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.
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!