First published on Medium, March 13th, 2018
I am looking at this picture taken by one of my favourite kids in school today and I can’t help but think about how this is all I’d ever dreamt of as an undergraduate: an independent well-dressed and good looking young woman who teaches Literature to secondary school kids. I’ve imagined this day many times, sitting in lecture halls, listening to my lecturers talk about books. I knew in those days that no matter what route I take after graduation, I’d always end up in the classroom — a book in one hand, a marker in the other and a smile.
But it hasn’t always been all smiles. There are days I sit at my desk, my head buried in my palm thinking about all the many ways to do this job right. There are days when in the middle of a lesson, I pause and sigh, staring at that one student who has sworn to be a nuisance. There are days when I spend hours reading about being a better teacher, the one every student would love. There are days that I spend researching how best to teach a topic or a text. There are days when I glow with pride, watching my kids make effort and shattering stumbling blocks to fully arrive, acing their assessments; days when I catch a kid, outside my lesson, making reference to what I’d taught them; when a kid uses a strategy I’ve taught them on me — those are the days I live for.
I used to bother so much about being the teacher every kid in the class would love, but I’ve learnt that that can’t always happen. I remembered that my favourite lecturer in the university was disliked by more than half of the class. I’ve learnt that likeability, though an important element in teacher — student relationship, isn’t exactly the ultimate rudiment of being a teacher.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching kids who become closer to me than they are with their parents, kids who call me mum and big sister, kids who become my friends and I’ve also taught kids who would wish I vanished forever from their lives and from both groups, I have learnt the most important lesson in life: not everyone will like you and that’s okay.
Being a teacher is perhaps the bravest decision I’ve ever made. It puts me on my toes every day, seeking better ways, seeking new ways to teach a concept, seeing amazing ideas from other teachers, globally, on the internet and constantly questioning my methods. Perhaps it’s even more difficult in these recent times when kids have a million and one fun activities grabbing their attention on the internet, when students are increasingly having shorter attention span. The teacher is the one in the classroom who must ensure that students meet learning targets while being utterly engaged and excited throughout a lesson. Every single day.
It’s my fifth year of being in the classroom and every year has been better than the former. I’ve watched myself grow from being more confident to being more creative and I’m looking forward to being more fun. I’m looking forward to that day when I can comfortably climb the desk and teach my heart out to a class of shocked and amused kids, while working on many innovative ways to assuage the problems of education in Nigeria.
For now, please let me crush on my gorgeous teacher self 🙂