How Gaia has grown

When I first joined the Gaia community as a class teacher back in 2006, the school was a very different place. It was much smaller in size and in numbers and the building…well, let’s just say it would be unrecognisable today!
For starters, we had an uninvited resident living in both of the downstairs aftercare halls, with his washing hanging out almost daily in the playground, come rain or shine, as well as his large make-shift chicken hokkie right in the centre of the playground. He was not the easiest person with which to “share” a space. Marlene’s office was a temporary classroom; yes the small little corner where she and Mrs Gibbs currently share a space. Can you believe: a classroom? There was only one upstairs section with 4 tiny classrooms and no fire escape. The sick bay was in the store room at the top of the stairs. This “worked” at the time because we had no class 7 class and there was also a combined class 4 & 5, who squeezed into one of those tiny classrooms. We only had 4 toilets to share with all the children, the staff and of course our resident. So… needless to say it was a very tight squeeze! If I remember correctly, there was a total of only 10 staff. We literally had to do everything ourselves and were often run down and exhausted from the weight of it all. Parents had to spend weekends, and every last Saturday of the term cleaning, dusting, fixing, sanding and painting, as we could not afford to outsource any maintenance whatsoever. However, despite the space issue, the lack of staff and the derelict condition of the building, the school was, as it is today, a hidden gem, a special little school with heart and soul.
When I returned to Gaia at the start of this term, I took a walk through the school, the new and the old and was absolutely amazed at the extraordinary transformation. The school has grown so much and has blossomed in so many ways. For the first time in all my years at Gaia, every single class has space, space to sit, space to move, space to make a circle and space to breathe. What a wonderful feeling! The classrooms are bright and beautiful.
Things are also running smoothly; everyone contributes to the running of the school in their own way, from the caretakers to the office staff, from the teachers to the volunteers and from the parents to the children. Everyone does their bit. For the first time the school has gardens with flowers and plants that are gently taken care of and lovingly nurtured by all. The walls have fresh coats of paint and the staff finally has two beautiful staff rooms where tea and coffee is laid out and there are enough chairs to sit on during meeting times. One of my earliest memories from all those years ago, was the staff meeting that took place on torn sheets of old cardboard boxes laid out on the concrete stoep outside the office and we all sat on our bums trying to scribble the minutes down on pieces of paper. My how things have changed!
I also remember when we used to meet for vision building, and we would wish for bigger, better classrooms, a beautiful school building, more toilets and more space. The list goes on and on. Countless hours spent discussing, planning, battling through it all, have paid off and the school is finally entering a new phase, perhaps we are finally ending the adolescent phase and entering the beautiful new phase of young adulthood? Some might say the school still has a long way to go, but despite the odd hiccup here and there, we are right on track and Gaia is taking shape, beautifully.
In general there is a sense of ease, a flow and feeling of movement. Gaia has reached a milestone, the blossoming phase where we all get to enjoy the beautiful rewards. Teaching in an environment like this is so rewarding; one feels happy, positive and enthusiastic. Ultimately one teaches with such motivation, and so too do the children receive their lessons, with love, gratitude and joy. The teachers are supported, the parents and children are happy and the staff is looked after. We are so fortunate to have made it this far, especially given the economic climate and the other challenges that we face today. It is thanks to the vision of all that have set foot in Gaia, now and then, parents, teachers, staff and children. Together you have made Gaia what it is today: a little gem, a special little school, full of heart and soul! Thank you and may it continue to grow and blossom!

With love and gratitude
Vienie McShane