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Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A Tribute to my Teachers
I never went to nursery school. That tells you that my first teachers were my parents. They were my reason for my romance with schooling. I never once delayed to go to school. I have never had any fears about going to school. I think that is a good thing. My motive was to be away from home.
Like all children, my first duty in school was to learn ABC and 1, 2, 3. I never really knew then the dramatic effect these pencil marks would have on me. I still use them today. My first teacher, Miss Qusik (sic), must have been from East Germany. Her view of life was very angled and she taught us to write "a" like an upside down triangle with an attached "Nike" sign. She literally imprinted writing in my mind as a form of drawing that had to be mastered over her horn-rimmed specs. She must have been a spinster.
I later met Mr. Mwangura, a man of few words. He chose to use the cane judiciously but unsparingly. You see Peter, I later taught on the same staff with him, understood the word "potential" long before I was born. He casually allowed us to score freely in his tests for the first week. The horror was revealed in the second week when those who did not improve were given a proportionate degree of caning reflecting their potential. He was not really interested in your marks. He was interested in your potential. If you had shown that you were an "A" student and decided to goof off with a "C", you would be caned (whipped)for the whole week, even if everyone else failed the test. Let us just say that he somehow found out that I was not a "C" student. It was never about marks it was always about potential.
It was a relief to enter the easy going Mrs. Kinuthias' class in the fifth grade. I coasted along with a "C" grade in English for the whole time, except for one major interruption. One day I wrote an essay about "How I was made" – I was a car. I got the only "A" I have ever been awarded throughout my entire school life in English. Mrs. Kinuthia noticed. She turned on her chair, looked at me, smiled and said "well done – I knew you could do it". I went back to my "C" grades immediately after that incident and never rose from that place, but deep in my heart, she had given her belief in me to my belief in me. From that day, I became a writer and it no longer mattered what anybody else thought. Whether they gave me an A, B, C or Z, it no longer mattered to me. I'm not sure Mrs. Kinuthia ever realized the impact she had on me.
By the time I came to junior high I knew I was a scientist. Arts were for people who could not do maths. I did maths pretty well. All I had to do was remember Peter. There was one other reason I liked maths. I was a terrible reader. By brothers could read in an hour what took me a week. I only found out late in life that the reason for this was that I only had one eye.  Junior high was a terror outside class. However, Rev. Dodman taught with such consistency that everyone in the school thought that life would always turn out alright. He never really got to know my name, but he did make me feel like he knew it – and we could go to his house at any time. His wife was an angel. She was not a teacher. Mr. Ralphs grinned a lot and smoked, but we got along because I was well behaved and did not do poorly in maths. He played tennis and made sure we all went for sport. He was the fair sort. Even if he didn't like you, he would always ref by the rules and not feelings. But he had faith in me as a leader. He was the reason I was chosen captain.
The master class in high school was physics and I was a star. All I needed to remember was the formulas, which was easy for a person who could not read. Mr. Sale made everyone enjoy the lesson but he was also very critical about the world and how things should be, but are not, because some "stupid" guy is in the wrong position somewhere did not do what he was supposed to. To Squeaky Sale, life should be ABC not ABD.  However, Mr. Okech knew I would lead long before I understood what leadership was about. In fact, in my leaving certificate he credited me with a double major for leadership. Don't ask me, I do not know what he saw in me.
I had many other teachers of course. All of them made me. All we have here is really touch and go, but it just goes to show that I could not be without all they have been to me. All my teachers are in the hall of fame. They are too many to name. I want you to know that I learned how to learn from them. That was the greatest gift they gave me and then they taught me to believe in me. Thank you. In college, I learned from professors whom I yearned to be like. And now, in life, I learn from others and that is how it is supposed to be.
God Bless you all
Feb 2012

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