.It never seems to get better. At least not while the same scary thought of waking up to days in class incessantly reverberates in my young, aspiring and trying mind.
It was my first day as a student-teacher. I was visibly afraid of starting on a wrong note. Mixed feelings engulfed me.
I needed someone to lead the way; to show where I could perch whenever I felt the need to. There was none.
Then the worry, the fear of the uncertainty crept in. How I’m I going to pull through this? Will this profession grant me space to be myself? To earn my dream car? And that house that no one else will ever give to me in a lifetime or two?
There’s arguably nothing so unfulfilling like hoping the future will be gloomy and unrewarding; that you’ll not be happy because the career that you’re pursuing is not what you’d have otherwise chosen because then, you had not known what you needed in life or you were under influence (of some peer substance). Well.
Dream Come True?
At first, I thought that it was a dream coming true. Then a bolder, stark thought struck: this is definitely not what I want to do with my life, moving around with a lash swinging in my hand, chasing after errant sons and daughters of men- preaching the gospel of hard work that pays yet walking home feeling broke, vulnerable and unsatisfied. Just tired.
From the first day, it struck me that I’d be the kind of teacher who hated staff meetings.
I hated the staff meetings mostly because those who convened them imbued more hate than anything likely.
I was a fresh high school graduate the first time I was invited to teach in in my former high school.
Wait. I was so resourceful or so my former teachers who I would henceforth relate to as colleagues thought of me. So they endorsed me for the task.
I‘d henceforth have my former teachers as great colleagues.
I went back with all myself, to mean by foot and wholeheartedly.
As fate would have it, I became teacher number 5! See God!
I’d reorient myself to fit in new shoes that were, and soon thereafter, I was discussing the exam results and deciding on who gets a promotion to the next class. Fast, no?
Sometimes I sit and think: it must have been the first staff meeting that inspired my attitude towards staff meetings and becoming a teacher trainee. I didn’t know they’d all be similar, until I attended the first one during my teaching practice.
The teachers are seated by 11:02 am waiting on the principal to come in, followed closely by his deputy.
11:06 AM. The room is tense. Silence. Mrs. Mwaura leads in a word of prayer. I hope that she’ll ask the good Lord to touch, if not the heart, then the attitude of the principal. We need to start the new term and New Year in happy faces.
To my disappointment, it seems that all school heads have extra blessing: gloomy, uninspiring face. You can’t even correct the missing button in their shirts. It is unethical because also, they’re principals.
“Mr. Karanja,” he calls, unenthusiastically. Looking at the copies of results on his table, then at Karanja, he goes on, “why didn’t the students perform?” You’re just from December holiday and are probably collecting your pieces of mind. You’re still stuck at a holiday deal that didn’t materialize and can’t even mind your business yet.
Before you come up with a streetwise answer because you’ve no otherwise, a follow up question hits, “Why is the mean 2.0 in your subject? I can see so many Ds. Could you tell us what happened?” He’s frowning, probably biting the lower lip and you want to giggle at the thought of a mean of 2.0. But this is serious business, you choose not to.
Everyone is listening to hear you explain why a student who is probably roasting maize and singing post-kumira kumira political songs far in the village could perform dismally.
Chuckling deep down within, you wonder why they didn’t score nothing. There’s no point of being close to nothing, is there? You can own it, no? The staffroom is tense and it’s your time to get skinned.
“Mwalim,” you begin your defence in incoherent swahili. “I did my best,” you want to continue but Some ice has frozen in your mouth. You can’t say no more.
They wait for an explanation but the only thing you give them is a gaze. The principal has to move on. He has to ask the Geography teacher why his students performed dismally.
“Mr. Ugwati, what happened? There is a need to break this tradition of scoring E in Geography for every exam we administer in this school. Would you tell us what the issue is?”
Ugwati, also nicknamed ‘Danger’ is just from a class.
Dude has been teaching rocks, no wonder he is stone-faced. But I also wonder, who in that notorious class under-MINED (pun intended) him, nani alimchimba ndo aweke stone-face? Everyone is busy waiting for their turn to be asked, “What happened?” so they can say, “I did my best,” to mean you have no business responding to that question, and that nothing more will be done.
It is 2.36 PM and you have been sitting, jotting notes of ‘what could have been the problem?’ and ‘the way forward.’ or you have just been circling on the free foolscap all that time. Not even a water bottle to quench the boredom.
This is not right, you think but this is one of the many times your thoughts remain deep-seated because you can’t stand, not even on that one your leg. It can’t!
We sat for long. No solution that seemed forthcoming. Every teacher had done “my best” and probably noted “the way forward.”
By the time the meeting was adjourned, everyone had gone mute. No wonder the meeting was silently ended.
There was nothing helpful I was taking home, except the lesson that the school heads could do everything to guard the ‘few resources’ in school, including asking teachers to attend extra remedial lessons and offer service to humanity because teaching is a high calling and that they are lucky to be among the few called to serve and I’m skeptical that I have been called too.
By the time I am sitting for a staff meeting in my new school, I am feeling tired already. I am trying hard not to doze off during the first meeting. I am a teacher on practice and today is my first day here. I will be around for the next 13 weeks. Yes. I also came late and athough during my English lesson I’ll ask my learners to remember that the earliest bird catches the worm, I don’t believe that is what I should be coming early to do: to tell them. Because I can’t serve as a good example.
I don’t want it anymore and the more I think of it, I swear it never gets worse than it is now. In thinking about settling for a teaching career, and the staff meetings that could be in the offing, I shook.