My favorite teacher in secondary school was Miss Jillian who taught me Literature-in-English. Before she began taking my class, I performed so poorly in the subject that I thought it was the hardest possible thing to decipher. It was rocket science to me. Then she came, like a rainbow cast over a dingy dark cloud. She unearthed the intricacies of literary texts and by the time she left, I could tear apart any literary piece, be it Poem, Prose, Drama and spoken word, critique it and put it back together again.
It had more to do with her cool, calming demeanor, her vast and deep knowledge of the subject and above all, her ability to breakdown complex material and teach it until it enters the densest of heads. She was a miracle for my class and but for her intervention when she did, a lot of the students in my class, and myself in particular would have been lost as communicators or lawyers today.
When I got to the University, I had an equally amazing lecturer. Mr. Jimoh. He knew his stuff and whenever he stepped into the class we paid rapt attention. He would move fluidly from one topic to another with clear precision. He taught us so well that we even went out of our way to personally research topics in the outline so when it was time to take it in class we were more informed and could contribute to the discourse.
I think his proficiency must have been noticed and groomed by the faculty board because he was always chosen to take the difficult courses. In fact, He even made me put to sleep my fear of statistics. By the end of every semester, it wasn’t hard to see that his courses had the highest percentage of excellence among the students. He worked us hard and with persistence and with something akin to the gentle hand of a father. He was literally one in a million of all teachers I had come across.
However, the same cannot be said for many teachers. During my days in school, there were some teachers and lecturers who used terror as a teaching tool. They threatened us into attending class, wielded a dangling axe above our heads to enforcing excellence and appear with a bitter attitude every day to class. Making students despise the course even as much as they despised the teacher. And that always tells on the performance of the student when they rank low. With such brutes as these, little wonder the increased apathy of youths for the teaching profession.
Or those teachers who always have so many stories to tell about their lives. Instead of getting a shrink on whom they should unload their burdens, they use the entire class hour to keep the students abreast of what is going on in their personal lives, totally neglecting the job they were assigned to do.
Of course it is preposterous to ask a teacher to cuddle a student into learning something, that’s the role of parents not theirs. However, you must first know your subject well and then hone skills that make it possible to transfer this knowledge to your underlings.
And what about their remuneration? But a pittance. It is so bad that even those who start off with glowing aspirations of doing their best at impacting knowledge to others become disillusioned and begin to lag at their jobs until all motivation is gone and there is nothing left but a bitter impassionate teacher who just wants to drone on and on in class, leave and await the monthly pay slip. And when it is delayed they are only just so eager to carry out those long industrial actions that lead to strikes that drag into many months.
I know one hard working teacher who has taught for 33 years and yet collects a monthly salary less than what many young people with 5 years’ experience at other ministries receive. She is set to retire in 2 years and yet doesn’t foresee a fat gratuity.
No surprise there that many young people do not envision themselves becoming teachers but are more enthralled by the glamor of other professions. In fact, the few who do, only do so because they lack something else to do. So they fall back to the teaching career as a plan B, sometimes C or even D. And at that, they aren’t motivated to put in their best. Half the time they skip work so they can engage in other jobs or businesses that allow them glean a bit of money to complement what little they receive as salary.
Teachers are essential to us. Most of us will be nothing without our teachers who invested their time to tutor us.
Dedicated to Jimoh Ibrahim and Jillian Jackden… Most amazing teachers I know.
CC: those teachers who were nothing but angels