(Please, take your time to read through)
I was seeking a suitable picture that portrays me as a teacher. Despite having a plethora to choose from, I settled for this because it was taken by a student without my knowledge. Also, I realized that, in terms of dressing, I am rather unconventional — I rarely dress cooperate. Therefore, it became important for me to display this quality.
I am Chiedozie Ude. My students call me Atomic, Uncle Dozie; I hate it when they call me “Mr Dozie” because it makes me look too old.
I started my teaching career by tutoring in a primary school. I used to have a lot of pictures but my younger brother misplaced the phone I used to take them. The careless upstart!
As of now, I have taught at nursery, primary, junior and senior secondary, and A-level. I would have included the university level but I don’t think unofficial tutorials count. Currently, I specialise in preparing students for SSCE and UTME.
With the above, it would seem as if my teaching career were jolly and totally pleasant. Well, that has never completely been the case. Read on to find out…
I started teaching JAMB students even as a JAMBITE. I taught without pay for that year; it was more like an internship programme. Luckily for me, it was on a part-time basis so I could take other teaching jobs. As fate would have it, I found a job at a secondary school. While the school was aware of my qualifications (or the glaring lack of the qualifications expected of a teacher), I was offered the job based on the fact that I impressed the management during trial period. In fact, according to a co-teacher that was employed the same time that I was, I was chosen ahead of her to teach literature at the senior secondary. She was a graduate.
I do not aim to use this avenue as a means of self aggrandisement, so I would skip the part I mentioned above. Like I mentioned, I was not totally qualified. However, I was good at what I did. This fact became evident in the life of one of the students who had been written off as poor. All of a sudden, she improved in her writing and analytical skills. I was not perfect, but I was the suitable teacher for her.
I grew into the job. I loved it. I love teaching. I love imparting knowledge. It helped my self esteem. It helped my mental health become better because as at that time, I was still languishing in the shame and pain of missing out on admission. That particular job gave me a purpose. Things were going smoothly and the students were learning. What could possibly go wrong.
I write this piece because I still feel hard done by. Maybe not as much as it used to be. Well, just like I have constantly said, I had next to no qualifications save for my SSCE certificate. The school grew and more teachers were employed. This set of teachers were more conventional; they were the regular tie-wearing and mean-looking teachers: old-fashioned. One Tuesday morning, the owner requested to see me after I was done with my class. That day, I even extended the class beyond the allotted time without intending to, for the class was really lively that day. I remember vividly because I was discussing Bayo Adebowale’s Lonely Days. The head teacher had to intervene for the class to end. I went to see the proprietress.
She offered me terms she was fully aware I couldn’t keep. She asked me to stay permanently or leave. She knew I was working at different places. When I was unable to meet her demands, she dismissed me. She didn’t even offer me a sack letter. She just told me that my services were no longer needed. She paid me and I left.
I didn’t know whether to cry or get angry. It was not about the money. It was about my worth as an individual. I felt irrelevant. All of a sudden, the depression I was battling because of my luckless search for university admission hit me hard. I was so sure that I was dismissed based on my qualifications and this feeling would prove to be the truth because a co-teacher explained everything that happened. After all, since the school had just bought a building of their own, it would have been an eyesore to have teachers who didn’t meet the required standards. Understandable, right?
That girl whom I said was improving in her studied sat for SSCE and couldn’t make literature. In fact, most of their external students didn’t pass it despite the fact that they were given the answers by the school authority. While this may seem like karma, I felt empty. I knew that I could have done better if only I completed the term with them. We were really on to something special but the school, lacking foresight, couldn’t see that. It came as no surprise when that girl texted me to say that she would have passed literature if only I had been allowed to complete the session. I was the only teacher who understood her difficulties so I could easily break difficult concepts down for her.
Thankfully, I am in a better place than I used to be. I have had many more jobs from high-paying clients who value what I do. I have been able to help hundreds of students gain admission. In fact, many of my students, last year, chose to study English because of me. I had never felt so proud. The only drawback to their decisions to study English is that they are always disturbing me with school work, and I sometimes rarely have time for myself; it is part of what I signed for. Most of these students are in UNN, UNIZIK, UI, UNIBEN, and various state schools. As of now, I know about twenty of them doing English.
Now, the lesson here is for people to respect teachers. Teachers play an important role in the society. A parent of one of my pupils once told me that “a child is as brilliant as his teacher”. This was said because she saw the positive impart I had on her son.
Teachers are often underrated and this shows why teachers are underpayed. Did you know that during the lockdown many teachers in the private sector couldn’t feed their families? I am mentally stronger because of my experiences as a teacher: the beautiful, the regular and the ugly. I have had lots of good times, and if I were to die now, my work here will constitute a huge part of my legacy
Teachers make the world revolve. Teachers are the creators of presidents, scientists, lawyers, doctors, etc. Teachers make kings and queens. Teachers should be valued. Happy Teachers’ Day to every tutor out there; you guys are the real MVPs.
© Chiedozie Ude.