“Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.” “No child is a dullard.” “Never give up on a child because he can become another Einstein”. These are sayings that has kept me in check and gave me hope as it pertains to living my Life – the life of a teacher. My passion is to change the world through knowledge as a professionally trained teacher. That’s why today, I can say I am fulfilled as a person. The reason? I am living my life, that is, the life of a teacher.
As the senior prefect in my secondary school days in Government College Victoria Island, Lagos, I remembered my principal, Mr C.O Sholahan, he asked if any of us would want to be a teacher. I was the only student who consciously raised my hands in affirmation. But he looked at me and said, “Bello, you can’t be a teacher.” But my life today has proved that statement wrong. And I can say, I am now a professionally trained and certified teacher, from the University of Lagos.
My journey to the teaching profession is tied to those statements at the beginning of this write-up. The first is tied to the statement of an educationist, Jerome Bruner, the second is tied to my experience as a pupil in primary three, and the third is tied to the life of one of the greatest scientist of all time, Albert Einstein.
It’s no news that many students who studied one course or the other in the faculties of Education, Universities of Education, Colleges of Education and Institutes of Education never intended to pursue that path in life, but they found themselves there for one reason or the other. Many just go through the system not maximising their potentials, thus, living below their potentials and graduating with poor grades. This is very sad.
After graduating from secondary school in 2007, I got my first admission into a tertiary institution in 2010 to study Education and Physics at Tai-Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state. That’s the beginning of a fulfilling life, the life I was created to live – the life of a teacher. Though, after a session, I left for the University of Lagos to start over again, yet again as an Education and Physics student, in a bid to fulfil my destiny – living the life of a teacher.
The way many see Education students is terrible, particularly treating them as students who got what they never applied for, thereby making Education Students develop the inferiority complex, thereby affecting how they see themselves and their attitude to studies. This point was brought home to me when I met a man in 2011 before being admitted into the University of Lagos, he was surprise to find out that I scored 269 in my Jamb and yet I chose Education and Physics, when I could have chosen a pure science course. When he checked my physics score and saw 93, he felt I knew what I wanted, so he stopped the ‘harassment’.
My choice of the teaching profession is borne out of my undying passion to always want to learn new things and to share what I have learnt. If I don’t want to read or study to learn something new because I don’t feel like it, the desire to want to teach would make me study. That’s how crazy I am about teaching and impacting lives through knowledge.
I started teaching, though unprofessionally, as a J.S.S.1 student, who would gather the kids in my compound and teach them. That’s why today in my community, those that I taught and didn’t teach call me, ‘UNCLE MURI’.
Bishop Oyedepo would say, “You can’t be referenced if you have no reference”. With respect to this, there are people who have inspired me to choose to live that wonderful life – the Life of a teacher. So, I will like to write about them briefly. I would forever be grateful to teachers who inspired me to nurse the desire to live as a teacher. First, the woman called Mrs. Towuru was an inspiration to me. She was my teacher in primary three, in my primary school days, in Kuramo Primary School (KPS), Victoria Island, opposite Eko Hotel and suites. This woman wouldn’t leave for her home until I finish my work. I was always like the last kid in class, always struggling to finish my classwork. I don’t know if you understand that feeling, when you are the only child in class, feeling miserable and you are swallowing spit and feeling like crying but you can’t. That was my life as a kid. She never gave up on me. She gave her time, and by extension her life for my liberation from the state of struggling to becoming a good and excellent student in years to come. Mrs. Towuru stood out among all my teachers in those days. God bless you ma! I hope to see you someday.
Secondly, Mr Akinlade who delivered us from having a terrible ending in Mathematics in my Junior secondary days, when it seems that we were going to cheat. I will throw more lights on this later. Additionally, I was personally mentored by Mr Afolabi Ismaila, who taught me mathematics and I was able to rise to become one of the best students in mathematics in my secondary school days. I will be forever grateful to God who led me to him.
Thirdly, my best teacher in secondary school, my Physics Teacher, Mr Okogele, the man who can teach for hours unending, always saying, “Finally”, just to plead with us for an extra time. He is the reason I studied Physics as an Educationist cum scientist. I recently met with him, breaking the news to him that I just graduated from the university as a Physics student. He was glad and he embraced me with the love of a father. If I didn’t study Physics, I don’t know what life would be like now. Thank God I met you sir. God placed you there for me, because you could have been in another school still blessing lives. God bless you sir!
Finally, the MIT Professor, Professor Walter Lewin. Ever since I watch this MIT professor make Physics come alive through his lectures, I was inspired to continue even when Physics was becoming uninteresting to me due to method of delivery of Physics concepts by my lecturers; this was when I was almost out of tune with Physics. Thank God I had a mentor whose life kept me in check. That mentor was Professor Walter Lewin. I love and appreciate my teachers, but let me say, some of them need to learn the science or profession of teaching (pedagogy). That’s the truth. If not, many would go through school not seeing the beauty of life, which Physics displays.
So, through it all, I can say I had a firm conviction of what I wanted and God kept me as he gave me people I could look up to when the going was tough. Is it any wonder that through God I finally graduated as the best student in my class, department and faculty with a 1st class Honors in Education and Physics? The reason for this are as follow: 1, I knew what I wanted and went after it. 2, I learnt self-confident through a sad experience I had in my secondary school. 3, I never kept negative friends. 4, I kept only few close friends who shared like mind. 5, I wasn’t ashamed of my faculty (Education) and the course I was studying. 6, I was studious and committed to what I was there to do. 7, I was a member of a fellowship where I felt like home. and 8, I was proud of my faculty and gladly tell people that I am a teacher.
One thing I haven’t stop to do in my little time on earth is to seek for opportunities to be a blessing to people, particularly with helping in solving some of their academic challenges, when I can. I have taught practically at all levels. Taught kids who are yet to start school, taught primary school students, secondary students, and even at the university level. Started teaching at the university even as a 100L student both in TASUED and in UNILAG. All is tied to fulfilling my life’s calling and ensuring I die empty, that is, completely pouring all that God has put into me into others.
During the six months of ASUU strike in 2013, I had a wonderful experience of a lifetime. Thinking of something productive to do, I decided to volunteer to teach in any secondary schools around my community. I set out to do that, but getting to a private school and declaring my intentions, was told I wasn’t going to be needed, even though I chose to serve them for free for the students’ sake. But was glad they did reject my offer of service. The reason is because I had a rethink about how far I have come and how the Government had being responsible for me. From a Government-owned primary school to a Government-owned secondary school, until now, a Federal Government university, the University of Lagos. Therefore, I decided to visit a government school, Olomu Community Senior Secondary School, Eti –Osa, in Lekki, Ajah, to volunteer to teach there. I was gladly accepted to teach the students basically physics and mathematics, and assisted also with Chemistry when the need arose. This afforded me the opportunity to meet wonderful students. It was a period of my life where I really felt fulfilled, because I was able to sit with the students and related with them as friends, guiding them about life and what’s obtainable in the university system and how hard they should study and work to get to the top in life.
In addition, in my final year in the University of Lagos, I occupied and functioned in the position of the Vice president of the Students’ Association of my department (ULSTESA) and it was a time of great service to humanity. With the assistance of the other cabinet members, we organised the first Quiz competition in the department and in the faculty at large. My time in office was a fulfilling time for me because I did not only organized tutorials, I also taught in these tutorials for free. And the students I taught love me for that, and today, I am a close to many of them who have won a special place in my heart. I love them so much. I must also confess that as I enjoyed serving the students, it was in the first semester of my final year that I failed to make a First Class GPA, unlike other times when I had 4.50 and above, even though I graduated with a First Class at the end of my program. This is a price I had to pay for that joy of being a blessing to students in my departments, and sometimes from other departments. On several occasions, I put smile on the faces of many students, whom I was able to meet in my little time in University of Lagos. All to the glory of God.
In conclusion, the whole essence of this write-up is to share a bit of myself with you, that you may know that there are people who want to be teachers by choice and not accidentally. Also, that you may be encouraged if you have been called to teach (as there is a school of thought that believe that the teaching profession is a calling), or you are studying any Education related course, be proud of it and give it your best. Live your life to the fullest, birthing the teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, Laboratory technicians/scientists, etc of the next generation through your commitment to teaching and more importantly the students you teach. Be as interested in the students, as much as in what you teach them.
This is a little piece of me, BELLO MURITALA STEPHEN, a First Class Graduate of Education and Physics from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Be encouraged and take advantage of what you have been given by God, the opportunity to live and bless lives everywhere you go, as a teacher. I can confidently say, I have never thought for once, if I would be able to secure a job after graduation.
This can be your story too. The teacher is a creator! He can create Jobs where many are employed to find an expression of their own essence. Thanks for taking your time to read. God bless you!