As I drove into the school yard someone directed me to a parking spot. When I came out the sign behind me said, “Teacher of The Year.” I laughed and said, “How interesting.”
Why did I find this interesting?
Firstly, because of the irony of it, I was at the school’s #CareerDay to talk to their third formers about #career paths and selecting subjects. (Here's a little secret - when I was between primary and high school I wanted to become a teacher).
Secondly, there is still a part of me that believes that I am still that little girl on her parents’ veranda teaching the plants and my neighbor’s grandchildren. Plus, I still think teaching is a "cool job," we just need to do something about the pay scale and conditions under which our teachers work.
But a teacher comes in many forms. We ascribe the word teacher to persons who are in the formal school/education system. However, a teacher can be anyone who imparts knowledge to others so that they can learn effectively and use that knowledge for future growth.
So, on this day, the students and I discussed aspects of life and career journeys.
These are the things I imparted.
Always be prepared - if you are not, still give it your best, and if you are asked something to which you do not know the answer, be honest about it. Say you do not know; however, you will find out and if possible, get back to them.
Always be true to who you are and never, ever “follow the Joneses.”
Everything you learn has a purpose - no knowledge is wasted. At the very least, it shows that you are teachable and that you can grasp information.
It is ok to not know what you want to do now. Heck, I am 47 and still figuring it out.
Do what makes you happy.
Strive for excellence - once you decide to do something, put your back into it.
Read. Learning is not only gained in the formal classroom.
Manners and respect take you a far way in this world.
Never frown upon any career. Everybody’s job has significance in this world, from the garbage collector to the doctor.
Never be afraid to ask questions, that is how you learn.
Do Not Waste Your Parents' Resources and Your Time. Your parents work hard to afford you the benefits of being in school, do not waste it. And do not waste your time now and fail - you will regret it when you have to spend time doing it over.
Do not put limits on yourself.
The students also taught or reminded me of the following.
My high school teachers must have had it hard. I hope I was never this high-strung, distracted, noisy, mischievous, or "hard-a-hearing." If I was…mi very sorry!
The attention span of a high school student is shorter than a goldfish. Keeping them engaged is hard. Your storytelling capabilities better be effective.
Learn how to pivot. I had an entire speech written, but I never used it except for my pointers. One question at the beginning and my entire speech went through the door.
You can do anything while still being scared - develop a coping mechanism or as many as you need.
Never let that one person distract you from what you have to say or do.
I ended my presentation with this quote by Malcolm X, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
I sincerely hope my message resonated with the right one(s). And if the conversation I had with that young man afterward was any indication of me reaching “the one,” then I am happy, and my work would have been done. I need to find him a mentor in that field.
To my fellow adults, find the time to #mentor a child, or at the very least, give back in ways like this, our children need it. Though they have access to so much more information and resources than we did, they still lack the basics in life, and their soft skills are limited. They need additional guidance, and our teachers/educators alone cannot do it.
Parents, listen to your children, do not discount their interests, and please, support the teachers as much as you can, your input counts.
To Mona High School (Jamaica), thanks for having me, it was a pleasure! Oh, and I loved your career tree.
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” —B.B. King