Updated: Oct 4
This is a short story by Psychologist, Researcher,Educator and Parenting Teenagers Expert Angela Karanja and how a teacher would change her life forever.
How a chance encounter with a temporary teacher would motivate and inspire the teen to be highly effective.
I want you to imagine that you are a 10-year-old kid. 10 years old think about it. I want you to imagine you are living in such conditions that you don't know where your next meal is going to come from. You have to walk so many miles to get to school. Oh, don’t worry. I am not going to ask you for anything. I'm not here to make an appeal for those kids.
I know what you are thinking. I am here for those kids that you see on TV money appeal for charity.
If you’ve ever doubted whether those kids are real, pack your doubts now because what you're looking at is one of those kids from the village.
Now, you may be thinking, “e’hem was she adopted or what? Taken from that village in Thenge-ini in Kenya to some nice place in Oxfordshire in the UK.
It was none of that. 10 years old, I had to walk to school many miles with a hungry tummy. But something happened that would change the course of my life. One day I went to school, and guess who turns up?
I thought what!
I have not seen anyone like this before. She must be some sort of Angel or something. She had nice clothes, she stood straight, she smiled. Her shoes, they were nice, and they were not dusty.
See, I was used to seeing teachers with shoes, but they were always dusty and old. But not this Miss. No, not this Miss.
How a temporary teacher with certain skills would motivate and inspire the teen to be highly effective.
See, we used to walk to school miles away. I tell you, if you look in your Maps you will see Thenge-ini primary school. From where my house is, from where my mum’s house is, to get the school you had to walk miles, and then it was not just miles, it is you had to walk up the hill so steep.
So steep is the hill you have to do those squats because you can't walk upright and standing. You couldn't walk straight on those hills. No, you can’t.
So, you are walking like that!
So, I learnt to do my squats there. That’s where I learnt to do my super squats.
And we used to walk barefoot so you can imagine. The toes, the shape of toes from walking, from gripping the ground.
The toes grew apart. I promise you mine are not like that. Well may be not anymore.
But there's something else about walking bare feet. You know those little nits? your feet become the home of fleas and jiggers. Right!
So, most of the kids I tell you, do you see this?
That’s how the toes are swollen, and feet look like this because the fleas and the jiggers have made castles there.
And you can ask anyone who comes to my area.
When you come to visit that area, be prepared to leave with a flea or a jigger one or two.
Anyway, that’s a story for another day.
But these fleas and jiggers like to live in places that are not regularly cleaned. So, they thrived in dirt and muck. But lucky for us, for me and my family my mum insisted that we washed everyday.
That washing everyday was at the expense of me painfully going to the river every day to fetch water. So you can imagine! Have you seen those kids carrying barrels of water on their back?
I used to carry that. And not just one.
You go to the river, get one, come empty it and then back for another, come and empty and then back and forth several times... and that is before going to school or after school.
So, you can imagine what that does for your back.
Most of you are probably thinking it breaks your back.
No no no! no it strengthens your back.
My back is strong! I can tell you I have a strong back and that’s not just literally but figuratively.
Let's go back to the teacher.
How using certain skills, a teacher would motivate, inspire and ignite a teen to be a highly effective student and person.
Remember most kids are bare feet, some of them with toes like that, like I showed you before. Then the teacher comes in and she’s got nice shoes and the nice shoes are not even dusty. So, there I am thinking, Oh my God how can someone even look like this. I am looking at her thinking oh my this one is like an angel.
She truly an angel. And then she would speak to us nicely, she would even smile. Our teacher never smiled; I can’t remember them smiling I think the only time they smiled was when they were whacking us.
Then we have this nice teacher, she would speak with us, smile even share some of the food at break time. I thought my God you mean some people can be like this? It was really good and when I went back home that day, I couldn’t stop talking about this new teacher. To my mum to my brothers. How she smiled, how she spoke to us.
And this teacher was not punitive at all. She is the teacher that spoke to us and if you did something wrong like kids do all the time, she would speak to you and allow you to process and then she would forgive you.
And in forgiving you, she made you feel indebted that you did not want to do that wrong thing again. This woman was not punitive, she was so much unlike the other teachers and she looked good.
So next day I am looking forward to going to school to meet this teacher. Still I got no shoes but I'm looking forward to schooling. Now, I have another reason to go to school not just to escape from doing farm work or fetching water. But to actually go marvel at Miss.
What skills did this Miss use motivate, inspire this teen to be a highly effective teenager, student and person.
On this day, Miss tells us a story. She was teaching us English. She said to us.
Do you know what; I used to be a kid just like you, yes just like you. I sat in those forms just like you.
If you are conversant with studying in the villages in Kenya, you know that we used to sit on those benches,
Three kids on each. So, I'm sitting here, another kid here and another here. I never wanted to sit in the middle. Oh boy ! the stench! Remember some of these kids never washed so you have to contend with the stench all day.
So, I sat there, and the other kid is sat there, and I am listening
And Miss is telling us that she used to sit in similar benches just like us.
I am sat there in wonder, wondering how this can be. How comes…?
She told us how she sat there and did her best. How she dreamt of a good life. And then... she went to a nice high school and now she was going to University.
I am sat there something stirring inside of me and I am thinking this is something that's possible. It's possible. That can happen to someone.
Remember this is someone I had looked up to. When she first arrived, I had thought "Wow!. Now she’s telling me she used to be my position and now she's in this position she's sharing experiences. Whoop! I'm feeling woof!!! You know remember the first time I saw her she'd already lit a fire within me…I am now thinking…this is possible some people do it.
Oh, my goodness this is possible some people do it I’m sure I can do this.
So, I go back home, and I am telling this story of Miss to everyone.
I am telling my mum I am telling my brothers and anyone who would listen. The villages and everyone. My mum is looking at me with pitiful eyes, thinking little dreamer. The villagers that gathered said these things don’t happen here.
I am thinking, my goodness this is possible. This has happened to her it can happen to me
So, I go back to school again and I want to hear more of her story. I want to hear her journey, her stories, they are inspiring. I want to hear her words.
This day she said, "If you are going to compete on a higher level, you are going to have to up your game to a higher level." On that day she said from day we would all started speaking in the language that the country sets exams in.
What language is that?
So, she said we were all going to start speaking English and anyone who didn’t speak in English there would be consequences. So, you can imagine the English we were speaking…lol…a mix of mumble. Kikuyu-English. a mixture of all sorts.
But she encouraged us and kept encouraging us to speak in English. She insisted because exams were set in English practising would help with comprehension and competence. With this we would have a good level of understanding and comprehension whilst tackling exams.
I had never heard anyone speak English with such clarity. Of course, we had other teachers who taught us Maths, English, Science, Swahili and even Kikuyu.
Now I have a different reason to go to school. The first time I saw her she ignited a fire in me and now she continues to fan it. I am now trying my best in the believe that truly if we tried our best like miss said we can truly change our life. Yes, that’s what this teacher said.
This teacher that I admire so much that’s what she said.
As a 10-year-old that’s what I am thinking. Yes, things can actually change.
So, I am doing my work, trying my best, even trying my best to please this teacher that I like the best.
What skills is this Miss using to motivate and inspire life in this kid?
Then one day, teacher was doing her rounds checking our work.
She comes around to my desk
Puts her finger on it and leans over.
She is looking at my work and then she says…you’ve got a nice handwriting…can you imagine how I felt? And she didn’t stop there. She says, I have looked at your work and you are meticulous.
Wo! That was the first time I heard the word meticulous.
I didn’t know what it meant
I looked up at her like “meh-hoo-ha?”
and she knew I didn’t know. So, she said your work is so good and you are going to do so well. You will go far in life.
Can you imagine what I felt at that point?
This is someone I had already admired. Someone I had looked up to.
Someone I had looked up to;- Model
This is someone who was a Mentor…she told us stories, she told us of her experiences, she shared her life experiences with us…Mentor
And now she is telling me that I can do it…this one believes in me…Motivator
Teacher utilised these 3 fundamental skills to motivate and inspire life in this kid to be highly effective and successful.
Now you see why I say those three Ms are fundamental skills of influence?.
Something happened. Don’t know whether she did this consciously or unconsciously and inspired me to know I could make something better of myself.
I started to carry myself in a different way
I started to do well and really excel.
That was the beginning of my journey of excellence.
I started to do really well.
I started telling other kids that they too could excel and could do better.
Since then, I have met other models, mentors and motivators in my life but for me that experience kickstarted my journey of excellence.
This put me in my journey of empowering young people, and this is what I have been doing for years. I discover that you, indeed anyone can be a life giver and each one of us no matter how bruised or broken as long as someone is breathing, we can ignite that light inside of them. This means there’s a spark inside of them and we can fan that spark and bring it to a full-blown fire.
Remember in that village we were all bruised and broken but we were still breathing. As long as a young person has someone who can fan that fire in their life and continue to prop them, they can do it.
And this is what I purpose to practise with young people at all times. That every encounter with a young person is life giving. It's me fanning the fire wanting to ignite that fire within them.
So, you might be wondering how I came to the point where I now teach parents and educators how to be models, mentors and motivators.
How and why I now teach parents these 3 fundamental skills help their teens become highly effective and successful young people.
A couple of years ago I had a woman to woman conversation with my mum and I asked and challenged her about why we were raised as we were, the concepts and why we were treated ever so badly and why we were never really encouraged or empowered.
You know what my mum told me?
She didn’t know any better.
And I know that to be true because so many other people did not know any better. Including our teachers. So, you see, even the most loving parents could be doing all the wrong things. They can lack the skills to impact and influence their young people for good. This is why I encourage parents to learn these skills so that you are not putting the empowerment of your young person in hands of someone else and hoping they’ll turn out ok or some other person will empower them.
Some of us were lucky.
Sometimes I shudder thinking what would have become of me had I not had this encounter with that transformational teacher.
So many other kids didn’t have the opportunity that I got. Obviously, my mum left me to chance in this situation. But I was fortunate that someone; a good teacher had these skills.
Sometimes I shudder thinking of the so many kids that meet peril because they do not have the model, mentor and motivator that ignites that fire.
Did you know that many parents lack these 3 fundamental skills to inspire their teens to be highly effective and successful young people?
You might be thinking this is those village people those Kenya villagers who don’t know. But I can tell you that in the 20 years I have worked in the western world and in research, I have worked with young people form all sorts of background. Extremely rich kids and extremely poor kids and I can tell you that many parents are lacking in these 3 skills.
Not through the fault of their own
No one teaches us these fundamental parenting skills.
No one ever told us that we can actually be conscious influencers of our own teens.
No one taught us how to be models, mentors and motivators.
What I usually say is that you can wing it, or you can purpose it.
But the good good news I keep saying to parents, parents who are brave enough to want to learn is that you can learn any skills if you are willing.
That’s what made me think. What if I could take these concepts and share and bring them to parents so they know they can be their young people’s models, mentors and motivators!
That's why I do the work I do now because I know you as a parent of teens, you can have so much impact in your young person’s life, inspire them hugely when you become a conscious model, mentor and motivator.
Remember these are concepts researchers and psychologist study.
When I started studying psychology, I discovered these are theories. There’s a theory of modelling, there’s a theory of mentoring, there’s a theory of motivating. I looked at this and I though,t this isn’t no theory. this is the real stuff. Literally I was bring experience into theory.
So, when I speak to parents and educators about these fundamental parenting skills the 3Ms, I am convinced that when we learn to utilise these 3 Ms, we can impact our young people in ways beyond measure.
To consciously implement these skills of being model, mentor and a motivator brings about extraordinary impact.
When a young person has a model, mentor, and motivator this is influence on steroids.
I will continue to share with you more stories and strength from the village.
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