As teachers we were naturally drawn to the South Africa teaching project when we decided to volunteer in South Africa with Plan My Gap Year (PMGY). Working with children from various areas across Cape Town including the townships, we looked forward to the diversity this would bring and hoped we would be able to make even a small difference.
Do you need to have a teaching qualification or experience?
As a volunteer there is no need to have a teaching qualification or even any experience, although either will be most welcome. What’s most important is to come with an open mind and be prepared to just get stuck in. You’ll be placed with a class and a teacher that you’ll work with. Since it is primary level you will remain with that group all day as you rotate through the different lessons including English, maths, science, humanities and many more. Usually you’ll be assisting the teacher in class but may also be able to take out individual or small groups of children who either need additional support, help catching up on work missed or may even require stretching to the next level. Some of the most common tasks done include:
– checking or marking homework
– sitting next to children who need additional support in class
– handing out materials to the children
– preparing, printing or photocopying materials for use in class
– checking or marking completed class work
– taking out small groups who have completed work for additional reading practice
– taking out individuals or small groups who are struggling to complete work and may need extra help
– monitoring and then marking assessments
– helping children who have been off absent to catch up with work and assessments missed
– leading whole class activities (only if you feel confident to do so)
– taking classes when teachers are absent (only if you feel confident to do so)
What is a typical day like?
In teaching there is often no typical day as every day can be full of new and usually wonderful surprises. Also each school and therefore placement is different. Our typical day was as follows:
7:30 am – leave the volunteer house and walk to work (we could have got public transport which would have taken 5 – 10 minutes but we enjoyed the walk)
8:00 am – students line up for the beginning of the school day and school starts
9:00 am – morning session where homework is usually checked and marked, core subjects of maths and English are done.
10:30 am – first break. A 20 minute break at school. Some snacks are sold at school, you can bring your own from home or nip to a nearby shop to buy something.
10:50 am – break over and on to the second session of the day. This can involve any subject and depends on the timetable. Tasks for the volunteer could include anything as mentioned above.
12:50 pm – lunchtime. Again only snacks are provided so you may want to bring your own or go to the shop.
1:10 pm – final session of the day again covering new topics. Students will also be set homework.
2:45 pm – school is over! The rest of your time is to do as you wish. Things to do include:
– visiting the V&A Waterfront (shops, attractions, food & drink etc)
– heading into town (shops, attractions, food & drink)
– going sightseeing e.g. Robben island, a township tour etc
– exercise e.g. Going swimming or for a run/cycle along the promenade.
– hit the beach for tanning or surfing
– chilling at or around the hostel
6:00 pm – dinner time (you can go anytime between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm to fit in with your plans). This is at a local restaurant only 5 minutes walk from the hostel and has free wifi. The meal changes everyday and includes such dishes as:
– beef or chicken burger with chips and salad
– pasta with salad and a roll
– breaded or grilled fish or chicken served with rice, potatoes or cous cous and salad
– chicken wrap with chips and salad
– mild curry with rice
Sandra who owns the restaurant is able to cater with a range of dietary requirements so please just let her know in advance.
7:00 pm – free time. Once dinner is over the rest of the evening is yours to enjoy. Volunteers get up to all sorts of fun things in the evening such as jogging along the promenade, hiking up Signal Hill to watch the sunset or Lion’s Head for full moon. If you’re not feeling so adventurous but in the mood to party instead then there is karaoke in Camps Bay on a Tuesday; numerous bars with live music; a comedy club at the V&A Waterfront; and the length of popular evening destination Long Street to explore. If you want to go out but you’re too tired to party then there is a great open air cinema that changes location every night, places to get a quiet dessert such as Gelato Mania and a number of concerts or evening sporting events at Cape Town’s many arenas.
The weekend is free time too. Check out our post “Cosmopolitan Cape Town” for ideas on what you could be doing or go to the Cape Xtreme website to find more about the company that’s partnered up with the hostel. There really is something for everyone.