Teachers are key in ensuring that all children receive a good quality education. At the Global Partnership, we recognize the importance of investing in teachers and effective teaching practices. This is the first in a series of blogs by teachers selected as finalists for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize who tell us about their job and the difference they make in children’s lives.
Teaching was part of the environment I grew up in. My parents taught and my elder sister became a teacher too. There was a lot of talk at home about teaching and why it was the best profession. I developed the urge to “teach” other young ones at the age of 9.
I thought it was beautiful and empowering. I look back with a lot of pride when I remember how my parents handled their multiple roles as teachers and how the community respected them so much. As I grew up, I was clear that I was going to teach.
Noticing inequality and demotivation
At school as a pupil I did not feel safe, comfortable or that I could succeed because the student-teacher relationship was not friendly or caring.
It wasn’t a dialogue, we weren’t listening to each other. I wanted to change this so I chose to dedicate my life to teaching.
I joined the profession at a time when teachers no longer commanded respect: the pay was low and becoming a teacher only required minimum qualifications.
I also observed a widening achievement gap between children with limited resources at public schools and those with privilege at private schools.
For children living in poverty, there was growing disinterest and lack of motivation to be in school, which saddened me.
I also knew a lot of demotivated teachers who just went through the motions of teaching, doing a disservice to the children.
I wanted to change things and encourage many more to join teaching; help learners take charge of their learning while the teacher facilitates; improve teacher-student relationship by removing harassment, punishment and fear; make schools more child friendly so children would long to go to school, remain there, complete their education and transit to the next level.
Joining the profession to bring about change
I made up my mind to be a different kind of teacher, not just good but inspirational. I knew, to bring lasting change I needed to be in the profession and then change things from inside. I have no regrets, it has been a fulfilling journey.
Good quality education has no equal but makes us all equal. My strongest conviction is that, acquiring education should never be a privilege for the few but a right for all children.
Because of the many limitations we have in rural schools, I have used real life stories and occurrences to get people to think differently and more deeply.
For example, in the June 2014 attacks in Mpeketoni that sent shock waves around the world, people were killed due to religious and ethnic intolerance.
I seized the occasion as a teachable moment and spoke to the students about empathy and our rich diversity. I made a morning announcement about the tragedy and went into every class to share with the students the lessons to be learnt.
Real life stories help students and teachers to talk, reflect and take action.
Challenging students to make them better learners
Although high-stakes testing and wide syllabus coverage in our school system makes it difficult to use innovative instructional practices, I have not given up trying new and stimulating ways of teaching.
I adopted a holistic, child-centered approach that forges new, dynamic relationships between teacher and students, tackles novel challenges, and carefully guides students to see connections between a specific problem and the real world.
This helps students think more deeply, take chances in discussion, improve their writing and presentation skills, raise their self-esteem and accept the risk of being wrong.
I challenge them to think differently, encourage natural curiosity and my message to them has been consistent – to act righteously.
Good teaching must result in student learning. This takes years of practice, and good teachers never stop learning. I want my students to get past a tendency to be passive learners – just taking notes, just worrying about the grade.
Sharing the lessons I’ve learned
In order to share my experience with others, I founded an organization called “Lifting the Barriers, Education and Development. Through a website and Facebook page, we encourage teachers to send us their views about research or evidence gaps. I am truly grateful for the support I have received from Learn Foundation Netherlands in this work.
With other teachers, we developed Walimu Kwanza! (Teachers First), a quarterly newsletter celebrating teaching and leading in schools. The newsletter offers examples of best practice, links to interesting reading and emerging research to help educators solve problems and answer questions.
In May 2015, after being nominated to the top 10 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize (the only African on the list!), I joined the Varkey Teachers Ambassadors program connecting teachers around the world: we share and learn from each other about what is happening in our countries, in our schools and in our professional development. It has given me the opportunity to be a part of the #TeachersMatter campaign, making the voices of many teachers heard.
I am currently putting together a new center with high speed internet connection, books and journals to help coach teachers in child friendly teaching and learning methodologies.
I am developing a training manual for teachers to be more proactive and play multiple roles. I have organized townhall meetings where we discuss how to make the teaching profession more popular and professionalize teaching.
Teachers are important
My message for teachers on World Teachers Day is that we are important, we truly matter and our role in human development cannot be underestimated. I encourage every teacher to do what they can to find true happiness in the profession.