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Grade 12 Literature Studiesfor IEB an GDE syllabus

Literature private tuition for grade 12 that includes poetry, short stories and novels. Cel 072 557 6088 or email: maryann.alho@gmail.com

Ready, Steady, Go

Today is the 24th March 2012, an important date for me. My protege Keegan is writing his scholarship exams for entry into Hilton and Michaelhouse in Kwa Zulu Natal in 2013. Keegan is also celebrating his 13th birthday today.

In the Jewish faith Keegan would be celebrating his early entry into manhood. I choose to acknowledge him as a young man as from today. I am truly proud of him. He has grown from man cub to young man.

We started out Tabla Rasa in August 2008. I did not fully understand what was in store for me and Keegan was clueless as to what was in store for him. What had given rise to our meeting as tutor and learner (my preferred word, “student) was Keegan’s poor marks in Afrikaans in the beginning of grade 4. His older sister (5 years his senior) was struggling with Afrikaans. Their parents were besides themselves as her poor marks in Afrikaans were lowering her overall aggregate. Her matric year was looming. Keegan had inadvertently taken on the bad attitude of his older sister towards Afrikaans.

Together the parents and I decided we would nip this in the bud. Keegan would start his extra Afrikaans lessons. I wrote many little notes all over the household to stimulate his Afrikaans “Woordeskat”.  Everywhere Keegan looked there was an Afrikaans sticker…i.e seep, handdoek, kas, lig, deur. The language had become”visible”.

At first Keeg’s tried to please me, when that didn’t work he “resisted” me and the twice weekly Afrikaans  lessons.  Frankly I saw his  intelligence potential. I am by nature  “tenacious”. I relentlessly pursued Keegan’s ability to master the language. Before my very eyes I became, “horns and a tail”. I wrote copious notes to Keegan’s mother with feedback both the good and bad soliciting her support. I got 100% support from her.

The first three months of phonetics were difficult. My Afrikaans tutoring sessions were relentness. By September 2008 Keegan showed signs of turning the corner. His mother and I began to cultivate discipline into his routine. He tried to wheedle out of it but again we were adamant.  In 2009 Keegan and I began the upward journey of aiming for the summit. Now not only was he to master the foundations of the Afrikaans language, we were aiming at mastering the higher functioning aspects of learning, such as reciting words,  rote learning woordeskat and tempering his still normal child-like behaviour. In addition it was necessary to deal with the inevitable distractions of a young, highly intelligent boy who was smitten with “Runescape” (a benign computer game).

In 201o Keegan and I began to gel in ways I can only say stem from the many graces I received in having the privilege to work with such a decent, kind, compassionate, able and willing student. Keegan began to sense my belief in him. Simultaneously I began to grow my own belief in myself, with a lot of support from Keegan’s mother. Now Keegan was looking for challenges in the tutoring sessions and I obliged him at every turn.

In 2011 on the understanding it would be my last year to tutor Keegan, we both stayed the course and reached for greater heights and more achievements. It was an emotionally charged moment when Keegan went on stage to receive his academic colours and his Certificate of Merit for achieving 94% for Afrikaans at the end of grade 6. The hard work had paid off  handsomely.

Magnamiously another year of  “seeing Keegan through his senior primary school year” was added.

Today as my thoughts linger on Keegan sitting those scholarship exams in Kwa- Zulu Natal,  I know that I have helped to cultivate an acorn into a budding oak tree. The years of tutoring have been gracious. The knowledge is inside you Keegan. It goes to the very roots of your being.

 

 

Creating a Shadow

With the onset of Autumn the shadows are already forming in the morning as the sunlight begins to change. I   recently noticed a child (5 or 6 years old) standing on a cemented path that runs alongside the Lemon Squeezer ( Catholic Church) that I was about to enter. He was by himself except for his shadow.

This drew my attention as the child oblivious to me raised his shoulders like a crooked bow and watched how his shadow became  elongated as his form reflected on the smooth surface of the path. Fascinating.

I couldn’t help remembering that when I first saw Bushman Paintings in the Brandberg Mountains of Namibia I immediately noticed the antenuated form of the ancient figures depicted on the walls of the caves. The present scene reminded of my sense of curiousness at the time in the Brandberg.

Is this some primal instinct that one relishes as a child…more because of the sense of wonder and awe that curiousness brings at that stage of human development?

The young boy was entranced with how his shadow responded to his movements. The gradient at which the path evolved further lent to the mawkishness of his shadow. I watched him in fascination as he stared fascinated at this self generated phenomena.

The quality of  imagination among my learners is frankly paltry. One of the reasons for this I believe is that they dont reach one of the important milestones of the foundation phase. This is the milestone of explore and play fostered by a sense of curiousness. Not curiosity mind.

The learners I tutor are passive in their relaxation and leisure time. They watch TV, they listen to music on their  Ipods and M3 players, they engage with interactive computer games that are fundamentally competitive and ofcourse the incessant chatter (what we called idle chatter) that the cellphone facilitates. There is no sense of cold face reality such as moving boulders to see what bugs are housed underneath or climbing trees to see one’s surroundings from a different vantage point.

The point is : there is little or no “auto discovery”. My best times as a child was discovering for myself what my neighbours’ garden looked like when I retrieved a errant ball (playing soccer or cricket with my brothers). The South Africa we grew up in the late 1960’s and 70’s often offered a wide variety of European back yards such as Italian (with fresh produce being cultivated) or Portuguese (with vineyards) or Irish (with silky feet roosters and hens  in fowl pens), not to omit the Afrikaans next door neighbours with peach, apricot and other fruit trees cultivated in their gardens together with the inevitable mulberry tree.

No this is not about languishing in the past. Auto discovery is better than hearsay because it takes one out of one’s comfort zone. It makes one be one’s own radar screen. How one interprets one’s surroundings is left to the individual and allows the individual the joy of encoding the world around him/her without the bias/ prejudice or the jaundiced eye of a wearied or unimaginative explorer.

Playing with one’s shadow is a free past time (doesn’t incur any expense except time) that may yet connect one’s self to one’s own primal instincts: who am I and what I want to be. Our shadow foretells that we are all bigger than what we truly believe.

Marks are not necessarily a reflection of ability but serve the tutor as a reasonable but not infallible guideline. What the mind sees it can achieve is my preferred motto. Its all about what’s inside and not what’s on top!

Reading is an essential skill to learning

HOW DO YOU SPELL ACHIEVEMENT?   R…E…A…D

Several circumstances that unfolded over this past week has brought to mind something critical. That something has I believe become redundant in the next generation’s list of activities.

It first surfaced from my consciousness on Monday when I caught the Gautrain to Hadfield, Pretoria to meet well-loved PRH faciltator Dick Broderick MSC. The Gautrain’s North – South line (Rosebank to Hadfield) has only been in  operation a good 6 months after the Airport to Sandton line was opened in time for the Rugby World Cup in July 2010.

It was time for me to take the 35 minute journey.

True to form I arrived on the spotless and somewhat stark  Rosebank platform to board the Gautrain. In the immaculately kept carriages embarked a fair number of students who I presumed were heading for lectures at either TUKS or UNISA. All of the one’s I saw were either BB Messaging or listening to their ipods or some other  super-charged item of  technology that clearly transported these commuters into a private world that shut out the rest of us.

I was catching up with a compilation of Stephen King’s short stories titled: “A season of Short stories” in preparing for a lesson on English literature for a grade 9  learner when I glanced around. No one was reading…not a newspaper, not an article, not a document, not a book…paperback or hard cover,  neither an academic textbook…nada. Trite Techno Travelling was the order of the day.

I stared out the window and was fascinated to see the highrise, high density development that was invading the landscape as we passed by in the blink of an eye. Functional technology certainly does have its compensations.

On Wednesday in the sweltering heat of this rather unstable end to summer, I welcomed a grade 9 pupil to my Afrikaans session on Letterkunde. I insisted we read the poem several times to get the gist of it, before tackling the analysis of both the content and the figures of speech embedded so surreptiously in the verses. “Why do I have to read it so many times?” the learner wailed. The act of reading apparently a mammoth task to impose on a grade 9 pupil. “What’s so hard about reading a 5 stanza poem?” I inquired testily. “I hate reading” he answered huffily, “it’s so boring…!”. The last few  words escaping from his mouth as if the wind had been beaten out of his sails.

On Thursday I was caught in the most offensive traffic snarl imaginable. A two lane arterial route between Rivonia and Bryanston was blocked by a long-haul  truck (carrier), with 7 brand new cars secured to its mobile platform, which remained stationary while a hell-bent ambulance wheedled its way across the long line of stationary traffic imposing any restriction of movement for 45 minutes. I found myself reading every outdoor sign, every placard strapped to the street-lined trees as well as glancing at the construction site boards detailing new property developments in the area. Thus I whiled away my time reading.

When I eventually arrived at the home of my learner in Sundowner, (near the Coca Cola Dome), I thought that I might catch my breath by having my learner read to me the comprehension that she had failed. In this way I could see where she had gone wrong in answering the questions.This was met with a stony stare. It turned out she had been unable to read the comprehension with any notion of understanding it. Even more disconcertingly, she had been unable to read the questions accurately.

Herein lies the rub of my gripe. The sheer laziness and lack of competency that the next generation show in being willing and able to read.

A South African National survey on Higher Education that was published in the Business Day  newspaper on the 11th of January this year  (2012) clearly stipulated that any learner wishing to matriculate with reasonable results needed to read and write in both English and Afrikaans/ Zulu albeit for only 15 minutes every day of the school week.

The act of reading is not only essential to passing matric. Reading is obligatory to cultivate vocabulary and in particular the attainment of erudite levels of vocabulary, syntax (word order and proper grammatical application) and is the very vehicle for providing “meaning” and “accuracy” when one reads. There is no “one-size fits all” as promoted by cheap retail, but rather every foot needs its own sock, so put your foot in your mouth and be sure to read before you speak.

Reading takes practice both on a physiological, psychological and neurological level. The art of reading becomes internalized when the joy of reading is attained.

Quote

From the mud comes the fa…

From the mud comes the fairest lilies

Getting your Hands Dirty – Mind Tricks

The past two weeks have brought to my attention a small but significant bugbear with regards to learning difficulty. Several of my learners have not realized that when they mentally ward off the subject they dislike or are weakest at, they are reinforcing their brain’s ability to expel what is presented to it. For example if as a learner you don’t understand conjunctions then when that particular exercise comes up and you have to learn conjunctions and apply them in a cycle test your brain will naturally say. “phooey!” and will resist taking in the time and effort you are taking to learn the rules of conjunctions.

My most recent example of the “phooey!” syndrome is when two of my matriculants who have an Afrikaans prescribed book to read presented me  each (independently) with a with a pristine textbook. Both of these textbooks did not show a single thumb print on any of the pages. Aha! they were not willing to get their hands dirty by opening up the book and trying to read the Afrikaans text. The mind responds in kind with negative reinfrcement. What’s the use? I can’t read it anyway.Resistance is a killer!

Exposure to the things we find difficult is often a means of overcoming the very thing that presents difficulty or unpleasantness or challenge. Get involved in the prescribed book. Own the fact that it is your next hurdle and it requires conquering. My role is to support you in regaining your self esteem and your perseverance by assisting you by persistent diligence (hard work) in mastering some measure of competency in the very subject you think you abhor. Once you make in-roads into the “unknown” the unknown becomes known. Your brain transforms its initial dislike into acceptance and learning becomes easier!

 

Old Mindset versus Non -conformist

This past week 13 -15 February 2012 John Robbie (702’s early morning talk show host) featured the controversy that exists between experienced teachers who are educated but who do not have the “voting paper” (my terminology for the SACE accredited Higher Diploma in Education) that  allows them (legally speaking) to teach at schools or to be registered as permanent teachers.

My qualifications extend beyond the Higher Diploma in Education and include a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and an Honours degree in Clinical Psychology. I have lectured for the John Povey Centre (a satellite department of Unisa’s English department that featured the application of writing English for a myriad of purposes such as for Research reasons, for entry levels in to Professional Business Writing, the compiling of Official documents and Tenders etc). English and Afrikaans are my hallmark subjects.

It is my 4th year that I am engaged in providing  Learner Support to a variety of individual learners from a variety of Johannesburg’s prestigious schools. In my undertaking I appraise the learner wholistically. My psychology training enables me to garner accurate and insightful information on each learner that crosses my threshold. The actual “private tutoring sessions” are the baseline from which I work. In addition I offer both techniques for improving learning as well as mentoring my learners (particularly Grade 12 students) so that a year’s program yields positive results.

Inspiration, initiative, creativity, consistent work and accepting the challenge that comes with “teaching from the heart” has earned me my reward i.e. satisfaction in my current life’s work.  The learners somehow catch “the fire that burns in my belly” and are either singed by it or rise like phoenixes from the ashes.