The Transformative Effect of Exceptional Teachers (2)

I attended an exceptional Catholic secondary school, for boys. A few of the teachers were whites, Indians, and, some were from other African countries.

My first mathematics teacher when I was fourteen was a super-quiet woman. She’d come into the class, face the blackboard and continue with her computations. It was almost as if she was paid to teach the blackboard.

And, we were happy with that, because it meant that we could focus on reading the comics on our laps. She would go through the motions, then leave. Some boys did not even bother attending the class.

At a point, the school authorities were alarmed by our abysmally poor grades in mathematics. So, they changed our teacher. The new teacher was an exceptional guide. Decades after, I still remember him often. He was a fiery, stocky, hairy Indian. He was not just a great teacher; he was also a father-figure, who was genuinely concerned with our progress.

He has three children. Two boys and a girl. The boys were attending our school. One of the boys, naturally, was a maths genius. We eventually became a bit close. He would help me with cryptic sums and we later attended the same university. But, let’s go back to the father.

In his first class, he said that he has heard that most of us do not pay attention in class, or, that we even run away from maths class. He said that he won’t bother about those who run away, but that we must pay attention if we decide to attend his classes. Then he gave us a series of tests. Guess how we performed. We failed woefully.

It was at this point that he said what would be the essential sentence most of us remember him by. “Your brain is full of yams.” He said it in a thick Indian accent and was gently shaking his head in a rhythmic manner.

Later, he instructed us that we would all go back to the math text meant for class one, even though we were “big boys” in class 3! We didn’t like that, but we had no choice. We knew it was because we had failed, but we did not understand the rationale behind the “demotion.” Imagine the fun class one boys had when they discovered that we were now using the same maths text! And, much to our chagrin, he now instituted extra lessons on Saturdays!

His modus-operandi was different. He was not like the quiet, blackboard-teaching woman. He was loud. He was in your face. His presence had a visceral effect on one. You like him or hate him. It’s hard to be indifferent to him. Lest I forget, the aroma of Garlic became a welcome presence in our class. He would beat us often. But, most of us started attending his classes, because even if you disliked him, you had no choice but to accept the fact that he was deeply devoted to us and our progress.

He was not merely going through the motions like our previous teacher.
He encouraged us to study maths daily. Yes, daily. I think that’s one of the reasons why we made great progress. He demystified mathematics. The fact that he also took us “back to basics” is also a key factor, because the foundation is the most vital part of any edifice. In all spheres of life, the structure cannot be firm, alluring, or enduring if the foundation is defective.

Within a short time, a lot of us started seeing maths in a different light. It was obvious that our new teacher was a master at his discipline. He knew it very well and more importantly, he could teach it. Within a short time, our grades started improving and maths classes became something we looked forward to, not something we dreaded. We no longer read comics in maths class. We could not have been able to. Some of us even went on to the University to study courses that had substantial maths components.

So, when we recall our amazing transformation, it was largely due to an exceptional guide, an exceptional teacher. Who, above all was imbued with love for his profession and for us. He was devoted to excellence, and, we are privileged that we met, and were taught by such an inspirational figure.

Exceptional teachers transform lives!

The Transformative Effect of Exceptional Teachers (1)

Teachers have a demanding profession. They are given a huge responsibility. In fact, one could argue that teaching is the most important profession because it’s the one that facilitates the flowering of other professions and vocations.
And, yet, many teachers are not adequately provided with the resources that would help them excel at their work. They are even poorly paid. And, this is highly de-motivating; it results in poor performance on the part of some teachers. How does this affect our children? In a lot of cases, it would also be poor performance, right? As a society, we can only reap what we sow into our education sector.
Some teachers use the poor state of our education system as an excuse to just do the little they can, some even do less. Fortunately, there are some who are proactive and who recognise that teaching is a calling. They appreciate the fact that they can help in transforming lives, positively. Thus, they go beyond the status quo’s inadequacies, to give their best, and, the results can be astonishing. They are exceptional guides.
It’s fitting that I share one or two personal experiences which serve to illustrate how some go beyond the call of duty. I used to be a dunce in mathematics. But, within a few months I became an A student, and even started teaching science students mathematics. What happened?
Let’s start from the beginning so that we can have a proper context. I was not really interested in arithmetic as a child. I was more interested in drawing, painting, and reading stories. There was something cryptic and illogical about some arithmetic operations. How does one borrow from zero, for example? At the age of fourteen, the highest score I have ever had in maths was 34 percent!
I attended an exceptional Catholic secondary school, for boys. A few of the teachers were whites, Indians, and, some were from other African countries.


My first mathematics teacher when I was fourteen was a super-quiet woman. She’d come into the class, face the blackboard and continue with her computations. It was almost as if she was paid to teach the blackboard. And, we were happy with that, because it meant that we could focus on reading the comics on our laps. She would go through the motions, then leave. Some boys did not even bother attending the class…
To be continued tomorrow.

Teaching Children How To Be Tidy

 “Tidiness” means “being orderly and clean in appearance” and “keeping things clean and in order”. Forget whatever else you have heard, but nobody likes dirty kids. As a parent, it is paramount that you teach your children how to be clean, tidy and presentable always and as early on in their lives as possible. It helps them grow into stable young men and women. Apart from its health benefits, it is a good social habit. These are some ways to instill tidiness in your child:

1) Start Early. The earlier the better. Start teaching your five year old responsibility and neatness by making her pick her toys off the floor or clean her mouth after eating. Teach your 8-year old son how to wash his socks and panties. Starting these lessons early helps the child get used to such and considers it a routine, as opposed to a punishment or inconvenience.

2) Draw up a schedule. Make a well detailed chore-schedule, which includes time and sanctions. Make sure you include every member of the family.

3) Be a good role model. When trying to instill the nature of cleanliness into your child(ren), you as a parent must also be clean. It is called leading by example. You should learn to arrange your things
well and maintain a healthy lifestyle so that the young ones can imitate you.

4) Try to make the chores fun. Play some music, discuss casual stuff, crack jokes and give little treats after the completion of the chores as reward for their cooperation (make sure this isn’t a bribe or an incentive for them to work)

5) Encourage them. Try to criticize and shout less because they’ll eventually get immune to those insults and become recalcitrant which will lead to other issues. So, watch your tongue. Harsh words mostly do more harm than good.

First Veritas has a series of Social Habits Books for Pre-Primary. Click on image to find out more

Cleanliness is a continuous process. Share some of your methodologies in the comment box below

Group Study In Schools

The major purpose of group study is to help one other in areas of weaknesses. Nobody can be the master at all things. A genius in Mathematics may be an average student in Biology, Chemistry or Civil Education. Whether he likes Biology or not, he must make at least a credit pass in his WAEC result to be accepted into any reputable higher institution. Hence the need for group study in the life of students is immensely paramount.
One must take note of the fact that in life,many things are created but some of this things never serve the true purpose of their creation. Study groups consists of three types of people:
1)The Unsettled students: this group of students who are friends or acquaintances, come together to pretend like their studying and spend the whole study period discussing irrelevant issues, gossiping,sleeping or watching movies.
2) The Serious students:usually comprises of the best students in the class in different fields,coming together to learn from one other.

3)The serious and unsettled Students: comprises of those willing to learn and those unwilling to study. This group is usually created by teachers who know the academic ability of each student. This helps a lot, because due to peer influence, the serious students might help the unsettled ones to make headway in their academics. Care should be taken though, so that proper balance is maintained and the “unsettled” students do not overwhelm the serious ones.

What are the Advantages of Group Study?

The advantages are numerous as you can imagine. I’d highlight a few.
1) Encourages Teamwork: TEAM( Together Everyone Achieves More) Teamwork divides effort and multiplies effect. No man is an island of knowledge. One’s weakness might be the strength of another and vice versa. Students need to understand from an early age that team work is the key to achieving greater goals.
2) It helps to maintain focus: Children have over-imaginative minds and tend to day dream or “switch off” during a boring lecture. During group study, they come together and encourage one another to study harder. When one person is confused or losing focus, there will be someone to lift him up. This is one of the main reasons why in weight loss programs, everybody is encouraged to get partners with similar goals and aspirations. Studies have shown that this is a great motivation to people,both young and old.

We will discuss the possible disadvantages of group study shortly.

Teaching Children How to Save

    This can be tricky. For many people, they have memories of their parents collecting any money given to them by neighbors, family friends and relations, when they were younger, for “safe-keeping”. Many a time, these “safe-keeping” memories end with talks of “who has been paying your school fees? Who has been buying your clothes?” and its likes, whenever attempts were made to enquire about the whereabouts of the “safe-kept” money.

Should children handle their money gifts by themselves? No and Yes!

“No” because children are INDEED children, and expectedly lack a sense of financial responsibility, thereby requiring adult guidance. And “Yes” because what better time is there to teach your child about financial responsibility and saving, than when he is a child, and like a sponge, ready to absorb knowledge?

How can parents go about getting children ready for this great responsibility, you ask?

1) Get them a saving box/piggy bank. Get them to start saving those little Kobos and Nairas with an aim of getting their grandma a birthday gift or getting a bicycle for themselves. With an aim in mind, they will feel better about saving.
2) Remember that kids notice things a lot, even when you think they don’t. So please, try to save alongside them, thereby encouraging them and showing them that it’s not a form of punishment.
3) Make them earn commissions for little tasks. This will teach them to value, understand and learn ways of earning money and understand its worth early in life.
4) If your child is in his or her late teens (16,17,18,19), open a bank account for him/her and monitor the money there, encourage him or her to save a particular amount monthly.
5) Please teach your children to give. They shouldn’t be tight-fisted. You can encourage them to religious institutions, charities or individuals of their own choices.

Without a doubt, these steps will open up the possibilities of a great financial future for your child. What methods have you used or devised? Which ones worked for you and which ones did not?

Please share/comment.


Teacher-Ward Dispute Resolution- The Parent’s Guide

  I did not like so many of my teachers when I was younger, maybe I felt like they hated me and were created to make my life miserable. I mean, just imagine a chubby 3-year old who thinks of nothing but food and cartoon more than half of the time, being asked to learn the alphabets or spell “tiger”.

So yes! Some children hate school and might take a longer time adjusting to the institution because they don’t know the importance of education (after all, they are only children!!!) or because they think their teacher(s) hates them. You as a parent need to explain to the child, as best as you can, that school is a necessary sacrifice for success in life.

My neighbor recently complained to my mum about her son’s teacher, she said her son, Michael, reports his teacher’s harshness towards him to her almost everyday after school. She was in a bind and did not know how to handle the situation. My mum advised her to cool down and not fight the woman because kids actually exaggerate. Are you in this kind of situation? Here are a few nuggets she said which I found useful:

Step 1 – Understand your Child’s Concern Well!

Children sometimes make generic claims such as “She hates me and wanted to beat me till I fainted”. So, make sure you find out in detail what your child means. Sometimes children forget the details of what happened. Probe until you get concrete and reasonable answers. Make sure you let your child understand that the teachers are working for his/her own good and should never hurt him/her on purpose. You can even suggest that he tells the teacher about how he feels politely. (This is a way of teaching the child to face his problems headlong in life). Depending on what the outcome of this stage is, you might need to progress to Step 2.

Step 2- Speak to the Teacher
If you decide you really have to speak to the teacher, set a time that is not drop off time or pickup time because these hours are rush hours in every school and the teacher might be indisposed. Try as much as possible to be very polite and uncritical. Start by asking about the performance of your child, listen carefully for any undercurrent of frustration in the teacher’s voice, and then calmly state your child’s report and feelings. Despite your light touch, the teacher might feel criticized—some people are sensitive, particularly, beleaguered, tired and underpaid educators who occasionally deal with parents who are a little overzealous on behalf of their perfect little angels. Do your best to reassure the teacher that you’re not blaming him/her. Ideally, the teacher should explain what’s going on to you and if he/she doesn’t, then it’s time to take Step 3. I really hope you don’t have to go here though.

Step 3 – Report to the Principal
Report to the principal. Most parents don’t like going this far, but sometimes extreme measures are necessary to ensure immediate improvement. Explain that you have spoken to the teacher and you haven’t noticed any improvements. At this point, the teacher will definitely have no love for you and your child. If you notice that the teacher is pouring his/her frustrations with you on your child, it’s time to change classes, unless this can affect your child on the long run. The child might feel ignored or ostracized. If the complaints aren’t attended to, you might have to consider changing your child’s school or perhaps, reporting to a higher authority still, like the CEO/Proprietor(tress)

NOTE: Whatever you do, please don’t quarrel or fight. Understandably, there is the need to defend and protect the “younglins” but let everything be done with grace, dignity and respect for our fellow partners-in-progress.
Good luck in helping you kids settle down in school.

As for me, need I say I soon got over my love-hate relationship with my teacher?

This article was written by Tosin Abejide, a 1st year Law Student in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

Roles of Vegetables and Fruits in Academic Excellence


The first place to start when trying to improve your child’s nutrition is to add more fruit and vegetables to his/her diet, this is because fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of numerous nutrients. They contain necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, starch and fiber necessary for proper brain development.  Research has showed that people who consume diets rich in fruits and vegetables have lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Focus on offering your child a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure your child is getting the many different nutrients he/she needs. Too much of anything good is bad. We need to understand that fruits and vegetables should be eaten with discretion. Excess intake may:

– Cause Indigestion

– Affect the intelligent development and bone growth of the children. Scientists have discovered that the
excessive intake of vegetables will hinder the absorption of calcium and zinc in the body, thus affecting the intelligent development and bone growth of the children. This is especially harmful to the pregnant women and the children at the growth and development stage.

– Lead to Calculus(also known as kidney stone). Some vegetables such as spinach, celery, and tomato,
contain a large number of oxalic acid, which will combine with the calcium contained in other foods and form into calcium oxalate, thus easily leading to calculus. This is one of the main reasons why many vegetarian children are susceptible to calculus.

– Lead to malnutrition and iron-deficiency anemia in children.

From what we have discussed above, we can see that it is very important to keep a balanced diet in daily life. Excessive intake of fruits and vegetables is not advisable. Be warned.

The Importance of Good Nutrition in Academic Excellence.

      We all know that eating is one of the basic actions needed to maintain good health and stay alive. Good nutrition is necessary for every living being to grow. If we don’t eat the right food, our body won’t function as it should. Healthy food choices are essential to help children grow, develop, feel good and do well academically. Kids need good food because it helps:

1)Build bones and muscles
2)Repair and replace worn out cells
3)Keep all the systems in their body workingindex
4)Keeps the children stay healthy and full of energy

Always remember that children require a variety of foods from the 5 different food groups (grains, dairy, vegetables, fruits, protein) to attain maximal use of the brain and all its functions.

  • Grains/ Carbohydrate : Grains refer to foods such as breads, cereals, pasta(spaghetti and noodles) and rice and should make up the foundation of any child’s diet. Foods in this group are important sources of calories, vitamins, minerals and fiber children need on a daily basis. Eating different types of grains is necessary. Choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, bran cereals(e.g. Kellogs “fruit and fiber”) and oats that are lower in calories and provide more nutrients over cookies, cakes and pastries which tend to be high in calories and fat and provide little nutritional value for
    your children and Family.

PLEASE NOTE that although carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body too much of it can cause excessive weight gain, sugar addiction and elevated blood sugar for your children! So please watch it.Look out for the next post in this series.

Physical Activity is Essential to Learning

Getting quality education has gone beyond sitting in the classroom, taking lectures and going through subject exercises. Today, many school settings do not give room for sports and physical exercises anymore, sadly. As a matter of fact, many new schools in Nigeria do not have sporting facilities at all. Once a school’s promoter has found a building for classrooms and a tiny play area, all is good for schooling. This is not a trend that should be allowed to go on. Children need to be exposed to sporting activities and fundamental exercise practices.


Regrettably, with the increasing pressure on schools to ensure that children achieve academic success, and then the need for schools to maintain the standard of academic achievement of their students, physical activity is being pushed down the priority list. The time spent in physical activity keeps diminishing. In some schools, the average physical activity duration is now gauged within 10minutes. This isn’t enough time, especially as studies have shown that physical exercises do not have detrimental impacts on school grades. In fact, some studies have indicated that increased participation in physical activity leads to enhanced learning and even better grades.


This is because increased participation in sports and other forms of physical exercise have been proven to aid the enhancement of cognitive functioning, memory, concentration behaviour and academic achievement for students. These practices are generally promoted for their positive impact on a child’s physical and mental health. It is also not to be forgotten that a brilliant mind will be severely hampered if the physical body it dwells in is unhealthy.

Even among working class adults, a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for ill health. Medical authorities keep emphasizing the need for working adults to include physical activity in their daily routine – walking, running, or others. How much more for children who are still in early and middle stages of development.


This is therefore a call out to our school authorities and management. There is an inherent need for growing children to get involved in adequate physical activities. Government educational agencies need to enforce this. Perhaps government can also assist educational entrepreneurs with easier (even cheaper) access to landed property so that the latter get enough space to provide for such activities.

Learning Together: A Better Way

We live in a world that is largely driven by competition. At the earliest stages of life, children are taught – whether directly or indirectly – that they need to compete. At a time that it is believed in certain quarters that children ought to still be playing, on many fronts they are already being pushed into the field of competition. Parents and guardians push their children for better grades. Comparisons get made. The child learns to run against others.


But perhaps there is a more effective way of learning. This may not be the preferred route of children who are naturally bright and so stand out among others. Because of their extraordinary abilities, A-grade students tend to have no problem studying alone. They are often lone wolves who pick up their books, listen to teachers and lecturers and grasp the subjects by themselves.


But this is not so for the majority of students, and it is important that this is noted. Many students need help, guidance and assistance to figure some things out. Somewhere along the line, some of them figure it out or stumble on the idea that they learn better when they collaborate with others. And so, they begin to pull resources together. They meet to tackle their homework together, They form study groups. They assign individuals who are strong in certain subjects to help explain difficult areas.


As the average person grows up into adulthood, while the world screams, “Compete! Fight!! Compete!!!” lessons learned in practical situation tells us that learning and working together benefits everyone in the long run than if we all go it alone. Collaboration, not competition, is the better route.


Perhaps this is where parents, guardians and teachers should start from. Perhaps before we teach our children to compete, it would be more effective to teach them to collaborate and work as a team.