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. Though the memory is so faint, that it nearly missed being mentioned, I remember some of the things she taught us. The truth of the matter is that between primary and secondary school, I spent twelve years under the eyes of different teachers, at least six in primary school and close to twenty in secondary school.
It is sad commentary that in all of them, I found only two role model. One of them did an almost irredeemable damage to my psyche, when she nicknamed me ‘esu’ (satan) in primary three after I lost a dear friend, Dada, when we went to the field to exercise our right to play.
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 have also heard the story of two of the teachers to two of the greatest men, I have ever known, Peter J. Daniel and Myles Monroe. When Peter J. Daniel was in the fourth grade, his teacher, Mrs. Phillips, constantly said, “Peter J. Daniel, you’re no good, you’re a bad apple and you’re never going to amount to anything” Peter was totally illiterate until he was 26. A friend stayed up with him all night and read him a copy of “think and grow rich”. Now Peter owns the street corner he used to fight on and just published his latest book: Mrs. Phillips, you were wrong!
Myles Monroe went to school under colonial rule. His teacher, Mr. Robertson called him all kinds of names including black monkey. He would say to him, you can never learn. The young Monroe was the bottom of a one-thousand-six-hundred pupils. At a point, he encountered God and took it upon to teach himself all the subjects his teacher had hitherto convinced him that he could not learn. At the time he was graduating from the school, he was the best graduating student. When he received his plaque for being the best graduating student, he presented it to Mr. Robertson with the following words: ‘this is to you from the black monkey.
Many years Myles Monroe, who is today an individual member of the United Nation was speaking in London and this old man came to him for a book autograph. He revealed himself as Mr. Robertson and told him, ‘I became a Christian reading your book. Thank God you never believed all the things I said about you.’
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 one was able to combine ministering to my head with reaching for my heart.
The tragedy again is that our schools today are filled with teachers, who neither have brilliance, knowledge nor a heart for the pupils. While it is alarming when a teacher cannot reach a child beyond the head, it is chaotic when a teacher is not able to reach neither the head not the heart.
My charge to teachers today is that they must do their best to give to the children under their care the best. The truth is that these children will surely remember us as teachers…It is our responsibility today to determine what they will remember us for.
Do have an INSPIRED Week…Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future!
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