I was teacher’s pet all my school days. You know those annoying ones in class that know everything. Those ones that get to write names of noise makers and rarely ever get in trouble themselves. If you’ve never been a teacher’s pet, you may have even wished to be part of this group of untouchables. Being teacher’s pet, also came with a certain pride, which if you weren’t careful would lead to challenging everyone, including the teachers. .
For me, it meant not being part of any circle 😦 You know how everybody hates Chris? The only time people tried to be friends was during exams and then I totally didn’t want to be friends. This, of course, led to another circle of not being part of the ‘cool’ circle for another term (You know the cool kids are always the academically dull ones, right?). It also meant being on the look out to correct teachers. Pointing out their spelling errors, or when you think they have skipped a line. But there was a method to this. You would have to go whisper it in the teacher’s ears so that they take the glory for the corrections…or sometimes share the glory with you by pointing out that you are so good that you can even point out such things.
Being teacher’s pet, meant I was always in the limelight. I was always chosen to represent the school during activities especially the ones that were literary. I was always in the debate team. In secondary school, I was representing the school’s senior team while I was in JSS 3. And this is where the second defining moment I will be talking about took place.
Back then, Jazz 38 organized intercollegiate debates. It involved all the ‘big’ schools at that time. schools like St Phimbas College, Igbobi College, Baptist Academy, Kings/Queens College, Methodist Boys/ Girls High school were ably represented. I had moved on to Ikeja High School and my elder brother who worked directly with the principal was the staff in charge of the debate team.
It wasn’t difficult getting into the debate team. I had a good brain and could recollect details that most other people could not. I had a friend also in JSS three who was part of the team and then there was a senior in SS3. Together we formed the school debate team. The senior, I think his name was Ibukun always led the team with either of us coming in as supporting speakers.
We did very well, until at a point because Ibukun had to sit his final exams, it was just the two of us in JSS 3 that had to represent the school going forward. It was time to pick a new chief speaker. I took it for granted that I would automatically get the position of chief speaker. I was smarter than the other girl and my brother was leader of the team. If I wasn’t winning by brains, then being ‘teacher’s pet’ would guarantee me top spot.
We had the next debate coming up and we had been handed our scripts to practice. We made our presentation before the teachers and wonder of wonders, my brother moved that I wouldn’t make chief speaker because I didn’t have a ‘sweet’ voice. He said I sounded too Ibo. The pain got worse when we lost at the semi-finals of that competition because the chief speaker forgot her lines!
I was at the point introduced to the ‘unfairness’ of it all. The ‘unfairness’ of life, how being the best may not necessarily mean that you were the best suited by all standards. Sometimes, more is required than just intelligence. For instance, you may have all the intelligence in the world but lack the basic charisma for leadership. In my case, I could speak, but there was more to speaking at this level than just knowing the words.
Funny thing is, when we lost that debate, and I as the second speaker scored higher marks than the chief speaker, I was more inclined to believe that my teachers were wrong. They just didn’t know what they were talking about. I think this is another trap that most smart people fall into. They see themselves as so smart that they do not even need anyone to tell them anything a.k.a I too know a.k.a ITK.
Years, later, when I ended up in journalism school, one of my lecturers would again comment that I would never become a broadcaster if I continued to speak like I did. There I was having the same words repeated to me within a ten year interval. That was when I decided to begin to take note and to actively mind the way I talk.
Interestingly, it took my brother, and mentor, to eventually right my speech. He taught me about phonetic symbols and the sounds of the English language. I learnt because at this point experience had taught me to drop my pride. The teacher’s pet mentality had left me. I was just another person in the world who needed to do what she had to do in order to achieve the success she wanted.
People are often marvelled when they hear me speak these days. I do not have a trace of an accent. This is an almost miraculous make over, but I achieved it. And because I did and I know I don’t have two heads, I believe that any other person determined to achieve whatever they want to achieve can do it.
oh, I eventually did work as a TV presenter and I also have assisted hundreds of children to reduce their accents and sound right. And the teacher’s pet thing, I think its overrated… My thoughts.
Here is something else I have learned: The fastest runners, and the greatest heroes don’t always win races and battles. Wisdom, intelligence, and skill don’t always make you healthy, rich, or popular.
We each have our share of bad luck. – Eccl 9:11 CEV