The Good Teacher
We are honoured to present our latest anthology The Good Teacher, edited by Darlington Chibueze Anuonye. Read the foreword by Ezechi Onyerionwu and download the anthology at the end of this post.
An embodiment of measured exoticism himself, Darlington Chibueze Anuonye never does uncomplicated things. His main appeal as an individual derives from what I have once described as his inclination to obtain a quaint kind of pleasure from mystifying pretty much straightforward reality. I was almost framing this as a point of irritation in our otherwise mutually-rewarding alliance until he proved beyond doubt that this talent of complexity came with the reassuring capacity to draw beauty from his daunting puzzles. Yet it was with a certain suspicion that I received the news of an impending book of celebratory essays for teachers. I knew teachers—among whom is Anuonye himself—were iconic for their simplicity, but I also knew Anuonye too well to expect anything conventional or downright pedestal. Thus, even after having given my word to provide some kind of prefatory remark to whatever emerged as the final volume, I generally approached my involvement in this project with the kind of detachment with which I always viewed his flamboyant intellectual and imaginative adventures. This had been my attitude to, say, his edition of a strange collection of non-fictional psycho-narratives on Covid-19 during the global lockdown.
The profundity of the present collection proves the substance of what Anuonye is all about, an experimental prose-stylist and a public thinker. Just about everyone acknowledges the rousing brilliance of his imaginative writing—where his short stories, for one, always come across as densely interrogative epistles of the everyday. His stimulating intellect is probably less known, but only for the reason that he is officially a literary scholar-in-training. However, it is in the perspicacious combination of the two aptitudes, the creative and the intellectual, that these tribute essays explode into life. For each of these stories, the strategic pattern appears to be that the narrator first of all captivates the soul with overflowing imaginative warmth, and then, while the captive still contemplates the aesthetic vice-grip, the mind is engaged by the validity, and the solidity, of the argument that teachers indeed shape the world and the life in it. I have often wondered how beautiful polemics will turn out with a bit of inventive emotionalizing, and have tried my hands at producing acceptable models. The pieces collected here, gratefully, demonstrate in full-blooded dimensions, how authentic these projections are.
Anuonye has, of course, written just one of the articles himself. But he, in a very characteristic fashion—and as is also very discernible in the short story books he has edited—has managed to attain impressive aesthetic, thematic and structural uniformity in the collection. It is now clearer to me why a writer of his quality will always demand high rating as an editor, a tag which I consider important but laborious: this book provides another evidence of a commendable “auteuristic” influence of the craft-conscious, modern editor. For Anuonye, therefore, editing becomes a skill of as much importance as writing itself; a medium through which the narrative sensibilities of the convener or curator are sufficiently mobilized and conveyed. The wholeness that this book enjoys is perhaps one of the dividends of its editor’s camaraderie with like-minded young writers across the globe, and the intense intellectual conversations that have engaged them. But I also know how resolute Anuonye could be when he insists on adherence to editorial set targets.
The manner in which Anuonye and his mates have harnessed the creative potential of the teacher’s charmed space is nothing but remarkable. As a teacher of many years myself, and as a grateful student of a long line of teachers, I have encountered this spectacle of what Niyi Osundare has described as “the sacred space” of the learning transaction in a multiplicity of modes. Even though none of these modes is easily describable in any legislated formula, they can easily express themselves in the interpretation of experiences that foreground the nobility of the person of the teacher, and of the teaching profession itself. This is the exact privilege the essayists anthologized here have exploited: they have leaned heavily on the mythic construct of the charmed, sacred space which the teacher creates with the pupil to conjure deserved canonical edifices of the former as the unsung hero of the world. And here, each divergent scenario represents one vista of the endless possibilities of the dramatic effulgence of this space. That a few of these contributors come from academic backgrounds outside the arts—one of the most enthralling is in Engineering—can lend credence to the full intensity of the creative force of the sacred space. In other words, narrative competence here is not restricted to what Isabel Hofmeyr has described as “laboriously mastering the component skills of the technology nor…the slow craft of composition.” The suggestion is rather that it is, according to Hofmeyr, “a kind of sacred energy which is retrieved whole,” or “the gift and ability to fetch the power of literacy from another realm where it seems platonically already in existence.”
It is what the essayists have done with the “power of literacy” that they have “fetched” from the “realm” of the sacred space of the teaching and learning stage that bestows the ground-breaking element on Anuonye’s effort, particularly by way of the affirmation of the universality of the teacher’s significance. The teachers celebrated have been taken from all tiers of the formal knowledge industry, from the delicate rung of the kindergarten to the lofty zenith of the Ivory Tower itself. Each protagonist’s heroism as uniquely realized is sufficiently persuasive, even though I would always have my reservations about the idea of singling two of them out as dedicatees of a fine volume whose greatest powers reside in its ability to agitate every soul that has encountered a teacher in the charmed domain of the classroom.
University of London,
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