Teacher Spotlight: Lifeas Kapofu

We take the time to shine the spot­light on Lifeas Kapofu

Lifeas has been nom­i­nat­ed for this first edi­tion of our new teacher spot­light series, to shine the light on some of the amaz­ing work he has been doing at OneSchool Glob­al. With so many pos­i­tive opin­ions of Lifeas, it’s easy to under­stand what makes Lifeas so deserv­ing of this feature.

Some things peo­ple have said about Lifeas

In my hum­ble opin­ion, I believe that Lifeas is an excep­tion­al teacher because:

He mod­els best prac­tice dai­ly in his class­room, he includes real­ly great hooks to inter­est stu­dents, he is always look­ing to bet­ter his prac­tice through fur­ther study and research. His stu­dents and oth­er teach­ers with­in the school advo­cate for his warmth and friend­ly approach to learn­ing. He has cre­at­ed some very excit­ing and inspir­ing con­tent in the sci­ences for his stu­dents and adjust­ed that learn­ing to be well received remote­ly via dis­tance learning.

You are cer­tain­ly hear­ing all the right things. 

Lifeas is an amaz­ing edu­ca­tor and OneSchool Glob­al Tas­ma­nia are extreme­ly for­tu­nate to have him work with our stu­dents. Lifeas has embraced our self-direct­ed learn­ing mod­el and is inspir­ing many of our stu­dents in his pas­sion area of sci­ence. He is also teach­ing a group of gift­ed and tal­ent­ed stu­dents from Tas­ma­nia, South Aus­tralia and West­ern Aus­tralia through our Busi­ness Reach pro­gram. This pro­gram is devel­op­ing stu­dents design think­ing and entre­pre­neur­ial skills along with con­nect­ing them to com­mu­ni­ty busi­ness­es to solve real world problems.

Hel­lo Lifeas,

What dri­ves you as a teacher? 

I think as a teacher I am dri­ven by ques­tions and crit­i­cal reflex­iv­i­ty or recur­ring intro­spec­tion. To suc­ceed you need to be high­ly adap­tive which implies an abil­i­ty to intro­spect in pur­suit of change. In such pur­suit we ask our­selves why we believe what we believe? Why we do what we do? How our assump­tions influ­ence our teach­ing of our stu­dents? What is it that we need to change to bet­ter serve them? What is the nature of our pre-judge­ments with regards to our stu­dents? Attempt­ing to answer these ques­tions reflex­ive­ly dri­ves us as teach­ers into under­stand­ing who we are and there­fore how to prop­er­ly engage with our stu­dents. We need to know that we are our­selves prod­ucts of social­i­sa­tion and school­ing that unfor­tu­nate­ly con­sti­tut­ed or con­sti­tutes us into objec­tive, detached and at times cold’ pro­fes­sion­als. This is the pro­to­type that we need to tran­scend because it estranges us from the artis­tic, sub­jec­tive, and human­is­tic world of our students. 

Who inspired you? 

I guess, rather I pre­fer, what inspires you? because inspi­ra­tion is the cur­ren­cy or the fuel for our pro­fes­sion as teach­ers. I think we need to be inspired dai­ly, so as to inspire dai­ly all we have the priv­i­lege of com­ing into con­tact with. I think I am inspired by my stu­dents past and present. The most reward­ing expe­ri­ence for a teacher is stu­dent feed­back, both pos­i­tive affir­ma­tions as well as con­struc­tive. If pos­i­tive and affir­ma­tive it pro­pels fur­ther and if it’s con­struc­tive it tends to haunt you to improve­ment, thus, either way stu­dents, I believe, are our great­est inspi­ra­tion. Of course, this doesn’t imply that we under­play the role of the sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers on whose shoul­ders we stand and build. The works of great teach­ers chal­lenge us to main­tain the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­mit­ment as well. I am remind­ed of the great teach­ers of faith and how they man­aged to dom­i­nate their times and leave lega­cies that will out­live gen­er­a­tions. I feel there are no bet­ter exam­ples of effec­tive ped­a­gogy than that. 

Where do you find inspi­ra­tion for your lessons to engage and moti­vate students? 

I claim to be no expert on this, but I believe that there is a syn­er­gy between class­room struc­ture that a teacher cre­ates and cog­ni­tion since the lat­ter is socio-cul­tur­al­ly nuanced and expe­ri­en­tial­ly sit­u­at­ed. I remem­ber one schol­ar diag­nosed the major­i­ty of our stu­dents today as suf­fer­ing a con­di­tion called Beyond love’. This is a con­di­tion endured by those exclud­ed from net­works of care and mar­gin­alised from use­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion in social life, our class­rooms includ­ed. To engage and moti­vate those inflict­ed by Beyond love’ there­fore entails estab­lish­ing flu­id, equi­table and per­son­al under­stand­ings with our stu­dents through co-gen­er­a­tive dia­logu­ing and co-cre­ation of the ped­a­gog­ic set­ting. In such con­texts as a teacher you are dri­ven to engage and moti­vate by love, care, and respect for our stu­dents as indi­vid­u­als. So, through lov­ing those Beyond love’ it becomes pos­si­ble to be patient, nur­tur­ing, appre­cia­tive, per­sis­tent, com­mu­nica­tive, resource­ful, avail­able and feel’ for the stu­dent. I think I can say this Ped­a­gogy of Love’ makes the dif­fer­ence because it cre­ates mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial bonds cru­cial for learn­ers to learn and teach­ers to teach. One spin-off from this pos­ture is the con­ver­gence of inter­est with learn­ers want­i­ng to learn and teach­ers suc­ceed­ing in teach­ing. My moti­va­tion and impe­tus to moti­vate stu­dents there­fore does not come from the dic­tates of pro­fes­sion­al­ism but sprouts from a deep­er locus beyond the con­scious and appeals to con­science. The locus of inspi­ra­tion to engage and moti­vate there­fore is the con­scious­ness of our stu­dents as our chil­dren. In this case as we posi­tion our­selves with love, care, respect, and empa­thy our stu­dents tend to see us as real teach­ers and are bet­ter dis­posed to be more recep­tive to what we want to teach them. 

What have been some of your high­lights in your career as a teacher?

I am grate­ful for the priv­i­lege of being a teacher in diverse con­texts. I am remind­ed of Doc­tors with­out Bor­ders, I guess the high­light of my career has just be to be able to be a teacher not bound by social-polit­i­cal bound­aries. I also think the uni­ver­sal nature of sci­ence which is my pro­fes­sion­al teach­ing sub­ject has been instru­men­tal in this regard. So, I am indebt­ed to this pro­fes­sion for hav­ing been able to serve and impact human­i­ty at all lev­els of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem from the school space to inter­na­tion­al space.

The teacher as a life­long learner

I think it’s a pro­fes­sion­al virtue for a teacher to be a life­long learn­er and I think it should be nat­ur­al for any teacher to strive for self-improve­ment through con­sis­tent pro­fes­sion­al learn­ing. I think pro­fes­sion­al learn­ing is an invest­ment with dual cur­ren­cy for both the indi­vid­ual and the edu­ca­tion sys­tem. Last year I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a series of webi­na­rs host­ed by Inde­pen­dent Schools Tas­ma­nia (IST) and facil­i­tat­ed by Chris­sy Gam­ble. As much as the four webi­na­rs were tar­get­ed for mid­dle-lev­el lead­ers, the theme of Open to Learn­ing Con­ver­sa­tions tran­scend­ed lead­er­ship and has ram­i­fi­ca­tions for class­room prac­tices. Deploy­ment of tenets of Open to Learn­ing Con­ver­sa­tions in the class­room has had the effect of chang­ing the archi­tec­ture of my class­es, through a recon­fig­u­ra­tion of rela­tion­ships which great­ly enhances the co-con­struc­tion of edu­ca­tion­al space. The first ses­sion of these webi­na­rs recen­tred the teacher as the leader of the learn­ing enter­prise. The sec­ond ses­sion delved into the con­struct of Open to Learn­ing Con­ver­sa­tions whose pre­cepts were extrap­o­lat­ed into strate­gic learn­ing lead­er­ship and learn­ing teams development. 

The house­keep­ing ses­sion of these webi­na­rs cap­tured the essence not only of good prac­tice but the fun­da­men­tal tenets of good prac­tice which I took with me. The essence of these tenets was encap­su­lat­ed in the words of Max Ander­son great lead­er­ship (at what­ev­er lev­el) starts with a will­ing heart, a pos­i­tive atti­tude , and a desire to make a dif­fer­ence” hence the need for a cul­ture of reflex­iv­i­ty as part of our pro­fes­sion­al DNA and the need to trans­form our prac­tices through the incor­po­ra­tion of glean­ings from open con­ver­sa­tions. These webi­na­rs were trans­for­ma­tive, impact­ing pro­fes­sion­al out­look and prac­tice. What I grasped was that as we begin to authen­ti­cal­ly grap­ple with gen­uine obstruc­tions and cur­ricu­lum chal­lenges, we are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly being prompt­ed to restruc­ture our prac­tices. The take­away from this was that usu­al­ly we see our­selves as experts endowed with supe­ri­or knowl­edge but Open to Learn­ing Con­ver­sa­tions repo­si­tion us to assume a learn­ing pos­ture and an acknowl­edge­ment of the agency and via­bil­i­ty of the knowl­edge of those that we engage with par­tic­u­lar­ly our stu­dents and togeth­er we cre­ate a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial teach­ing and learn­ing con­texts in which every­one is free and pro­duc­tive. In the fol­low-up ses­sions I was exposed to the ideas of how to devel­op the self and oth­ers; lead­ing improve­ment, inno­va­tion and change and cre­ation of and man­ag­ing healthy com­mu­nal learn­ing spaces. Through expo­sure to the key val­ues in Open to Learn­ing Con­ver­sa­tions (OLC); the Lad­der of Infer­ence and the OLC com­po­nents I felt capac­i­tat­ed to rethink how to improve my class­room par­tic­u­lar­ly with regards to the cre­ation of accom­moda­tive and freer pos­i­tive learn­ing spaces. The pos­i­tive impact of the Con­ver­sa­tion frame­work was fur­ther attest­ed to by learn­er respons­es as they eval­u­at­ed my impact in our annu­al Edu­ca­tor Impact eval­u­a­tion. Learn­er respons­es indi­cat­ed that two of my strengths were in the cre­ation of pos­i­tive learn­ing envi­ron­ment and chal­leng­ing lean­ing. Such strengths I owe to the capac­i­ta­tion ren­dered by OLC, all which affirmed that in spite the exis­tence of a restric­tive super­struc­ture it remains inevitable to make tran­si­tions in ways that allow all in school set­tings to achieve and flour­ish. Remem­ber, iron sharp­ens iron’ and as such I can­not overem­pha­sise the indis­pens­abil­i­ty of afford­ing one­self every oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn. We are for­tu­nate that IST has the infra­struc­ture for this and some extreme­ly endowed facilitators.

If you could give some advice to teach­ers that are at the begin­ning of their careers, what would it be?

Well, first­ly, reject the top-down ped­a­gogy which evolves from the bank­ing the­o­ry. Devel­op the skill of ask­ing the right ques­tions and facil­i­tat­ing stu­dents in locat­ing the answers and areas of interest. 

Sec­ond­ly, co-cre­ate ped­a­gog­ic set­tings with your students. 

Third­ly, teach­ing is more than an aca­d­e­m­ic endeav­our but a socio-polit­i­cal call­ing in which it is nec­es­sary that you become a learn­er of your learn­ers with ever-evolv­ing men­tal mod­els. The lat­ter is the pre­cur­sor for prac­ti­cal­ly nuanced pro­fes­sion­al growth.

Last­ly, be embed­ded and enmeshed in the world of your learn­ers, you can­not teach what you don’t know both in terms of the dis­ci­pline and the dis­ci­ple or the sub­ject and the subject.

What do you hope your lega­cy as a teacher will be?

My hope in all my work is to fan flames of our soci­etal aspi­ra­tions in rais­ing an inspired, resilient edu­cat­ed gen­er­a­tion espe­cial­ly the open­ing of sci­ence edu­ca­tion for all. I desire to share this hope with my peers in the pro­fes­sion to realise this pos­si­bil­i­ty is no longer a state pre­serve. The localised nature of our diver­si­ty as a peo­ple, our glob­alised con­nec­tiv­i­ty, and the porous nature of our human­i­ty, places the respon­si­bil­i­ty for cham­pi­oning change in our hands. I envis­age the teacher real­is­ing this respon­si­bil­i­ty and pos­si­bil­i­ty with empa­thy, love, and care. Let my lega­cy be my stu­dents’ con­fes­sion some­day that not only did they get great grades, but my class­room was home and sci­ence edu­ca­tion is for EVERYONE!

Some Key Takeaways:

1. Ask­ing the right ques­tions and facil­i­tat­ing stu­dents in locat­ing the answers.

2. Co-cre­ate ped­a­gog­ic set­tings with your students.

3. Remem­ber that teach­ing is more than an aca­d­e­m­ic endeav­our it’s a socio-polit­i­­cal calling.

4. Be embed­ded and enmeshed in the world of your learners.

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