“GETTING THE BEST OUT OF STUDENTS: MY EXPERIENCE”
A TALK GIVEN ON THE 57th FOUNDERS’ DAY CELEBRATION OF BIRCH FREEMAN HIGH SCHOOL, SURULERE, LAGOS, ON MONDAY 6TH FEBRUARY 2017
By: Mrs. Oluwayemisi Omowo
A Good morning to:
Our Special Guest of Honour: The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs.) Idiat Oluranti Adebule ably represented by the Permanent Secretary Lagos State Ministry of Education
The Global President, BIFOBA: Barr. Kingsley Essien
The Past Global President, BIFOBA: Feyi Dinyo
The 1st Vice President, BIFOBA: Arc. Ladipo Lewis
The 2nd Vice President, BIFOBA: Mr. Frederick Dada Ajaikhile
All Old Boys’ present at this occasion
All Past Principals of the school present
The Principal Senior School: Mrs. M. Babatunde
The Principal Junior School: Mrs. Oresanwo
All Our Esteemed Teachers
All Our Wonderful Parents
All Students present.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I will like to start by acknowledging the “I am that I am”, the Almighty God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who made it possible for me and indeed all of us to be part of today’s 57th Founders’ Day Celebration of February 6th 2017. Truly, God’s mercies endure forever and are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.
I feel greatly honoured to be called upon to give a talk here today. Asking me to give a talk on “GETTING THE BEST OUT OF STUDENTS: MY EXPERIENCE” implies that my former students who made the request are telling me that I had by my actions, inactions and attitudes helped them be at their best and this is very encouraging because while they were my students, my middle name was “wicked”. “Wicked” because I insisted on students doing the right things at the right time and flagrant disobedience would not go unpunished. I am glad I did not relent doing what I knew was good and right in those days.
Before I go further, I would like to pay tribute to three great men who have distinguished themselves in life and have influenced my actions and attitudes very greatly:
- Jesus Christ who became my Lord and personal Savior at an early age of 13 years and has been responsible for sharpening my thoughts and behavior since then.
- Mr. Titus Olatawura Ogundahunsi of blessed memory - my father who showed me love and demonstrated that he believed in me in my early years. He was my idol until I met Jesus Christ.
- Dr. ‘Funso Omowo, my darling husband without whose help I would not have performed well in all the schools where I taught. He has been a great support, encourager and leader. He willingly served the children and I all the years I couldn’t drive; and I cannot recall Him ever putting me under stress till date. May God continue to bless him greatly. Amen.
Why be a Teacher?
As a young lady of 19 years of age, I taught in a private nursery/primary school somewhere in Ikeja. There I observed the neglect suffered by children of career women and so I decided to read education so I can have plenty of time for my home, because I wanted to raise God-fearing children. As I started teaching, I looked around and I discovered that children of committed teachers never languished; “he that waters will be watered” according to the Bible.
During NYSC, I realized that to get the best out of my students, I had to spend time with them and for them in preparing my notes, make sure they were well taught in class so I would not become jittery during their exams. The student who is able to stand tall and compete favourably with his/her peers in academics, comportment and mannerism is definitely doing well. Today, I have no regret and I feel fulfilled.
SOME HELPFUL IDEAS/HINTS FOR TEACHERS:
- 1. Let God help you make decisions:
From experience, I know that we need God’s guidance as we take decisions that involve the lives and affect the future of children. There are many straight-forward situations and there will also be knotty situations and because we are limited in knowledge, we may not be able to make the best decisions always.
- 2. Know your subject matter and do your work well:
Prepare very well for each lesson. There is no substitute for lesson preparation. Put in place everything that will make your work easy. I had to study hard, use between five and seven textbooks and refer to other authors.
Be passionate about passing the knowledge across:
Good preparation will aid class control. Give your students good foundations in your subjects. Note that mediocrity is not a virtue but a vice in the community of achievers. Excellence is the word to watch out for because competition is great. I hope we know that average is an enemy.
I usually gave a lot of assignments in Geography so that when a student did all my homework by himself, he was sure to pass the WAEC exam. I also did not tell them when the next class test would take place but I told them to expect a test once a topic is concluded. We usually did so many tests during the term. I equally found out that if a child is guided and given the right atmosphere, he/she will not fail exams. The solution to failure in examinations is hard work and not cheating. The student who cheats or is helped to cheat to pass exams is being ruined gradually. Invigilate exams very well. Once the students are well taught and they can read and work through past questions, there may be no need for lesson teacher at home or elsewhere. To read hard is stressful but it is worth it.
- 3. Comport yourself before the students in order to earn their respect:
Do not ask students for favours. Do not cheat them or exploit them. Be a man/woman of integrity before God. Do not be indifferent to students’ misbehaviour and never engage in physical combat with students.
- 4. Be disciplined – have self-control:
Do not do things impulsively. Always do things that need to be done even if you do not feel like doing them. Please do not punish students for personal reasons, gain or revenge. Punishment should be meted out whenever school rules are flouted. Refrain from negative discussion about students in the staff room. Get to know what is right and do it even if you are the only one who sees it. Also, note that you do not need students’ endorsement to do the things that are right.
- 5. Be truthful and sincere:
When I started teaching, I learnt that ‘order’ in a community is paramount for its smooth running. So, where I saw disorder, I tried to enforce discipline within the limits of my power and authority. My sphere of influence expanded with time. I, usually, told the students that rules were to be kept so that the school could run well. Students who came across me had to button their shirts and tuck in, put on only brown sandals; enter my geography class before me. Food vendors must not sell food before break time etc. Where there were offences, they were dealt with on the spot. Discuss your challenges with colleagues with a view to finding solutions, not with a view to accuse or fault others.
- 6. Treat the students like your siblings or your children:
- Be responsive: as much as I like to be firm and tough, I try to be sensitive to their feelings and needs e.g. when a big boy sheds tears because of two strokes of cane, I realize that there is more to it than meets the eyes. I stop and investigate. Do not humiliate a student in front of his peers. Do not do things that amount to child abuse. Try not to compare a student in a belittling manner.
- Be friendly: Every teacher should be a parent and a counselor because every student needs guidance. Most teenagers do things they feel like doing not necessarily what they are sure is right.
- Everyone responds positively to love. Love is not pampering/indulging a child or looking the other way when he has done a wrong thing or being permissive. The home situation of a child may affect the child’s output and disposition, so whatever comes to your notice, deal with it in the fear of God. Go the extra mile; go out of your way. Find time to talk and discuss outside the class work; tell them, educate them about real life situations. Tell them the truth about life if you know it. Encourage them to have the fear of God in their lives.
Where opportuned, help them overcome hatred, unforgiveness, malice and other negative emotions. Please, do not betray their confidence. Do not refer to their weakness when they annoy or offend you. Some teenagers have inferiority complex and need to have their self-esteem propped up or restored. Some are unstable and find it difficult to trust anyone especially if not treated fairly at home. Every teenager wants to be reckoned with; he wants to impress his peers. You may need a “conference time” to resolve issues in the class or school. Let the students talk with you.
You may need to explain your actions to him/her/them and may need to help him/her/them see how and why he/she/they are wrong. When you are wrong, either they know or not, do not hesitate to apologize. Take note of small details. A student may be physically present but absent minded. If you do not look at them when teaching, you will not know.
- 7. Be strict, firm and fair:
I try to follow issues to logical conclusions. Avoid preferential treatment; “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Be strict, get things done properly, this means that you too must obey rules set by higher authorities. I used the cane freely as I did for my biological children but I varied the punishments. When they know that you follow-through every situation to a logical conclusion, they will be careful to do the right thing in your presence. Even though they felt I was wicked, when they wanted fair judgment, they looked for me.
As you insist on doing the right things, you will step on toes but be sure God is on your side (if you are doing the right thing with the fear of God; God’s protection is sure over you). Throughout my journey as a class/subject teacher, Vice Principal and Principal, God protected me from being harmed physically. I can attest to the fact that God’s protection is real. Surely, I got a lot of threat letters, warnings and car vandalizations but no bodily harm.
A WORD FOR OUR STUDENTS:
My experience in Birch Freeman High School (BFHS) was very significant; I came in as a classroom teacher on grade level 8 and left on grade level 15 as Vice Principal having spent 14 years in the school. When I came in 1982, I was skinny and we had big boys in schools, I had not been too enthusiastic about deployment to an all-boys school. Since I believed that my steps were ordered by God, I took courage because we had heard stories about boys beating up difficult teachers. As a teacher, I observed that students who did well were those who were interested in their work. I remember some would always wait after school in the Physics or Chemistry laboratory to read and discuss.
Mr. Bright would wait behind to teach them Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography and Mathematics at no extra cost. When Mr. Bright left and Mr. Ochem came, he too was encouraged to groom our boys. Those boys were interested and took part in Science competitions where they defeated Kings’ College boys many times.
In Science Competitions: we were well known in Hembridge studies and the Jet/Young scientists’ competition. Those students put in good efforts despite the lowly home background of some of them. Notwithstanding, I recall the case of a boy whose father dropped him at about 7.30 am at the Surulere gate and he would walk through and go out at the Mushin gate and come back to enter the school a few minutes after 2 pm. to go back home with his peers. Another came to school with a small bag which contained some pieces of frozen fish and would walk past the school gate to meet his friends with whom he went to fry and eat the fish.
In BFHS, we had a good cross-section of the society and all were exposed to the same learning conditions. Those who were interested in their studies always succeeded; those who were not interested dropped either along the way or in their penultimate years. Your interest in your studies as a student is crucial, make up your mind to read and excel. I could also tell the stories of some of them who made efforts to excel. After closure from school at 2 p.m., one boy would report in his mother’s shop to work with her till about 4.30 pm, he would thereafter withdraw to a corner piece with his books. Another boy closed from school, found something to eat, played basketball for about 30 minutes and at about 4 pm would go back to the class to read when other students would have gone home. He never failed one subject. A student once told me that if his exam script was marked by anybody anywhere, even on the moon, he would score nothing less than 70%.
I want all you students here to examine yourselves. Are you interested in coming out in flying colours or you are reading just to please your parents? Why are you in school? What do you want to do with your life? You are the only one who can stop your progress. My advice to you is “read as if you will die if you do not read but you know you will not die”. Those who want to impress their friends or who want to sound tough do not go far because only empty vessels make plenty of noise. Once there is a will, there will always be a way. You may have to read a topic two or three or four times for you to score 80% even though your friend needs to read only once to score 80% - know your capability and act accordingly.
I found the following instructions useful in helping students to read:
(a) Daily, read through topics taught that day. Pick your timetable and read the last topics taught in the subjects you have the following day
(b) Do homework and assignments fully or in part depending on deadline.
(c) At weekends, read all topics taught during that week
(d) Conclude home-works and assignments; read again the last topics taught in subjects for Monday.
(e) No television till holiday time. After all, it worked for my own children; it will work for you also. I told every student who cared to listen.
Let the fear of God have a place in your life. It is only God who cannot let you down, so get to know Him and allow Him rule your life. Humility is essential for every human being, no matter your level of intelligence or how rich your parents are, you will do well to be humble. Remember, pride goes before a fall and God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
TO OUR DEAR PARENTS:
To the glory of God, he gave me the privilege to raise four children. My husband and I were to be held responsible and accountable for them. By God’s grace, we have been able to nurture and train them giving them legacies that cannot be taken from them. It is not about money. It is about being available for them and doing the right thing at the right time.
Dear parents, you have great duties toward your children. As long as God did not cleave or open the sky to drop these boys, you are accountable and responsible for them. The word for you is MONITOR. Monitor your children at school, at home, in the church or mosque, in the community and on the playground. You are responsible. Please be available, be accessible, be friendly and be principled. Do not spoil your child, make them sit down and read. Hard work does not kill. Education is always a springboard to achieving great things in life.
Finally, I would like to say that the school is a work place where I think things should be done officially and so words like mummy, mama, daddy, uncle, aunty etc should be discouraged. I would rather be greeted by students like this – “Good morning Mrs. Omowo” and I think this will go a long way in getting things done properly.
In my teaching career, I had tried to treat students either as my siblings or my children and I can tell you with all sense of responsibility that God has been my helper and sustainer. There had been difficult times but I had never been discouraged doing this job because I meet with students from time to time who say we now know better, you were not “wicked”.
I cannot end this presentation without paying tribute to my late mother; Mrs. M.Y. Ogundahunsi, a primary school teacher who single-handedly raised me and my siblings after the demise of my dad when I was 14 years old. I am the eldest amongst my siblings. She made sure that we had a good education despite her poverty. May she continue to rest in peace with Master Jesus.
I, also, thank all my Principals who tutored me on the job. Notable amongst them are Mrs. C. O. Odutola of blessed memory, Mrs. A. Adegbite, Ms. Adetoro Karunwi and Mrs. S. Sanmabo. May the Good Lord grant that you continue to receive the fruit of your labour. Amen
Thank you all for listening.
Mrs. Oluwayemisi Omowo. 6th February 2017