TeacherFIRE™: Setting Teachers on Fire of Performance

Hello friends, I was to be here yesterday doing FIREworks on Monday, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to be with you here. I have therefore adjusted the sail of this blog a bit. Today i will share with our teachers and those who love them, FIREworks. Tomorrow, I will share with you an interesting story on Social Works Watch™ (SW2). Do not miss it. Thank you. Enjoy this piece please and drop your comments.

‘The Mediocre Teacher Tells; The Good Teacher Explains; The Superior Teacher Demonstrates; The Great Teacher Inspires!’

The memory of Dada haunts me till this day. Dada was a childhood buddy. We were classmates in the Primary School and often spent our lunch break together, playing. One of our favourite games was tree climbing. But our regular, delightful game of tree climbing took a turn neither of us expected when Dada slipped on this eventful day. As one of the fragile branches of the seemingly strong tree gave way under Dada’s young foot, he fell, stomach first, on another broken branch. The branch went right into his stomach as I watched, frightened. I raised an alarm. Dada was immediately rushed to the hospital. Two or three days after, the news filtered in while we were in class, that Dada had died.

The first and only response from my class teacher was, ‘as from today, call this boy, Taiwo, Esu (Satan or the devil).’ This was in my Primary 3. Here was I traumatised that I had lost a dear friend. As I write this piece, I still remember, Dada’s physical features. I needed all the encouragement I could get as I mourned the loss of my friend. I was also overwhelmed with fear, having grew up in a superstitious society, where it was believed that the departed would often come back to take with him a close associate. Apart from the fact that I was close to Dada, I was the last person he saw as he slipped out of consciousness.

I came to value the attributes of a visionary teacher because I did not have the opportunity of being taught by too many. I think the only teacher that stood out in my life was Mr. Tugbobo, My English Language teacher in class 4 and 5 in the secondary school. Well, I think I remember one of our teachers in Primary School, who stood out. Unfortunately I cannot remember her name. I think she was a member of the Scripture Union of Nigeria. She would invite some of us to her house and preached to us. She showed us care beyond her responsibility as a school teacher.

Please note that I am not talking about brilliance, knowledge and dissemination of same, which are the characters of an ordinary teacher, who do not succeed beyond ministering to the heads of his or her pupils and not their soul (mind, will and emotion). I must say that I came across some very brilliant teachers in my years in school, but only two were able to combine ministering to my head with reaching for my heart.

Why This Piece?

The goals of this piece are:

–          To inspire teachers as SOCIAL WORKERS in whose hand lies the destiny of the Nation’s Tomorrow and as major custodians of the mind of the child to embrace the spirit of change;

–          To equip teachers to become highly effective change agents in their relationship with the children (in accordance with the provisions of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003) and actively play the role of exemplary models to the children under their care;

–          To encourage teachers to maintain productive relationships with the school management, teaching and non-teaching colleagues and parent/guardians.

The 7 missing links in the teaching profession in Nigeria today

I am not oblivious of the fact that we live in a challenged country, where a lot of things are not working. I believe every of our problem as a people must be located within the state of the nation. We live in a nation without foundation. There is no national vision we are conforming to as a nation.  Our society does not exist by the force of identifiable values.

Orderly and priority thinking is alien to us. As it stands today, it takes swimming against the tide for anyone or institution to maintain sanity and achieve excellence in any area of endeavour in this country. Teachers do not live in the moon. They are sourced from this society. They are touched and torched with our national infirmities.

I therefore submit that my encouragement to teachers to act in The-Best-Interest-of-the-Child is not without acknowledging the missing links in the puzzle of excellent and best practices in the teaching profession in Nigeria. My encouragement is that teachers should despite the missing links make a commitment to reinvent themselves and make a difference all the same.

The truth is that at the end of life, we may have many excuses why we did not make a difference but, I must hasten to add that we will not have one reason. Why? For every excuse, we give, life will show us people, who found themselves in same or even worse circumstances and moved beyond it to make an indelible difference in a crowded world. Their reasons for daring their situation will forever nullify our excuses and render them unacceptable in the hall of fame of outstanding achievers. With the foregoing in mind, please join me as we explore the identified missing link.

    1. There is sweeping poverty in the land therefore people are in different sectors in search of the good of their belly and not necessarily because they have any particular interest. Therefore many teachers have no heart for their pupils. In the last one year, we have taken the TeacherFIRE program to forty-one private and public schools and trained close to two thousand teachers within and outside Lagos, when I pose the question: why are you teaching? The answer, I get in most cases is, ‘I did not find another job. I decided to pass time with this one.
    2. Employers of teachers do not do a thorough job in the hiring process, including ensuring the passion and character of applicants before putting them on the job. Unknown to the employers, ‘Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more.’
    3. Poor remuneration and welfare package for teachers.
    4. Lack of teaching tools/aids and favourable learning environment for teachers to do their job.
    5. Lack of leadership within the teachers’ body, which is able to represent diverse interests and galvanize members to pursue common goals.
    6. Lack of a genuine relationship between parents and teachers as partners in progress. Some schools actually frustrate relationships between teachers and parents. Parents/teachers associations and their meetings may not serve the personal cause of an individual pupil, who to the knowledge of the teacher needs special attention.  How effective is our open day? Parents do not attend. In most cases they send a staff or relation, who for sundry reasons gives them reports that are many miles away from the truth.
    7. Comatose regulatory bodies

Profiles of 8 Unforgettable Teachers

  • Tai Solarin, a man who combined passion and discipline;
  • Booker T. Washington, who gave all of himself to his pupils and became a beacon of hope to many of colleagues;
  • Steve Mariotti, who decided to become a teacher as a commitment to social work in a notorious neighborhood and went beyond his curriculum to introduce entrepreneurial lesson to his pupils, who were born into poverty and violence, changing their lives forever;
  • Erin Gruwell, the founder of Freedom Writers Foundation, who used writing to change one hundred and fifty violent pupils and the world around them;
  • Janusz Korchak, a medical doctor, who abandoned his profession to give his life to the children under his care to the point of death;
  • Mama Ekundayo, a woman with a heart of gold, who selflessly dedicated 40 years of her live to the cause of abandoned children and made all the difference in their lives. Mama, as she was fondly called was more than a teacher; she was a model, despite her lack of formal education. What she lacked in formal education, she had in a heart for the children;
  •  Efren Peñaflorida, recently honoured as the CNN hero of the year, 2009, a quintessential teacher and social worker in the Philippines;
  • Ron Clark, who employed tenacity, sacrifice, creativity and above all love to cause a revolution in the lives of his pupils. He is today an author and founder of Ron Clark Academy


From the brief biographical study above, the T-E-A-C-H-E-R’s Traits is spelt out:


  • Train with your values/lifestyle: The teacher understands the Triple M™ Principle, which is Mentoring, Modelling and Moulding. Mentoring refers to fostering value and principle-based leadership. He Knows, he loves, he protects and he leads. Mentoring, I must say here answers to time and wisdom. Modelling means, in his dealing with children, the teacher understands that he must be conscious of the learning method of children: ‘they do not do what we say; they do what we do.’ The Teacher is therefore advised that ‘Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another.  And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.’ Moulding: is the automatic result of mentoring and modelling.


  • Examine your motive: The Rain-Beaten Chicken Mentality™ vs. The Game-Changer Mentality™ Do I know myself enough to know my real motive for choosing a career in the school system? The Game-Changer Mentality™ is best explained with the game of football. I think about a situation, where a team is struggling, ‘fumbling and wobbling’ through a game, in which they needed just one goal to make a difference. The coach for a very long time does not know what to do. Suddenly, he is able to reach the march correctly. He decides to make just one change, injecting a fresh player into the game. Five minutes after the fresh player is injected, it becomes clear to everybody that the game has changed and in two more minutes, the fresh player lays a pass and a waiting striker, who converts the pass into a clear goal. The whole stadium erupts in jubilation and another two minutes after scoring the day-saving goal, the whistle goes off. The fresh player is now awarded The Game-Changer Trophy.


I believe as teachers, we must develop The Game-Changer Mentality™ and be ready to be the difference in the lives of the children, who they teach. They are not expected to complain, when they confront difficult pupils.


  • Advance in skill and current affairs: someone said, ‘Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.’ Teachers should understand the four basic rights of children as outlined by the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 as follows: Survival which includes the rights of the child to life, good health, balance nutrition and related matters (see Sections 12 & 13); Development, which include the development of the child, spirit, soul and body (see Sections 15 & 29); Protection, which include protection of the child from child labour, child trafficking, ritual killing, sexual, physical, emotional abuses and neglect (see Sections 21-52); Participation, which include the right of the child to be involved in matters that concerns them (see Sections 3(1) (2), 6. 7, 8, 13, 19 & 20).


  • Caring with your heart: The Real Definition of Passion, Patience, –Passion is the fuel of a heart sold to meaningful contribution to the cause of humanity.’ –‘When the noise of activities is over and an unbiased arbiter, known as time pry into the works of our hands for the purpose of rewards, the acid test shall be our commitment to a mission, a purpose, a focus…


  • Hearing with your inner ear: listening is the best form of speaking. John Maxwell, a world renowned leadership expert, who has a vision to equip ten million in his lifetime, says his mother had a great impact in his life. She was a ‘compassionate listener,’ he explains, which in turn ‘fostered in me a great sense of security and self-esteem.’
  • Engage Innovation to empower. According to Erin Gruwell, the progression is ‘Engage, Enlighten and Empower.’ The teacher is advised to develop Frequently Asked Question Handbook on Contemporary Children Development Issues(FAQCCDI).
  • Rely on God.


Rewards of the foregoing Traits

–          Fulfillment

–          Enduring impact

–          Dignity, honour and credible recognition

–          Honour and rewards from pupils and parents

–          Goodwill for offspring and immediate family members

–          Eternal rewards


In closing, let me say that the revolution to begin to do the right thing can begin from you, the teacher reading this piece, I urge you not to wait for the multitude. I therefore share with you the words of Edward Everett Hale,

‘I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do’

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