Mmegi Online :: How can a novice teacher turned around hopeless results
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How can a novice teacher turned around hopeless results

Matlhogonolo Mokakapadi was 25-years-old and had just completed his diploma in mathematics when he became a teacher in Tswapong. There, he soon found out that the pass-rate was just 25%. As Maunatlala JSS celebrates 30 years, the miracle teacher, now Human Resources Manager at the MoESD headquarters, shares his story.
By Correspondent Mon 10 Nov 2014, 16:23 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: How can a novice teacher turned around hopeless results








It was early in the eighties, when a very unexpected thing happened. The Maunatala community decided that adjacent to the footsteps of the Tswapong Hills, a Community Junior Secondary school should be constructed and named Maunatlala Community Junior Secondary School It started operating in 1984.

I was one of the teachers who joined the school on the June 1, 1987 as a mathematics teacher. This was my very first posting as a novice teacher having completed a Diploma in Secondary Education (science) at the University of Botswana. I joined Maunatlala CJSS and the  Maunatlala community with vigour and veracity.

My first classes were exciting as I was thirsty to do what I had trained for and what I long had a desire to do. I had both love, passion to teach mathematics, which I still have. 

At some point, still at Maunatlala JSS, I found myself having to teach science and religious education as and when there was shortage of teachers in these areas.

Notably, I also had a love and passion for choral music. My first school choir was Maunatlala JSS Choir which I started during in June, 1987.

The idea of forming a choir at that particular time was viewed as a farfetched one by the school head, Michael Blundell.

He discouraged it because in his view, time to start a choir and enter for the competition, which was billed to start at branch level in June and the finals in July,was too constrained.

Nevertheless, my zeal and passion to conduct my own choir drove me to go on to start the choir. Ultimately, the choir performed well, to the amazement of the School Head. The choir obtained third place overall at the Botswana Teachers’ Union National Eisteddfod held in Mahalapye.

Coming back to teaching mathematics, I was touched to find out that the pass rate was 25% for the previous year.  I requested that I be given all the completing classes for the year 1988.

 This did not go down well with teachers I found at the school who were quick to point out that I was a novice teacher.

According to most of them, it was a serious risk for a novice teacher to be given all completing classes to teach. Moreover, they believed that the  best results are produced by experienced teachers.

In spite of all the discouragement, I pressed on to be given all completing classes. The headmaster eventually agreed and I taught both the classes which completed their Form III in 1988.

To motivate my students, I introduced them and organised a field

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trip for them in mathematics: We visited Serowe museum, UCCSA church in Serowe, Water Affairs department, Botswana Power Corporation, some commercial Banks, Serowe Post Office, different shops, and other places of interest where mathematics is used or applied in one way or another.

This I did for the simple reason that I wanted my students to have a positive attitude towards mathematics; I wanted to inspire them to learn mathematics as I believed (and I still do) that inspiring them is the best tool to get results from them. Above all, I wanted them to enjoy and love mathematics, to arouse their curiosity for mathematics, to see mathematics being used and applied in practical life situations.

I had a vision and desire for my students to dream mathematics; to sleep with mathematics, to walk with mathematics and to eat with mathematics. Above all, to apply mathematics in their day-to-day lives.

 Interestingly, I also visited my students at their homes, and above all I went ahead and joined them by working at their lands hoeing during the ploughing season. I did this so that they would not fear me as a teacher, but rather take me as one of them so that anyone with any challenge could approach me with ease.

I succeeded, I confess, in this endeavor and as they say, the rest is history.

The 1989 mathematics results shocked not only the community of Maunatlala JSS, but the entire nation.  From the two classes,  I managed to produce  fourty –two (42) grade A’s, one class gave me twenty (20) grade As and the other twenty-two (22) Grade A’s. 

As I recall, there were about seven (7) students that year who obtained Grade C in mathematics. Among my students who obtained grade A  that year were; Molatedi Semadi, Gloria Bowelo,  Bonamelo Tshikare, Dorah Boy, to mention but a few.

The Senior Education Officer (SEO) in mathematics, Bosele            J. Radipotsane, was sent from Gaborone to find out what the school did to produce such marvelous mathematics results.

He observed my classes and was convinced by the way I taught. He, in turn, recommended that I should be sent to study for my first degree, straight away.

Regarding the choir, during the same year, 1989, I scooped all the trophies at the Botswana Teachers’ Union regional music competitions and went ahead to scoop position one (1) at the Botswana Teachers’ Union National Eisteddfod  in the song The Cherubic Hymn by Tchaikovsky. All in all I brought home seven (7) trophies in 1989 for Maunatlala JSS.

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