As a young seven-year-old girl, the age of much of my imaginations, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. There was something about the profession which sparked a lifelong interest in me. But of course, you cannot aspire to be a teacher from such a young age in a Nigerian setting. You see, it was considered unambitious. When asked what you want to be, you must aspire to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant. Being a doctor required an above-average level understanding of Maths, I was below average. Being a lawyer required arguments, I was told stammerers don’t become lawyers and well, pretty much everything else required higher level understanding of numbers. Besides, I already wanted to write. Why did I want another ‘uncertain’ profession? Almost 17 years later and here I am, a teacher. The journey to where I am has been nothing short of God’s grace and dedication. The in-between years hold a deep story, one to be told another day.
Today’s story, my story, is about demanding that the world celebrates, understands and encourages teachers, especially on a day such as this. The theme for this year’s World Teachers’ Day is “Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future.” Like myself, so many teachers began their teaching careers during the pandemic. All the dreams we might have had for the ‘conventional’ classroom ended overnight as the entire world was thrown into an imposed radical switch to remote teaching and learning that many hoped would be temporary. We soon learned, however, the new normal of online teaching would last longer than planned, almost indefinitely even as the world coped with the most severe worldwide public health crisis of our lifetime. The entire profession had a rebranding and focused on an educational plan that was focused on reimagining the future of learning and academic development.
The results of an online survey of about 2,000 parents from OnePoll and Osmo taken in April show an increase in appreciation for teachers’ work. The poll found that, “80% have newfound respect for teachers; 77% believe that teachers should be paid more; 69% believe being a teacher is harder than their current job; and 53% will take a greater interest in their child’s education after the stay-at-home mandate concludes.” It’s October now and the work teachers have had to do has doubled since the pandemic began. So, how are we supporting teachers? Some teachers resigned, others took a pay cut and some others have had to come into school everyday to teach the students at home. It’s indeed a life changing experience that I do not think anyone was prepared for. But one thing I know for sure, is that the teachers still in the profession are doing everything they can everyday to ensure that learning never stops. Why hold back then on taking one day off to deeply appreciate the teachers who are changing the world? Literally.
In conclusion, here’s a message from the Economic Policy Institute that should serve as a meditation note for everyone: “Policymakers and educational leaders will need to work to provide teachers with the working conditions and resources they need to fulfill their important mission as educators…This may be a unique occasion to act on this newfound appreciation for teachers to grant them more standing status at the table discussing education, working conditions, and their own role in the epidemic’s aftermath.”