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 .