Every activity in life starts with a purpose/intention, and some of these have short turnaround time, while others are more long term. The activity of schooling, and more appropriately called education, has two types of purposes, namely (i) a more general intention where the country/government wants to ensure that their citizens are prepared (made ready) for the roles and responsibilities they need to take up in life ‘when these kids leave school’, or (ii) a more specific intention of the individuals aim towards: ‘I want to ensure that I get a job’ or ‘I want to make a difference in the lives of others by … being a doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc.’.
These purposes, if expressed in a clear and focused way, will ensure that the ‘the purpose is greater than the temporary challenges/difficulties’. Thus ‘when the going gets tough’, and all kinds of challenges must be confronted in school or university or workplace then despite the ‘sweat and tears’, and individual with a sense of purpose will persevere to realise their intended goals.
Schooling in particular, which is a journey of 12 years for young people, should also be clarified and driven by a clear purpose. The clarify of the purpose is often captured naturally within families and communities where the level of education and social knowledge is high i.e. mostly in middle-class and upper-class families. Such families are aware and understand the importance of a purpose or goal in life. They constantly reinforce this through conversations around the table, by asking questions such as ‘are you still focused on your dream and how are you doing?’ This seldom happens in poor and marginalised communities, where the majority in South Africans find themselves as they struggle in ‘survival mode’ having to make ends meet daily. Learners in such communities are often disconnected from a ‘dream’ (a dream is the ‘wings of your mind’), and they become caught up in their ‘reality’ characterised by ‘destruction’, ‘unemployment’, ‘gangsterism’, ‘violence’, etc. These learners will then start expressing themselves as ‘equal to what they see and experience’, rather than ‘where they could be if they put their mind to it’. They must be empowered to see life ‘beyond their realities’, and they must be convinced that ‘there is a better life for them in the future’. Teachers are often the only dream catchers in their lives and have a unique opportunity to shape or redefine their destiny.
In our turnaround methodology we ensure that every learner identifies three ‘dreams’. These could be broad intentions such as ‘finding a job’, or as specific as ‘I want to be a fire-fighter’. These dreams must be recorded from grade 1 to grade 6, next to each learner’s name. , Teachers should reinforce each learner’s dreams on a regular basis. Examples of this could be when the teacher deals with ‘literacy’, and learner X wants to be a writer, to remind her about the importance of ‘spelling’, or the importance of ‘numeracy if you want to be an accountant’, etc. In grade 7, learners are assisted in making informed decisions by reflecting on ‘what they are naturally good in’, ‘what they love doing’, ‘what their aptitude test is reflecting’, etc. In secondary school, learners will be exposed to their dreams by visiting and/or spending time in the environment where they want to work. We also need to create the opportunity for learners to do ‘service learning’, by spending a few days and/or weeks within the physical environment where they will engage with professionals related to their dreams, so that they check whether ‘this is really what they want to do’.
Learners might ‘change their minds on numerous occasions’, and this is part of the process to clarify how they want to spend the rest of their lives and contribute to society. Through this process, we hope to assist learners to be more decisive and purposeful by the time they reach Grade 12. We want to eradicate the current reality where most grade 12 learners don’t know what they want to do after matric, and thus have no motivation to do well in their final examination, other than aiming to ‘pass’. Such preparation will ensure that learning in the classroom is connected to the ‘end result’ or ‘outcome’ of what learners want to achieve, rather than ‘knowing the content of the subject for a text or examination’. The focus of the school and the teachers therefore becomes a task of ensuring that ‘every learner in the school achieve their dream(s)’ rather than passing an examination. Although the dreams are different, the majority of dreams need the same ingredients such as ‘hard work’, ‘dedication’, ‘commitment’, ‘consistency’, etc. And these are all ‘life skills’ we need in order to make the ‘subject content’ useful in our lives.