Category Archives: Inclusive Education

The month of Application Mayhem!

WCED school applications for 2021 open today.

When it comes to choosing the right school for your child, the process can be quite daunting and can leave a parent feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

School applications in the Western Cape open today, and the mad rush begins as parents scurry to secure a place for their child to have a successful future.

But what makes a child’s education and future successful? Does it all rest in the lucky draw of applications and getting into “the best school in the area”?

Choosing a good school is crucial, yes. Because it is in this place that your child will spend 5 out of 7 days per week with teachers, peers and an education curriculum that will mould their young experiences and direct their thinking patterns. But at the same time, as parents we hold just as much responsibility in creating experiences and influencing thinking patterns that will guide our children throughout their lives.

Perhaps you are sitting behind a stack of application forms, frantically completing the necessary questions, checking the fees structures and planning your route to and from school for 2021. Maybe take a moment – STOP – BREATHE – REFLECT!

What do you currently bring, and maybe need to consider bringing, to your child’s education and future? When your child is in your space, do you create opportunities for your child to learn, explore, question, reflect, critically reason, challenge, invent? Do you listen to your child’s words and see the world through their eyes, helping them to process, reflect, learn and grow from what has happened in and around them? Do you include your child in outside play, family sport tournaments, and rest and relaxation – help them face the disappointments of losing and the patience to wait their turn? Do you read to your child, ask them questions, hear their opinion, make up new endings?

Good schools offer children a place to learn reading, writing, history, science, etc. They offer support when a child struggles in their academics. They provide fellow peers where learners can engage with one another socially and learn the unspoken rules of life. They offer sport to challenge your child physically and socially. But learning is more than having opportunities presented to you. Learning is about taking those opportunities and sucking the marrow out of every bit. Learning is a life-long love for growth and development. It is not about making the 1st team, getting an A or being voted as “most popular”. It is about taking what is given to you, standing on it, and reaching for what is beyond you.

Many have gone to prestigious schools, have high paying jobs, travel the world, big homes, own the latest technology, but are falling apart personally and relationally. Others have been through the worst schools in the toughest neighbourhoods and have stable homes, committed friends and have steadily climbed the ladder towards leadership and influence, where they give back to their community and give others a firm foundation towards a better future. The solid foundations of learning and successful futures are birthed in the values that children – one day adults – carry internally. These values steer them through every experience and opportunity – exhilarating or challenging.

As you look back at your application forms, look beyond the academics and sport programmes, and listen to the heartbeat and values behind the school. Question your own values and the direction you want your child’s life to go? Are these two in alignment? Are there any changes that need to be made? Remember that together with a school, you are partnering towards setting up your child to draw out the best from life, to learn, to overcome, to grow and to succeed.

All the best for this month of application mayhem!

One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.

Look beyond the broken and see the potential.

One of the benefits of living in Cape Town is the array of markets one has access to. Artisan foods, craft beers and upcycled products… it’s a wonderland of creative genius. My favourite stalls are run by those who have upcycled what others would have considered rubbish. A cup with a broken handle turned into a beautiful pot plant. An old window frame transformed into a work of art. Scraps of metal moulded into a magnificent baobab tree. What does it take for someone to look beyond the broken and see the potential? 

A different perspective.

Our approach in society is very much the same. There are two main perspectives in how we perceive and behave towards others who are different. The first is to focus on the problem. In psychology, this is known as the needs-based or medical model. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine over the last few centuries, we’ve been able to isolate the root cause of diseases and find cures and preventions. However, it has also caused us to replicate this way of thinking in our everyday lives. “What’s the problem?” We ask ourselves.

As parents, we might see that our child’s behaviour is unacceptable and ask, “What’s wrong with this kid?” We might go further to ask, “What is happening at school? What am I doing wrong?” As a teacher, we may notice that a child is unable to complete the required tasks and think, “What’s wrong with this student?” We might have the insight to ask, “What is happening at home? Is there something going on in class? Am I doing something wrong?” These questions can help us unearth difficulties and challenges within and around a child.

Unfortunately, one problem just leads to another problem, and another, and another. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed, paralysed and disheartened. When all we can see is the problem, the person gets lost, labelled and belittled – the ADHD kid, the bully, the slow learner, the uncooperative one, the unavailable parent, the incompetent teacher… Much like the trash we so easily discard once it breaks, we discard the individual and replace them with a generalisation.

On the other hand, a different perspective is one that acknowledges that there is a problem. But it shifts the focus onto the skills and resources available. Strengths not only in the person, but around the person. This is known as an asset-based approach. This perspective requires a complete shift in thinking. Instead of asking, “What is wrong?” We ask, “What is useful?”

While a cup without a handle may not be suitable for drinking tea, it is still useful for holding substance – soil, a succulent, and some pebbles. A glassless window frame cannot keep the wind out of a house, but it can frame some precious memories. The asset-based approach recognises that the original design is not being achieved, but that the usefulness of product lies within its unique makeup. Instead of just seeing the child’s problem, we see the strengths of the child and utilise them to his or her benefit. We recognise that there may be difficulties within class, or home, or school, but we find those areas where the child flourishes and use them to his or her advantage. We build on the strengths so that the child has resources available to overcome the challenges. We recognise the individual’s uniqueness and see his or her potential for the future.

It means looking beyond the problem, and seeing the person.