It was a busy start to the spring holiday as dozens of teachers rolled up their sleeves to participate in the Newly Qualified Teachers’ Project’s (NQT) Spring School – a series of professional development workshops designed to help build stronger and more engaged learners and resilient teachers.
The event took place on Monday, 3 October, and Tuesday, 4 October, in the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) new School of Education (SoE) building on middle campus. Spring School sessions provided teachers with the insight, ideas and resources they need to navigate the classroom and to fulfil their crucial roles, which is to nurture and develop young scientists, teachers and linguists that the country so desperately needs. The initiative forms part of the NQT Project – an SoE brainchild that aims to provide critical support to young educators who have entered the classroom for the first time. The project operates in collaboration with Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and is funded by the HCI Foundation – the corporate social investment arm of the HCI, a black empowerment investment company; and the Saville Foundation – a private organisation that is committed to helping communities, individuals and organisations reach their full potential.
“Becoming a great teacher is a lifelong process.”
“Soon after we launched the NQT Project we realised that early-career teachers needed ongoing professional development to suit their individual needs. And their needs differed: for some how to manage a classroom effectively was a priority, while others were keen to learn how to mediate professional relationships in the workplace,” said UCT’s Dr Kate Angier, the chairperson of the NQT Project. “Becoming a great teacher is a lifelong process and we wanted to create a learning space where young teachers could continue to grow.”
The Spring School initiative initially kicked off as a Winter School programme and attracted eager teachers at various stages of their careers. But the initiative came to a grinding halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And after more than two years, the event was back with a bang this spring holiday, and more than 250 teachers from schools across the peninsula sacrificed their holiday to participate in the series of workshops.
According to the manager of UCT’s NQT Project, Judith Sacks, teachers continue to face a long list of in-classroom challenges daily. These, she explained, include having to teach subjects they are not trained to teach to meet the school’s jam-packed timetable; contending with limited resources and overcrowded classrooms; and working in isolation without an adequate support structure. The Spring School workshops were designed to directly respond to and address these and other challenges.
The workshops used relevant and practical methods to understand the needs of teachers, and to help them support their learners. And like the NQT Project, it aimed to create a safe space where like-minded individuals could connect and share their common experiences, challenges and successes.
“The idea is for teachers to leave with useful resources and tools that they can apply and use to make their lives easier. We also hope that by meeting the presenters and other teachers who teach the same subjects, teachers will be able to collaborate more than what they are doing now, which is so necessary,” Sacks said.
Seasoned and respected academics from UCT, CPUT, as well as veteran teachers and representatives from educational organisations led and facilitated sessions during the loaded two-day programme.
Melanie Sadeck, the manager of CPUT’s NQT Project, said the event attracted both primary and high school teachers, and an array of topics were up for discussion. Some of these topics included how to assist learners with the transition from primary school mathematics to high school mathematics; how to motivate pupils; tips on how to accommodate learners with disabilities; and guidelines on how teachers could avoid burnout.
“Being a teacher is so much more than just teaching your subject. Over and above the heavy administration and extra-mural load, teachers often find themselves mediating the psychosocial issues which learners bring to the classroom,” Sadeck said.
“Schools are microcosms of our broader society and teachers need to manage the impact of gender-based violence, economic crises, loss and trauma experienced in the home and its effect on learners. This can be very overwhelming. We hope that the workshops were helpful and provided teachers with the tools they need to navigate this crucial space.”
The Spring School programme is set to revert to its Winter School format and will be hosted during the June/July school holiday in 2023.
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