Pay careful attention to the-above picture. Look again. Do look one more time. What do you see?
I hope you first noticed what most people would comment on, i.e. they are an all-smiling group of youngsters, that they are full of enthusiasm and unbridled energy. Do you feel their warmth? Do you notice their confidence? Do you notice their unblemished skin tone? Do you notice their healthy teeth and infectious smiles? Do you notice their poses? Each of them struck a different one, just too happy to be in-the-shot!
Or did everything in the preceding paragraph come as a second thought. What was your first? Did you see African children? Did you see poor children? Did you think they are unruly? Uncultured? In need of discipline? Did you think they suffer malnutrition? That they needed de-worming? That they probably live in an informal settlement? That their school uniform is not consistent? That they don't stand a chance-in-life? That they will probably become gangsters, dropouts, sexual offenders, wife beaters, thieves or murderers or victims of social injustice?
I wish I could properly capture their adventurous spirit, their passion for life, their innocence, their fearlessness. I spent five minutes with them today, and left enthused by them. They were so spontaneous...they were everything I would want to see in children...you see, they are children.
You may be wondering why I am placing so much emphasis on the picture and on the initial impulse it triggered in your brain and the subsequent image and impression it left with you. It is very simple actually. Everyday, in classrooms across the expanse of our country, we are confronted with the boundless possibility in the faces in this picture and which enters our learning spaces. They are literally a blank canvas, alive and open to manipulation, to be stretched and moulded. But an adult stands between them and the gateway to realising their full potential - YOU.
And what you decide at that very moment they confront your presence determines to what extent they will flourish and ignite or start to slowly die cognitively and otherwise. As an educator you have such power each day. You literally hold sway over the future of our country and it's future citizens.
And our children don't ask for much. They simply want you to believe in them, then nurture and encourage them, make them feel safe when vulnerable and like superman when they want to take-on-the-world, guide them but give them sufficient space to explore, and recognise that every dream expressed is possible, and then showing them how to identify and embrace the tools they need to realise the same. And not to punish them for being different, for having an appetite for learning some days but also not on other days, and lifting them when they feel overwhelmed.
It is as simple as that. In exchange, you will get to enter their worlds, share their dreams, heartaches and growth, and live a life fulfilled as they fulfil theirs... Isn't it exciting to be in teaching?