Class Discipline: Some Tips

So you don’t kill people, maybe even enjoy them.

Class discipline

With school and work back in full swing, I thought I would write a couple of tips to help you keep control of a class. Working with a group of students, whether primary, high school or even adults can be tricky. As a teacher it may be the bane of your existence to try and just get everyone’s attention.  And when that fails, most of your lessons may end with you losing your cool and having to raise your voice to atomic bomb levels or standing on a table to try and scare them into listening to you. Not a fun way to spend your life! Although some groups are easier and others harder, here a couple of practical things that might help.

  1. Be prepared!



Luck favours the prepared and there is no easier target for students who want to derail a lesson (and yes, there are those students! You probably have a face in mind right now) than a teacher who walks into the class and doesn’t really know what they are going to do for the next 30-45 minutes. If you don’t know where you’re going for a lesson, they will happily take the lead. In all likeliness you’re sick of hearing about doing lesson planning from your grade head and other people, but truth be told, it helps you the most.  You can even tell the students early on in the lesson what is planned so that they know what will be expected of them. This actually helps the students relax and engage more. The ironic thing is that the more prepared you are, the more flexible you can be when things don’t go according to plan.

  1. Set boundaries, consequences and a class culture

On the first day of class, resist the urge to launch into the crazy amount of work that you have to cover for the year (Maths teachers, I’m talking to YOU) and take at least a portion of your first lesson with every class to talk about what is acceptable and celebrated and what is not in your classroom, and what the consequences will be for certain behaviour. There are loads of ways to do this and depending on the age of the students you can involve them more or less in the process. Make sure that everyone knows and understands what has been decided and put it up visibly in your class. A few simple things to have a great culture are the hand rules, in one of my previous posts.  Having these things laid out is MASSIVE because then everyone knows what is expected of them and what will happen if they don’t stick to those things. If no one knows what these things are, you’ll spend your year scrambling every time one of your students thinks of a new creative way to cause chaos in your classroom.

  1. Be consistent

Once you have set boundaries and consequences, stick to what you’ve said you will do and do it EVERY TIME. It may be exhausting at times, but it is worth it and over time you will reap the rewards of being consistent even when you didn’t feel like it. People all test boundaries, they’re not being brats, they’re being human. Even in the heat of the moment, don’t make threats that you can’t or won’t follow through on. This will hugely undermine your authority and will tell them that the boundaries aren’t really set, they’re flexible. Which means that they will push the boundaries even more, making your job even harder. So things like, “If I come back and you’re not all working, you will all sit detention for the rest of the year!” and you say that in January. Seriously. Do you want to never drink coffee at break for the rest of the year. Noooo, don’t do it. Have a real consequence that you are committed to following through on, and then say that. When you do one thing one day and something else the next, it means that the stronger students will continually push the boundaries and the gentler students will be stressed because they don’t know what you expect of them and they don’t know how you will react. One day its fine if they make a noise, the next day you flip out. Your job as a teacher is to bring out the best in the students and not being consistent will bring out the worst. Angry rebellion from the strong students and fearful timidity from the quieter ones.

  1. Know the names of the studentsClass map

When some ball of hormones teenage boy is causing a ruckus at the back of the class, it’s not very effective shouting, “Hey you!” But when you know their name, it makes it much easier. In this way you can kill those little fires right from the beginning but just saying a student’s name and giving them THAT LOOK when they start getting out of line. If you have a lot of students, you could draw a map of your class, with the layout of the desks and in the first lesson have them all write their names. Then with every lesson, you can take out that map and have it close enough to glance at during the lesson. It has helped me loads! On another point, when you know someone’s name, it shows them that you value them. Learn their names and then don’t only use them as a weapon, call them out by name when you see something in them that you want to honour. As a teacher, your voice can be powerful, build your students up.

  1. Have an organised feeling class

I didn’t say boring, I said organised. And I didn’t say chaos that you know where everything is, but everyone else feels like they’ve walked into the aftermath of a hurricane. The class should FEEL and BE organised. Even though you wouldn’t naturally think this has anything to do with keeping control of a group, when students walk into a shamble of a class, the impression they get is, “This teacher is not in control of her class, I can do whatever I want.” Which means that even if you are doing the other things right, you start on the back foot. Whereas when a student walks into a well organised, structured environment, they know that you are the one who is in control of this space. It also helps them feel safe.

I hope that these tips help you, please feel free to send me any additional tips you might have. I’m sure we could write a book on class discipline! Happy teaching!

Hand Rules: Creating a great Class Culture

Hand Rules: Creating a great Class Culture I’m not sure whether I learnt this from De la Harpe de Villiers at Big Oak Adventures or at HoneyRock camp, but I know it was about 12 years ago and has been a solid part of my life ever since. The hand rules are five rules, that […]

Canopy Tour Elgin

If you’re looking for something different to do and want to experience nature in a very unique way, then I would strongly recommend a Cape Canopy Tours outside Elgin.


So what is it and where is it?

Selfie at Canopy Tour Elgin

Selfie at Canopy Tour Elgin

It’s basically a zip-line between wooden platforms in an otherwise inaccessible part of the Hottantots Holland Nature reserve. The Hottantots Holland Nature reserve is the beautiful bunchy bunch of mountains, rivers and general loveliness in between Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Grabouw and Franschoek, but although it is lovely, it is VERY mountainous. I love hiking in the mountains, but let’s be honest, if you’re not at least relatively fit, it’s a lot more of a survival exercise than an appreciation of beauty exercise. Not so with a canopy tour.

What happens?

Upon arrival our group was briefed on how the zip lines work, what gear we would be using and of course the crucial safety briefing and sign your life away indemnity forms (If there are no forms, either you’re doing something with crazy people or it’s not a real adventure. Fact of life :) )

Canopy tour Elgin

Canopy tour Elgin

From there it was about a 30 minute serious 4×4 drive to the start of the canopy tour. It was really interesting to have one of the shareholders of the company with us, as he helped me appreciate the logistical complexities of building an operation like this. There are anchors drilled deep into the mountain side which were each tested to be able to carry very serious weight . (I’m talking tons, not kilograms!) Wood and metal platforms are built onto the side on the mountain with metal cables connecting the 13 different platforms.  In our very sexy full body harnesses we were clipped onto the system and used our leather padded gloves as a brake (it works better in practice than it sounds) and if you got distracted during the slide by all the beauty of the mountains, waterfalls and weird looking clouds and didn’t brake soon enough, there was an emergency brake that would prevent you from becoming a splotch on the mountain side.

Just over half way through the system we stopped at a particularly scenic platform and as if by magic the guides produced hot chocolate and biscuits! It was a cold, windy and overcast day in the mountains and we had all been saying how good a cup of hot chocolate would be when we got back to the base. Needless to say it was one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had. Happy day! From there it was a couple more slides to the end of the tour and then a short walk back to the vehicles for some water and another crazy 4×4 drive to the base where we had a light meal and got out of those crazy harnesses.

The whole tour took about four and a half hours, and with it being in the Elgin, this makes it a full day out if you’re coming from Cape Town or surrounds.Zip lining over the mountains



This sounds a little crazy, is it safe?

Although anything adventurous and fun is never 100% safe, I must say that our guides and the whole set up were done with really high safety standards. Mark told us about all the tests that had to be done on the system itself and all the hardware to ensure its safety and our guides were very professional when it came to safety. Everything was done properly, checked and double checked. Even when we were waiting on the platforms we had two cow tails clipped in to the safety line. Communication was clear and I always knew exactly what they wanted me to do and how to do it.  The safety brakes work well, I checked. A couple of times.  The guides have radios with them and if someone isn’t comfortable with zip-lining on their own, the guides are trained to be able to do a tandem with them, so that they can still have the experience without the stress of doing it on their own.

View of a waterfall far below

View of a waterfall far below with the swing bridge above

What to take with?

1. Chow some breakfast before you go because once you get started there is (shockingly) no zip through McDonald’s to grab something along the way and it is a long day out.

2. Mountains and being in the Western Cape means that you and the weather man have no idea what the weather will do, so take something warm with you.

3. Even if it is freezing, don’t lie to yourself, you need sun block. Even my Portuguese husband who is usually UV resistant all on his own was a little tender after a day without any sun block.

4. Some tissues, I don’t know why but my nose always gets runny when its windy and I noticed the same with a lot of the other guys and none of us had a tissue, so that would have been great.

For more info on the tour in Elgin and their other tours in Tsitsikamma, Magoebaskloof, Swaziland, Karkloof (Howick, KZN) and Drakensberg check out


10 Affordable Toys for flying with a Toddler

magic board flying

magic board flying

I was about to do my first solo flight (well, me and all the other passangers) with my 19 month old daughter. Luck favours the prepared, so I decided to take a good amount of entertainment with for her so that we wouldn’t be blacklisted off my favourite low cost green and blue airline. As always, budget was a consideration so I headed off to China town and found a couple of winners.

1. Foam puzzle

Foam puzzle flying

Foam puzzle flying

This cost about R8 and is A4 size. I put all the toys of similar sizes into one large zip-lock. She loved pulling them out and we sang counting songs while she was doing it.  And no, no one threw anything to get me to stop singing. :)

2. Magic board

Pictured on the top, it works with a pen with a metal tip, they write and can erase everything as many times as they’d like to. It cost R25. My daughter wasn’t super into it, but my niece who was a little older, LOVED it when they flew.

3. Stickers

Flying stickers

Flying stickers

I bought a pack of around 250 stickers for R12 and they were the winner of the day! The were rubbish quality, so it didn’t matter when she stuck them on the window, tray table, chair, me (better quality would have brought about some undesired waxing), herself, her new buddy and the new buddies parents. Her and the little girl behind her were even swopping stickers. BFFs chop chop. I got animal ones, so we did animal names and I embarrassed myself trying to make animal sounds. A meerkat says….scratch scratch?

4. Small play dough

Small play dough

Small play dough

This one was about R8 and is a little bigger than a tennis ball. If you have OCD tendencies, then make peace that it may eventually become brown or just buy one colour. It was only R8, just relax. My mandarin is a little off, so I’m not sure if it said anything about non-toxic, so I kept a close eye while she was playing with it.

5. Bubbles

All sorts of shapes and sizes, if you’re paying more than R30 for bubbles it has better have an engine and sing, otherwise you are being ripped off. Always a crowd pleaser.

6. Balloons

Doesn’t take up much space and you can blow it up on the plane (wow, that sounds bad, let’s rephrase) You can inflate the balloon on the plane and provide your child with entertainment there. :)

7. Bubble wrap

It may drive your neighbours a little nuts, but anything is better than a grumpy nagging child, so I think they’ll get over a little popping sound to keep the peace. You know, in my professional opinion after one flight.

8. Books

Toys for flying

Toys for flying

Take what they like and read it with them. They’ll stay engaged a lot longer if you are doing it with them. Plus you’ll look like you’re an awesome parent inspiring your child to read and people will of course think that you do it all the time and never let your child watch TV. Enjoy those 5 minutes until you have to take out the iPad.

9. Colouring in pens and crayons

My daughter loves taking lids off more than the actual drawing, so I take some paper, but also things that she can take lids off (which are of course completely dried up by now) and crayons for when she actually wants to draw.

10. A small measuring tape

Through experience I’ve learnt that the metal type ones are NOT child friendly, she pulled the whole 3 meters out and then released the button and zapped it all back in really quickly. She was giggling, but I nearly had a heart attack, so I found ones somewhere other than Builders Warehouse and let her play with that.

That’s it! 10 affordable toys to take when flying with a toddler. And of course if you have an iPad or a leap pad you’ll take it with! Don’t be a hero. The whole reason you make the mission of taking all this stuff, is to be considerate of the other people who are flying with you. Good people understand that you need to fly with kids and that they can be more active, but be an awesome parent and do everything you can to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.  No matter what season of life you’re in, have fun Going Places.

photo 1 (3) 

Sneaky beautiful nature reserve in Table View

So after driving to town from Table View about a million times and seeing the beautiful Rietvlei dam, the flamingos, bird hides and general prettiness in the distance, I finally decided to go check it out. Rietvlei nature reserve is at “bottom” of the Flamingo Vlei side of Table View and after missioning around I found the entrance gate on Grey Avenue. After paying the massive entrance fee of R13, :) I discovered that there are boats, a surprising amount of fishermen, picnic and braai spots and two bird hides to walk to. I cannot believe its taken me 7 years to get there! photo 3 I ended up walking around for about 2 hours, from the gate to both the bird hides and back again. Felt like I was in a totally different place instead of only 10 minutes from my house.

The Bird Hides

There are two bird hides in the reserve, the old friends hide and sunset hide. Both really cool and depending on the water level, really close to the water or on top of it. The path to the Old Friends hide was in a better condition that the one to the Sunset hide, that one was at a bit of a wonky angle. I chanced it on my own, but when I went back with my daughter, I rather gave it a skip.  photo 1 (4)


Braai’s and picnics

Close to the gate and ablution facilities there are a whole lot of picnic and braai spots where the guys also do some fishing. If you walk a bit further there are a whole lot on the peninsula as well. There aren’t many trees for shade, so bring an umbrella and pretty much everything you need as they only have a fire pit and some basic tables and benches. But what a spot for a boerie roll!

So if you’ve been looking for a new place to explore and want to feel like you’ve gotten out the suburbs without trekking to the end of the earth, this is a great one! Give the coffee shop and skip and get outside!

Happy Campers: What we’re about and why we do it

happy campers

Happy Campers is all about helping people get everything they need in order to organise and have an awesome big group camping experience. When we say big group camping we don’t mean a family reunion at a local caravan park, we mean school camps, leadership camps, church camps, that kind of vibe. Where a group […]