My year teaching…. And learning

My year teaching…. And learning

By: Bose Maposa*

The classroom can be a scary place, and in the past year I have come to know just how scary it can be- with nightmares as my companions. As a student, one mostly worries about learning and how this will affect one’s grade. But being a teacher there is a multiplication of fears because of this relationship; 1) you worry about your teaching, what the students are learning, how they are learning 2) you also worry about not missing an opportunity to learn from them as you strive to simultaneously be a student, and finally 3) managing your own vulnerability, personality and making sure that you remain as un-biased as humanly possible while talking about your passion.

My subscription to bell hook’s idea of ‘education as a practice of freedom’ has made this journey particularly interesting. As a teacher, I am charged with imparting knowledge to the students.  I also want to practice my freedom by sharing my opinions and thoughts, and at the same time, I need to be careful that there is a clear distinction between opinion and fact. The fact that I teach Africa-related courses makes this more complicated and not as easy as one may think it ought to be. I try to convince my students to accept what I have to say and at the same time encourage them to question it.

For me to be able learn from the students I realize the need to cultivate an accepting environment which is not an easy task either.  There are many stereotypes, which I am also guilty of, that I need to fight against. I am given 15 weeks to attempt to impact years of education, exposure, experiences and beliefs, some of which align with what I am trying to teach and some of which don’t.

I must admit that the year has been trying at times, like when I heard that ‘colonialism was good’ in a way, this after I thought I had made it clear what its impacts were for most Africans. Overall however, it has been a fulfilling experience. It is always a pleasure and a well-deserved pat on the back when students start to question what they see around them i.e. in the media; when they draw parallels between issues; when they ‘correct’ or advice each other and draw on what they have been taught without me having to intervene or drive the conversation.

I don’t think I will ever stop having nightmares about teaching, and I am fine with that. In all my years of playing sports, I have never slept well before a game, even when it was a friendly game or a practice match. My anxiousness is a sign of my preparation and desire to give it my best, and thus a lack of it will mean that I have not prepared and will probably not play well. For my teaching, this is also a sign that while I am ready to teach, I am also ready to learn and to be vulnerable.

*Bose Maposa is a regular Bokamoso Leadership Forum Contributor. Read her short biography and previous articles here .

Bose Maposa

Bose Maposa is the Assistant Director of the African Studies Program at Ohio University, USA.

4 Responses to My year teaching…. And learning

  1. Oh my! How I hate nightmares! I certainly appreciate why you embrace them; but I really wish you would chase them away by using the mantra captured in the image, “keep calm and teach on”!

    All in all, I do love your reflection and wish you the best as you “teach on” sister!

  2. Thank you Bose for this wonderful honest reflection! Congratulations on your year of transformative teaching. It is indeed a daunting task this labour of love. I completely identify with the nightmares you are talking about; it seems sometimes utterly traumatic to be so involved in one’s discipline that it is not possible not to be able to stop meditating on it even in your dreams. One of my mentors is of the view that intellectual life is a commitment to “digging”; it is not only the miners who dig for the wealth of the nation, because the life of the mind is a commitment to perpetual digging – the examined life! Luckily we all have each other to hold each other’s hand as we dig in search of ourselves. Your commitment to digging means that you have offered your students a hand through the mine that is the tainted, messy archive!

  3. Bose, what can I say that hasn’t already been said in the comments above. Agree with Siphokazi and Mathe too! LOVED the reflection, it was an honour this year to witness, albeit virtually your constant wrestle with the “nightmares” of teaching and yet, you still pushed on, kept calm, taught on. Your happiness when students ‘got it’ transmitted through your emails! Teaching indeed takes courage and a commitment to the intellectual ‘digging’ that Siphokazi speaks about above. I rate your students are super lucky to have you as a teacher. Keep teaching and digging on :)

  4. Interesting and so true. I also have some level of ‘anxiousness’. What am I going to do in these two hours and lately three hours? I prepare my notes etc. Then you go to class, nothing follows the script. You don’t get to use the PPs at time, at times you use them.
    More notable, every time I am done teaching, I always don’t feel like doing anything else.
    I spoke to a colleague Professor who has almost 40 years of teaching experience and she after 0ver 35 years of teaching, she has never gotten over that anxiety.

    The only time I am confortable is when I am showing a documentary!

    I feel the same when I haven’t done presentations, finishing a report etc. Will it be good? Then when people say “That presentation was good”, I don’t really trust them. I always think they are being nice. It probably have something to do with wanting the best.

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