One of the more professionally rewarding experiences for me every odd year is my participation in the ACE School Leadership programme of the University of Stellenbosch. On average, 150 SMT members from schools across the province enroll for the program. They represent a diverse set of school environments, from deep rural, faced with extreme poverty, to rich, semi-urban ones. The equalizer is that they enter the course with the same levels of fear and trepidation, anxious to not fail or disappoint their stakeholder groupings. For many of them, this journey comes after a hiatus of many years away from academic study. I guest lecture on the administrative, infrastructure and finance management module.
This course absolutely fascinates me for a number of reasons. You see, adult learners are a difficult bunch. Many are stuck in the cocooned world of their school environments, happy to plod along in this comfort zone. They are familiar with it, set the tone in it and face no unfamiliar challenges. But on this course, they become vulnerable and fragile. Their thinking gets shaken to its core. Each lecture sends tremors through them, raising issues that they would prefer not to deal with or ignore because of its demands. And they respond to the series of challenges in the same way as the children they teach. When you ask them a question, their heads drop, when they are asked to explain, they stutter with insecurity, when challenge to extend themselves, they suffer temporary paralysis. They often lament to be completely overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge to their behaviours. And in the first few months, they literally collapse under the intensity of these demands.
Facilitation under such conditions require skill. Getting middle-aged professionals to understand that they know too little to move our learners through the 21st century and that they need to collaborate on many fronts simultaneously to remain relevant, is like trying to convince the "mouse she can take out the elephant". Impossible is the default setting.
We are now at the end of another course. I'm confident that the journey has ensured that another set of educators are better prepared to face the challenges that the 21st century places on our schools. And it is a privilege to have been able to play a part in it!