26 Nov 2012

Who is a Public Teacher?


image src: freedigitalphotos.net
I was in a bit of a shock when I first started teaching. I was so unsure of what approach to take. During my first weeks at the school, it had been examination period so I did not think much about the actual process of teaching. Then, before I knew it, the meager holiday was over and it was time to step into the classroom and teach. There were a few complicating factors; the previous teacher had a baby over the holiday so she was not there to show me the ropes. Also, I was scared of teaching because I was not conversant with current curriculum for literature. Even when I was told the book to teach, the fact of the matter is that my degree may say literature but my actual area of expertise is writing. Luckily, I called my mentor who also happened to have been my literature teacher when I was in secondary school. He connected me with the current literature teacher who recommended that I get Exam Focus for Literature. I was extremely grateful for the advice.
So off I went to the bookstore to buy the book. I asked for the price of the book and I was told it was about N1500. My heart sank just a little because I did not have that amount of cash to spend on a book. I had not expected that I would be responsible for buying the textbooks to teach the students. I asked for a much cheaper alternative. In the course of trying to buy the book, it came out that I was teaching at a nearby secondary school. The sales assistant guessed immediately that I was a corps member. I asked how he knew. He said, “You don’t look like a public school teacher.”

This has been a recurring theme in my service year. One day, after I had just finished teaching a class, one of my students followed me out of the classroom. I assumed she had same issues from the day’s class that she wanted clarified. She nervously said to me, “You are different from the other teachers, ma.” Then she walked back to her class after my flabbergasted self has thanked her. I am still trying to find what makes me so unlike a typical public school teacher.

One thing I have tried to do is dress professionally. I ensure that I am dressed in a manner that is smart and inspiring to the students. It is true that in some ways I am tougher on my students than the permanent staff. I am also more open with them about the challenges that they face as they head towards the WAEC. One of the first things I did when I took over the class was inform the students how far they had studied the recommended curriculum. I did this to create an atmosphere of trust. It also allowed them to understand the urgency of my mission to help them cover as much as possible before the end of the year.

Do I think I am a model teacher? No, I don’t think so. I believe that one of the beauties of bringing in corps members into schools is the atypical teaching style. There are strengths and flaws in our teaching methodology. But at least, the students get to have teachers in their classroom instead of skipping years of
instructions because of staff shortage.



by Sinmi
2012 9JEducation.org work-study

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