Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Teachers versus Bad Teachers

I'd like to start off by quoting (and paraphrasing) Michael Baisden from sometime last week. Quoting Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, Mr. Baisden said, "Two consecutive bad teachers can ruin your child academically."

Boy! Can I tell some stories, especially about High School; Moremi High School Ife and St. Saviour's & St. Olave's in London.

I will leave out some names to protect the guilty! And if you know who they are, please keep their names out of your comments people. Thank you in advance. Not that I can remember all their names after more than twenty years anyway. Sad.

I had a certain Physics teacher who was an alright person but a bad teacher. Let me just add that I would be a bad teacher myself if I'd gone into teaching, and so I didn't. Moving right along. Anyway, this person made me lose interest in Physics, be it in the classroom or in the lab where it was supposed to be fun. Back then, we would go home for a quick lunch after regular school hours and then head out to evening lessons on the O.A.U campus. At some point, we realized we would be getting this same person as our Physics tutor at our evening lessons. We all started to mumble amongst ourselves, we were unhappy and somehow, we voiced it out to Mr. Osuji, the organizer. Y'all have to realize I have always been vocal, and I have never been scared to tell the truth, even at fourteen or so years old. Being the simple honest man that Mr. Osuji was, he told her exactly why he would not hire her, the students didn't want her.

This lady now went ahead and called a meeting with all of us and wanted to know why we tried to sabotage her. I can't remember how it all panned out at this point but I know she had her eyes all glassy and she was close to tears. And I did feel bad. But my point was this: if you made me hate it in school, and then you teach it to me after hours, I am doomed with Physics, for life. Till this day, I never did get to love Physics quite the same anymore. In University, I only studied for it the night before a test and that was it. Thankfully, I was not an engineering major and I somehow scaled through but I know I never did excel in Physics.

On the other hand, in the same year in high School, we had an amazing Geography teacher, Mrs. Ige. She made me go from a slight dislike of Geography to loving it. She was smart, she was tough, she was a no-nonsense person but whatever she did worked for me. And even though I didn't major in it, I will never forget her.

I also had a great Chemistry teacher and in this case, I looked forward to the classes, and especially the lab sessions. Whatever he did worked for me as well. And I remember.

My English teacher in London was a class act. Mrs Leach loved a well travelled young person, as she would call me. If there weren't so many people by that name in the UK, and if I could remember her first name, I would try to find her. I might just need to contact the school. Ding, dong! That whole year was a wonderful and different learning experience for me that I still cherish after a very long time.

This reminiscing cannot be complete until I remember Mrs. Adeniyi in Integrated Science when I was ten or eleven years old. That's like early Biology. She taught us reproductive health. She taught us many more things but that stuck. Really stuck. She was an amazing teacher and even now, she is my facebook friend. I might even tag her on this post! Her office used to be on the other side of that square that was our Assembly, in lieu of a hall. Thank you Pastor Mrs. Lakishokun-Adeniyi. She used her full name back then. Good times.

But four years after she had taught me, I found myself losing interest in Biology. This was the same year we were going to sit for our GCE/WASC, the equivalent of a High School Diploma here. It was not teacher related this time, it was me. Then looking at myself, and realizing I wanted to be a doctor and Biology would be the foundation for a future with a lot of Anatomy in it, I went and got myself a copy of a big book called Modern Biology, and read it from cover to cover as we used to say. From pali to pali. That changed my life. Here I was at age fifteen, taking control of my life and my future.

I didn't discuss it with anyone, nor did I discuss the episode with the Physics teacher with my parents. At some point in early life, they had given me the tools to be independent, to think for myself, to be confident and to voice out my opinion, and most importantly, to take charge of my own affairs. At some point. And it worked, even at age fifteen. Sometimes it worked so much that I didn't seek their help when I needed to!

I am thankful that one or more bad teachers did not affect my destiny, but how about those kids who had a bad teacher for the very thing that was their passion, the very thing they had a gift for? Instead of being guided correctly, maybe they had a teacher who made them turn their back on it instead. Try to imagine that.

As parents, we need to pay attention. Not all kids are take charge kids. I was, but I know everyone wasn't. And this is not to say I didn't have any bumps in the road but that is for another post. Or you can just catch up with my book, The Only Way is Up for a dose of some of the struggle!

May our kids not run into that teacher that antagonizes them in the very thing their destiny is connected to, and if they do, may the good Lord give them the fortitude to pass through it and come out in flying colors on the other side.

A bad teacher truly can change your life, and not in a good way.

Kudos to the good teachers. Our future is closely linked to who teaches us and what we are taught.


PS: And don't y'all laugh about the state of my old school now as you can see in the pictures. We're going to fix it. Yes, we can. For those who have never been to Nigeria, we had the most amazing times in these places and did not see any ugliness; just love, education and lifelong friendships. Can I get an amen?

And as for St. Saviour's, we just lacked space. It's the UK after all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


When we write Christian Fiction, are we writing about heaven? And if we’re not in heaven yet, are all our characters Christians? I am so tired of the so-called constraints of the genre. The main character cannot drink alcohol, or curse, or have sex before marriage. What world are you writing about? And what if the main character did all those things before they got saved? Must the book start only after they met Jesus? And surely, even if the main character was a clone of Jesus, all their friends and acquaintances couldn’t possibly be clones of Jesus too. I’m just saying. That’s not the real world. I have been told even words like "crap" as an exclamation are borderline and it's best to stay away from it.

While we must not overdo the negatives and we must make sure to paint the negatives as negatives and show a positive progression or have an underlying Christian message, can we not just write about how it is in real life, how people talk in real life, how people act in real life and for Pete’s sake how people live in real life?

As long as it’s not young adult fiction, surely, adults can keep it real? One would assume, but maybe not.

I am so tired of seeing the phrase, she called me anything but a child of God. Whenever was the last time someone said to you, “You are anything but a child of God” and you were offended by it in the same sense? I know we can’t dwell on the curse words and all but come on, can we be a little more innovative here? I have to say I have only seen that phrase used well in one book recently and because of how true to life the whole story was, it didn’t bother me the same. That would be Delilah by Ms Shelia Goss. Kudos!

And even if all our characters were Christians, do these people never falter? Do Christian brothers and sisters never have sex outside of marriage? Seriously? Do they never have an evil thought or do they never do something bad when nobody is looking?

Pre-marital sex can be explored in a secondary character but not in the main character. That’s a common one in those submission guidelines. I sigh every time I see that phrase. How do you truly connect with the people if your characters don’t sound anything like them or like anyone they know? While I am not advocating for full sex scenes, surely, in the history of this world, there has been a Christian sister who did things she was not supposed to do. Does anybody know one?

I am reading A Woman’s Secret by a friend of mine, Toyin Adon-Abel and I love that it is not all stiff and uptight because it is a Christian book. He slips in the Christian undertone even without you noticing. He gets around the issues of language with a few scattered explicit words in some parts and yet in other parts, some dashes (–) and dots (…). While I’m not quite sure about the dashes and dots, he definitely made progress on what I’ve seen commonly. It’s a great read with an unusual and thought provoking plot and anyone will enjoy it.

Thank God for the few authors who are keeping it real but every time I read the submission guidelines for traditional publishers, I have to ask myself how do I write what I want to write, make it as real as I want it to be but still get a book deal from one of them? It seems almost impossible. But I will forge ahead till I get where I want.

Most of what we have on the market now is still for a restricted audience is what I’m saying. Thankfully, it's not all. If only Christians can stomach reading your book, then have you really helped save a soul? Fine, you’re touching and inspiring Christians. But what is being written for the non-saved who just wants a good read? I’m not saying there are none of such. I’m just saying we need more.

I know I’m a newbie and I don’t know much yet but is it too much to ask that Christian books sound like real life? And while I know that style works perfectly for some, how about others, like me? Can some of us please, please, please not write in Christianese 100% of the time?

Where are my overcomers at? Let’s do this. Watch out for my next book, Anonymous Gift Giver, coming soon. I have not queried anyone yet but I’m getting there. I will not disappoint you!