EXCELLENCE IS A BETTER TEACHER THAN MEDIOCRITY. THE LESSONS OF THE ORDINARY ARE EVERYWHERE. TRULY PROFOUND AND ORIGINAL INSIGHTS ARE TO BE FOUND ONLY IN STUDYING THE EXEMPLARY.
When I was at school I celebrated mediocrity .In fact we used to laugh at our top students who devoted all their energies in pursuit of academic excellence. Our motto was, a pass was good enough. How wrong we were. I was never excited about schooling; I had low self-esteem and I really felt I was not good enough. My defense mechanism was laughter .Little did anyone realize that it was just a façade. How did the change or better still how did the transformation take place. A few things happen at school that left an indelible impression. Life –changing indeed.
When I was in Standard 8 which is now Grade 10 ,English was never my favourite subject .I remember the laughter of my class mates at the mistakes I made .My teacher in no way put a stop to what I believe was humiliating. My response was laughter too. No one knew that I often when to bed crying. But in Standard 9 , I had a great inspirational teacher ,Ismail Kathrada. The turning point was when we were analyzing a poem , God’s Grandeur by Hopkins .I was not showing much interest in the poem as I was pre-occupied distracting one of my class mates ; checking her vital signs and pulling her hair only to be disturbed by the strident reprimand by Ismail Kathrada .Edris you a very naughty boy. I will not leave until you give me the interpretation of the last two lines of the poem. I was embarrassed because I had no idea about this poem .Anyway, I gave a tentative answer; I expected the class to laugh. But that day was different.in fact it was significantly different. My inspirational teacher praised me and said that my interpretation was far better than his. That was a wow moment for me .
From that day, I began to take school life seriously .I realized that I can pursue excellence. I became an active learner. I was never afraid to ask questions or share my perspective on any subject. This was so liberating .About 10 years later I became the Chairman of the English Society of South Africa.(House of Delegates)
The reason I am sharing this is that I want you know that each one of you have talent .Believe in yourself. Often when we meet successful people we assume that they had an easy comfortable life .Once we engaged these individuals we are pleasantly surprised when they speak about their initial challenges and difficulties; how they almost gave up on life. Don’t give up .Remember , the bend in the road is not the end of the road.
It is, therefore, not surprising that as an educator myself I have not forgotten that beautiful lesson .What learners need is inspirational teachers who are not hidebound by text books .
As it is said teachers never know where their influence stops they can even impact on the destiny of the child.