Black Immigrant Daily News
…recalls being called a “dunce” by teacher
By Solomon McGarrell
Dawayna Aniysa Thom, a 26-year-old teacher of the Kwakwani Secondary School in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), recently graduated from the University of Guyana (UG) as Best Graduating Education, English major with a 3.9 Grade Point Average (GPA).
Recalling her journey and school life, Thom said she had been called a “dunce” in school, and she vividly recalls a teacher throwing one of her books in the garbage. This experience, she said, has remained with her, and was compounded when she entered the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) and one of her lecturers told her she should choose another major because that lecturer did not believe she would be “a good fit to teach English”.
Thom has, however, said positive words can live on in the lives of people as they push through with life and decision-making, because those words would affect them and their subsequent accomplishments as much as negative words would. Thom said those words were at the back of her head throughout her studies, and they now still influence her life in everything she puts her mind to do, because they have imbued in her a fear of failure.
Asked what had motivated her to overcome the challenges she had encountered throughout her study life and in other aspects of her life, Thom said, “The fear of failure.
The thought of failure and fear of not becoming successful.” Thom has said she still cannot “catch her breath” to celebrate her success, because of those challenges.
She deems herself a perfect example of the labelling theory – an approach that focuses on the ways in which society attaches stigmatising stereotypes to an individual, and the ways in which the stigma changes their thoughts or behaviours.
She is encouraging teachers, “Try to have every child catered for and feel included in the classroom. While some are skilled in a task, some are not. All students can’t learn at the same pace, nor in the same way. Be careful with the words that you use to students; people tend to remember how you make them feel.”
Thom hails from the Region 10 community of Kwakwani, a small community of approximately 5000 residents, where not many people are recognized in athletics or academics. Here Thom completed her nursery, primary and secondary education before studying at UG.
Thom’s early years of school life were simple. She participated in almost everything at school: spelling bee competitions, dancing and poetry competitions, extra- curricular activities in the afternoons, when she went to lessons or at the community playground to play games with friends. Like every other child’s childhood dream, Thom wanted to become a lawyer, but after writing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, she was called to teach.
“The Kwakwani Secondary School was short of staff at the time, and I was asked to teach,” she noted. One year later, Thom enrolled at the CPCE to be trained as a teacher. As she explained how her days were spent at CPCE, Thom said, “I attained a Grade 3 in Literature when I (wrote) CSEC, and when I enrolled at CPCE, an English lecturer told me that I should choose another major because she doesn’t believe I’ll be a ‘good fit to teach English’. I don’t know why I still went through with English, but I did. Eventually, I passed all of my courses and I graduated”.
Today, Thom describes herself as “an exceptional English teacher”, but the accomplishment was not without challenges. She now aspires to become a Regional Education Officer. “I choose Education because one day I have hopes of becoming an official in education, maybe even to be the Minister of Education,” she expressed.
“My journey at UG was not an easy one, but it was a successful one. When I first started UG, I did not want anyone to know, because of the fear of failure,” she disclosed.
Thom braved the storms and emotions that came along as she pursued her dreams, although, when she first started, she felt as though she was not going to make it and wanted to give up many times. She graduated from CPCE, and started her journey at UG with her first challenge of having to move from her hometown to live with relatives, because the internet is not easily accessible at Kwakwani. She described living with her relatives as horrible.
Two weeks after starting UG, she underwent emergency surgery without telling any of her relatives with whom she lived. She encountered blackouts(spells of fainting), sleepless nights, panic attacks, the death of a friend with whom she wasn’t on speaking terms, and financial constraints. For these reasons, Thom is not yet able to celebrate her accomplishments.
She said, “Although I had those challenges, I did not give up. I continued persevering, and I continued working so that I could have maintained the GPA I started with”.
Thom ended her studies by going to live in rented accommodation on her own, where she was able to get adequate rest and pay more attention to her health. She said her motivation eventually came from wanting to be successful for her community, to show her students and siblings that she could do it and they can too, regardless of the challenges. Also, she wanted to complete what she started.
In celebrating her own success, Thom has also congratulated all her colleagues, friends and associates, as she knows how tough the journey has been for all.