Stellenbosch University
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Practical teaching experience ‘best way to learn’
Author: Pia Nänny
Published: 27/10/2016

Every year hundreds of student teachers embark on their practical teaching experience at various schools, and for most it is a challenging but rewarding time.

Adele Johannisen, a fourth-year BEd Foundation Phase student and secretary of Stellenbosch University's Academic Affairs Council was placed in a Grade R class at Rhenish Primary for her final practical teaching experience.

She describes her as experience as a "wonderfully positive one" and says that she had gained many practical skills, such as how to manage a classroom, especially in discipline and routine.

"The support I received, not only from my mentor teacher also from but other teachers in the school, was inspiring. It is wonderful to know that there are teachers that care about your well-being and quality training."

During her time at the school she realised, however, that she should have made more use of opportunities offered by Stellenbosch University to extend her skills set in terms of extra-mural activities.

"When I spoke to the principal about entering a school as a new teacher, his question was: 'Which extra-mural skill would you provide the school with if they were to employ you?' I now realised I should have attended some of the courses, for example netball or first-aid courses, offered by the University."

Mkululi (MK) Nompumza, a third-year BEd Intermediate and Senior Phase student and previous chairperson of the Faculty of Education's student committee completed his practical teaching experience at Makupula Secondary school in Khayamandi, Stellenbosch.

He chooses to go to schools in the lower quintiles of the South African education system.

"I have learnt a lot from being in schools where the majority of the learners have isiXhosa as their home language and unofficial medium of instruction – noticing specifically how the learners struggle to learn concepts, read and write in their official medium of instruction which is English.

"I began to see how challenges such as language, the learners' background and the resources available to teachers are factors that contribute to our country's education crisis."

Juline Rossouw, a fourth-year BEd Intermediate and Senior Phase student and Proteas netball player spent her third term of 2016 at Eikestad Primary.

"Being a student teacher is the best way to learn. Every school and every mentor teacher is different and you learn something new every time. I now know what kind of teacher I would like to be and how I would like to approach and teach the learners in my class."

So, does their time as student teachers reaffirm their decisions to become teachers or does exposure to the "real world" sometimes cause doubt?

"I think that there is a measure of both," says Adele.

"The highs and the lows experienced in theory and practice have contributed to the teacher I am today."

Juline admits that one does sometimes develop doubts.

"But I have never doubted my passion for children. Being a teacher is challenging and requires hard work, but it is also rewarding – we can potentially make a difference in someone's life every day."

For MK, the teaching practice experience reaffirms his decision to become a teacher.

"It is through my practical teaching experience that I become more and more aware of the social and intellectual challenges of my chosen profession – one which I am truly passionate about. I not only want to be a teacher, but also an agent of social change who contributes to improving South African education."