Introverted-“Loud in here quiet out there.”

Being introverted is a misunderstood disposition which I find brings many challenges and triumphs in my life and career. The need to create a tranquil space where I can think or hear my thoughts is something I crave to do even subconsciously. This has been labelled as me lacking in interpersonal skills by colleagues, being viewed as proud and distant in groups. As an introvert this kind of judgement or misunderstanding may throw us into a frenzy of research into Emotional Intelligence Theories and self help quests. The worst thing you can do is tell us the problems we have, we think and overthink about them until we burn out or find a solution. For me, to change would be to deny self and I don’t know any other way to be.

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In classrooms I empathize with the introverted child, who always seems to be misunderstood for needing space.

As an artist and performer, I have been accused of being an extrovert but as introverts do, we learn to play that card to survive and not appear stand-offish. My thoughts consume me so much that I may appear detached from the going-ons around me especially when I lack the interest to engage, but on the contrary I am deeply thinking through or past the point of engagement.

In a meeting,one class teacher proclaimed that this academic year he would like to challenge “Joe” to be more social and he is going to place him in many groups for collaboration. As much as collaboration has its place in the educational experience, the thoughts that introverts could be stifled or lost in the chatter. And usually I have found that working in collaboration with colleagues on projects can be exhausting as the chatterboxes usually leave things for the last minute or do not commit to the end and furthermore talk about the process instead of getting on with it.

Joe, whom I teach, has learning challenges and the most brilliant ideas and creativity. He writes fiction short stories at his own will and during his free time although being told he lacks the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. He has trained himself to master the art of channeling his thoughts and creations onto paper regardless of his dyslexia.

One afternoon Joe looked at me and said “I’m just tired of hearing people talk and them getting in my space, I cant think.” I remember feeling the same way just moments before. To be introverted is difficult in such an extremely extroverted world you almost have to fight to be yourself and moments of extroversion make you feel exhausted at the end of day.

The best parts about myself are due to my introverted nature, the deep thoughtfulness I put into everything, the unfailing endurance I daily apply to my commitments and goals, the ability to be reflective about all aspects of myself and the constant reminder of my purpose and vision..As an educator I ensure my classroom reflects the possibility to nurture all natures.

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The freedom to see the world and experience life the way I was intended to..

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Community Awareness

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The past few months have been drenched with rain in Harare due to our ongoing rainy season. This has yielded good crops for us as a country and for me, unexpected opportunities of advocacy and awareness in the field of Special Needs Education. All good things have their limitations and many articles in the local paper show flooded areas where homes have been destroyed and students in dilapidated classrooms sitting in puddles of brown water inspite of the rain. The resilience of a hungry mind cannot be fathomed. As one of my students put it..

..”How can i give up? I started reading Fat Cat and now I’m reading chapter books from the library, by myself”.

 

I believe education is the awakening of one’s soul to the endless possibilities we can create for ourselves.

Those excluded from education are robbed of the possibility, no one should be left out. It is still apparent in the community that Inclusion of people with disabilities is still an ongoing reformation, the policies, laws and constitution only scratch the surface of the needs of people with disabilities. The issues that prevail are the inaccessibility of the curriculum, school infrastructures, inadequate provision, trained personnel, just to mention a few. A social paradigm shift is also a deep need as communities still view people with disabilities as incapable. At traffic lights the norm is to see a blind individual begging for money, or a person with physical disabilities lay on the street sides helplessly asking for alms. Intellectual disabilities are feared and these children mostly stay at home until adulthood.

There is indeed lots of work to do on the ground and a change in perception of disabilities in our communities. This month I was invited to join a steering committee for a network created by parents who found a need to empower other interested parties and promote awareness of exceptional children.  The GTLD Network Zimbabwe (Gifted, Talented with Learning Differences) has began forums with experts who share information on how to manage and foster the strengths of these children. I was greatly honoured to provide a theoretical background into the topic area of the day. I have been granted the opportunity in my field to see theory in practice for over 6 years and the power of theory for me is that it’s a starting point.

I have also been asked to join a team of enthusiastic people who are doing ground breaking work in communities such asMbare for children with disabilities. Signs of Hope Trust Zimbabwe is just the opportunity to share educational intervention strategies with other teachers and professionals and I enthusiastically look forward to sharing and learning. I am hopeful that as a Zimbabwean community we are beginning to awaken to the possibility of inclusion, not in theory but in practice.

 

 

 

My Special Journey

As an introvert I take in the world quite deeply. I haven’t been writing, but I have been reading and thinking, so I have been growing and changing.

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“As much as we may try to enforce inclusive policies and laws,we need inclusive minds.”

My career in Special Needs Education is 5 years old. I have found that my passions and knowledge from my BA in International Law and Human Rights is applicable and relevant to special needs education. The issue of Human Rights and Inclusive Education in Zimbabwe has much debate and efforts by the local government to uphold United Nations recommendations are still a challenge due to the economical woes the country is currently in. The policies and laws are vague and are not being enforced, additionally persons with Disabilities or Special Needs do not know their rights.

My work in an international school is one of great privilege and I have learnt through experience to view education from  a more pragmatic/humanistic view. This philosophy is more open to difference, I found that instead of adapting/trying to fit in as I was accustomed to in a post colonial country, my differences were embraced and diversity a welcomed normality. The main thread of Special Education in Africa now has been towards inclusion/normalization. Controversies still exist and thrive due to a lack of awareness and negative cultural ideals. People with disabilities/special needs have the right as everyone else to participate in society and reach self actualization. Inclusion to me is the first step,  as much as we may try to enforce inclusive policies and laws, we need inclusive minds. Inclusion should be a normality and not a special/new way of doing things, it is not a privilege it is a right. As young as my journey in Special Needs is, I am optimistic that ahead, there is still a lifetime of reform for me to navigate and challenge.

 

Language Acquisition

In my work with English Learners I have discovered a necessary patience. I have been working with English learners for 5 years now and have found that each child’s journey is extremely different. To begin with, there are many layers to every childIMG_0549, in addition to the language barrier, layers of cultural diversity,practice and norms, religion, behavioral uniqueness, interests and passions. I remember once greeting a Chinese student in Japanese by mistake, in my attempt to ease her a little (break the ice). Her response was a fragmented sentence with undertones of robust anger of how the Japanese had killed her people, with gestures of be-heading included. Lesson learnt, I did my research and now with a more open heart and mind I enjoy learning about the cultures and languages that these students belong to and that avoidance of eye contact at times is a sign of respect for authority. The general stereotypes don’t apply and society robs itself of the possibility of a better world,  by lack of understanding of our diversity. The IBO philosophy humanistic in form makes it possible for humanity to get along, with mutual respect and celebration of one’s uniqueness and that of others, peace is a possibility.

I recently ventured into the world of Japanese Anime to learn some conversational words of  which my Japanese student finds hilarious and always unpredictable, nevertheless he nods me on. I find it refreshing that we can both laugh at our mistakes and that learning English shouldn’t be laborious and bland, but with cultural understanding, the academic part, is a bonus. I have been privileged to work with German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Czech, Swedish, Italian, Spanish/Italian/French, Norwegian,Jewish and I await the opportunity to grow more.Above all I have learnt that we are all human and possess things we value and as an educator it is important that I understand these things first.

I  held a professional DSC00309workshop in 2014 that outlined the theories behind language acquisition and most importantly how to help support the third culture population of language learners. The most valuable asset is empathy.

One student I had was multi lingual and learning English for the first time. His homework on one occasion was two pages long of information he had to cite in a persuasive essay. As expected I found myself in a whirlwind of papers, tears,pencils, furniture and shoes as he found this the only effective way to express his frustration. I watched as he wore himself out. From that, I learnt a few Spanish/French/Italian words not appropriate for this platform, however, I became his advocate. His interest in soccer was our common conversational starter and from there he learnt mathematical vocabulary. It’s a journey that thrills me especially when these children gain confidence to speak English for the first time (the silent period can be daunting for both teacher and student), but when that period is over as I’ve recently found getting them to stop at times, can be interesting!

My Educational Philosophy

I believe …That education is empowerment, liberation of the mind and a journey of discovery of self and the world.

Learning... Is fluid, its everywhere and a natural part of our existence and survival.

The role of a teacher... Is to advocate for learning, facilitate the best environment and photo (69)opportunity for learning to take place. To Inspire and provoke the mind to engage in the learning process.

The classroom... is a place well adapted to suit individual student needs, a place of positivity, organization and diversity. Its a space of collaboration, debate, exploration, reflection and experimentation, where there are no wrong answers, only learning opportunities.A place where each child is equipped, recognized and appreciated.

Teaching... is supporting students to discover and nurture their potential. I believe the constructivist methods of teaching allow for student-centered learning where student2013-05-28 08.41.17s take the lead in their learning and inquiry. Teaching is providing relevantly differentiated work and challenges are used to stimulate further inquiry. Teaching is providing instruction that is deep and wide in scope to facilitate trans-disciplinary learning. The use of research based sequential and progressive teaching
methods for student achievement.

Special Needs Education... Is equality. Children with Special Needs are always the hardest workers. Their unique learning styles and strengths demand continuous knowledgeable and skillful teaching. It is to foster independence, equip students with skills and knowledge whilst students to reach their full potential.

Success.. is the ability to try again and to introspect.

Learning to Communicate

Over the Summer break I was fortunate to be granted the privileged of teaching students with Autism at the Autism Society of Zimbabwe. Autism has only recently gained some attention in Zimbabwe as a disabilityIMG-20150626-WA0002 that requires specialist support, rehabilitation, therapy and early detection. The founder Helen, has a big heart and great vision of one day building a vocational center for skills training for a means of possible income for the older children. Her team is made up of graduates who volunteer for a small remuneration, in comparison to the workload, their efforts are priceless and commendable.

I was in awe at the hunger to learn these children had. I learnt their language of communication through occasional touches, nibbles and sniffs as they searched for sensory input in identifying me. My days there were inspirational and fulfilling, I became part of the family and part of their routine, which is quite important to the children. I discovered how creative and artistic some of the children are and giIMG-20150626-WA0004ven the chance to use an I pad they created the most alluring abstract pieces! Of course turn taking was also part of the lesson but each child savored their chance. I also tried to introduce a variety of colors but work was handed in with drawings colored in one color!

On one of our morning walks one child who is working very hard at his speech therapy, but shys away from speaking yelled “Ice-cream!” as a truck sped past. That was a moment of many tears for me! Im back at work now but I miss my morning hugs and gentle touches of inspection from the children. Their moments of awesome when they say a word or point to an object in relation to a previous lesson. When they respond to a greeting without echoing and the best is when they show caring for each other even if it means wiping tears or mucous all over the other’s face.

Welcome to my personal Blog!

What we want is to see a child in pursuit of knowledge and not knowledge in pursuit of the child- George Bernard Shaw

From an early age i have always been inquisitive. I have always wanted to know why things worked the way they did and what caused the cause! I familiar practice when I was in high school was to break our pencils at the end of our final exam as symbol for “the end of learning”. Since then I have pursued degrees, courses, diplomas and certificates because as true as life is to itself learning is a journey. One of self-discovery, adventure, widening of ones’ perspectives and schema to say the least. My education was/is a good foundation for all areas of life and a basis to explore further into impossibilities that change has brought about. As an educator I believe my role is to provoke the investigation and inquiry process, to support students to discover their potential and endless possibilities that present when we take risks. To encourage a celebration of diversity and individuality and to advocate for the next generation. To allure students to pursue knowledge for the sake of living.