Educators need 'passion'

Age (if you don’t mind)?
I don’t mind at all. I’m 49. A good age. I feel comfortable in my skin.

How do you earn a living?
I am the dean of the faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg. I feel very privileged to be dean of this dynamic faculty and to serve the field of education in this way.

Where did you grow up?
In two towns: Volksrust in Mpumalanga and Marble Hall in Limpopo.

Which schools (primary and secondary) and university did you attend?
I attended Pionier Laerskool in Volksrust for my primary schooling. My secondary schooling was at Ben Viljoen Hoerskool in Groblersdal, Limpopo. I did my doctoral degree at the former RAU (University of Johannesburg).

Did you have a favourite teacher/s?
I had many, therefore I would rather not identify specific individuals.

Why were you so fond of them?
All my memorable teachers were knowledgeable and passionate about their subject. They clearly enjoyed interacting with students. They made me feel special

How did they influence you?
They were inspiring. They nurtured my love for the subjects they taught and also served as positive role models.

What were your favourite subjects and why?
I am a language person and I love reading. Therefore my favourite subjects were English, Afrikaans and German. It also happens to be the case that I had inspiring teachers in those subjects.

From your point of view, what are the qualities of a good teacher?
You need to know your subject well. Teaching requires a deep and wide understanding of your subject area. Therefore you need to be a lifelong learner. Also, a good teacher is a caring teacher. Caring teachers are passionate about their subjects and about conveying their passion to their students. Thus caring teachers are inspiring. Caring teachers intentionally focus on making a difference in the lives of their learners. They focus on recognising possibilities and potential for growth that exist in all their learners and nurturing this potential. Some may say that this sounds idealistic. I beg to differ. I know many such teachers. 

What are the things a teacher should never do/say?
Teachers are human, therefore every teacher will probably at some stage say or do things that they regret later. But if one consistently treats students with respect, they will readily forgive you!

What message do you have for teachers in South Africa?
I find it very disconcerting that the media in South Africa generally only focus on the problems in education. I am not disputing the fact thatwe are faced with daunting challenges in education. But by only focusing on the negative the teaching profession is unfairly stigmatised. This is very demoralising for student teachers and the thousands of teachers in this country who are dedicated and successful despite the daily difficulties they face. To all these teachers - you are doing very important work. One of my favourite quotes about teaching captures my message to you succinctly: “The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad… Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.” This is a quote by Ivan Welton Fitzwater.

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