Being normal has become a bane of our society as what is termed normal is abnormality normalized. “I cannot kill myself”, “will I open their heads to pour in the books?” et cetera are the statements you hear from teachers today. Are they to blame? Well, no. A lot is responsible for their indifferent attitudes. If I ask for a list of that, I know we can list from today till tomorrow. Away from this, teaching is not just a normal job. So, it doesn’t end with your appointment letter or the salary you collect. It’s a calling. Hence, it demands a lot of sacrifice; going an extra mile. You’ve got to maximize your entire ability to give life to a new generation. Teachers cannot afford to be normal. You may be employed but you are an entrepreneur of hope. Your work doesn’t end; the class seats in your mind. As a teacher, I have chosen to be ‘abnormal'. The result of being normal is the same. I desire a different result. My society yearns for a different result. Hence, my approach to teaching and learning is just different. I guess I am not the only one seeing life this way – I feel like sharing mine. Let’s learn together. Your comments and feedback will be appreciated.
Fun-Based Learning: When I was in primary school, one thing that made schooling different from other engagements was the fun we had. We played as we learnt. We sang, yet, it’s learning; we acted roles and learning took place. Suddenly, ‘they’ said we were mature – numbers mixed with alphabets in the name of algebra and our song is missing, yet, we must learn. As our subjects increased, our misery over learning deepened. Sincerely, many – even the brilliant ones – lost the taste for school. Monday mornings became a nightmare. Our sudden ‘maturity' met us unaware. However, few of our teachers, then, would still mix songs and fun-related events with learning, especially the Yoruba language teachers who would sing and chant. It’s just another time to “flex”. I determined to restore this when I became a teacher. I endeavour to either rap with the lesson, sing or relate the lessons to contemporary dance steps. In short, I bring the street into my class. I believe if it must be learnt, it must be fun. That’s where the ‘abnormality’ sets in.
Teachers should endeavour to restore fun and energy to their classes. No maturity abhors fun. Know the peculiarity of your subject and your students. Communicate fun in the best way. You can teach your students with stories, anecdotes, games, dance etc. I think Economics teachers can use the Monopoly Game to teach certain concepts in Economics. There are several movies themed on science facts and theories. We just need to be led by our creativity and you too as a teacher will be surprised how intelligent your students are.
Need-Based Learning: The inherited curriculum – British or American, Russian or Israeli – seems to me, one of our problems. From the little I learnt in Lagos State University (LASU), curriculum is based on the need of the society. So, how can British curriculum (that is meeting the needs of the British), meet our needs, the peculiar naija people. Little wonder that our students seem disconnected in real application of what is learnt in the school. We teachers are even confused because we were taught that same way. I noticed that only very little had changed in what my grandfather learnt in school from what my father learnt to what I learnt and to what I am teaching and my own children are learning. Haha! Are we saying that we are still living in the same society? Ask anybody who studied or is studying computer science. You will be shocked how archaic the course outlines are. I don’t think there is any subject in our secondary school that has social media as a topic. Yet, we teach communication and there are so many facts that are contemporary that are yet to find their ways into the inherited curriculum. If I decide to manage all these into my class activities, am I not ‘abnormal’? It’s only posterity that will recognize that, not WASSCE, NECOSSCE OR UTME. Only an ‘insane’ teacher will want to bridge the dichotomy between the curriculum and the need of the society.
I wonder what an art student will need those mathematical headaches (Calculus, Integration, Geometry Circle, Trigonometry etc.) for in whatever career he chooses. I am a teacher. Professionally, I only use percentage, addition and subtraction, division and multiplication out of the myriads of topics in mathematics from primary to secondary. Why not give me what I need!?
We need to declare a state of emergency in our national curriculum. Set a goal and draw a curriculum that is need-based.
Essence-Based Learning: This is just very similar to my previous ‘abnormality’. I just feel if the curriculum will not change tomorrow, can’t we still make sense of what we inherited as we are training global citizens. (Mind you, the owner of the borrowed curriculum had jettisoned it long time ago.) Anyway, I think if we, teachers, take our time to digest the content of our studies and find out why our students need to learn them and we communicate it to them, they will be more prepared and will be eager to learn. It’s one thing to know ‘how’ but a totally different thing to know ‘why’. Let our teaching be essence-based. May be those mathematics ‘almighty formulae’ are meant to foster critical thinking and problem solving. I recently understood why we need to teach content of Formal Letter (as informal or other write-ups) to minimum of 450 words. I had known formal letters to be short and precise – though SSCE will demand 450 words – until His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo proved me wrong with his series of open letters.
Dig deep, sir/ma. Let your students know the essence of Pythagoras Theorem, Control Accounts, Enzymes, Waves, National Income, 20 elements, Ruminant animals, Non-African Poems, Nationalism etc.
Reality-Based Learning: This is also similar to the former. One of the errors of a good teacher is proving to his students he knows it all. Fantastic! You will be respected. And after that, have your students learnt? That’s a topic for another post. John Dewey said that education is not preparation for life but life itself. If what you are teaching is life, then your students should be able to relate with it now, not waiting for future. How can I relate summary writing to the current reality in the lives of my students? Remember, they witness incidences longer than the time spent in narrating. So, they do summary every day. Your creativity is needed here so as to relate some seemingly remote topics to the current reality. I think only an ‘abnormal’ teacher will sit down and think through that. How do we relate National Income in Economics to students’ everyday reality? Calculus, Trigonometry, Differentiation etc. all seem too distant. Hydrocarbon is not is on the street. It’s pertinent for teachers to sit and get the ‘why’ so that the ‘how’ can be fully meaningful.
In conclusion, for those that go an extra mile to make students learn, you understand how difficult it is to go against the norm of ‘teach them and gerrout’. Nevertheless, keep it up. Remember, you’re making a future worth hoping for.
Be that teacher on the edge!