To The Teacher…
A while ago, I sat around and thought of what I’d be doing if I had everything I needed and didn’t have to work another day in my life. Well, as much as I’d love to give you an impressive lineup of pseudo-retiree activities, honestly, I’d probably be doing one of the following:
- Composing indie songs for days on end, beautifully adorned in a comfy cashmere robe and paper flip-flops, drinking malt n’ milk.
- Being the official background hype guy (the guy who shouts ‘hey!’) in songs for bands like The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
- Trying to find answers to the most irrelevant questions (such as why lines appear when we really squint our eyes, why children are so shocked when slapped out of sleep by their impatient mothers, or why our ears can boil water.)
But of recent, it turns out that I might be considering a new activity…
And here’s why.
One Friday evening in my final year in the university, while taking a few junior students a ‘technical tutorial session’ on web design, I got a small note from a lady who was reading at the back of the class we were using. It read these words exactly:
“I don’t really know you, and we haven’t spoken before, but I’ve seen you around, helping and teaching people. I’ve got to say well done. Your reward might not be right now or right here on earth, but it’s definitely in heaven.”
Needless to say, I still have the note till today. (to put this miracle into context, I don’t even know where my NYSC certificate is. I came home, dropped it on my table and slept off. It disappeared.)
Maybe mother took it. But who knows?
In the past month, I’ve been privileged to do some interesting stuff. Firstly, in what I’d consider as personally record-breaking, I taught my first guest-lecture to a class of over a thousand university students. Then, told my little life-story to a classroom full of secondary school students. Next, graced a mentoring session for students who were about to start, or had started out in business. Finally, yesterday, I was on the panel of judges for a school business pitch contest.
Awesome month? Awesome feeling? Most definitely.
Let’s call it ‘October Rush’
But as much as I’d love to go on and on about how satisfying and rewarding it was, I’d also let you in on the work that came after:
In the past month, I’ve also had to reply over 100 follow-up Emails from students who had questions, business ideas or just needed some form of clarification on stuff they were working on, and spent over 5 hours on the phone doing the same. And it still goes on. Somehow, it hurts when an email goes unanswered for more than 24 hours due to my weird work schedule.
Now, for a little throwback.
During my service year, I was posted to a state government school as a computer teacher… actually, the only computer teacher in the entire junior school of over 1,500 students. Oh, gosh, was it an experience. I remember setting my first test questions for the JSS3 students and thinking ‘Oh, yes. These guys are in for it’. They’re what we call ‘theory’ (in your own words) questions. But, oh boy… it wasn’t until the class captains came to drop the test scripts that I knew I was in trouble. To cut the long story short, as we weren’t allowed to recruit students, I spent over 3 weeks personally marking that test, and got a healthy dose of laughter from the other teachers for setting difficult questions. Needless to say, from then on, all my tests were highly-basic ‘objective’ and ‘fill in the gap’ questions.
What I found interesting about my service year was the amount of satisfaction I got from seeing the students learn new things, or when a student I personally challenged got better grades… and even from coming up with simple initiatives that exponentially increased learning. For example, since I have such terrible grasp of my native language, I taught in
flawless English, and had the students who understood only Yoruba form a circle where a fellow student helped me translate.
Looking back, I now understand why, even with the pressure of running a business, I still chose to stay dedicated to my job as a teacher. Always in school 4 days a week, I never told my principal about other commitments. I remember going MIA for 3 days due to an intensive exhibition in another state – and another 1 week because we had 3 meetings in 2 Northern states – and not being particularly fond of the fights with my principal that ensued after.
But I would never have traded being a teacher for anything else.
Because they say you can only connect the dots looking backwards. And honestly, looking back, I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and I’ve figured out that a teacher’s job is truly one of the most critical jobs in the world. And it needs to be taken seriously. Teachers wield a huge amount of influence over the learners – And so, can’t afford to misuse that privilege.
With the right teachers, I believe we can truly change the world.
So, on a final note, here’s to all teachers… but first:
- To teacher Kenny, for being my first primary-school teacher-crush (she was so fair and pretty).
- To teacher Ben, my disciplinarian headmaster who particularly liked to flog us where our soothing hands could not reach.
- To my first Igbo teacher (I forget her name), who would forever be credited for helping me count one to ten, helping me successfully negotiate with a cab guy on a southern-state road trip earlier this year.
- To Mr. Nosike, the Intro-Tech teacher whose wife’s name was synonymous with moist cotton-wool, exposed buttocks and painful injections.
- To Mrs. Adesanya, my rich Yoruba teacher who caught me and my best friend eating fried plantain under the desk.
- To my first physics teacher (again, I forget his name), who picked me as an outstanding student in his class and gave me the opportunity to touch the helm of my 4-year-long school crush’s blazer.
- To Mr. Ogunsanya (how could I forget his name?) who’s credited with giving me my first slap when I tried to lie to him to save my class from being marked down on the weekly ‘neatest class’ register (oh, and he later taught me English).
- To Mr. Abogunrin, my highly-entertaining Yoruba teacher who always wore a very large suit and informally endeared me to a rarely-known romantic song titled ‘Falila’
- To Mr. Pat, for no specific reason except for being a totally chilled guy, for having a long, un-pronounceable last name, and for making me fall in love with technical drawing.
- To Mr. Adeoye Physics and Mr. Adeoye Chemistry, for being very strong influences in my love for physics and my fear of chemistry respectively.
- To Mr Okulaja, my first and only lesson teacher, who did everything here.
And, finally, to you. Because I believe you can take a minute out of your busy schedule to teach someone something today.