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Why My Colleagues Call Me Crying Teacher —Oluyemisi Adedokun-Oladejo, TOEFL English Practitioner’s Winner

An English teacher is known as Oluyemisi Adedokun-Oladejo, at Itolu Community High School, Ilaro, Ogun State was announced as a winner of the 2022 Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) English Language Practitioners Grant, awarded by Educational Testing Service (ETS). She speaks with DAMILOLA ROLEOLA in this interview.

Oluyemisi Adedokun-Oladejo,

Introduce yourself and tell us about your educational career

“I am Mrs. Oluyemisi Adedokun-Oladejo. I hold a Masters degree in English from the University of Ibadan. I work with the Ogun State teaching service commission. I’m a writer too. I’ve written so many books such as a grammar textbook for teachers. In 2020, I won the African Writer Prize for creative non-fiction. In 2021, I was a co-winner of the Ogun State Academic Laurel which fetched me a two bedroom bungalow from the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun. This is also my 13th year as a teacher with the Ogun State teaching service commission.”

Is teaching English language something you have passion for or just a means to an end?

“First, I’ll like to tell you that I have been passionate about teaching since I was a child. I can recall writing on the wall then and my parents will reprimand me. Both my parents are retired teachers, and they didn’t want me to become a teacher because of the salary of teachers, but my mind was made up. As soon as I finished my SSCE, I decided to enroll for Grade Two Teachers Training when I was 16. Later, I decided to go to a teaching university which was Taiye Solarin University and graduated in 2007. I realised that some of my colleagues were there because they had no choice, but for me, I chose to be there and immediately after my graduation, I got a job without knowing anybody. Also, my mother was an English Language teacher; my sister too. “

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Would you say you foresaw an achievement such as winning the TOEFL global prize at some point in your career?

“No, not exactly. I didn’t set out to win prizes; I just wanted to add value to myself and students. Every time I see an education initiative, I volunteer there. In fact, I’m referred to as the crying teachers by my colleagues because I always want my students to understand what I teach them and when they don’t, I begin to cry.”

What was your approach towards preparing for the competition?

I didn’t want life to take chances on me, so I prepared; although, it was God. Moreso, I told you I volunteered for so many initiatives, and this was one of the things that shortlisted me for the interview as my CV stood out for an average secondary school teacher. I have also invested financially and time wise for various professional courses.

 What impact do you think your success in this competition will have on the perception that teaching is a less attractive career for admission seekers?

“Honestly, before I won this prize, I’ve seen people who have come to me that they want their children to become teachers because of me. Also, I’m the founder and team lead of “community teachers” on Facebook where I encourage teachers to go extra mile. In fact, when I won this award, a colleague told me that she was so impressed because she used to think that she was in the teaching profession because she was unfortunate and that younger ones can now see that teaching is not a profession for the unfortunate but an honourable career. “

Would you say your success in this competition proves that Nigerian public schools are actually not lacking proficient teachers?

“Exactly, I want to tell you that I’m not the only teacher who is outstanding; however, I won’t exactly say that we are doing enough because some teachers are not committed to building themselves, as they believe they are unfortunate to be in the teaching profession. We have great teachers but then, the government and society needs to orientate the teachers to be passionate about their profession.”

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Speaking of English language, most parents will opt to enroll their wards in schools where ‘Queens English’ is a priority, but does this assure that their wards will actually be proficient in English language?

“Well, we shouldn’t confuse fluency or eloquence with proficiency. You see some students who are eloquent but are not proficient. So that’s what we have in many private schools, their students are eloquent but when you go through their writing, you will see that they are not proficient. So, what an average Nigerian will call Queens English is actually fluency, however, it’s not a yard stick to measure proficiency in English language.”

Since you won the TOEFL global prize, has there been any recognition from the government or educational bodies around?

“Not at the moment, the reason being that I’m just about to commence the project. Winning the TOEFL prize comes with a mandate to teach a group of 80 students with the use of computer assisted language learning resources provided by Educational Testing Service (ETS). So, I don’t expect any recognition yet, until the project is launched, although, I would appreciate any recognition from the government. Already, the state government has already recognised me before winning the award, however, Oliver twist is always asking for more. I won a house before. Now, I want to win a car and cash prize, so I’ll really be glad if this news can get to the government and individuals that recognise my work. “

Being the first black woman to win the prize, what difference do you think it will make in the way black women are perceived globally?

“This is not the first time an African is winning something like this, but you know, over time, Africans have been pushed behind because they believe since we are black, then our brains are black. Since I won the award, I can see that the respect many people have for Africans had soared as some of them were surprised that an African could outsmart the others to win TOEFL of all prizes.”

What advice do you have for your colleagues out there?

“The advice is that teachers in Nigerian public sector should add value to themselves and not look down on themselves as being unfortunate. Rather, we should be proud of our profession the way lawyers and doctors do. Also, teachers should not limit themselves to the classroom alone, but in addition, volunteer to add value to others outside the classroom.”

Credit: ALLSCHOOL, Tribune

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