OUR STORY

 

… OF 3 GENERATIONS

 Smartschool is built on three generations of teachers.

 

 

After visiting Smartschool, I met the owner of Smartschool who is a young, energetic business women that is passionate about making a difference in each child’s education so that they can turn all their C’s & D’s into A’s and B’s. I have found that at Smartschool parents invest in their children’s future to provide them with the opportunity to attend any University of their choice.

Smartschool is able to achieve this, because they were found on the principles of three generations of teachers. I had the opportunity to meet and interview the women of all three generations.

After visiting Smartschool I can see why the owner and employees are content with the work they do and the learner’s grades. The school has grown immensely over the last few years and they are definitely ready for the next step. Thinking about the extra classes that I had to attend during my school years, I would have loved to attend a school like Smartschool seeing the dedication of the teachers and the amount of passion they have for the students. I think the highlight of my visit was meeting three different generations of women, strong in their own way making such a difference in children’s lives. Fredrick Douglas said that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.

This is what they had to say:

The inspiring women this all started with was a teacher during the 1950s.

  • Miss Corrie, in what year were you born?

1932

  • How old does that make you?

86

  • What kind of work did your parents do?

My father was a mechanic who owned his own Garage and my mother spent most of her time at home making clothes for us as children.

  • What do you remember from spending time at your father’s garage?

It taught me a lot about cars and how a car works.

  • Do you think you father was a good entrepreneur?

No, he had a soft heart. He still provided free service for people who struggled to pay.

  • How was attending school like in the 1940s What are some of your fondest memories during your school years?

We played a lot of sports during the afternoons, like netball, tennis and athletics.

The boys always stole oranges and left it on the boarding house steps during the day.

  • Why then did you decide to become a teacher?

I was a teacher since I was very young. We use to play some of the children were teachers and some were students. I helped my friends who struggled.

  • If you had to choose again today would you choose to be a teacher again?

Yes, if teaching were in the same condition as back when I first started teaching. But not the condition it is currently in. I think that I would do needle work and make clothes.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, a younger generation became effeciated with education and the difference that it can make in one’s life.

  • Miss Ronel, why did you decide to follow in your mother’s footsteps?

During my years, we did not have a lot of choices. You could either go and work in the bank, become a nurse or study to be a teacher. And because my mother was a teacher it was familiar grounds to go into. I think in the end it was a natural choice for me.

  • Was your mother your inspiration to become a teacher?

Yes

  • Is that why you attended the same teaching college?

Yes

  • What is your fondest memory of your studying years as a teacher?

Thinking back now, we had a class on how to make things for our classrooms. We learned to create fun posters, flashcards and innovative toys for the students. This was a fun and practical way for us to understand how the learner’s minds work and how we will be able to keep their attention.

  • How did you go ‘clubbing’ during your student years?

During my student years, there was no clubs to go to. So our dancing abilities were limited.

We use to bunk and walk from the college to the shopping centre with high heels, and get  waffles and ice cream in a hour, and get back to class.

  • Was it your dream to see your daughter become a teacher?

Yes, definitely although I did not tell her that.

A third generation became a part of this educational roadway, with her will to endure, her spirit for adventure and a mind for business, she found herself walking in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother.

  • Miss Nelmarie, why did you decide to go overseas after completing your studies?

I did not feel ready to become a grown-up, something was still missing…

  • During your travels, what was your favourite country to visit?

I feel it is like asking what is your favorite kind of chocolate? I have found that each country have its own majestic beauty to offer, for example visiting the Grand Canyon where you have to comprehend the depth and layered erosion of years past, compared to the modernization of Singapore that takes you imagination far into the future. Visiting the sydney opera house brings inspiration to a creative side that laid dormant before, while Snowboarding in Canada has brought out my adrenaline seeking side. Therefore it is difficult to choose a favorite country, but I have to say that one of my most memorable explorations was the month I spend in Bali.

  • What is the one thing you will never leave at home while traveling?

I always take a tin of caramel condensed milk with me, because you don’t get is in any other country than South Africa.

  • Would you say that your teaching abilities is genetic?

Yes, I originally didn’t think I was anything like my grandmother and mother, but I can honestly now say that I was just in denial about the reality of my destiny.

  • Are you content with your choice to become a teacher?

I am definitely content.

I can honestly say  that I go to bed each night knowing that I have had a successful day.

  • How did you become interested in becoming a teacher?

During my travels I got the opportunity to babysit at a ski resort that plays host to different cultures across the world, it opened my mind to the possibility of working with children and the difference that one can make in a child’s life.

  • What would a day in your life be like?

I wake up at 6am every morning, I begin my day with a bit of me time, whether if it is just enjoying a cup of coffee or going for a walk with my dogs. I always make sure I am first at the office, I do believe in setting an example for my staff. The Boss should be first in and last out.

During the morning time I spend my time taking meetings, networking and handling the admin in regards to Smartschool’s finances. Between 1pm and 2pm I try to slow down a bit and spend some time with my staff that would be arriving and with the kids that would just be out of school.

At 2pm Smartschool classes starts, I teach Mathematics Grade 10 -12 and would start my lessons at 2pm till 8pm. I would then make sure that everyone gets home safely, meaning that I would get home around 8:30 pm, At home I like to spend some time doing exercises and I also like to go biking or during the winter I will do yoga. Afterwards I would have dinner and settle down with a book or spend time with my dogs on a nice evening.

  •  How does three generations of experience help you to be such unique teachers?

NELMARIE: It helps me by knowing I have a emotional support system, that does not only have generations of experience with children but also the knowledge of teaching, no question will stay unanswered at Smartschool. We have this saying: ’I am just going to phone a friend’ then we know that the set teacher is running to my mother to ask her how to deal with the situation or how to solve the problem at hand.

RONELLE: Yes, definitely. The older generation can also run to the younger generation for help.

My mother taught me a lot about children and teaching. I learned some of my best teaching skills from my her, that I still use on a daily basis within the classroom.

CORRIE: Ronelle still uses rhymes that I taught her as a little girl, I think this manner of passing down knowledge through generations is what helps us to be such unique teachers.

During my visit at Smartschool I found that Smartschool is a family business that is not just related by blood. Being an employee, means that you become part of the Smartschool family. Where they work, learn and grow together as a family.

  • How was the idea of Smartschool formed, and how did you come to establish this Family Business?

RONELLE: I moved to Bloemfontein because of life circumstances, on such short notice I was only able to find a substitute teaching post for 6 months. Afterwards I did not have a constant income. So I started Smartschool, at first I only had two students by the end of that year  I had to move to a bigger location.

When my daughter returned from her travels she naturally became a part of the growth of Smartshool. She has a great mind for business, so that is how Smartschool became a family business.

  •  How does the location of Smartschool play a roll?

NELMARIE: Our ideal location is across from schools or within walking distances of a school. For instance our head office and original branch is located at the conner of Jock Meiring and Sir George Street in Bloemfontein. That places us right across from two major schools that both offer pre-primary, primary and high school. By eliminating driving time and providing easy access the convenience speaks for itself.

  • What was an important time during Smartschool’s existence?

RONELLE: The most important time for any business is passing the 3 to 5 year mark, as it is statistically the time period where most business fail. We can now officially say that we have passed at least one of these marks for Smartschool.

NELMARIE: To overcome this general tendency, we made sure that we came up with new opportunities and services to offer for our clients.

  • Tell me about some of the challenges Smartschool has faced as well as some of the thriving moments.

Ronelle: Smartschool went through a stage where we struggled to grow, we got the same number of clients for almost a year. Various circumstances contributed to the factors, but it also gave us some of our greatest ideas that lead to our success today.

Nelmarie: I remember before we obtained the current location we were based about 10 km from most schools, normally that would have been a problem, but we had a Smartschool shuttle services. At its peak there was 3 drivers. Now imagine 3 busses stopping in your parking lot and all those kids jumps out with smiles and laughter, because, yes you guessed it they got to play DJ and was pumping the music of their choice to get them into a great mood for learning.

  • What expectations do you have for your teachers at Smartschool?

RONELLE: I think we expect the teachers at Smartschool to set a good example towards the students by alway being on time and to be prepared for the classes they need to teach.

I observed the dedication of each teacher at smartschool and it made me understand how they can create a culture that adapts.  

  • In a business like Smartschool, you must have met some interesting people. Can you tell me about a few of these people.

Nelmarie:  We had 4 pairs of twins at Smartschool, it was very unusual to see so many twins. It made teaching them interesting as 3 of the pairs was identical twins.  Not many teachers can say that they have done that.

We had a little girl that was in dubble00(doubleNOT) in our afternoon study class, she was able to read and write fully by the time she went to grade 1. Since then she has been number 1 in her grade and is still the reigning champion.

Ronelle: We have had quite a lot of  international students, We had kids from Turkey, Lesotho and China that we had to teach English classes and help them with setting up their homeschool education.

  • Tell me a little about the culture here at Smartschool.

RONELLE: We keep the atmosphere relaxed and self motivating. With a culture that raise academic focused students, it allows them to be disciplined and well prepared. It also allows families to be able to spend more quality time together, because now when you get home you don’t have to sit down with homework, there is no more fights, screaming and crying only good old fashioned quality family time.

  • What is a typical day like at Smartschool?

Ronelle and Nelmarie : Hectic, deurmekaar and Ishhhh….

Nelmarie: Working with children there is always a surprise waiting, no day is the same.

Walking around between the classes at smartschool you see the dedication of the children, I almost went back to school just to be able to go to smartschool. With statistics where a child’s grades improves 40-50%, Smartschool has discovered the secrets of education.

  • How do you teach the children at Smartschool to remember without forgetting?

NELMARIE: We have found that through storytelling and association the children have a better percentage recalling. By making the work interesting with associating with current event and local activities, the children become more involved in the lesson.

  • Why is learning and education important?

NELMARIE: Every child needs to be educated, so that they can build on their futures. Education is not only being book smart it is also being business smart.

  • Why should learning be fun?

NELMARIE: When a child is relaxed, stress free, and feel comfortable with their environment they become more susceptible to learning. Building memory through fun association helps to increase their marks during test and exams.

  • How do you deal with a child that likes to learn, but hates school?

RONELLE: By talking one-on-one with a child the child will feel more comfortable to open up and share stories that they wouldn’t in front of a big class. By helping a child set a achievable goal that they can work towards, will motivate them/him/her to attend school with purpose.

I always tell the students that they don’t need to get full marks, but they should just concentrate on doing better than the test before even if it is only with one percent.

Academic success is a motto that is lived, breathed and achieved at smartschool.

  • How do you achieve academic excellence at Smartschool?

RONELLE: We foster good learning habits, by enforcing discipline practices when it comes to academic work and leading by example that shows hard work reaps results.

  • What does academic excellence consist of?

NELMARIE: A good study method that suits your personality, discipline combined with hard work, all this allows you to excel academically, to achieve the goals that you have set and build the life you want to live.

  • How to pursue or foster academic excellence?

NELMARIE: Most parents wants a quick fix for their child, It takes 21 days to establish a habit and another 21 days to make the habit a part of your routine. So it takes a good two months to really make a long term difference. Thus the saying it is hard work.

  • What is important to know about a student in order to be helpful towards them?

NELMARIE: I always try to find a way to get to know what sense of humor they have, so that I can slip in jokes or funny math puns during the class.

RONELLE: It is important to know the child’s study method in order to help him or her study.

I have to know the child’s house circumstances. So if possible to help the child, I will need to get to know the child’s parents and how they operate at home.

  • What should a child always have with them at school?

NELMARIE: It is something no one owns but everyone borrows –  an eraser – it is able to erase all your mistakes and make you perfect, it also has other purposes, it makes a big mess and will irritate your teacher who has to clean up the class, it is a good weapon in a class fight, it always splits in to a lot of smaller pieces, it is a good colouring surface when you are bored.

RONELLE: Lunch box, no kid can study when they are hungry.

NELMARIE: ….. and a homework book, thinking: “I will remember this” is the main cause for the excuse: The dog ate my homework,

RONELLE:  ….because they didn’t remember it.

NELMARIE: …..just Write it down!!

I have learned that, a successful business like Smartschool, does not only measure success in numbers but also in the children’s educational achievements.

  • How do you measure student success?

RONELLE: When parents enrol their kids, we ask for a copy of their report card. And we follow up on test and assignment grades as well as future report cards. We measure the student’s natural ability and the attitude the child has towards his/her education.

  • What is the difference between learning, doing and obtaining knowledge?

NELMARIE: Learning: – learning is what you do in school, where a teacher teaches a class and hopes someone understood what they are saying.

Doing: – doing is just copying work from the bord or your friends, without comprehension.

Obtaining: – obtaining knowledge is something that you can recall and use for the rest of your life.

  • What are important characteristics that a child should consist of to be successful?

RONELLE: Open minded to learn alternative methods to problem solving, discipline, hard work and know when to listen and when to ask questions.

Every child can be successful, some are just more successful and some are just less successful. The child should have dedication and determination.

  • How do you motivate students to learn?

RONELLE: Come let’s show your teacher you can do this.

I had a child that got 35% and by motivating her to prove to her teacher that she can do the work she ended up with 75%.

  • What is the average class size at Smartschool?

CORRIE: We work on a ratio of 5 kids per teacher, that gives adequate time for individual evaluation of each child.

  • How are the classrooms equipped at Smartschool?

NELMARIE: The classes is setup to accommodate 5 kids and their teacher. We provide notes and extra exercise to work through. A white board for the teacher to explain concepts on. And off course a chair to sit on for each child ….if they behave 🙂

  • Do you evaluate the students at Smartschool?

NELMARIE: We don’t have any formal examination, but our teacher have the ability to evaluate students and determine where they have gaps in their education. This gives us the opportunity to go back and explain missing concepts.

After meeting some of the teachers at Smartschool I found that although they all have different personalities they have the same teaching goals. With their qualifications and the guidance of Nelmarie, they all strive to help and support the students at Smartschool to achieve their full potential.

  • How is the relationship between the parents and the teachers at Smartschool?

NELMARIE: We believe to obtain a close relationship with our student’s parents, working together as a team we can provide the best education and obtain the quickest results for improvement.

  • Why does all the teachers at Smartschool have mugs in their classrooms?

RONELLE: We are fueled by coffee to keep up with the energetic kids!

  • What do you like best about teaching?

CORRIE: To see how a struggling student finally succeeds after almost giving up.

  • How do you approach innovation and learning skills within the classroom?

NELMARIE: Children learn with different methods, some are abstract thinkers and need association, some are concrete thinkers and need facts, some are dreamers and need stories, by keeping our class sizes small we are able to cater our teaching methods so that it suites every individual student.

  • Why is Science, Math and Language important to teach in school?

RONELLE: Well let me explain it this way…..Before you can buy anything you need to be able to do Math and see if you can afford the product, whereafter a student needs to be able to be  read a recipe in order to make something with the products they have bought. And ofcourse a student needs to eat in order to sustain the human body proving that Science plays an important part in our day to day lives.

Discipline at schools, is becoming a big problem, is at best a mere suggestion, but at smartschool they somehow got the recipe that motivates children to show dedication, work hard, and focus on their academic acceleration. ????

  • Why would a child regret not being disciplined within the classroom?

RONELLE: If he does not get disciplined in the classroom, his boss will one day discipline him with dismissal and then it will be to late for regret.

  • How is discipline handled at Smartschool?

NELMARIE: It is important to involve the parents, because it takes a village to raise a child. We work closely with the parents, this helps us to run a fairly disciplined programme without any dispute problems.

  • What is your opinion on discipline vs motivation?

NELMARIE: There is a thin line between discipline and motivation. We prefer motivation over discipline, because the one cannot exist without the other.  You should rather motivate a student than disciplining them.

Self-respect, self-esteem, superiority and honorable are words each parent wish are used to describe their child. At smartschool I found that parents are proud of their children’s

  • How does Smartschool help learners so their parents can be proud of them?

NELMARIE: At Smartschool we help Learners that are underachievers and not living up to their full potential to realize that they can also be successful.

  • What is the definition of being proud?

RONELLE: Having self respect and self confidence and of course knowing that other people respect you for the  achievements you have worked hard for.

  • Why does teachers at Smartschool, ask so many questions towards the students in the classroom?

NELMARIE: The more possible questions the teacher introduce towards the students the better it prepares them for tests and exams. It also allows the teacher to interact with the students, because of the small classes we have at Smartschool. The teacher gets a chance to give individual attention to the student and identify the problematic areas on a early base.

  • Does Smartschool provide educational tools for the students?

NELMARIE: We do provide them with the resources they need in order to be able to grasp difficult concepts. For instance if we are working with 3D objects instead of drawing a 2D shapes on the whiteboard we bring out actual 3D objects. By allowing the child to see the object with their own eyes and hold it in their hands they are able to comprehend difficult concepts first time around and by doing this boost their self confidence.

  • Does Smartschool provide anything additional to education? (practical experience)

Ronelle: By doing extra exercises after we identified problem areas, we help then with practical experience in the subject. By filling in the gaps in their curriculum, connecting the work done with real-life experiences outside of school, they are able to understand the purpose of the work.

Nelmarie: We do offer holiday programs where we take the children on outings. We also know how to have fun at smartschool, by bringing back the balance between playing and education.

  • Do you agree with the statement that, education without dedication is meaningless?

Yes, without a doubt….

  • How do you deal with learners struggling with ADHD at Smartschool?

NELMARIE: We provide small stimilie like stress balls for students struggling to concentrate on one activity for long periods of time. Having the children write on the whiteboard and letting them explain the work to you is another way we help with learners struggling with ADHD at Smartschool.

  • What is your teaching philosophy?

RONELLE: The child must enjoy the subject as much as I am enjoying the learning.

Nelmarie: What can we expect next from Smartschool?

I am very excited, smartschool is in an very interesting phase at the moment. We are busy opening new franchises all over South Africa and looking to take on the international market as well.

After visiting Smartschool I can see why the owner and employees are content with the work they do and the learner’s grades. The school has grown immensely over the last few years and they are definitely ready for the next step. Thinking about the extra classes that I had to attend during my school years, I would have loved to attend a school like Smartschool seeing the dedication of the teachers and the amount of passion they have for the students. I think the highlight of my visit was meeting three different generations of women, strong in their own way making such a difference in children’s lives. Fredrick Douglas said that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.