Written by Jarrod Delport
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
These words by Aristotle have rung true for me from the moment I finally stepped out of the shadows of tertiary education and into the light of the adult world. Alright, being an adult isn’t that bad, I cannot really compare the light and dark to university and post university life, but I can definitely say that leaving the university world behind has opened my eyes to the wider world of being an adult.
My journey into teaching was a long one – I first studied Law (my mother, a saintly woman who has taught for almost three decades) had persuaded me to abandon my plans for teaching at the end of matric in 2010. Her exact words were: “You’ll never be able to survive on a simple teacher’s salary”. She wasn’t being pessimistic, she wasn’t being materialistic, my mother and father were working class people – she was simply being realistic. By the end of my first year of law school I knew it wasn’t for me. Eventually I persuaded my mother to let me go into Education. I loved every second of my university experience (okay, that’s a lie, I hated the long nights, the hard work and the never ending projects and assignments). But it was all towards a goal – becoming a teacher. The day of my graduation, April 1st 2015 (I feared that it was all an elaborate April fool’s joke and that I would have to repeat first year Philosophy), was one of the proudest moments of my life.
At the end of my degree I was fortunate enough to find a job at a small, Cambridge school in Johannesburg. I fell in love with teaching all over again. Every lesson was worth the years of hard work in University – I was finally where I belonged after years of uncertainty over my career choice. This was my place, my shtetl as they say in Yiddish. I went into teaching because I had a love for knowledge, for learning and for sharing that knowledge with young people. As a delegate and later presenter at enke: Make Your Mark, I realised that knowledge is not a solid concept, it is a fluid one. I saw with my own eyes at enke, that knowledge is shared through experiences, through laughter, through life lessons, but most importantly, knowledge is shared through the ability to connect.
Connect, Equip, Inspire.
These words will reverberate within my life, forever. I have seen with the students I teach, who are all above the age of 13, that through interaction with them, through connection within the system of education, passing them the equipment of knowledge and finally, inspiring them to the best of their ability, this will truly breed a new generation of students and learners that will break the mould of Education in South Africa. Enke gave me what I needed, it taught me that everybody has a place and that within your place, you can change your society, hence I became a revolutionary, I became a new breed of teacher.
Recently I was told by a parent: “You are different. Weird. Borderline eccentric, but it works”. I took a while to digest this. I wasn’t offended – I took it as a compliment. Long gone are the days of writing out line after line of textbooks and learning in a parrot fashion, dates about long dead people. I’ve marched up and down my classroom like a Nazi, in an attempt to show students how crazy the whole idea of Nazism actually is. I have stood on tables to discuss the importance of eating a balanced diet (yes, I was balancing on one leg) and I have sung sonnets to express the beautiful words of Shakespeare. I am a ‘different’ teacher by some standards but I am proud to say that in my first full year of teaching, I did not have a single failure in the six classes I taught in 2015. I think I’m doing something right. Education, across the board does not necessarily consider the individual. To me, it seems that some schools are built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. At Charter College, I have been given the space to grow, to learn with the children, to laugh with them but to be serious when needed. I wish every teacher could have what I have, my school is open and inclusive, a place where teachers take the journey of education with their students, it cannot be taken alone, it must be done together.
South Africa is going through an educational revolution, things are changing fast. Young people are taking their education into their own hands, they are writing their own destinies, but they need help. Young South Africans and young people in general need guidance, knowledge and assistance in achieving their dreams. People should not become teachers because it is a fall-back job, they should become teachers because it is their passion, it is their reason for living – to share knowledge, to guide and to cultivate a new generation of South Africa’s leaders. My life is dedicated to education, for me, this is it and I am content with the role I am to play in the lives of young students. Education needs to change, our young people are not receiving the level of education they should, but perhaps with the right teacher, the right motivator and the right combination of skills, we could revolutionise education and set ourselves apart from the world. Let us move towards making school fun, towards an equal education for all, one that will build an army of dedicated students who will wage war against inequality and apathy.