Friday, 28 November 2003

Our first few Inclusive Success Stories

We realised, that although we’ve made a difference in many children’s lives, we had affected some children radically.  As a staff this year  we put together a list of children who we saw as being particular success stories of Pinelands North.  We also asked our parents to write to us if they felt that their children fell into this category. These are, therefore, some of our very first special children:

David White 1998-2003

David’s mom came to see us in 1998 after having been to many schools.  David was attending Vista Nova and had been there for two years before they decided he needed to be in the special class as he was ‘unteachable and would never learn anything’. This school sent a 26 page report from their specialist team to explain why he was a ‘hopeless case’. David spent his first 21 days on life support in intensive care, had a stroke and then a major operation for a tumour in the neck.   While in pre-primary his teacher noted that he had learning difficulties and they referred him to Vista Nova.
Pinelands North Primary School accepted David into Grade 2 at the age of ten years. At first he was brought into our school on a termly basis – we wanted David to be happy and if he stopped coping, then we believed we needed to move him for his benefit. Now, David is in Grade 7, though his short term memory is poor and he struggles every day, he always tries his best.   He can read, write, count, draws well and is able to converse eloquently.  
David has made incredible progress.   Each year his learning programme has been adapted slightly to suit him – he uses a calculator in mathematics, does not focus on languages other than English and has help deciphering tests as he has the knowledge but often can’t apply the knowledge to the questions. Socially David has developed well and is exceptionally well behaved and polite.   He has never suffered from peer pressure but is always supported by his classmates who help him every step of the way. David writes : “All the teachers have done their best to help me since Grade 2.   I now can read and write and count and look after myself.   I find Grade 7 very hard and struggle with maths and Afrikaans.   I have come a long, long way and am really going to miss Pinelands North.”

Joaquim Strumpher   1998-2001

Joaquim was brought to our school by Cape Youth Care, a care facility for boys with problems.   He had just been removed from Vera School, a school particularly for autistic children. He was enrolled into Nancye Homer’s Grade 4 class.  From the beginning, Joaquim presented as an angry, insecure, uncontrollable boy who threw books and desks around the classroom whenever he felt out of sorts. During this year he was loved and hugged by Nancye continually and he began to settle down.   He realised that he was more able and capable than he had thought he was!  Cape Youth Care arranged for him to be fostered by Chris and Clare Docking during this year too.During Grade 5 he was still volatile, unsure of how to show his anger and frustration, and he had problems with boundaries and consequences of his actions.  He needed constant encouragement and positive reinforcement and slowly he began to be more accepted by his peers.
Joaquim showed an inherent musicality by spontaneously playing on a piano outside the music room.  He played at every opportunity; before school, at break times and even after school.   He would often ask Tina Sheard to show him a new section of a song and eventually he was entertaining the teachers and his peer fan club.  Joaquim loved this attention and he also found that while playing, he was able to relax and just be himself. At the end of this year, he was awarded a special music bursary by our school which enabled him to follow our school music programme in piano and theory. Joaquim continued to need lots of encouragement, support and structure at home and at school but made enormous strides emotionally. During Grade 6 he loved playing the piano and soaked up information.  Any music theory work, however, sent him into a deep sulk and he showed a great frustration at having to read music.   He is aurally talented and has perfect pitch and musicians with this gift sometimes find it hard to read music because they can learn it simply by listening.
During Grade 7 Joaquim involved himself in the lighting and sound team for which he received a service award at the end of the year.  He played the piano until the end of Grade 7 and performed at our Art and Music function to great acclaim.  During this year Joaquim showed great maturity and was able to communicate well with adults particularly.  He seldom became angry and was able to control his behaviour and his emotional outbursts. He then went to Oude Molen and visited us regularly.   Joe now smiles at his own recollections of “what a difficult child he must have been” but he is so grateful to PNPS for what the school meant to him.   He writes, “The thing I really respect about the Red School is that they always respected me even when I totally ignored them and did the opposite of what was instructed.   The school pushed me and had to build me up from scratch.   This took a lot of work from the teachers’ side and was a real work out for Mrs Morton. I am so grateful to the school that practically gave me a new beginning to life as a normal child.   I must have been  so difficult to work with and thank you everyone for the time you spent getting me into line.”

Jagger Fabian 2000-2003

Jagger came to Pinelands North from Camps Bay Primary School.   His principal, Bernie Segal, phoned to ask us to take him as he was arriving late every day and had huge behavioural problems.
He came to Ilse Gouws’ class in Grade 4 in July.   He was continually distracted, could not sit still, shouted out and questioned authority all the time.   He seldom completed any work and had particular difficulties with mathematics. Mom promised to be supportive and involved on his enrolment but wasn’t!  She seemed intimidated by Jagger and spoilt him unbelievably. During Grade 5 Jagger was very aggressive and tried to gain attention by being the class clown. Many meetings were held between Jenny van Velden, mom and senior staff and he was often on report.
Kim Lawrence took him on in Grade 6.   Here he continued to be attention-seeking, disruptive and a bully of other pupils.  Because of these problems, we called his mom to a disciplinary hearing at which Jagger admitted that he had lied about many things to make himself appear more ‘cool’ in the eyes of the class e.g. watching pornography.  We asked his mom to remove him from the school as at the end of the second term.  After this meeting Jagger and his mom finally started getting his life in order.   We noticed a huge improvement in his attitude towards his school work, to his peers and in his general behaviour.  We wrote to his mother and told her that we would reconsider Jagger leaving as we had been so impressed with the change in him.
This positive improvement continued into Grade 7 where his teacher described him as “kind, concerned and entertaining” and that he was “trying hard”!  This was a complete makeover. Now, Jagger is unbelievably polite and well-mannered, interacts well with adults and his peers and the school has an excellent relationship with his mom too!

Catherine Pretorius   2000-2002

Catherine came to our school in Grade 5 and joined Rose Casserley’s class.   When she arrived she lacked confidence, particularly in maths because she believed she could not do this subject.  She was very fearful and believed that she was stupid. Rose worked hard with her and she grew in confidence.   By the end of Grade 5, she loved mathematics and was doing exceptionally well in all subjects. During Grade 6 Catherine’s confidence grew – she has a lovely sense of humour, worked hard and produced good work in all subjects.   She occasionally displayed nervousness but began to feel more and more accepted.
During Grade 7 she was unbelievably confident in that she interacted well with adults and was not afraid to speak her mind even if her peers didn’t agree with her.  Her stall for her entrepreneurial project was excellent – she had made soaps and had sewn things from scrap fabric. She left for high school ready in all aspects to approach life positively.

Michael Mgodeli  1999-2000

Barry Clarke, a neighbour of our school and Pinelands’ Rugby Academy coach, phoned to ask if we could take a boy who he saw as a future “little Tiger Woods”! Barry believed that Michael, who was at Athlone Primary, had huge potential particularly in various sporting fields.
When Michael arrived he was a 12 handicap at golf and played for Metropolitan. Michael was a quiet, gentle boy who was completely unsure of himself.   During his Grade 6 year he developed confidence.   He attended as many different sports as possible and started to believe that there was nothing he couldn’t do!
Academically Michael was weak but he was very hardworking.  We in fact believed in him so much that we tried to get him a bursary at Rondebosch Boys’ High.  Unfortunately this didn’t happen and he left us for Pinelands High, academically stronger and with a belief that he could achieve anything.

Toni Roberts 2003

Toni was born in 1993 with a very rare, unpronounceable genetic skin disorder.   Apart from having to deal with the disorder itself, it was feared that she would have to attend a school for disabled children because her skin, the largest organ of the body is so fragile.   In the dermatology world these children are called “butterfly children” because their skin can be as fragile as a butterfly’s wings.
Naturally if a normal public school was not going to be able to take her it was felt she would have to go to a private school where the classes are smaller and the staff more caring.   For the first three years of schooling she attended St George’s and it worked well. Then her parents discovered PNPS!  Fortunately her mom was able to experience PNPS not only from the outside as a parent but also from the inside as a student teacher.   The moment she walked into the school, she  knew she wanted to work there.   The moment she worked here, she knew she wanted her children to attend this school. Her mom discussed Toni with the principal and it was recommended that Toni spend a week at PNPS before a decision was made.   Nancye Homer who would more than likely be her grade 4 teacher, took Toni under her wing for a week.   Before she visited the school, the children were informed of her disorder, had a chance to discuss the physical condition and the emotional strains and saw pictures of her (all organised by the school).   The PNPS children came out tops; they were so caring and careful and genuinely interested and concerned that she had a fantastic week!
Toni’s mom believes that her child is a well-adjusted, happy little girl in a secure, caring, loving environment where she plays chess, sings, does art and even Phys.Ed. because your child accepts her as she is and because of the amazing teachers who give their all, not only to the academics of our children but also to the moral, ethical, spiritual and emotional side of all our children. Toni is a very brave little girl who participates in all school activities, even those which could be a danger to her.   She entered the interhouse cross-country competition and shows great perseverance in subjects like technology where even children without a handicap really struggle.