I have been teaching languages to high school students for two decades: first Basque and English in Spain (Basque Country) and now French and Spanish in South Africa.
While I am very happy following my calling as an educator, it wasn’t always that clear: I became a teacher following a series of circumstances, but teaching was not my first choice of career. In fact, I wanted to be an engineer. And so when I got my teaching degree and moved to the UK, I refused to teach there and was determined to become a manager. Teaching was something I could do but not something I wanted to do.
In fact, teaching was so easy for me that I felt as if I was missing something in life and decided that the corporate ladder was the right thing for me. Later on life it was clear to me that some of us only seem to learn through trial and error; that we need to work hard to deserve success.
And so I was young and believed that everything that shines is gold… But if you ask me today, 3 decades later and more experienced in the game of life, I can tell you that it isn’t.
I held positions at supervisory and management level for over a decade while working in the UK, and when I moved to Cape Town and my life circumstances changed again, I set up my own business as an author, public speaking coach, life and business coach and workshop facilitator. But many of my clients also wanted private languages tutoring, and with a new baby at the time and working from home, I was willing to open up into what the market was asking of me and so I started to go back into the languages teaching loop.
And the more people I met, the stronger my calling became. Until I got so busy that I couldn’t even think any more, so I decided to close my business and wait for my next opportunity. It took 4 months for my next train to arrive.
It was December 2015 when I received a small email from the principal and business owner of the tutoring centre The Academy Hout Bay. The question was: could I help with creating and tutoring Spanish and French in a Cambridge-based curriculum (offering IGCSE & AS Levels or grades 10 – 12 equivalent) and a Montessori-like approach to learning. I read the email between lines and I decided to give it a go.
I wanted to work within a small community. I was tired of being a lone ranger and I was definitely not going to work in Corporate, unless it was as a consultant. My daughter was now 10 years old and I had more freedom of movement.
Over the previous 3 decades I had gathered and consolidated many skills and I was able to put them together into a mix that I knew that worked. Teaching and coaching on a one to one basis was intense and I felt the pull of working with the younger generations.
I was also working part time in Le Lycée Français du Cap and I loved the students. I had a lot of fun with them and we seemed to speak the same language.
Many teachers would remark that they didn’t know why I wanted to work this age group because they can be difficult, moody and rude, throw temper tantrums and have challenging attitudes: yes I am talking about you, the teenagers reading this article.
But while this may be true, I actually see them as perfectly beautiful quasy-adults with untapped potential, dying to find their place in the world and their own calling, wanting to do something good and important to create a better world, and with an intrinsic integrity button which knows when the adults in their life are being honest and transparent and when we are not.
They keep you on your toes, for sure, but they also make you be a better person. They are open and flexible to change and they are full of fun and mischief. What can I say, I love them!
And funny enough, they seem to be magnetized to me. When they look at me they seem to see me. They seem to know who I am and my language seems to make sense to them. They get me, they make my communications effortless and fun; I can be as crazy as I want to and they think it is funny. They don’t judge or criticize me and all in all, we seem to make a good match!
So from September to December 2015, after having closed my business and as I was waiting for my next, one and only opportunity, I decided to catch up with myself, put my house in order and do the things that I had not given myself permission to do before: I started that exercise routine that had avoided me for over 20 years and I was feeling happy, strong and ready for the next challenge.
I wanted something that could stretch me, that next platform that would show me where the next cycle in my life was leading to… something I could really put my teeth into. And the train arrived in the shape of The Academy Hout Bay – a tutoring centre for high school students in the Cambridge program with a Montessori based teaching philosophy.
They do say to be careful what you wish for…
All those years while I was honing my skills as a manager, as a coach, as a teacher and an educator… there was a strong and single passion in my heart, which I have made the focus of my existence: to raise and integrate consciousness in the world.
I believe that ignorance is the basis of all what is going wrong in society today. The selfishness, the corruption, the arrogance, the rush… We have taken the eye off the ball, of what is important: our health, to spend a little meaningful moment with someone we love, to enjoy the nature that is free for all… the core values that make it pleasurable to live in society, the moments of discovery and wonder that allow your soul to expand… for there is so much to know and so little time. And finally, another kind of ignorance – the ignorance of the heart in the form of lack of love and compassion.
It seems as if power and control, the dark lords of ignorance, are running rampant.
I sin on the side of naivety and I have a hopeless belief in humanity. I see the potential of the future where others see doom and gloom. I love the awkward, self-doubting and feeble young of today because I can see, beyond the shadow of a doubt, their potential for creativity, for love and for becoming the grown-ups of tomorrow; those who will take the rudder of a better world that I have no doubt I will see in my golden years.
But while I have worked in several educational establishments, it has been my experience that most schools of today target mainly the academic component of the education that I am looking for, and this doesn’t satiate my hunger for seeing the light inside these young people shinning bright in their full potential.
What they are doing is not enough for me: targeting the mind is not sufficient. The ignorance of the heart must be eradicated as well.
How do I know that the children are not happy? I look at the gossiping, bullying, misbehaviour and general difficulty in fitting in and it tells me that the children are doing what they are told, but they are not creating the world they are capable of. The teachers follow the rules of the establishments in which they work without being able to use their common sense (which as my father says, is the least common of the senses) because they need to perform in specific ways in order to assure their permanence in such establishments. After all, parents can be very powerful and scary!
But I found out that when children are happy, parents are not scary.
I understand that in a society there must be rules and regulations and that we build structures so that there is order and not chaos, but when we try to establish order by putting the structures before the human being that they are supposed to serve, I refuse to be part of such environment because they enslave and diminish us.
It was at that point, when I felt that I couldn’t breathe, when I felt that my life force was escaping me because I was using all my energy to try to fit in, to make sure that I didn’t put one foot out of line. And I said enough. And so I quit the traditional educational system that we know.
The soul must be set free or else there is no point in living. Living as a slave under the tyranny of the system is being dead alive.
With the pain of trying to fit into such an organization comes learning, but learning through torture: the torture of the institutionalized. And I found that the children of today are fiercely individual so the traditional school systems don’t help them tap into their passion, their personal gift, their role in society, their place in the world. They know it and they feel it. And we parents and educators know it and feel it as well.
You can see it in their faces: they don’t look at you – they look through you, as if to say: “You don’t make any sense to me”. Or you will often see an expression of: “If you say so – I don’t know who you are trying to convince”. They just humour us at great expense.
The Academy Hout Bay offered another slant into education: you could learn on and off line, at your own pace, with or without a tutor, attending lessons at the school or home schooled, travelling around the world or staying in one place.
The groups are small, the teachers are dedicated, the ethos is focused on the development of the student at all levels and not just the academic component. The students have space and time to fail or succeed and we encourage our students to take responsibility as their deep-rooted sheep mentality inherited from previous establishments is shed, which is the point when they start taking charge of their own destiny.
The ethos of this exciting and new organization is: “to support the development of content, independent, tenacious and brave young adults who are equipped with the skills required to make a positive contribution to a just, fair and ecologically sustainable society”.
The passion and focus of this mission (and I call it mission because that is how it feels to me) didn’t escape me from that very first time I put one foot at the door of this small but thriving tutoring centre at the entrance of Hout Bay.
There was an added challenge: the tutors in this centre had to create their programs from scratch and put them in the school on-line system via a Moodle platform. I was familiar with Moodle and in any case, I had been writing my own books, creating my own websites and publishing articles in several on-line platforms as I developed my business. A varied job with varied challenges… this was definitely my cup of tea.
The vision of the principal was ambitious, and I am an ambitious person. I felt I could, in a parallel fashion, achieve my personal goals of raising consciousness and educating the future generations in a holistic manner and at the same time, help the principal of the school, Daniel Landi (Dan) with his own vision: the school would be the vehicle that would allow me to dedicate everything I ever learnt to a common goal and I, in turn, I would not need to deal with the financial and administrative side of a business, as it was the case when I had my own business. It had to be a win-win situation!
This vision appealed to me because it incorporated an element of training the tutors and the community in general, which involved my coaching, facilitating and public speaking skills. Dan’s bigger vision meant an expansion to include an examination centre, a languages centre, a summer intensive boarding school for foreign students, a middle school and other. If you can think it, he wants to create it!
In fact, the vision included expanding into several branches, all linked to a core central message: “Learning Without Limits”, the logo of the school.
I know what I am saying when I state that learning is limited in many schools of today. Limited in relation to what society needs from our children: a highly technological society requiring many skills as in scientific or linguistic abilities, where the individual can fit in in any country or cultural environment, using transferable skills from one position and task to another, fitting into the organizations’ mission statements and yet, achieving enough satisfaction of their own.
It is a difficult task to achieve when an organization is heavily structured and the rules become more important than the individuals who work in them.
I intend to break this mold.
The Academy Hout Bay is a breath of fresh air in an education system that was designed 150 years ago in order to produce non-creative workers for a conveyor belt or production chain.
This could not be further away from the children of today: a robotic, repetitive, non-creative, automaton mind-set where you work to survive. And we wonder why they disappear in their computer games, in a virtual world with no boundaries and where everything is possible.
We need to root them in the real world, but for that, we have to offer something that makes sense, that is relevant to them. They need to be able to see the benefit of what we are offering so that they can go the extra mile to get invested. If we fail, it is us, not them. They are only a mirror of the effectiveness and efficiency of our system. We can blame them and put tags on them, but as soon as we tap onto their vibe, they will jump right on board and produce what we know they are capable of.
I have always told my students, and will always continue to tell them, that I am on their side. Not on the side of the parents, of the institutions or even of the principal. I know it and they know it.
It is time for the world to know it, because I for one, intend to stick to my vision, my calling and my promise.
By Dr Ana Garcia PhD, DTM
Communications and Liaison Officer
MFL (Modern Foreign Languages Tutor)
Dr Ana is a Communication and Education Specialist with a Master’s degree in Education and Languages from her native Bilbao Teaching University (Spain), with qualifications in 4 languages (Spanish, English, Basque and French) and more than 10 years’ experience as a Languages Teacher in Spain (Basque Government) and South Africa (Lycée Français du Cap). Dr Ana was one of the 7 founder teachers of S.A.V.S., the first South African Virtual School and was in UCT (University of Cape Town) Department of Languages supervising examinations for Quality Control.
With a Higher Technical Diploma in E-Learning Training of Tele-trainers (by Euroinnova Formación, Spain), Dr Ana was an external examiner assessor for quality assurance with the School of Languages and Literature at UCT (University of Cape Town), overlooking and supervising exams scripts for undergraduate, graduate, honours and PhD students. Today, Dr Ana is an MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) tutor and the Communications & Liaison Officer for The Academy Hout Bay, an innovative Montessori based tutoring centre with a Cambridge – IGCSE and AS curricula.
Dr Ana is an author, coach, mentor and facilitator within the field of Integration of Consciousness and Human Potential. She holds a DTM diploma (Distinguished Toastmaster) from Toastmasters International, an organization focused on communication and leadership. Dr Ana has a Doctoral Degree in Metaphysical Sciences (PhD) specializing in Transpersonal Counselling (integration of higher consciousness in the counselling process). She is also a Reiki Master and a Coach U CTP graduated Life and Business Coach.