It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, where we remember all the amazing teachers that helped make us who we are. In this phenomenal TED Talk (below), Rita Pierson says the following:
Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.
Watch the video:
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Teacher Appreciation Week: Now for a story
It was August in Vereeniging. My birthday, actually. The day before, my English teacher and I boarded the Translux from Oudtshoorn to Gauteng — my first time there — where I was to compete in the national ATKV redenaars (public speaking) competition. I was in grade eight.
Backtrack to a year earlier, to primary school Annetjie who made it to the nationals and came fourth in the whole country. I was in such a funk for days afterwards, I didn’t notice the car outside our house on Qwarriestraat, Calitzdorp. It was the principal of Oudtshoorn High School. He’d heard of me and decided to give me a chance to come to his school. There was talk of scholarships and free boarding and I was sold.
And there I was. In Vereeniging at the nationals again. Nervous. Anxious. Determined. I got up early that morning to take a shower. When I came back, I saw the most beautiful thing on my bed.
I was the first student in my class to receive honours (erekleure), but I didn’t have money to buy the black blaser.
There it was, laid out next to my school clothes. It was shiny in its newness and the academic badges glittered in the overhead light. How did she know? How did she realise I wanted this? Who was I to deserve such kindness from a teacher who’d only known me for eight months?
I won, but it wasn’t for me. I won for her.
My teacher, my family
In primary school, my Afrikaans and English teacher was the same person. When she heard I was going to Oudtshoorn to a boarding school, she was ecstatic. I don’t think I would have gone if she didn’t encourage me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
She lived on a beautiful farm outside Oudtshoorn and on weekends I used to go and stay at her house. Her husband is the kindest, gentlest old man — so far removed from any of the men I had in my life. He was a runner, a farmer, a wine connoisseur and the chattiest man I knew.
I became part of her family. At her house, I found a routine and I learned about discipline and manners. I went with them for walks to the Cango Caves, I watched TV, we drank coffee and talked about books and stories and life. Well into university and to this day, she remains my champion. She’s given me so much and I don’t know how I could ever show her my gratitude. She didn’t give up on me, even when I was a terrible child and a horrific teenager, she quietly stood by my side and encouraged me to be better.
Teacher Appreciation Week: Thank you
I’ve had so many amazing teachers, but now I’m crying too hard to write anymore. There was the teacher who took me to Rhodes to see the Kaif and the library and got me hooked on the idea of going there. The teacher who made me coffee in her flat, bought me books, encouraged me to be a writer and coached me more in my debating. The teacher who threw toilet paper at my head when I fell asleep in class. The one who scolded me for smoking and told me I was better than that. And that’s not even looking at the university lecturers who embraced me into their worlds and still keep in touch with me no matter where I go.
How lucky am I, that in a world such as this one, I have had an arsenal of teachers pushing me forward, encouraging me to be whoever I want to be, to live with dignity and integrity?
I hope every child gets to have that.
- Like my story? Also read South Africa Library Week 2018: What the library means to me