“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”- Muhammad Ali
Having recently started my new job, it had me reflecting on the year that had passed and my old job where I had the opportunity to teach.
I have always respected the teaching profession since I had some of the best teachers at school and at other activities I participated in. These people always went way beyond what was required of them and have always had a positive influence on my life.
Before I chose this path, I was extremely hesitant about it. I had a fear of public speaking, scared that I would have to prove myself because I have brown skin, a scarf on my head and a flat Capetonian accent. I never thought standing in front of a classroom at an institution like UCT was possible for someone like me because during my first two years as a student most of my tutors were white Business Science guys or Brown a person with a private school accent.
It wasn’t until I saw my Auditing lecturer standing before me that I realised that it was possible and to me she was what us young people call #Goals. My journey was thus influenced by her and the other lecturers of colour who stood before me.
It made me realise how important representation is and that is how I found courage to face my fear. I also saw it as an opportunity to change perceptions about woman of colour and more specifically Muslim woman (the detail of this will hopefully be in a later post). Which is why after a year few months of tutoring, I decided to do my first year of accounting articles [The goal is to become a CA(SA)] as an Academic Trainee- where I did some lecturing, tutoring, research and lots of marking.
To do the year of teaching, I had to jump through a few hoops and make sacrifices, but to me it all seemed worth it. I had a passion for teaching and felt like it was my way of giving back in my chosen career path. In return I felt, that I would gain more confidence and increase my technical knowledge, but the year turned out to give me way more than I expected.
My students became my life teachers and made an immense impact on my life- I can only hope I manged to make an impact on theirs in some small way.
It was things like having to stand in front of classroom, when you had been crying minutes before because your personal life isn’t that great but still having to give your students the best lesson you possibly can. It showed me how much strength I possessed and taught me to push forward and give things my all even when it was difficult. (Although, I had amazing students who brought me so much joy that all my worries washed away during my time with them).
I had students speak to me about the issues they faced (way beyond academics), which taught me about appreciation for my own life and it taught me about perception, to see beyond what just meets the eye. It made me realise how important it is to be kind and compassionate. I was humbled that those students felt safe enough to talk to me and grateful that I could help them in some small way.
It showed me that the world needs more kindness and people who are supportive of someone else’s journey when I saw how their faces lit up and how they held so tightly onto a few words of encouragement because they are constantly left feeling like they are never good enough.
They taught me how to say no and learn that sometimes you must be tough to be kind when you know it’s the best option. They showed me how important it is to be myself and be firm in doing the right thing and that it is more important than being liked.
When I was ‘tested’ while standing in front of the classroom because of how I looked and sounded it taught me that it’s okay to be human, to make mistakes and to not have all the answers, but that none of that questioned my competence. It taught me that while I’d like to only represent myself, having obvious physical qualities meant that everything I did would be attributable to other females who look like me so I still had to be the best version of myself.
There were times where standing in front of a classroom frustrated me, because damn students can get a bit much (and being a student myself, I know how I can be and I frustrate myself sometimes). It taught me patience and showed me that every environment has its up and down, and that you need to make the best out of both times, but that ultimately having a passion for what you do helps to pull you through the tough times.
I believe in doing what makes you truly happy and brings you joy, and my students did that for me. The experience has definitely been a fulfilling one- being my first job it kind of set the bar a bit too high though.
I cannot be more grateful to the staff of the College of Accounting at UCT for giving me the opportunity to teach, for the support they provided me with, for an amazing environment (and colleagues) that allowed for growth and for teaching me to be the best versions of myself.
As I wrote this post I find myself amazed that in the pursuit of trying to be of service to others, it is returned to you in tenfold. I have also learnt how important it is to face unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations to help you grow.