It is a new term and many of us; teachers are warming up to resume our teaching responsibilities. I feel that it is important that you pause for a while to ask the question, am I what I teach? I think there can be no better time to ask the question than this time.
I love asking questions. Questions have the unusual capacity to unlock the genius of our meditation. They send us on the path of critical thinking, which in turn send us on the path of personal or organization advancement. I will like us therefore to give time to answering this question. I also feel that to get the best of a question, we must not answer it in a hurry. In fact, when a question is thrown at us, either by a person or life, the first thing wisdom demands that we do is to ensure we understand the question before we attempt to answer it. Our first assignment must be to spend time in thinking about the question. The foregoing exercise convinces us if we have what it takes to answer the question or not. The second thing we must do is to determine why we need to answer the question. I think, it is not every question, we must answer. Answering some questions may amount to a total waste of time or admission of foolishness. Since answering a question may require an investment of the invaluable resources of time and mental energy, we must find the benefits that will accrue to us if we choose to answer a question.
I think the question I have asked today is a question every teacher must ask from time to time if we must make indelibly positive impact in the lives of the children under our care. It is not only a question we must ask, it is a question we must answer to the satisfaction of our conscience. The importance of the question and finding ample time to find answer to it cannot be over-emphasized. Until we are what we teach as teachers, we cannot teach by example and until we teach by example there is no maximum result. Once maximum result is not guaranteed then, I assure you that maximum rewards become a high-sounding mirage. Many, who are frustrated on the teaching job today, may not need to look too far. The simple source of frustration may just be that you are countless miles away in character from what you teach in classes.
It is an effort in acute frustration to attempt to implore your pupils to do what you are not already a master at. It is your lifestyle that will create a PRECEDENT OF POSSIBILITY, YOUR PRECEDENT OF POSSIBILITY will create a CONSCIOUSNESS OF CHANGE among your observers and a CONSCIOUSNESS OF CHANGE will produce MANIFESTATION OR IMPACT OF CHANGE. Such was the story of Dr. Tai Solarin. He was a man, who led his pupils by strict example. He made it a point of duty to begin to practice before he began to teach. I guess that is why Abraham Lincoln said the best way to teach a child the way he should go is for the custodian to go there first and return to take the child with him.
For example, if you expect your pupils to be prompt and punctual in all things, are you prompt and punctuation in all things? Your punctuality must not be limited to reporting to school or class early. It must mean that as long as it depends on you, you have respect for time. It must be that you have no respect for ‘African time’ at all times. If you expect your pupils to be diligent, are you diligent in all things? If you expect them to be upright, are you upright in all things? If you expect your pupils to excel, do you excel in all things? Your education must focus on the total man and if it must focus on the total man, you must be a total man or woman.
Let us take our discussion a bit further. I think it is high time we begin to live the principles behind what we teach than boasting at being a master of our subjects. For example the best asset of a science teacher must not be that he is very good in physics, chemistry, biology and the rest. Who is a science teacher? A science teacher is not someone who is good in science subjects. He is someone, who thinks and acts scientifically. The goal of science subjects is to sell scientific thinking. It is scientific thinking, which gives birth to all manners of inventions. Therefore the greatest value a science teacher can communicate to his pupils is to get them to think scientifically and make inventors out of them.
A teacher, who teaches commercial subjects, must be in position to think and practice commerce. Commercial subjects are not an end in themselves. Their goal is to equip the pupils with the knowledge of commerce and entrepreneurial skills. Commerce is the foundation of industry. If a teacher, who teaches commercial subjects, limits himself to the mastery of the subjects without understanding and living out the principles behind the subjects, he has failed to educate. So it is for a teacher, who teaches arts subjects. His pride must not be that he is very good in the subjects; he must be a master at creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Art subjects seek to equip the pupils with creative thinking, which is the foundation of creativity. What about a social science teacher? He must understand the science of how the society works. He must understand the role of every member of the society in working toward the common good. A social science teacher should be a consummate change agent, who is committed to helping his pupils to understand how society is designed to work and their roles therein.
Until the spirit, essence and principles of the subjects a teacher teaches consumes him and he becomes a model of same, he has no credibility to educate his pupils. If he lacks credibility, he has no business in the teaching profession. Besides his presence in the live of his pupils will do incalculable damage. The children may be in a position to read and write and yet they are not educated.
What does education mean? To my mind education simply means, edification towards drawing out unlimited creativity; a purposeful efforts at character building, thereby adding value to self and society and imparting and defending the knowledge of one’s individuality and independence, which will definitely result in organizing human minds for personal,national and global benefits and advancement. I also believe that a school is a place where creativity is stirred, orderly thinking is honed and the pupils are orientated to love humanity. Love and service to humanity should be the primary aim of education. I am a firm believer in the truth that intelligence without conscience will produce devil incarnates in the name of intellectuals. Such were men like Adolf Hitler, Adi Amin Dada, Ted Bundy and many other highly cerebral men and women, who wrecked untold havoc on our world.
Please note that I am not here talking about perfection. I am simply talking about conscious efforts of the teacher towards self improvement. I mean an unflinching commitment to make a difference by our example.
It is my humble submission therefore that the foregoing must be the core habit of an effective teacher. I will like to end same way I started, are you what you teach? As we get into this term I beg you to answer this question satisfactorily to your conscience in your closet daily or if possible any time you are with your pupils. This I beg of you: please do not rest until you answer this question satisfactorily to your conscience. Do have an INSPIRED term. I look forward to hearing from you.