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Lize Shola Okoh: We Need Better Teachers

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I had a conversation with a dear friend some years ago, but it only finally made good sense a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help but think that it was stories like hers that made it even more important that we have better teachers in our society.

It had happened when she was in secondary school. She was not more special than your average teenager who had the drive and passion to succeed in school in order to better their future. She enjoyed Biology, Economics, Further Maths, and English Language – although it wasn’t her favourite. She did her homework as best as she could and handed it just in time like any other student; but one particular assignment made the difference, even though she never realised it at the time.

The assignment that could have change the course of her future career path was in creative writing. She recalled that for the first time in her English class, they had been given an assignment to write a flash fiction piece of 250 words. As she sat in the class, ideas of what she could write began to flood her head and she couldn’t wait to get home to begin.

That night as usual, there was no light; but she sat on the living room carpet with a lantern on the table as she poured her ideas out on paper. She said that she couldn’t remember the exact words, but knew the story had been about a son who had died on the day of his eighteenth birthday. As his family and friends gathered at his graveside, his mother had cried in anguish. She had written on and ripped the paper in her booklet several times, trying to get the prose as perfect as she could. Every word was to be a rhythm, leading from one scene to the next.

As I looked at her unveiling her story, I could see the passion and regret. The passion came from knowing what could have been, if her teacher had been a good one; and the regret that she had been too young and ignorant to have understood what his reaction had truly meant.

She had been proud of her work and submitted the assignment in anticipation of his review. The next day however, she was surprised when the teacher called her and asked who had written her submission. Still puzzled at his question, she replied that she had. However, he refused to believe her. He knew she was a good student and did well in her assignments, but for some reason, he couldn’t fathom that she could have written such a brilliant piece.

Looking back on it now, I couldn’t help but conclude that her teacher had failed her. As I quickly Googled the word ‘teacher’, I found that a teacher must enjoy teaching. A teacher who cares for their student is going to help that individual succeed in their life in the future.

I believe teachers can act as role models and steer a student towards their strengths and talents. So for me,  it is a wonder when some teachers act like their role in teaching starts and ends with the curriculum of their subject. Simply put, if you’re not ready to teach, mentor and act as a role model for the younger generation, teaching isn’t your calling. Oga abeg, find another job.

I would have expected a sound teacher to have taken the time to encourage and nurture her writing abilities. Instead, he had concluded that it was a friend of hers – who was amongst the top ranking in his subject – that must have written it for her. She, on the other hand, did all she could to convince him that she had indeed written the story herself, it fell on deaf ears.

Now an adult, she regrets that she hadn’t realised earlier on and taken it into her own hands to pursue her creative talents.

This story really resonated with me as a writer, and made me angry for her sake that she had never been steered to what had clearly been her gift. Imagine if her English teacher had been a good one, who cared for his students and helped them succeed in their life in the future? Perhaps, she could have been a published author by now. Or even if she never followed that path, at least she could have earlier on realised some of her talents and her strength in writing fiction.

I hope this story helps someone think more about their role in life, and how they might be an instrument in helping someone else realise their dreams no matter how small that might be.

We all play different roles, and in so doing our purposes are interdependent and interconnected with those around us.

So, maybe we don’t just need better teachers in the world, we actually need better people.

What do you think?

Till next time,

Stay positive, creative and passionate!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  A J Cotton 

Lize Shola Okoh is a content producer and writer who’s passionate about social change, writing, cooking, music & living a healthy lifestyle. She loves to travel, share her original healthy recipes with anyone that cares to listen, and talk about all things pertaining to natural hair which she rocks proudly when they aren't in dreadlocks or weaves. When she’s not writing for work, or on her first fiction novel, you are still likely to find her writing for her fiction stories and lifestyle blog at sewafolie.com Follow her on Instagram and Twitter- @sewafolie

26 Comments

  1. cindy

    June 16, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Hmmmm…….my English teacher back then built my writing ability. Looking back now, I wonder how my writing skills would have been without her. She thought me from my JSS3 to SS2. No matter how much I changed arms, fate always brought us together. She wasn’t a nice woman. In fact, I was initially scared of her, we were all scared of her. We always dreaded her first class at the beginning of every term. She would come to class with her long cane ready to give each of us a stroke for every red circle on our essays. I always got the least number of strokes in class, sometimes none. Yeah, I was bad like that. By the time I got to senior class, I guess I was the only student who wasn’t really scared of her anymore. She took a special liking to me. She even made me the president of the literary and debate society in my SS3. I never got a grade higher than ‘C’ throughout my stay in secondary school. But alas, I had ‘A1’ in my WAEC result. Mrs Salau, wherever you are, God bless you for touching an area of my life, for inspiring me, and for building my self confidence in writing. I rep #FGGCAkure

    • Below average

      June 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      She clearly didn’t do a good job if you can’t differentiate between taught and thought.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      That’s incredible! I’m grateful for some the teachers I had in school too 🙂

    • tobi

      June 18, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      @cindy mrs salau was d best,she taught me too and made essay writing fun if u write well…feggicolla all d way.

  2. HHHHH

    June 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

    This is an amazing piece. I completely agree with your statement that a teacher needs to love teaching and yes we need better people that can inspire and encourage others to realise their potential.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you! Totally agree 🙂

  3. Reader

    June 17, 2015 at 12:59 am

    So true

  4. chi-e-z

    June 17, 2015 at 4:16 am

    yep I love teaching I’m trying to be good at it cause I love explaining and showing people how simple most things can be especially math. My friends in former school used 2 call me miss teach everything lol cause I’ve done every subject creative writing,all the chemistry and most biology to all the maths and lil physics so I used to just help people out most times at the tutoring center. I really hope I get to atleast try my hand at teaching mathematics cause it’s so fun and really logical but has few good teachers. hopefully I’ll make a great teacher. **cross fingers/pray 4 me***

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      It’s great to know you’re enthusiastic about teaching and inspiring our younger generation! Wish you the best.

  5. Iris

    June 17, 2015 at 6:58 am

    We do need good teachers, and I was fortunate to have some amazing ones. However, remember that teachers also have to eat. Many Nigerians no longer look at teaching as a laudable or respectable position. The government doesn’t pay their salaries on time or provide them with other benefits (meanwhile NASS is using that money to buy clothes). Unless you can afford a private school, odds are you’ll be stuck with a teacher who is broke and frustrated because even the school doesn’t have adequate or updated teaching resources. (As an aside I wonder if SSS students are still using Ababio and Nelkon). To make matters worse they now get corpers who have no knowledge or desire to teach and force them to do so. How will students pass?

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      You’ve made very valid points, and I’m saddened at the state of our educational system. We say- “man must survive.” But at whose expense?
      Lol, I remember the Ababio days as well. Is it still being used? Can anyone verify?
      I totally agree with your point about inexperienced corpers teaching. That’s just another can of worms!

  6. ACE

    June 17, 2015 at 7:49 am

    It’s well. I strongly agree that we need better teachers. To every job one does please do with passion and all seriousness I am priviledged to have done a professional teaching course last year and it opened my eyes to how bad our educational system has fallen. I always advice teachers to make sure they actually do have a passion to change or see positive change in a persons life before embarking on the profession cos you can either kill or make stars . its well.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Well said.

  7. Jhennique

    June 17, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Unfortunately theses days its hard to come by seasoned english teachers. You think people can speak english until you maybe chat with them and see that they cant even spell. Its just bad in this part of the world. And people dont even read anymore……..

  8. Adwoa

    June 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    We surely do need good teachers. They would have taught you that the phrase is ‘early on’ or ‘earlier’ not ‘earlier on’. It was a lovely piece but the few grammatical errors were too ‘magnified’ I couldn’t ignore them. Good job Lize. I suggest you read over your work a few times before you hit the send button.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Thank you for the correction and feedback. However, your statement- “They would have taught you that the phrase is ‘early on’ or ‘earlier’ not ‘earlier on’.” is quite overreaching!

  9. Chi

    June 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    You are spot on with this piece. My 7 year old daughter’s teacher called me up to let me know she thought my daughter had extremely good creative writing skills and advised me to hone them. Based on that, I have enrolled her in book clubs which she loves.

    She writes short stories, poems etc (not published though) which are amazing!! Her vocabulary, for her age, astounds me.

    I owe this to her wonderful teacher who spotted this talent in her and is encouraging her to make use of it. Who knows… she may just be another Chimamanda Adichie in the making!!
    Kudos to all teachers who have a true passion for teaching.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      That’s awesome Chi! It’s great that you’re also giving her your full support to pursue such talent that is often looked at unfavourably in our society.

  10. D Main Man

    June 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Instead, he had concluded that it was a friend of hers – who was amongst the top ranking in his subject – that must have written it for her. She, on the other hand, did all she could to convince him that she had indeed written the story herself, it fell on deaf ears………..

    What happened to the friend of hers? was she a ghost. they didn’t call her to speak the truth?

    @op, i think this is you, Good you are re-inventing yourself. I think you should write smartly next time, Try using monolithic words against long sentences. Am fallible but check these and many more you wrote.. “A teacher who cares for their student is going to help that individual succeed in their life in the future.” SUCCEED IN THEIR LIFE IN THE FUTURE, What you failed to understand was that “in their life” and” in the future” are the same. ……

    Perhaps your quest to provide content over flogged this piece. Many more are clearly indwelling. These pitfalls would have been eloped if you had read severally,
    STAY FOCUSED. GOD IS LOVE.

    • Lize Okoh

      June 17, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks for the feedback and criticism.
      The content of the piece is what I wanted to relay, not a debate on where her friend was or wasn’t.
      And since you’re more knowledgeable, you must be well aware that telling a writer to write “smartly” is quite subjective. You cannot direct what you do not own. I write what I feel, how I please. Take what you may, or leave as you may.

    • D Main Man

      June 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Hello Lize, am your friend, and good critic not a bad one, …(your friend and the teacher) was the premise from which you arrived at a reasoned logic and then set the motion for your analogy for a better or revamped educational system and you are now telling me that you have to FIX A PROBLEM WHERE THERE IS NONE. if there is no foundational basis for a deductive stand point of view, Nne why create one.

      In a science- thesis setting, if your introduction is not right and your literature review,methodology,materials and method…etc are correct. i will send you back to do a good work.

      I totally understand what you meant but felt “to accentuate”. its not fussy.

      STAY FOCUSED LIZE, AM ALREADY YOUR AFICIONADO. GOD IS LOVE.

  11. Ronnie

    June 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Teachers should be a role model. This is a nice write up. Thank you!

    • Lize Okoh

      June 18, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      My points exactly. Thank you 🙂

  12. Sherri

    June 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    You are absolutely right!
    the decline in the standard of education is appalling for a society that prides itself as the most educated in Africa..
    In order to have good quality teachers,
    the government can start with setting standards and providing incentives.,
    improving or a total overhaul of teacher’s education programs,
    setting minimum educational requirements for teaching and requiring advance degrees for certain subjects.
    as with all professions, passion is hard without the proper tools and a conducive environment.

    @chi-e-z. have you considered tutoring?

    • Lize Okoh

      June 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Yes Sherri, yes! You’ve nailed all the points that inspired my piece. We all need to contribute in bringing about the changes we want to see in any little way that we can.

  13. Adoley

    June 24, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Nice piece.

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