At the start of 2016, I launched excitedly into my first teaching job at a large government school in the southern suburbs. While the teaching aspect was (mostly) wonderful, and my learners were (mostly) lovely, I found that I simply did not fit into the punitive and hard environment that was being perpetuated within the school. The learners were coming from tough socio-economic backgrounds, and instead of being encouraged to treat them with love and kindness – as is my natural disposition – I was encouraged to ‘treat them badly’ as one teacher put it, because my kids were ‘used to being treated badly at home’. This baffled me, and went against every fibre in my being. I think of myself as a firm but loving teacher, and I believe that one of the most important parts of being a good teacher is forming genuine and caring relationships with your students. I could not be the teacher I wanted to be, and I therefore made the tough decision to leave that school. I spent the rest of the year working for a marine conservation NGO in Durban. During this time, I recouped my passion and energy and began applying for teaching jobs, looking for schools where my kind nature would be appreciated. Through a friend who works at Constantia Waldorf I was made aware of the opening at Imhoff Waldorf High School, and I applied immediately. After a Skype interview, I was offered the job and promptly accepted. And thus my journey with IWHS began…
Teaching at IWHS this year has been an incredible experience. I have worked with some of the best people I have ever met – I truly believe that this group of staff are superior to any other. Each person is unique and strong in his or her own character, and yet we have all meshed so well to form one cohesive well-oiled machine. Coming from a ‘mainstream’ background, I have learnt about the Waldorf education system, which I am still exploring each day. My students have made me laugh and cry, have embraced me with hugs and thrown me dirty looks – all the natural things to expect when teaching teenagers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I can honestly say that I have formed an individual relationship with each student, which is something I value so highly. The staff and students have had an enormous impact on me, and I won’t ever forget them. Although I have only been here for a year, I am so grateful that my dear colleagues accepted and allowed me to become part of this family – I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey here, and am deeply saddened that it has had to come to such an abrupt end.
My final thought and message that I share with anyone and everyone who asks me about my experience here is the following: the thing that sets IWHS apart from any other high school is that here, kindness is seen not as a weakness (as was the case in my previous job), but rather as a strength. Thank you to IWHS for allowing me to rebuild my spirit and regain my confidence in who I am not only as a teacher, but more importantly as a kind and loving human being.
By Nina Hoffman