2019 is bidding us goodbye but just before we draw the curtain, it’s important we applaud an exceptional individual who having discovered her inner awesomeness, gave kids reasons to smile and enjoy the festive season (Santa truly came in a feminine form). Personally, I’d refer to her as “the teacher with a difference“. It’s good to know we still have kind hearted people in this perverse world of ours and very few of us understand the fact that we don’t have to do so much to make people happy. This is definitely a good read, don’t forget to share when you’re done reading. Merry Christmas people!
I’ve been following your posts on Facebook for quite some time now and I must say you have such a strong voice. Your style of connecting with your audience is really rare and I wasn’t surprised when I found out you love to impact lives. You did something recently and it caught my attention, I believe everyone reading this wants to know you. So, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am Ganiyu Oluwatofunmi Rachael (Nee Gbadegesin), a passionate transformational teacher leader dedicated to impacting lives. I am currently a “Teach For Nigeria” fellow, serving in a low income school (Baptist Primary School) in Ogbogbo-Ijebu community of Ogun State. I pride myself in saying: “I am not the usual ordinary teacher in the classroom, I am a teacher with a difference and a goal to positively impact the lives of every student that I come across in my classroom”.
You took it upon yourself to celebrate Christmas with your students, what gave you the inspiration to do so?
My inspiration was love! Love motivated me to go the extra mile for those little great ones. Remember I mentioned earlier that I teach in a low income school where pupils are considered less privileged and unable to access the luxury of life. Everyday, I see the longing in the eyes of my children to do the average things that people do in the society but they are incapacitated because of the unavailable resources to do so. Then, I consider it a beautiful memory that will last, to celebrate Christmas in our class, just in our own way. Moreso, here at Teach for Nigeria, we strongly believe in bridging the gap of inequity in the educational system of Nigeria and this is one of my ways of making a statement that “what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander” If children in private schools can have beautiful end of the year parties and Christmas carols, then they aren’t in any way better than my pupils.
A lot of people detest the teaching profession. Could be because our leaders have not properly designed a good compensation strategy for these exceptional set of people. Do you feel fulfilled doing what you do? If yes, what is your definition of fulfillment?
Oh yeah, I feel absolutely fulfilled. Teaching for me is a calling and it reaches far beyond the financial remuneration that comes with it. Don’t mistake it, I seriously wish this profession would be given a better outlook in this country. After all, nobody does better in the business of moulding lives in our society than the teachers. So the financial compensation is expected to be equally very high but what we have now is a pathetic situation. Being what it is, I made up my mind to be blessed in this profession and not just to be paid.
Blessings come in diverse ways and that is what actualizes fulfilment for me. Nothing makes me more fulfilled than knowing that I am impacting lives for generations to come, that I am moulding destinies that will rule our world in the nearest future and that while we go through that process of becoming great, I can put smiles on these young faces.
Are you married?
Yes, yes! I am married to one of the most amazing men on earth. A passionate physiotherapist whom I love without reservation.
I am certain you have one or two things to say about growing up. What makes it more interesting is: you are a twin! Tell us about your childhood experiences.
Oh God, childhood and growing up was so much fun for me. Thank you for mentioning that part of being a twin; nothing could be more amazing and exciting than the feeling of having a twin sister who rocks life with you not just during childhood but even till now as married folks. My twin sister makes life so sweet and beautiful. Yes, we have other siblings and we all are closely knitted in love, which makes life sweeter.
One beautiful part of our growing up is the humour we create for ourselves. Twinee and I will cook up a scenario in our head and laugh about it till we get exhausted. Deep, rib cracking laughter is one major part of our growing up and even till now, we’ve learnt to create fun for ourselves and be happy at all times. And yes, I grew up in a Christian home so I was brought up with godly discipline and modesty.
All work and no fun makes life boring, what do you do in your spare time?
I love reading a lot, so, I do that mostly when I have spare time. I have quite a number of e-books so, when you see me busy with my phone, I’m on another reading spree. Yes, Google is my friend too so I read extensively online as well.
Shopping, cooking or travelling? Which comes first for you?
Maybe watching movie would have come first but unfortunately, I have to choose from the available list (LOL). So, I’ll say cooking first, followed by travelling and shopping.
We all have individual differences, how do you cope with these kids?
My kids are a handful. Our moderator for the class Christmas carol (also a Teach for Nigeria fellow in my school) Miss Precious, described them as too energetic pupils. Imagine 60plus of them in the same classroom. It could be very hectic managing their individuality at times but TOLERANCE is the key! I have learnt to treat each of them as individuals with a unique personality and that makes it easier to manage their differences.
Asides their studies, do you bring other cogent life lessons to their knowledge?
Absolutely yes! At Teach for Nigeria, our focus is to groom pupils who are well rounded in life and prepared with 21st century skills. Asides numeracy, literacy and the knowledge of science, our aim is to impact them with critical thinking ability which I daily practice in my classroom through open-ended questions, imaginative reasoning and so on.
Let me give a scenario for example. Recently, I was inspired by a colleague to go on a sewing project in my classroom. For weeks, I have been asking my pupils to provide dusters for cleaning our board in the classroom but no one responded to it because they couldn’t get the wherewithal of it in their environment. With inspiration from my dear colleague who did a similar thing in her classroom, I informed my pupils to get waste pieces of clothes from tailors in their environments while I get the sewing needles and thread. I facilitated the training on how to sew neatly with needle and thread and a duster was produced. The next day, the class was divided into groups and our operation “sew your duster” exercise commenced. Before the end of the day, we had 10 new dusters that will last us far more than a year if well kept.
Through that exercise alone, we have acquired the problem-solving skill by proffering a solution there and then in our classroom, we have also developed collaboration and communication skills together with teamwork by making sure the children work together in a group to achieve a common aim. Apart from the soft skills, these children have learnt the skill of hand sewing which will last them for as long as they live.
In fact, I gave out needles and thread to all the pupils who have a tear on their uniforms to use the skill being taught to amend their clothes without waiting to pay a tailor that their parents may not even be able to afford.
These are one of the numerous ways we teach them life skills different from their studies. I also use a system I tag “STAR WORD” to teach the pupils at least, one life’s value in a week. Honesty, Integrity, Unity, Kindness, Obedience, Empathy, Love, Hard work, Determination, Selflessness are some of the values that has been imprinted in the heart of these young ones.
Every individual has that one thing that keeps them going irrespective of what they are confronted with. What motivates you?
God is my motivation. I find that inner strength through His spirit to keep going regardless of whatsoever.
What does My Inner Awesomeness mean to you?
My Inner Awesomeness to me will be, finding expression to that unique personality and distinctiveness that I carry as a person. More like, the unique me.
Ever heard of Emotional Intelligence? How can teachers adapt this in relating with their students?
Emotional Intelligence is a must-have for a teacher who is willing to succeed in the classroom. Proper emotional management prevents stress and helps teachers with complicated situations in the classroom without affecting the students. Emotional intelligence helps teachers face certain stressful situations in which their activities can impact the students’ learning and well-being. Also, it helps them deal with the new challenges that come with problematic group of students, crowded classrooms, or lack of motivation.
Being a teacher isn’t easy; too many lessons, too many students, shouting in the classroom and exhaustion defines a teacher’s day to day life. However, we can’t forget that we were the students many years ago. We had our own problems and we used to think “nobody understands me”. How great would it have been if instead of getting condescending looks from the teacher, we had gotten a talk at the end of the class that would have shown us that we are special and that they support us? That is the strength of emotional intelligence; listening and empathy.
Also, emotional intelligence helps a teacher to manage anger properly because most definitely, pupils will be offensive often times and it takes a level of emotional maturity to give appropriate discipline and not transfer personal aggression to pupils by being physically brutal all in the name of discipline or punishment. To a certain extent, I can say I have mastered emotional intelligence and I apply it in relating to my pupils. Take, for instance, I don’t use cane on my students no matter how grievous the offence can be even when other teachers think I should. I have been able to device mild disciplines and corrective skills that will effectively correct a child and will last in their memory not to repeat such offence that was earlier committed. With emotional intelligence, a teacher will know that beating or going physical is not the only way to correct a child.
Tell us about your most embarrassing moment. I’m sure there’s something to laugh about.
Well, can’t remember any embarrassing moment but I remember a somewhat funny scenario. Towards the end of my service year, we had NYSC top officials from the headquarters visiting us for a program in my serving state and I was chosen to give the closing remark and appreciation. Whatever I was saying to appreciate them was suppose to end with “keep the flag flying” but I ended up saying “let’s keep the flag flagging” (LOL). The entire auditorium roared in laughter and I quickly corrected myself. It wasn’t particularly embarrassing for me because I was happy to create that kind of humour amongst my audience but that statement remains memorable for me.
Recently, I concluded a series and it was majorly on addictions and fears. Did you ever have fears you felt you’d never subdue? If yes, tell us about it.
Hmmmmm… Fears? None that I can think of.
What does impacting people positively feel like to you?
Impacting people positively is my life’s statement; it gives me a sense of self-fulfilment and self-actualization. It gives me that feeling of joy knowing that my name is imprinted in gold in the heart of some people.
Any advice for those who don’t have reasons to live?
Get God and you’ll find a reason to live. Life is so boring and miserable outside the circles of the one who designed that life itself. He has the best intention for your life and it can only be found in Him. Don’t give up on life because of the hard circumstances you’ve been through, just take a shift towards God and you’ll find that reason to live joyfully.
Thanks for your time.