Teacher shares her experience of “the new normal”

Teacher Klarissa Havenga is scanned on arrival at Fairbairn College in Goodwood.

Every day
she goes to work Klarissa Havenga fears that the coronavirus will infect someone at the school
or in her household. 

Ms Havenga’s fears, however, have started to dissipate as she becomes accustomed to being back at school and ensures she has measures in place to minimise her risk of contracting the virus. Among these are travelling to school alone in her car, and sanitising her hands regularly.

As government re-opens schools in phases after they were closed in March, Grade 7 and 12 pupils were the first to return, with Western Cape schools opening on June 1, and those in the rest of the country, a week later.

“I’m happy that things are starting to get back to ‘normal’ but am anxious because the virus is still very much around,” she says. 

Of her Grade 12 pupils, she adds: “On
the first day I soon realised that they were scared and anxious. It’s going
much better now. We educate them on the seriousness of the virus and they are
responding well to it. I’m very proud that they are obeying the rules. We’re
very grateful to have this specific group of learners.”

Ms Havenga, who lives in Brackenfell, started teaching in 2015 at Montana High in Worcester before joining the staff of Fairbairn College in Goodwood at the beginning of 2016 as a mathematics teacher. Educated
at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, she graduated with
a BSc degree and then continued with a post grad in education.

At school, says Ms Havenga, she and her colleagues try to get together during the school day
to enjoy a coffee and a chat – obviously within the physical distancing rules. “We realise that we need one another and we’re trying to make it work
while still staying safe, she says.

Looking on the bright side, she says people, including her, have learned
that they should never take anything for granted – “and that nothing in life
should be seen as a given”. 

“I’ve found that we’re more appreciative of what we
have, the people we live with, whether it’s a spouse, children or extended
families. In a very busy world we could take some time to reflect and do things
we never get time for, like baking banana bread,” she says. 

Ms Havenga
started baking during lockdown and now enjoys it. She 
has a big family and would usually spend her free time with them and she misses having coffee
with a friend or going to family for a braai. 

She lives with husband, Ruan who,
she says, realises that teaching is her calling and passion, and he respects
that. 

Before returning to school she found it difficult not seeing her pupils. While they continued teaching online, not all pupils were able to participate, some because they could not afford data or had limited connectivity. Ms Havenga says the part of teaching
that makes it a very rewarding job is that moment that pupils start
understanding the content – that “lightbulb moment”. This was almost
non-existent online as most pupils would put their video cameras off, again due
to connectivity issues.

With only the Grade 12s currently at school, says Ms Havenga, “within our planning
we’re comfortable that we’ll be able to complete the syllabus”. 

“The fact that
the holidays are now shorter and there’s no exam period during June, we have gained
days that we lost due to lockdown. We’re still teaching online to the other
grades.”

She has some
words of encouragement: “Within this time it’s very easy to fall into the
negativity surrounding us. I urge readers to make an effort to see the
positives. Use lockdown to spend quality time with your spouse or child. It
will have great long-term effects on your relationship with them.”