You should have seen the smile on my father’s face.
That man’s pure heart beat for many things; my education was one of them. I remember coming from school mad excited to tell my father how school was from my earliest memories. He would listen so intently and share in my surprise, excitement, joy, sadness, and worry alike.
Growing up, I remember him sitting me down and telling me how smart I was. He said it so often that I believed it. The problem was, my life was more than education. So, although I was receiving affirmations about my smartness, I needed more.
I remember struggling with life while trying to be the smart person my father knew I could be. But life had dealt me so many bad cards, it was impossible. I tried so hard to be smart, and on the day the KCPE results were announced, I did it.
397 marks! I was the second student in my school and the first girl. This one guy, Kelvin, had always been the first; it was expected.
Your end-goal is to perform well in primary school and go to high school, a good high school, if you are lucky. Good is relative, depending on what your life looks like.
There are a lot of things I hated about the school I went to. My 397 marks got me to a reputable provincial school; I have no idea what they are called now. I didn’t need much, just a roof over my head, food in my stomach, a few good friends, some fun, and good education.
To me, high school was the place where I started receiving some money to do with as I pleased. That was freedom to me. For the most part, I didn’t care that the school had absurd rules. This was freedom from a home I have somehow always wanted to run away from.
In this place, I could start over; I could be invisible; I could hate people. It was the small things, like not having to ask someone for money to buy pads. It was not being asked what kind of wife I would make every time I did the dishes late.
I did not have to see my abusers in high school and talk to them because it was expected of me. In this place, I could talk to who I wanted, when I wanted; I didn’t have to come to greet the visitors. High school was awful in so many ways, good god!
In that place, the place that pushed me to the edge, the place that severed my relationship with tea, I was free from the life I had known. Imagine how triggering it is every time someone offers me tea. Why, you ask? Read Limitless Existence.
Although high school made sure I never drank tea again, it had some fun moments. Like our principal, Mrs. K telling us stories during parade time. She would rest her hands at the top of her tummy, and they sat there like they were also eager for the story. Then she would lean back, just a bit to push her stomach forward, ensuring that her hands were sitting perfectly, that they were comfortable.
Most of the time, she told us stories of wells and things falling in them, but these things never hit bottom. Sometimes, however, she would acknowledge the school rules’ absurdity, which always got my attention.
She would punish someone for something as minor as sleeping in class, oversleeping in the dorm, and then remind us that we only had four years in that place. She would tell us that campus would make up for high school. She said that we would find rest since campus only had one rule; silence in the library.
She helped us dream of a better tomorrow. A place where things would stop moving, even for a minute. A place where no one would tell us who to be, how to be, where, or when. So, we did our best to make it to that promised place of refuge.
Then, the KCSE results were announced, and I missed my dream to be a lawyer by one point. My father was so heartbroken. He helped me regain my ground, and I went to campus to study to be a teacher. It wasn’t my dream; it was settling.
I am a lazy reader. I like taking my time because I don’t want my heart broken too fast or my joy to end too quickly. I am still reading Home Going, two months later, because that book breaks me in every chapter.
In campus, where Mrs. K said would bring refuge, I needed to read 24 books every semester. The number I read would vary depending on the lecturer we had. Some set their quizzes based on what they had covered in class, but others, like the very incredible Dr. Michael Oyoo Weche, may he Rest in Power, would test any of the 24 books.
I read as many of the books as I could in the 2 and a half months of school with this man as my lecturer. Saying it was hectic would be an understatement. This man wanted excellence; he must have expected it. He was passionate, and I wanted to give him nothing less. He ignited a fire in me in literature and the whole teaching thing.
I embraced the hectic on campus and was ready to graduate and become an amazing educator like this man was. I let the fire for teaching burn through me, and I became so passionate it was painful. I knew that if I became a teacher, I could belong and be good at this one thing.
Lose your humour or lose your job?
In high school, we had this one teacher, he would make a joke, and the entire class would burst out laughing, but he wouldn’t even smile. It was so absurd. He was funny, the sarcastic kind of funny. His humour made it easy to pay attention to what he was saying.
Then we had another one, a beautiful petite woman with fiery anger. She was known to invest in the weight of her slaps. Remember the two slaps I got from my deputy? Oooh, wait, that was on Limitless Existence; you really should read it. Anyway, this woman had small hands with the most beautiful natural nails I have ever seen, and it was impossible to imagine that her slaps would hurt so much.
Away from her anger, she was nice and kind to students. She wasn’t overbearing; she listened, made jokes, and taught so beautifully. My mind wasn’t made for sciences, but the way that woman taught biology, good god, felt like a narration of a story.
These two teachers were the foundation of my teaching career. I had others, many others, each with a significant contribution, positive or negative. It was the math teacher who could never get through a sum without help from the smartest student, that man who was so proud that he couldn’t ever be wrong. It was the computer teacher who was so casual you’d forget she was older.
I wanted to be the best I could be for every student I stood in front of; I wanted to be a better teacher who carries all the learners with her. So, I became innovative. I incorporated small things in class to make learning fun, so the kids would pay attention throughout to understand what they were learning about.
On one of my creative teaching days, while in a senior class in the evening, some of them started drifting off. They were tired; I knew that. It would be impossible not to be after being up and busy for more than 16hrs.
The lesson needed to be taught; the students needed to relax; we had to meet in the middle. That is how we ended up playing telephone in class. It made sense to me. What better to teach paraphrasing? To show how changing some words or translating them according to what you understand could disrupt the message.
With every student who said something different from the initial message, the class burst out laughing. And with each mistake they made, I pointed out something they did wrong and inserted a tip for paraphrasing. I was teaching.
“We don’t need funny teachers here.”
I almost tripped. I was signing in the next morning, and I heard my employer say. Like it was logic. Who needed funny teachers anyway, right?
I did, and I thought my students did too. See, the biometric thing we used to sign in to school was near that man’s office, and people did their best to sign in and leave as fast as possible.
That day, I stood there like a fool, looking into the office, wondering what I had done so wrong. The other teacher in the conversation sat across the desk and the open door. He could see me, and I could tell he was uncomfortable, but he sat there listening.
With every negative thing that man said about my teaching, the other teacher shifted in their seat. But that’s all they did. It’s all they could do.
Take a break
From the first staff meeting I had attended in that school, I had known that this wasn’t a place I wanted to be. So, when I heard that man say that being funny made me a less educator, I knew I would move very soon; I was looking for the next things.
My life, your life, everyone’s life, is a series of journeys that interconnect to get you where you need to be. And because we know this, we are so obsessed with the next step that we don’t see the moments as they happen.
You were told to wait until you go to high school, so you worked to go to high school. Then, you got there, and they said the best next thing is to go to university. That place that comes with freedom and the opportunity to make a better life for you and others.
The thing is, these interconnected journeys are always calling to each other. You want to be the next thing, in the next place. The problem is while chasing your dreams is supposed to be something all of us did; others do it because they think it is an end, and it is to some point.
That next job could be the difference between your escape from poverty, a bad situation, or whatever you need to run away from. You run towards things thinking that they will be the ultimate refuge that you forget to take breaks.
You work so hard to get to the next thing because you think it is an end, while it is the next step in actuality. Your life is such a great journey, with no end in sight and if you understood that, you would take a minute to see things as they happen.
Take a break, the world won’t end, where are you standing, and what does this moment in time need you to be?