This semester I worked at Imbasa Primary School in Crossroads. The public school focuses on empowering Crossroads youth through education and providing them with opportunities for future success. I spent my time between two different grade 6 classrooms, working to develop student proficiency in English and life skills. My duties varied from assisting with other teachers’ lessons to leading my own classes of 40 students. We covered a wide range of topics, including climate change, gangsterism, and the different forms of abuse. I formed important relationships with the teachers and students, allowing me to connect with the class and make the semester a meaningful experience. Working at Imbasa, I have likely learned more from my students than I was able to teach them. As an education major, I gained invaluable experience in classroom management, lesson planning, and student differentiation. The classes also taught me about their culture, helping me to learn Xhosa and showing me what it is like to be a kid in South Africa.
After a few weeks at Imbasa, I began spending a majority of my time working with small groups of 10 students. I pulled out the students from their regular instruction time and taught lessons that were designed around their own interests. In this environment, I had the freedom to design my own curriculum and took the opportunity to teach lessons the students had not been previously exposed to. I asked the students to present a proposal in response to the question, “If you were to change one thing about Imbasa, what would it be?” This drove us into a student-centered discussion and then later a project to paint a mural in the school lobby. At each step of the project, students were required to practice English by writing proposals, letters, and journals. They also gained important communication skills through debating and discussing the mural with one another. My lesson plans were inquiry based, developed by the groups and they were left in charge of the form and direction the project took. The students were not used to having control over their education and were extremely intrigued by the unique opportunity for authentic learning.
The work Imbasa engages in ever yday is vital to the future development of South Africa and the country’s progress toward equality among all populations. The school instills important skills for the students’ academic achievement and provides constant motivation to attend higher education. Creating student-centered lessons with my small groups has helped the children explore their skills in critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are necessary to for the students to become active participants in future communities and have a stake in challenging and transforming the country’s inequities.
Lauren Neiheisel (Knox College)
My work at Imbasa mainly consist of teaching English and other subjects to my own class of 6th graders. There is a 6A class and a 6B class. Every Tuesday and Thursday I work for two hours with each section. So far I have covered things such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs as well as how to read a graph, how to read a map and other simple skills. Even though the kids are at a 6th grade age, the curriculum is truly at a 4th grade American level. The kids are eager to learn, and while they may test the boundaries of what they can and can't do, they are overall very respectful and easy to work with. There is no direction in terms of what you will be teaching, so you must be prepared to come up with your own lesson plans and ideas for teaching sessions. This will be easier with an education background, but it is also possible to effectively volunteer as at this site without previous classroom experience. I do not have an education background, but can remember and look back on what I was learning when I was in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. The community at the school is extremely welcoming and I have never felt as though I didn’t have someone to go to with my questions or ideas. Imbasa has overall been a very good site to volunteer at, and I have found that while I am the 'teacher' in the situation, I have learned so much more from my kids than I could ever offer them. If you want to work with children, want to teach English or other subjects to kids that are hungry for knowledge, and become part of a close-knit community of local families and people, then this is the site for you!
My role at Imbasa is essentially a teacher that focuses on English and life orientation modules but also helps out in other subjects whenever necessary. The learners see me more as a young, fun role model than as a teacher which is something I enjoy. The classroom environment, which usually includes 40-plus learners, can be a little daunting especially with the language barrier as English is still a work-in-progress for most of them. However, within my first few months there, I have noticed a marked improvement in the learners ability to understand me and my ability to understand their English. Most of our classroom time is focused on improving their English abilities by reading short stories, written assignments, and fun educational games. The learners have responded well and tend to actively participate and engage in the material which is always rewarding for an educator. Assisting as a teacher at Imbasa Primary School has been a wonderful experience that has helped me to understand the situation for most youth in Cape Town and hopefully will help inspire the learners to realize their potential.