Where is the teacher in delivering instruction?

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By Ubong Nelson

 

 

in  the late 70s, while in high school, we had a young male teacher whose responsibility was instructing us on Literature in English. One of our recommended textbooks was EZE GOES TO SCHOOL. Our teacher was so practical with his teaching methods, culminating in our christening him, Eze, after the book he deployed in teaching us. In him, we saw the famed Eze.

 

 

BONA was the name of one of our classmates. Tall, big and with a very deep voice. Bona’s stock in trade was arguing with our lecturers in our college class. See, in the late 80s, Nigerian undergraduates had no access to Google, nor recommended textbooks. So, when Bona began ruffling feathers of our instructors, we were afraid the lecturers would take it out on us, so, we, his classmates, sought to prevail on Bona to slow down and let our lecturers be.

Anyone who read Law at UNILAG, or was a student of Ekiti State University, will be conversant with this bearded Professor of Law. Fortunately, he was our instructor in an aspect of International Law. Once Prof started teaching, if you arrived after five minutes, it was an unsaid rule that you must not join others. If you did, the lecturer would excuse himself.

I have presented scenarios that have spanned over forty years, different generations of people who seek an effective learning process. In the different seasons, the teacher’s influence is dominant and indispensable.

The teacher is the most important person in a classroom situation. so, whether you are delivering instructions to children in a primary, post-primary, tertiary institution, faith or correctional centre, one thing is needful: the instructor must have excellent knowledge of the subject content and the expected impact on the learner..

Today’s teacher must have a heart for this profession and as he has chosen to answer the call, the next step is to commit to it. He must become unwavering, focused and determined. What this means is that teaching should not be a stop gap employment for one to arrive at their dream jobs. A teacher must see a bright future with the profession, then throw in all his capabilities into the work. The teacher must understand that the learning process is not an official, boss-subordinate situation, the atmosphere must be set for a mutually beneficial relationship.

During our season as primary, post-primary and tertiary school attendees, which terminated in the late 80s, the teacher was seen as the all-knowing with our jobs being to drink from this fountain of knowledge. That is exactly where the challenge is in delivering instructions effectively. As a norm, the teacher is expected to facilitate a learning process and act as a paradigm of knowledge. Whether in a classroom situation, corporate training scenario, or a faith center fellowship, where either the Pastor or Imam is at work, the underlying principle is to successfully transmit knowledge to the audience.

My interaction with Usenime Akpanudo, an Associate Professor at Harding University, USA confirmed my fear of the Nigerian teacher seeing himself as the one-source of knowledge, where no student should challenge his output. This mind-set will definitely cause one to have problems with the students.

The importance of collaborative learning, an attempt by two or more people to learn something together comes to the rescue. Learners are together in groups in order to understand a concept, create a product, or solve a problem. And the teacher’s work is to facilitate what is about to be shared.

So, in the USA, Usenime Akpanudo, realised that the teacher is not supposed to be content with his knowledge, but, should be ready to deliver the content according to the scheduled time together, employing hands-on-activity, making with real examples, real life experiences, make up experiences the learner is able to remember, and basically deploy any of the learning styles: visual [pictures], aural [sound and music], verbal [words both in speech and in writing], physical [using your body, hands and sense of touch], for effective delivery.

The teenagers are exposed to a whole lot of information on the internet. They are the digital natives {kids born with smart technological devices}, so they usually believe they are knowledgeable.

“Teaching a teenager, the teacher needs to be well equipped with relevant knowledge.  Be very informed and also be willing to learn from the teenagers, see through their adolescent’s ego, beyond their quick confrontational vibes. So much that, the teacher is always learning to meet deliverables.”

The teenager’s attention span is low, making them very impatient, and if you want to succeed with them, the teacher needs to be quick and direct by getting their attention to be able to impact them.

Oftentimes, this class of learners will challenge their teachers with intent to undermine him, and so, the teacher must be able to see through them. So, if you are teaching teenagers, you need to be well read, knowledgeable, develop an unquenchable appetite for continuous learning, because, the teenage mind is very adventurous.

Is it true that most Nigerian teachers are not “ambitious?” They run a regimented life of leading the learning process from the available curriculum, and their job is done. Such teachers do not seek to widen their knowledge base. Unfortunately, we have a government that has a poor attitude towards education, with no history of teachers going on refresher courses or trainings in the primary and post-primary schools. At the tertiary education level, stories abound where teachers use their training allowances to solve personal needs like buying cars, building houses, as well as lavishing on other mundane things.

Life is what you make of it, really. Focus, goals and ambition will lead an individual to the realm of success. Mfonobong {not her real name} ended up with a Pass grade from her science-based course at the university. Her life was miserable. She was not qualified for anything. Luckily, she ended up in a prominent private primary school in Lagos as an assistant teacher, with no responsibilities. In fact, she was about to be sacked when fate played a good tune in her ears.

Relating her story to me, Mfonobong gushed, “there was this boy who was experiencing learning difficulties, since I was not seen as being useful, he was asked to be dumped with me in a room. It was then I began thinking what could be the challenge”. After that encounter, Mfonobong scurried the internet for solutions to the child’s learning problems. Today, Mfonobong has become indispensable at the school she works, where a new unit for children with learning disabilities and other challenges are overseen by her. Not only that, Mfonobong is a consultant to many schools in Nigeria, maintaining a portfolio of staff in these schools, private homes, and holding trainings for others, added to her many certifications internationally.

The role of a teacher in the life of a learner is very vital; it takes two years for a child to overcome the effect of a bad teacher, even when the child progresses to a class with a good teacher. The ritual must, therefore, end. Let us agree that the Nigerian governments do not give a thought about education. The stakeholders are trying. Since education is not priority here, and knowing that we are a part of the global village, the teacher must “double” his efforts to make a success of the learning process. The learner/listener has his life and future in the hands of the teacher. The teacher is indispensable to the learner, learning leads to the acquisition of knowledge and skills, then to solving problems and creativity.

 

  • Nelson is the Executive Secretary, Efective Learning For All Initiative, an NGO for the remediation of teachers.