The Sunday Mail
MY teachers shaped and moulded me beyond what they will ever know or imagine.
Their questions challenged my assumptions and what they taught was detrimental to my ignorance. Many will never be featured on the grand-stage and few will share in the glory of their many streams of students.
Yet, their footprints and fingerprints are marked, etched deeply and indelibly in my soul. Their influence is unbounded.
Without my many teachers who were committed to my growth and development and who believed in me and saw more in me that what I saw in myself, I would have been a lost child, a wasted gift and perhaps an empty shell.
I love Twitter and I find it to be a dynamic way to keep connected, positively emote and share my thoughts. It keeps my strong links alive and helps me create weak links that broaden my connectedness.
I woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise. I had a new follower and the follower was my Ordinary Level English teacher, Professor Violet Lunga! The experience brought back a surge of memories of my time at Hamilton High School.
I remembered her passion for both English language and literature. I remembered her teaching us about nouns, verbs, adverbs and the special lesson that has never left me on metaphors.
I remember the vivid book readings we had with the passionate and intelligent teacher. Reading with Mrs Lunga and analysing “The Mayor of Casterbridge,” a 19th Century novel by Thomas Hardy, was a transforming and memorable journey.
The main characters, Michael Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane, Lucetta, Susan (Mrs Newson) and Donald Farfrae were unforgettable.
She introduced words and ideas that I had never heard before: the plot, types, paradigms and innovation. I was inspired never to have the senselessness and mental rigidity of Henchard, but to embrace the forward thinking, entrepreneurial and business flare of Farfrae.
The character weaknesses in Henchard and Susan challenged me to reflect on my own. A love for literature was ignited in me. I remember writing in an essay how the world could pass you while you remain stuck in the past and refuse to embrace new ideas and technologies.
The engaging discussions we had then have been an ever-fresh challenge and inspiration. Such is the effect of a good teacher. You are awakened to desire knowledge and to think bigger.
In Mrs Lunga’s class we read the unforgettable African English novel, “Things Fall Apart”, by Chinua Achebe.
I was left inspired to one day be a writer who could transmit ideas in a powerful way with an African flavour but global relevance.
In the class, we would start throwing around the various Ibbo proverbs and sayings in the book. To this day, the statement, “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten,” cannot be erased. I remember us doing the summaries and other language skills that have served me well to this day.
Tears welled as I re-lieved those secondary school days and I started whispering for what must have been a thousand times the words, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Violet!”
As my mind reflected on those days in Mrs Lunga’s classroom, or rather English language laboratory, I remember the many conversations that we had.
One day she shared with us a lesson on the power of vision. I asked her what her dream was. She said that although she had a degree in English, she was not content to stay where she was. She said that vision sees the future today and faith reaches out to possess it now. She said that she saw herself being a professor in English. Back then it all seemed like a teacher’s musings.
When I read her Twitter profile today, in her true fashion, it read, simply: “Minister of the Gospel, University Prof and Writer.” I wanted to run and shout out to the whole world that dreams come true. Words are the most powerful tools to shape lives and minds. Words are things.
Teaching is a calling
Teachers are the shining lights that illuminate the world and spark minds and hearts. I came across the story of Hellen Keller. She has touched many hearts and lives by her words. Keller was blind from birth and yet her story is never complete without the story of her teacher, Ann Sullivan. Ann Sullivan came into Hellen Keller’s life when she was only a few years old. She became her teacher, who, despite Keller’s blindness, opened her mind to see the unseen and her ears to hear the unheard.
Ann Sullivan taught Hellen to be an independent woman who did not feel pity on herself. She taught her to be a burning lamp illuminating other lives.
Teaching is a great calling. It is not a mere job that one does in order to pass the day and yell till the next pay day. A teacher is a custodian of lives, a shaper of dreams and cultivator of gifts and competencies. A class is not just a collective of students but a special farm. Each of the students is a warehouse of seeds and special endowments.
Teaching is the world’s special gift. Teachers plant seeds of love, passion for learning and bring students to great doors of destiny. Were it not for the patience and diligence of my teacher, I would not be where I am. When teachers cease to see that theirs is a calling, they become stale and abusive. When they see their role and place, they become giants and broad shoulders that carry young giants to places of greatness and wells of wisdom.
Every word counts
Words live in hearts and minds for a very long time. There are statements that I still remember today that have never left my heart. No teacher should ever throw words carelessly. Words either build or destroy. My teachers strengthened my beliefs, shaped my desires and inspired me to dream. They gave me gifts that in those early years looked like merely passing interactions. They may have gone out of my life, but their words and fingerprints still burn in my soul.
Everyone is a teacher but not everyone is aware that teaching is not a job but a call to be an awakener and developer. Whatever you do or say is lesson to someone. Resolve to be a little more deliberate in your teaching and live your life with an awareness that there is always someone watching and learning.
Never forget that a child mis-taught is a child lost forever. Teaching young people mischief, hate and irresponsibility is raping a generation and throwing away the future.
To all my teachers, formal and informal, I would like to say thank you for being there for me: Teaching me to read, write and think; challenging me to think bigger and rise to higher ideals; developing my gifts and shaping my interests; illuminating the way and challenging me to dream; sparking the flame in me and correcting me when I needed it most.
I will forever be grateful because a teacher affects eternity and will never be able to measure the full trajectory of his or her influence.
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Whatsup at: 0772422634.