It takes grit to teach, and much training to be a learner!

It takes grit to teach, and much training to be a learner!


As a teenager, I used to hate maths. No matter how math teachers used to encourage me to achieve as good as I did achieve in other subjects, I always complained that I appreciated their efforts, but that I didn’t have a civic word to say about maths. It just went away with an indelible slap!

I remember that up throughout my 7th grade, I used to get higher marks at maths. When I found myself later with excellent eight graders, rushing to the board every time the teacher chalked down a math exercise to be solved, I lost the plot. Funnily enough, a peer who used to get fails was the only source of solace that tempered my wrath and helplessness whenever test grades were announced. Soon afterward, his marks were constantly on the rise after his uncle, a math teacher, handheld him by giving him free extra support sessions. 

Unfortunately, no one was there to hand-hold me and curb the newly-surging feelings of low self-efficiency and frustration that so much hard work and fruitless effort seemed to trigger. It wasn’t until I got to the next level that  I didn’t have to fret much about getting out of class dead, disabled, or just having my face pitifully close to my thread-sewn handmade copybook on the ground after receiving a slap with it, which sadly was the case once!

The first year at high school seemed to augur well for a prosperous future, both to my parents as well as to myself, despite the turbulence of adolescence. As soon as I got to the second year, I remember having already chosen my path: ‘I want to be an English teacher’. 

I still remember the first day we got into an English class. A short and overweight female teacher whose bearing showed much poise and mastery over the class started off the lesson by asking us in Arabic about our representation of English and why it’s necessary to study it, trying by thus doing to create motivation and shatter the fears. Soon afterward, she shifted the conversation smoothly to how a student should conduct himself/herself in class for a successful learning atmosphere to take place. We learned straightaway that berating and laughing at others as they stumble to experiment with new words was a sin to avoid at all costs. After some time, the class was set ablaze with English. Words started to flow. The year flew away swiftly without us being aware that we finally fathomed every word that came of her graceful tongue, including in all those singing and games sessions that she used to orchestrate every Saturday. Gratitude had never been felt until we ourselves had taken the reins of teaching.

That year elapsed away, and I grew out of my clothes, as my mind grew out of its shell. I forgot much of what I studied, but a previous year’s advice was so precious that it helped me face up to an ever-challenging future. Last year’s teacher advised me to keep in touch with my word list and to read and enrich it during summer. I did so. I surrounded myself with appetizing novels.  The feeling was akin to holding a toy with many options that others can play with while I couldn’t. I had cousins at my level whom I used to compete with for learning word lists, a playful way of co-studying. I invested much time during that hot summer discovering things on my own, translating and recycling teenage emotions into words, hence restoring what has been a passive input and processing it to achieve binding through production, I learned.

The year started around, and I thrived amongst peers. I was sitting in front of a quiet and elegant old teacher with much sangfroid, one that embodies the representation of an English gentleman. the first question was finally uttered after a long-lasting hustle-and-bustle that came to a standstill by the teacher’s sheer presence when keeping eye contact with the naughty peers at the back. “Ok, It seems hot. How did you spend your holiday?” he asked. A dead silence reigned over the class. I raised my hand and started getting my ideas across, so eager to hear his reaction and give a good impression to the speechless, poke-faced, and clean-shaved man. Soon after I had started to venture into communicating my thoughts, he started supplying me back with some words that mended the memory lapses or lacunas I occasionally stumbled into, but he rarely cut in to correct, so as not to impede free expression from my part. I was careless at hearing my peers’ giggles. Finally came praise: ‘’that’s awesome, anyone else?’’. In the aftermath of that first class, positive comments from peers followed, embargoing me in the spotlight and expecting me to take the lead. Praise, especially from peers, was more a burden on my shoulder than it was sheer gratification. Homework was given, and I didn’t make it. ‘’I’m sorry, you work hard, but you didn’t do your task’’. The comments made me sweat under the collar, and I promised myself to make amends. In the next session, I begged him to spare some time for me to read my work. He gave me a chair besides his desk. After I finished reading my paragraph, he said it was nice and that a word in it was hard to decipher. The test correction day arrived, and I leaped into the lead, scoring 18 out of 20. Remembering that last year’s score was 10 marks below, I just couldn’t help feeling smug.

At university, a well-argued disagreement with any teacher would be an impetus to read more, search more, get expressed more, even at the expense of marks. one of the traits of a  good learner is his ability to divert hostilities into motives for more study and learning, still never expecting results to come overnight. Learning any subject matter is a lifelong process. It gets renewed as long as reality and science renew itself. The main stumbling block for today’s youth is that they’ve adapted to a quickly-served and ready-made answers to homework and school tasks, using technology and wrongly thinking that it always thinks on their behalf.

Learning to learn is a painstaking endeavor. I have been teaching now for ten consecutive years. I deduce that being self-motivated, making students lay hands on what they learn, reading booklets that please them, nurturing an implicitly deserved respect for teachers, valuing praise as a seldom granted currency, encouraging to ask for help when needed, making entertainment at the service of learning, binding students to be responsible by enhancing accountability, nurturing the to stick to goals persistently and devise strategies of achieving them gradually, getting them to speak most by losing ground to them to freely get expressed, re-establishing a once lost self-confidence…. Those are the ingredients to make both great teachers and students alike.