Do you know everything about Autism?


I sure don’t!

I have read various articles and been on courses but I feel like my knowledge is but a drop in the ocean!

I am facing a challenge at school. There are quite a few Autistic learners or learners with Asperger Syndrome.

As parents and teachers of children on the Autism spectrum know, these children sometimes present with other learning barriers too. In most of my learners’ cases it is ADHD.

I’m very excited because tomorrow counselors and teachers from our school is going to visit another school to learn more about helping these special needs learners.

I know having all the academic background is a must, but I would love practical advice on how to help these learners cope with our curriculum and also teach them the necessary social skills to deal with everyday life. Every individual has his/her own set of unique circumstances, learning style and coping mechanisms.

Please comment with tips that worked for you in cases where the learner battles with frustration due to sensory overload or inability to interact appropriately in a class situation.

There is a Sotho proverb that says: Motho ke motho ka batho. (A person is a person through other people).

There are so many people with specialised training that has tried many different techniques that work with special needs learners. Is it appropriate to ask for help? I sure hope so! I want to learn everything I can to help each learner in my class be their optimal self and to learn with enthusiasm.

Thank you for your input guys and galls! It is really appreciated.

xxx much love – hesta.

I am a teacher!


I’m a teacher…………..

Behind that doctor, there I am, a teacher………..
Behind that economist, there I am, a teacher……….
Above those astronomers there I am, a

I carry the light even though they mock my passion………..

But i am a teacher……..

I don’t qualify for a RDP house nor earn enough to buy an expensive one…………………..

I drive a cheap 3rd or even forth hand car that I’ve learned to fix myself so that it can take me from my home to my school, because I am a teacher……………

Some think or even say that I have so many holidays, never knowing that I
I spend those holidays either researching or planning what and how I’m going to teach when I go back to school…….

Because I am a teacher…….. I sometimes get confused and even stressed by the ever changing policies that the politicians, who have political power over what and how I have to teach, lay down as law…….

On pay days I don’t laugh as others do and by the next day I have to come with a smile to those that I teach………..

Because I’m a teacher………

The main source of my satisfaction is when I see my learners growing, succeeding, bravely facing the world and its challenges.

Yes I am a teacher……..

It doesn’t matter how people look at me. It doesn’t matter how much more they earn than me because what they have wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for me……..

I am a teacher………..

(A beautiful post by my friend and colleague Barbara-Mari Du Toit with a few tweaks by me!)

To all teachers starting school for this new year: Carpe Diem! Go get them, inspire them and make that difference!

I teach.

I teach.

xxx much love – hesta.

We don’t need no education!

Remember that line from the Pink Floyd song “Another Brick in The Wall”?


It’s exam time in most schools. I see the learners in my classes and I wonder….

What happened between when I was in school and now? Where did we go wrong? I’m not being negative. Today’s children want everything handed to them on a silver platter. From mommy going more than the extra mile to get their swimwear or cricket gear to school when they have forgotten it, to wanting “payment” for doing well in an exam!

Somewhere our children have missed that lesson on responsibility and taking pride in yourself. It is as if Pink Floyd’s song have come true. Children don’t want to be educated anymore. They want the teacher to leave them alone. And our laws are giving them more rights everyday, who don’t know what to do with it, or the responsibility to handle it.

Those of us in teaching who really take our job seriously, as a calling, are very worried. What kind of generation are we raising? How much of a difference do a handful do against the onslaught on our children by the media and parents leaving the raising of our children to teachers.

I have more questions than answers. So I will get off my soapbox now.


Call of duty: Modern warfare – playground duty



Every week the dreaded day arrives, playground duty day…

To prepare the teacher whose task it is to be on duty for those 20 minutes every 2 hours, I have compiled a general profile of the villains, victims and innocent bystanders that you will meet on the common primary school playground.

Profile #1: The thundering herd


Mostly boys but now and then a very brave girl would venture into this herd. The teams can vary in size from two-a-side to twenty! They will kick around anything from a soccer ball to an empty cooldrink bottle. Loud displays of joy when a goal is scored will go along with chest bumping and high-fiving. But be aware, this raucous thundering herd can morph into a rioting mob if anyone outside of the teams tried to steal their “ball”. Always keep them in your line of vision.

Profile #2: Pinky and the Brain


You will usually find Pinky and the Brain in the higher grades. They will be huddling together in the corner of the playground. They seem very docile and timid but beware! All is not as it seems. Pinky, the goofy side-kick will do anything the Brain tells him to. He would be the probable villain to steal the thundering herd’s ball and try to run away with it, while the Brain would sit back and enjoy the ensuing mob attacking Pinky to retrieve said ball.

Profile #3: The WWE- wannabes


There will always be John Cena- extreme-fans on your playground. Take special care as these young boys of all age groups will tagteam-up to body slam each other into the grassless spots. Then they will attempt 619’s, clothes-lines and try to finish each other off with tombstone pile-drivers. Those are some of the worst offenders on a playground because they think they are “just playing”.

Profile #4: The brats


These girls usually crowd around a main-brat. They discuss hair and make-up and boys in whispers and giggles. They walk around with a swagger and the typical flick of the hair. They would normally be found around the thundering herd as the jocks will be dribbling past their giggles and waves. They are the least physical group to look out for but they can become gossipy and mean to loners that are not part of their pack.

Profile #5: The Power-Puff girls


These are usually a group of leaders who are not on duty. They roam the playground showing off their power by telling other children who are dawdling in the bathrooms they will be put on detention. They are the least of your problems, dear playground-duty-teacher, but the children who are harassed by them will come and report the incident to you and then you will be distracted and not see the pile-drivers happening or the mob thundering.

Profile #6: The Dexters


These are the best children to have on a playground. They walk around alone, with books tucked under their arms. They talk to themselves about inventions and ideas and are oblivious to anything around them. Unfortunately they do not look where they are going and would wander into the way of the thundering herd or become the victim of Pinky and the Brain. They will get trampled and pushed and will end up under a pile of sweaty jocks. They also break easily so it is best to make sure that you herd them away from an oncoming stampede.

There are several other types to remember as well, dear playground – duty – teacher, but they are any teacher’s dream. The Little Bo-Beeps who sit quietly and play with their friends, having a tea party and saying kind things to each other will make you smile as you glance around warily for the approaching storm. The Drama Queens will put on a special show for whoever wants to look and listen about whatever they have seen or heard on television last night or some of them will even play school-school.

You have twenty minutes dear playground – duty – teacher. Be vigilant. Be aware. Have eyes in the back of your head and ears like satelite dishes. 

Lock and load your megaphone – voice, all the patience you can muster and go, go, go!!

Are your child being bullied?


what is bullying

I remember when I was at school, the bully was a big girl named Dottie who ate 5 pies at break, took your lunch money, pushed or tripped you and laughed when you walked past. The best thing was to avoid her and eventually it was quite easy. You had to walk further to get to where you wanted to go but you didn’t have to walk past her. There were always teachers and prefects you could turn to and after school you were safe because she didn’t live close to you…

But today, bullies look different and act different…

As a teacher I usually pride myself on being able to scope out who the potential bullies are in my classes, but lately I am doubting even that ability.

Research shows that almost 97% of children gets bullied at some stage in their school life. The newest trend is cyber-bullying. It is the act of bullying a person on a social network site like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Wechat, Mxit, BBM etc. and it affects mostly teenagers. It is repeated behaviour where teenagers are exposed to cruel comments, false rumours being spread about them, purposefully damaging a person’s reputation and purposeful exclusion from a group.

Some interesting statistics about cyber-bullying:

  1. 43% of teenagers have been bullied  more than once online.
  2. 70% of students report that they have seen frequent bullying.
  3. 80% of teens use a cellphone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber-bullying.
  4. 81% of students think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.
  5. 90% of teenagers who have seen social-media bullying, say they have ignored it.
  6. 84% of teenagers have seen others tell cyber-bullies to stop.
  7. Only 1 out of 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
  8. 75% of students have visited a website bashing another student.
  9. Bullying victims are 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.
  10. In response to being bullied 35% of students respond in person; 15% avoid going to school; 4.5% have been in a physical fight with the bully.
  11. 10% of parents are targets of cyber-bullying.  

loserI hate you on phone

What does this type of bullying do to our children?

As a “herd – animal” teenagers want to fit into their peer-group. They are looking for their individual identity but during adolescence they find it in being part of a collective group. Cyber-bullying cuts the individual off from the collective. It shuns the victim, isolating him or her from their peers. No-one wants to associate with that person for fear of also becoming an outcast. We all know how fragile a teenager’s self-esteem can be. Bullying makes a teen doubt his/her self-worth.

Horrifying indeed! And obviously to make it so much worse, parents and even teachers would rarely know when a teen is being cyber-bullied unless they have such an open relationship with the child that he or she will take them into their confidence. Many times adults only realise that something is going on when their child withdraws completely from the company of even family members. They are in their rooms all the time and a definite change in their mood can be detected. Although teenagers are “normally” moody due to hormonal changes, a bullied child will be severely moody.

Bullying can escalate to such an extent that the victim wants to commit suicide. Around 4 400 deaths were recorded worldwide last year as a result of cyber-bullying. Over 14% of highschool students have considered suicide and 7% have attempted it. Girls between 10 and 14 years old seems to have the highest risk for committing suicide.

Warning signs to look out for:

  • severe depression
  • losing interest in favourite activities
  • having trouble sleeping and eating
  • engaging in dangerous or harmful activities
  • reckless behaviour
  • substance abuse
  • self injury
  • saying that they can’t handle things anymore

girl being bullied

How do you avoid cyber-bullying?

  • Don’t post personal information. This includes your address, phone number, school name, passwords etc.
  • The above rule applies also to the personal information of others. You do not have the right to post personal information of others and it is considered a criminal offense.
  • Don’t be gullible. Don’t believe everything you read.
  • Never open messages from strangers. If you do not know who the person is, delete the message immediately.
  • Refrain from responding. It may be tempting to defend yourself or clear your reputation, but giving bullies attention will only encourage them to continue the harassment.
  • Keep track of the bullying. Copy and save any chats or mails. Take a screen shot of your computer for evidence.
  • If you are aware of the identity of the bully, block him / her immediately.
  • Change your password often especially on school networks. Never set a password to save on a public network.
  • Notify the social network of any abuse immediately.
  • Be careful what you post. If someone asks you for nude pictures, don’t comply as it will be used against you and it is also against the law.

Hopefully the teenager will speak to a trusted adult about it and advise and support can be given. But it is very difficult to stop cyber-bullying without evidence, so make sure you collect as much as possible before taking it to the authorities. New laws regarding the use of technology to exploit and defame others are in the conceptual phase. Let’s hope the government will realise the plight of many of our children and move forward quickly so that they can be protected.

As a parent I worry about my sons. I worry about the children in my classes. Let’s try to have open, trusting relationships with our children so that we will know what is going on in their lives and to help them cope with the difficulties they are facing.

think before you post

Why do homework?



A few of my students wrote an essay about homework and why or why not to do it. I would love to share their points of view with you.

Are there benefits to homework?

#1 It teaches us to be successful in life. If you wanna be successful, you have to do homework.

#2 It will help us become professional and responsible.

#3 It helps us pass the grade with good marks.

#4 If we do our work wrong then Mam can tell us so that we can fix it and fix it and fix it until we get it right, so that we can pass the grade because Mam pushed us to get the knowledge and know the work.

Ah, then one of the learners took it a step further:

Let’s look at the reasons why I don’t like to do my homework:

#1 Sometimes I really forget to do my homework. (But I know that is no excuse.)

#2 Sometimes I don’t write in my diary. 

#3 Sometimes there are subjects I don’t like and I don’t like doing their homework.

#4 It is so boring to do homework….

#5 Sometimes I am so tired and I don’t have the strength to do it.

#6 I am an extremely slow reader, therefore when I get to the end of a sentence, I have forgotten what is written in the beginning.

And then the cherry on my proverbial cake!

What am I going to do to help myself do homework:

#1 Do the difficult stuff first.

#2 I am definitely going to put my cellphone in my bag because it is like a magnet calling me to please pick it up!

#3 I’m going to get organised and set myself a time limit.

#4 I have to improve my reading to read faster.

#5 I have to stop being quiet in class and ask for more help. But it it difficult because I want to do things on my own.

#6 I can stop playing video games and do some reading excercises.

I am so proud of each learner that sat down and thought this topic through. It was a punishment excercise since they didn’t complete their homework, but a lot of really postive things came out of it.

#1 They are learning to write creatively.

#2 They are learning to express themselves by using good vocabulary.

# They are thinking about a problem and are trying to solve it.

Although homework is given to practise in skills learnt at school, I also realised that children need to be children more. We are pressuring them to excel in everything from a very early age, forgetting that when we were that young, there we more time to play outside than now. 

Alas my dear students, I will still give homework but I will give it with a gentle hand, because I love you…

(Many thanks to each one of my students for allowing me to use their writing in this blog. All of them are in grade 7 and are between 12 and 14 years old.)