Sydney Chafee, the 2017 American National Teacher of the Year, had a busy six-day visit in the country as she travelled to different institutions speaking to learners and teachers as part of her being a guest of the US Embassy.
During one of her tour visit at the Honeydew-based school (ALA), Sydney discussed her reasons for her visit and what she aimed to achieve. “I’m here to visit schools; speak to teachers and learners and learn more about what education is like in South Africa and what connections we can make between education in here and America, of which there a lot of connections and overlaps in similarities,” she explained.
Sydney is a secondary educator who teaches English, Theatre and World History to grade 9 learners between the ages of 14 and. And part of her World History class is to teach about the South African history. “One of the subjects I teach in my history course is Apartheid and the resistance movement. I call my class justice and injustice – and we look at injustice in South Africa and how people worked for justice,” Sydney dissected, adding that, “My students are very engaged by South African history and they try to make a connection with the American history and current events in terms of race”.
She told Northsider that her first visit to SA was in 2011 and it was driven by her passion for the subject she teaches and her eager of experiencing what she teaches in person. During then, she said she visited different heritage sites where she learnt more about the country’s past.
Part of her current visit included; visiting the University of Pretoria Education faculty where she imparted knowledge about being an excellent teacher to fourth-year students, Department of Basic Education workshop with teachers and addressing learners at different high schools including one in Cape Town.
Sydney also explored the problem faced by many teachers against violent and unruly learners who harass teachers in schools. “When I hear of children being violent and abusive towards teachers it makes me wonder what’s going underneath that- what’s happening and what causes the child to react in that way because a child doesn’t act that way out of anything which means that there’s some sort of stress or need that the child is not getting or even support that they aren’t receiving.
I also think about the teachers and think about what sort of support is in place for them to interact with learners who are stressed in that way. I also think about the resources that the schools and parents have to deal with these problems [like the use of counsellors etc],” concluded.
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