Have you ever had to take that first step into a “new” you? That moment when you take a leap of faith, and go where you heart leads you? It feels really crazy!
I have tried all my life to stay true to myself, and do the best I can in whatever I plan to do. In the early days, starting my first job after college as a high school teacher, I was determined to be a great one, and very pleased that I was following in my parents’ footsteps (they were both teachers for a significant part of their lives), and I was assured that I would live a reasonably stable life, be able to pay for basic utilities and have some money put aside for a rainy day.
I think this contentment lasted for only one week! I reported to the high school in second week of term, and was ushered to the Principal’s Office, expecting deep professional conversation about education, teaching methods, results, etc. There was some, but when she finally pulled out my subject and lesson allocation for the year, I was dizzy with shock: I had been given Physics instead of Biology classes to teach! My protests fell on deaf ears. I soon learned that no one wished to teach Physics in a girls’ school, especially if you wished to get a promotion. I was forced to attend half empty classes of terribly bored girls, who had obviously been forced to take on the subject because other classes were too full. By the end of the first term, the results were not encouraging: only 7% improvement, in top district school, and oddly enough, the senior staff were happy to take this saying “girls don’t perform well in such subjects anyway”. I would be a fool not to recognize this as a free ticket for me to do the minimum, but it only made me feel sick to my stomach, I could not understand this attitude.
That holiday break, I visited other (mostly boys’) schools, talking to science teachers, meeting up with some of my students and their parents, as I waited for the new term. As soon as the term began, I took the plunge to get the girls to improve, beginning with activities inside and outside the lab to help change attitudes (which was easier for me having been a sportswoman). Every evening, I would sit in the lab for 5 hours, catching up on my high school Physics and practicing for the practicals; and every morning I would train the lab technician as I set up the lab ready for classes. It was an experience that I can never forget, because, within 9 months, we had 84% pass in Physics, for the first time in 22 years of that great fine school! I learned three important lessons that I will share with you:
- Change is Uncomfortable! I went to work that school with simple expectations: that I would, like every graduate expects, get a good job for which I am qualified, earn and steady salary (teachers may not earn as much as other professions, but graduate teachers were assured of stability), and live a stable life. I did not expect that I would be teaching a new subject, and having to fight to meet the required standards. Learning to accept change as an important part of growth is important.
- Believe in Yourself First! I only had high school Physics knowledge, where I had scored a distinction at the national examinations. That was high school, I never touched a book again for 4 years as I progressed through college. But I had faith in myself and my abilities, just like in sports, if I practiced enough, I would be able to score goals.
- Commit! I saw this like an opportunity to win. I was ready to learn and grow, and that I was determined carry as many girls as I could with me. I wasn’t going to score goals alone, I needed the whole team to play their part, each member putting in her best effort with her understanding and grasp of the subject. This meant that I had to help them re-build their fragile belief system, seek the Physics lab as an accepting space and get everyone on board, before we could move forward, together.
I’m now using these simple steps to help you make that change in your life, because if you believe in yourself and commit, you can make that part of your life a success too, no matter what it is! You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Read more "Stepping Out!"