I did a good job teaching the poem. The overall experience, nerve-racking as it was, has reaffirmed my already strong desire to continue my education, after the undergraduate level, to teach. It has been not only a great learning experience in how to manage a classroom and make a lesson plan, but also in building a relationship with Mrs. Bopi and the principle, Mr. de Villiers.

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