Columnists Features

Mentorship and the teacher

SPIDER’S WEB with CHEELA CHILALA
ONE of the responsibilities every parent has is to send their child to school – hence the school teacher plays a critical role in the mentoring of the child.
A teacher can help a parent identify a child’s area of gifting or special ability.
And that is what happened to me: it was particular teachers at primary and high school level that helped me identify my areas of academic strength.
When I enrolled at Regiment Primary School in Lusaka neither my parents nor I had any idea what my areas of strength were in terms of school subjects.
When I reached upper primary school, however, my love for literary texts grew – and my class teacher noticed that.
In sixth grade, she introduced a system of selecting pupils whose performance in particular subjects she thought was exceptional.
Once in a while, she gave such pupils the task of setting some questions in their subject of competence for the rest of the class.
It seemed unconventional that a teacher would do that, but at the time no one from the class complained.
The teacher picked me to set questions for the class in the English subject. The recognition I received from my teacher made me gain confident in my abilities – it made me believe I could do great things with my language abilities.
More to the point, I found myself falling in love with the language of literature. There were some story books in my classroom and I enjoyed reading them.
Hungry for more reading, I then descended on the little book shelf my father kept in his bedroom. I read practically every story book I found on the book shelf.
Encouraged by my good performance in class, and having conquered the little book shelf, I then started going to the nearest public library to read story books.
From my home in Libala, I would walk to the library, located in Chilenje, about two kilometres away.
I can confidently say, then, that in a small way, my class teacher – her name was Mrs Mwansa – set me on the path to discovering that I had exceptional abilities in the area of literature.
I started writing short stories of my own, and each time we were given a writing exercise in class I would excel because I was already well read.
At the time, of course, I did not realise my career would be literature related; I thought it was just something I loved with a passion.
Why am I sharing this experience? Simply this: to highlight and stress the importance of the role of the teacher in mentoring children.
The teacher plays a complementary role to that of parents or guardians; meaning, in essence, that what a parent might not see in their child, the teacher might see.
If you are a teacher, I would like you to note the fact that you are key to the mentoring process of the children under your watch.
Some of the children come from broken homes with no role model to look up to, and virtually no motivation regarding career choices, but with your help they can excel. You can help your pupils discover their strengths and even career paths.
What you need to do is that, upon discovering the strengths of a child, you should then find ways to give them an opportunity to grow their gift or abilities – the way my primary school teacher did.
It might be that you have already identified the strengths of some children. What have you done about it? Have you encouraged them?
Your part is not to exploit the child’s gift, but to help nurture it. Your part is to water the gift like a seed in the ground, until it grows and produces fruit.
cheelafkc@yahoo.co.uk

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