It goes without saying that teaching is one of the most noble of life’s vocations, yet it is one of the least appreciated professions worldwide, and even worse, the least rewarded.
“Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honour for me.” ~ A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
In Uganda, out of all the registered teachers, I think only 10% are really passionate about teaching as their profession and give it their all. The rest are motivated by something else, or have settled into teaching because they were unable to achieve their intended career goal. This is either because they could not afford the tuition fees for higher education, which would guarantee a better career or they didn’t pass well enough to qualify for their intended course in an institute of higher education. Worse still, the culture to stretch beyond the visible obstacles is still alien to us. This has left our schools with the poorest quality of teachers, which in turn has affected the quality of our education system. In the end, it has only bred half baked graduates with no vision, motivation or the zeal to work, because all they have seen through school, was a bunch of older people who settled for less and have no push whatsoever to aim higher in life, an example that the youngsters embrace as the norm.
“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” ~Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann
In 2015, I visited my former school, where I spent the entire six years of my secondary education and was shocked to find that not only has the school environment deteriorated, but the same teachers I had left there nine years back, were still the same. They had never advanced in any aspect of their lives, personal or professionally. I returned later the same year with a friend of mine, a motivational speaker and sales expert, who shared his story and how he had risen above multiple setbacks to achieve his best life yet. At the end of the short session, many had reformed in their hearts to start taking action and indeed, a week later, the Headmaster called to share a testimony. One of the teachers who was well known as a drunkard had abandoned the bad habit and was now helping his wife start a small business, something he had previously banned her form doing. I am still following up with him. We will be going back for another thorough session this year.
I have visited several schools, giving talks to students mainly, but I couldn’t help but notice that the most important person in this picture is the teacher. And we always left them out. I could easily waste a full hour pumping the children with career guidance but should the teacher walk in after me and tell them to abandon it or lose their marks, my message will be long forgotten. Because he/she holds the power, and in my opinion, I would achieve twice as much if I engaged the teacher instead.
“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” ~ Albert Einstein
Parents have also continued to entrust the grooming of their children to teachers, with some being bold enough to put a child as young as three years old in a boarding school. This has also caused an imbalance as to what the actual duty of a teacher is. A child in kindergarten requires special care and attention, because they are learning everything for the first time, but these teachers, being torn between teaching and baby sitting tens and sometimes hundreds of children at once, cannot accord each child enough attention as they deserve. In the end, the teacher is spread thin and comes off as uncaring, and very tough on the innocent babies. Such a child will never know real love and care and this affects their development, which in the end creates a huge gap in that entire generation and their offspring, because they will do the same when they become parents. That is what they know, and therefore, cannot start to raise a family themselves.
A popular saying “Charity begins at home” summarises the above point. We pass on what we know, what we were taught at home and if that teacher didn’t experience as much care and love growing up, they will in turn not give it as adequately as it is needed. And the trend continues, just like the quote below says;
We are all teachers, just in case you were looking at it as something unrelated to you. No matter how old you are, you have something to teach somebody. Even a new born baby teaches a great deal to its parents like patience, unconditional love; (no matter how much it poops or pees in your face, you will still love that baby. Haha). So we all have to embrace that God-given grace. And now you might wonder what the the benefit of being a teacher is, especially in our setting here in Uganda. But I believe there are multiple benefits, some I may not know myself. I am still investigating/researching/digging up more information on this, and will gladly share at a future date.
“To teach is to learn twice over.”~ Joseph Joubert
This quote sums up why teaching is an amazing vocation. It reaps twice as much. But to earn the benefits, you must be fully invested as a person. You must have the love for learning and a hunger for personal improvement every single day. But unfortunately, the teachers we have in our schools do not read beyond what they teach in class, which is also a repeat of the same information year in, year out. Something I would rather they challenged, because they have the power to do so. You’re all contributing to the same nation, I don’t see why one school should shine while another is shunned. And this brings me to the point of sharing thoughts on what a teacher should be doing to make their job more fun and rewarding for themselves first and then, (especially) their students.
“If a man is to shed the light of the sun upon other men, he must first of all have it within himself.” ~ Romain Rolland
Oprah Winfrey once commented that ‘if you are not full, then you cannot give’. This was after she had been struggling with being referred to repeatedly as so full of herself, something we’ve always found somewhat offensive ( in our society). Well, now you know its actually a good thing. And similarly, I believe that if you are giving the same thing to everybody year in, year out, then you have nothing worthy of sharing anymore. Which is where our teachers stand today. The same syllabus I was taught in high school, is still the same they are teaching today, despite the immeasurable change in trends that has happened over the ten years since I left high school. What value are they adding, if I may ask? Every week I see a post on social media about the subjects people say were a waste of their time in school because they now find them inapplicable.
I challenge the teachers to invest in themselves. If you started your career with a diploma, upgrade to a Bachelors degree and beyond. Step out of your comfort zone and say, take a course in public speaking, after all, that’s how teaching is mainly delivered. Pick up book on a subject other than what you teach. Many teachers of English and Literature have never read a book that is not on the syllabus, let alone about anything else. You could take an interest in Conflict resolution, read widely about it and practice what you learn. Who knows, you could be the consultant on such issues in your area and these days, almost everything makes money. be an expert at something or two or three. You just have to know how to apply it right.
Know something outside your profession that will push you beyond mediocrity. Have a mentor and meet with them regularly. And equally mentor someone else other than your students. It’s all about you and how great you are. That’s where your money is.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward
It is a common thing in our country that the leaders do the opposite of the rules and regulations they impose on others. A sick trend, I must say. No matter your position, you have those who follow you and look up to you and cannot afford to sell yourself short. This begins with how lead yourself.
Do you keep time? Do you respect the rules and regulations and the law? Do you dress appropriately? How about your speech? Is your message something the students and fellow teachers look forward to? Or the one everyone dreads listening to because you will leave their spirit wounded? Your influence runs deep,and therefore, taking your place at an assembly and calling students names is unforgivable because you are duplicating yourself right there and then. We played those games, mimicking teachers and trying to act like them, and those who ended up in that profession, act the exact same way, as if it was never distasteful for them too. How exemplary!
So, you want your school to excel? It starts with you. Have a vision beyond the students passing. What kind of influence do you want your students to have when they get out there tomorrow? Or is it about bringing you an A, your school’s name making headlines, and tomorrow that ‘A student’ doesn’t amount to anything in their life? What matters the most? I believe producing students whose values and character has been groomed right is a far better achievement than all As. But guess what? While you groom their character to make a lasting impact, they will deliver on the marks automatically. Because you have instilled in them excellence, given them a vision and set them for the future.
You will be remembered forever.
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” ~ Stephen King
What ignites you as an individual? You ought to have it. Do you love art, and maybe even teach it? Then create masterpieces and share them with the world. Is it Physics, what are you inventing? Bottom line, shine in another field. Your students will be inspired by your ambition to succeed beyond the classroom. Maybe like me, you love to write. What do you like to write about? Share it with the world. For some it could be sports, let it drive you and participate in as many tournaments as you can, involve your students as well, it is very motivating for them.
It’s very mind blowing how we have teachers of Geography and History, among other subjects, who have never visited the historical or geographical sites they teach about. Not even those in a neighboring district or village. And I wonder, if I, the student, visited one of those sites and what your telling me in class doesn’t match what I saw or in the exam, I write down exactly what the historical/geographical site looks like in present day, will I have failed your test? It really pays forward for you to check out what you teach in class and confirm its relevance or see how it can be reformed or updated.
Reach for more and your students will shine even brighter, because you inspire them.
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ~ Phil Collins
In addition to having that ambition, let it fuel your innovative side. You have the freshest and most creative minds in your classrooms, all it takes is a great idea and your encouragement and they will pour themselves into it and before you know it, something new is invented. It is called positive engagement. Our curriculum is too theoretical for our own good and we need to get more hands on. We have the best minds on paper but when it comes to implementation, we lag far behind. Why not have activities as a school that will fuel your students excellence beyond the normal passing of UNEB papers?
Have healthy competitions for your students. Team up with other schools in the region and create amazing results. Fuel the change we need as a country, it starts with you. You have the ability to expose your students to the most amazing minds and ideas. They too are very talented, bring it out of them and forge partnerships that will give them a platform to grow. You could get that child employed in that moment and set for life, because you saw their gift or talent early enough.
I recently learnt about exchange programs, these can be arranged for both teachers and students, starting with other schools that are currently better to mentor you and also pick one school to mentor. eventually, you can spread your wings to other countries and continents. Like I mentioned earlier, you are all contributing to the same human capital market, why not join arms and make the country proud?
This is my contribution to the start of a revolution that will take us to the top, I sure hope you the reader will add your voice.
When our students fail, we, as teachers, too, have failed.” ~ Marva Collins
I have emphasized that you ought to shine in other field. It starts with your hobbies. I understand this is an area that is so underrated in our society. Hobbies are suppressed so much because they are that; hobbies, things you do in your free time. Yet some of the most paying professions today are more or less hobbies. From sports, to fashion, to medicine, everywhere. So do not overlook yours and especially those of your students.
I have a serious grudge with schools today, for over pumping the students with class work and almost no fun time. My niece told me last night that I may not see her at home again until December when she finishes her final exams because she is in a candidate class. I looked at her and couldn’t imagine being in her place. She has a pretty tight reading schedule while at home, and we force her out to have some fun and relax. What will happen over the next six months of total seriousness and no break? And the school has nothing majorly exciting that you could say will help the students balance their books with sanity. I am really worried for them. And this is because the teachers themselves have no hobbies to look forward to.
It’s important to have hobbies. My love for reading earns me money as an editor. What if I had ignored it? You too have something that makes you happy and could make you money as well. Music is one of those. A sport keeps you healthy and helping others stay healthy will pay you too. The ball is in your court. Make your life exciting, because it has a direct impact on what becomes of your students.
Travel and see new cultures, then come back and tell your students about your adventures. Document them and share with their parents and explain the benefits of the parents doing the same with their children. Challenge what you studied and what you teach. I want to go back and ask my teacher of Geography if he has ever been to New York and Canada. He taught me about those places. How about the Rift Valley of East Africa or Fort Jesus in Mombasa? Huh? It is a challenge on every single person. Be more than you are now and everyday. I shared on this in my article Love to ‘Be More’.
It will transform your life and that of those around you.
- Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
“Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.” ~ Solomon Ortiz
I cannot emphasize this enough. You just cannot stop learning as a teacher. You have to sharpen your curiosity. You have to constantly be feeding your mind and heart with new knowledge.
Read, read, read and read.
Travel! Travel far and wide. Many opportunities exist to make this easier and cheaper.
Be curious. Be creative. Love your students and bring out the best in them.
I could go on and on about this subject. And I will take more action on empowering the teachers in my beloved country. I just started.