For Nigerian math teacher Michael Thompson, who boasts a physical disability that requires him to use crutches, educating the students he encounters every year is his most important goal. So when he arrived to teach at one particular school where the students wanted to mock his disability, he changed up his perspective and teaching methods—and not only helped them learn math but helped them to be better people as well.
He shared his story on social media, where he’s gone viral for his valuable message about making sure that the students are the most important part of his day.
Thompson suffers from acute flaccid paralysis, a condition that has caused him to lose mobility in his legs and rely on crutches to get around. He shared on Twitter how he arrived at one school where he taught with a very visible impairment, which caused some of the students to mock him.
“The first time I entered the class, they said and I heard it clearly, ‘How can this guy with crutches be our Mathematics Teacher.’ It hurt me,” he wrote.
He went on to explain that the students all mocked him when he went to write his name on the board, because with his crutches he couldn’t even reach the top. “They nicknamed me ‘CRUTCHES,’ Crutches not even ‘Mr. Crutches,’” he said.
But as he went on to write, he decided not to try directly changing the students—but instead changed his perspective so the students didn’t notice how he was making them fall in love with him.
“[B]ut you know what I did? I changed my #perspective, I played along with the mockings. I told them each time ‘see my hand cannot reach the top of the board, I will start from where my hand can reach’ … and I respond with a blooming smile each time they call me ‘CRUTCHES,’” he wrote.
In time, he wrote, the students stopped looking down on him. And not only did they grow to love the subject he teaches, but they grew to love having him at the head of their classroom, as well.
“With time … they not only love me, they fell deeply in love with Mathematics,” he concluded. “Focus on things you can control and not on things you cannot control or change. Channel your energy wisely.”
The responses to the thread were full of other teachers praising him for his strength and passion for helping children—but perhaps most importantly, the responses even contained one from one of his own former students.
“Mr Michael taught me maths while I was preparing for Waec in 2016 and all I can say is this man is a man full of passion and love. At first I pitied him but I later got used to it cause this man doesn’t even see his self in a pitiful situation,” wrote Akinlade Oluwaseyi. “I pray God continues to bless you.” According to her Twitter bio, Oluwasevi went on to study microbiology since having Thompson as her teacher.
It wasn’t easy for Thompson to get to a point where he could even get a formal education, much less help provide one to other students in Nigeria. He told Yahoo News UK that his mother paid for his education “grinding pepper and borrowing money from one place and the other”—and now, he’s in a position where he can make sure that other students struggling to get their education have access to a fantastic teacher to do so.
“‘I walk with the aid of crutches but that will not stop my dreams of impacting lives and imparting knowledge into people throughout the world,” he said.
Video courtesy of: Michael Thompson