When we think of storytellers, we often imagine photographers, writers, artists, and even the software developer, and a thousand others before we consider including teachers on the list.
Teachers have been boxed in their classrooms for too long. We know relatively little about what it means to be a teacher. We are still stuck with the image of the village headmaster imprinted on us by old Nollywood.
Everyone, every profession, is taking charge of their narrative except the teacher.
Teachers are great storytellers. I’m sure you’ll agree. You definitely know such teachers, you may have been taught by one. Their classes are suffused with amazing stories; stories they use to instruct and roll out their lessons.
Stories are the foundation of every society. It picks out the values we hold, it decides the things we respect. He who controls the story controls everything. But in an age of information democratization caused by the internet, there are no gatekeepers. The medium to tell our stories are in our pockets and the audience is there to listen. But teachers have not yet leveraged these tools.
We live in a time where no one wants to become a teacher; no one wants to pay teachers well. Even the biggest private schools in the country will offer a teacher with a Master’s degree 40,000 naira as a monthly salary. Even worse, our youth studying education in universities are ridiculed and have to hide their courses from friends.
Here’s what a student wrote me on LinkedIn:
“Henry Anumudu, I’m a student of Education in the university, whenever we were offering a borrowed course with other students, there’s a particular way we were being treated because apparently, they saw education students as people that were only wasting their time and resources in school.
This attitude towards us made a whole lot of us remove the education part whenever we wanted to do any form of introduction. Some people had to transfer to other departments as a result of the lashing in 200 level. Some of us got used to it
Well, my guess is due to the poor image of the profession in Nigeria like you stated up there. The foundation(tertiary institution) is where this whole “see finish” as it’s being called starts from and the government is not helping matters at all…”
To read other sad accounts of how students of Education in our universities are being treated, click here.
The status of the teaching profession lies at the root of the problems we have in the education sector. We have an image problem and one way to improve it is for teachers to start telling better stories about their work. Teachers must take charge of the narrative and redefine what it means to be a teacher.
In a way, this has begun. In September 2017, I became a teacher. A classroom teacher in a public primary school in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I had moved from my job in media and communications to become a pioneer Fellow of Teach For Nigeria, so I brought a distinct set of skills into the classroom: telling powerful stories.
The teacher in the 21st century has a distinct advantage from every teacher in any other age. She has social media, one of the greatest communication tools ever created.
Within one year of consistently telling the stories of my students and their families, I began to see a change. People started to listen and they began to take action too.
A lady walked up to me in Lagos once, with a smile on her face said, “you make teaching look so exciting!”
Well, yes! Teaching is exciting, but we do not know because no one is saying it.
The single most profound effect of the stories from the classroom came when a lady left her job to teach. At that moment I realised the immense power of my stories.
If you are an educator, and you are reading this; please tell your story. Make an impact, write the story, click post.
Let me share some principles with you:
Fear: The only thing that will stop you is fear. So we may as well speak about it first. To share your story is to be vulnerable. You will open yourself to criticism and even rejection. So, you should be afraid. But know that it’s ok to be afraid. It’s ok. It doesn’t work if you try to deny the existence of fear. But, let’s think about it, why do you think fear is a factor?
If sharing your story wasn’t that important, would you be afraid?
I think of fear as a compass. It points us to those things that are important. So, we are often only afraid of doing those things that are significant. Fear is a compass. Acknowledge it, but do what you want anyway.
Visibility and Consistency: When I started telling stories of the realities of the Nigerian classroom in 2017, visibility was not my concern. I just loved telling stories. Because of this, I was consistent. And consistency brought me visibility.
The lesson here is: to get visibility, you have to earn an audience by being consistent. But you will not attract the audience by worrying about visibility. So you simply have to love the process of storytelling itself. Forget social media validation and metrics. Forget likes – just show up and tell that important story.
Keep the Subject Centered: This is important. Tell the stories about your work. Tell us about the impact you make every day. That is the focus. Remember this. It is not the time to announce how amazing you are. As a teacher, you are amazing, but let your work show it. Stay focused, tell us about your work. This is how you add value.
Dear educator, there’s so much more to talk about.
Start here, tell your story, and I promise you we’ll change our education system.
Go make a difference!
Henry Anumudu works at the intersection between education, storytelling and social impact. He is the founder of Sharing Life Africa, a nonprofit organization creating access to quality education for children in low-income communities. Connect with Henry: www.henryanumudu.com