I am proud to host Joy Lo-Bamijoko blog tour today. She is an incredible woman with an inspiring story. Download or purchase her latest book Mirror of Our Lives available on Amazon:
My US Experience:
All through my last year at Unilag, I was burnt out. I could not function anymore. I was experiencing an intellectual block. By the time I arrived in the US in 1996, I was completely drained and empty. I spent a whole year under my daughter’s care recovering. After one year of staying at home doing nothing, I started to itch to go out and work. The only job I knew how to do is teaching music, so I started applying for a teaching position at universities all over the country; five hundred of them in all. They all replied to me with high praise for my experience and all, but no job. I was afraid to try public schools. The first public school I was to teach at after graduating from Michigan, left me with the dread of public schools. It was in Philadelphia, and before I could assume teaching, a teacher in the same school was shot dead by a student.
Rather than teach in a public school, I decided to take a crash course in Home Aid. I worked in homes cleaning, cooking and caring for the home bound sick for two years. One day after a very difficult job in the home of a very big bed bound lady, I cried in the rain on my way home, asking God whether this was what He brought me to America to do, with a Ph.D. in my profession. God answers prayers, all the time, in His own way and at His own time. My tear filled prayer got to Him real quick. My agency called me later that day to tell me that I should not go back to that home.
At the office the next day, I was sent to another home, supposedly with lighter duties. The lady in this new home had a grandson who was detailed to move his grandmother with me any time she needed to be moved. We worked well for only one week before the lady and her grandson planned a scheme that would have cost my agency a lot of money if they had succeeded.
I arrived for work one morning and the grandson, who by the way was wearing a monitoring gadget on his ankle, told me that he had to see his case worker that morning. I told him to wait for me to get someone over to help me before he could leave. He said no and left. I called my agency, told them what happened and asked for someone to be sent immediately to assist me. The agency called the case worker of this boy and found out that he had no appointment that morning. While they were looking for him to get him back to the house, his grandmother started to fret, telling me that she must be moved to ease herself. I told her that she must wait for someone to come and help me to move her. She knew very well that I was not supposed to move her alone, but she cried and fussed. I tried other options that would allow her to do it on the bed without soiling the bed, but she refused. In the end I had to move her myself alone.
Moving her to the commode was easy because the commode was very near to the bed. I moved her so fast from the bed to the commode that she did not know how it happened. When she was done, I asked her to sit and wait until I can get help to move her back to the bed, and she started wailing, and cursing and throwing tantrums. In the end I had to move her again back to the bed. This time, she dropped her whole weight on me, expecting me to drop her. I mustered all my energy, held on and dropped her on her bed, at the same time, I heard a click on my back. I had broken my back doing that.
I called my agency to report what happened. The case worker came in, my agency sent a car to remove me out and take me to the agency doctor. It took me three months of therapy and eventually, an operation on my spinal cord before I could recover enough to use my left leg. After that incident, my fear of teaching in the public school system dissolved. God has His way. As soon as I was well enough again to work, I applied and got a teaching job with the Paterson School Board as a vocal music teacher.
I immediately registered for the Alternate Teachers Certification courses at the William Patterson University, for my teachers’ certification. Gratefully, this course ran concurrently with my teaching, so I was teaching, earning and studying at the same time. After the course, I was among the teachers awarded the Dodge Fellowship.
In Paterson, I taught two schools, traveling from one school to the other, and also traveling within the schools. I had no classroom, or my own place to plan or prepare my lessons. I worked from a cart. I had wonderful students who looked forward every morning to their music class. I chose songs from different popular categories; from the movies, songs by popular artistes, songs written specially for school choruses, even songs brought in by the students themselves.
My class time was only forty minutes for each class. At the beginning of every year, I gave my students a pep talk about what my class was about. I hand them their syllabus, and let them know how I will run and grade my class for the year. I tell anyone who is in my class by mistake, that he or she was free to leave, and some did leave. Not all of them liked to take music tests. Some believed that music was an easy way to get a grade, and when they heard that they would take written and practical tests, they left.
I divided my forty minutes by doing breathing and vocal exercises for the first ten minutes, then basic fundamentals, just one music concept at a time, for another ten minutes, and then, we sing the song for the day by first doing a contour of the song on the score of the song. I always taught my songs my first using the Finale software to write out the basic melody of the song so that they can see how it contoured.
I met with some of my classes three times a week, and some twice a week, so we can work on one song for a whole week, review the song quickly the next week and going to a new song. Before the end of the school year, each class would chose one song that they liked best, and prepare that song for an end of year school assembly. I had fun teaching and they had fun learning.
During my second year in Paterson, I won another fellowship, the Master Teacher Award awarded by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJ PAC), for music teachers in the New Jersey schools. To win this award, we had to submit a lesson plan for teaching our area of music.
After two years at Paterson schools, I was hired by the Irvington Public Schools to teach high school vocal music. I had my own class at the high school, and this made my work a lot easier. My aim at the high school was to get my student to be able to read from the score. It was not easy with only forty five minutes of class time, so I started a choir, an after school choir. To motivate my choir to read music, I entered them for choral competitions, especially the one organized by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). There is a reading section at the competition. At first, my principal helped me maintain the costs of the choir, but when the cuts came in, my choir was the first to go.
Three years before I finally retired, I had a crushing experience which made me decide to cut my teaching years shot. My choir always sang at the graduation of my school. That year, I had a new supervisor, who decided that my performance style was not to his liking. I always conducted my choir with pre-recorded accompaniment. He wanted me to play and conduct at the same time, and when I said no that what I did worked for me, he decided to accompany my choir himself. Without rehearsing with my choir, not even once, he stationed himself on the piano on performance day and threw my choir completely off. This was during a graduation ceremony! I don’t know whether he did this purposely or not, it was devastating! I managed to salvage what was left of our presentation by going back to my pre-recorded accompaniment for our last song. At a post-mortem with my choir after the graduation the next day, my students came up with all kinds of reasons why this man derailed our concert. I could only see it as an attempt on his part to set me up for failure. I took full responsibility for that concert because I allowed him to impose his method on me, but as a supervisor, he should have known better not to interfere with a method that had done so well for me that far.
Anyway, the next school year, he took a number of measures that assured me that he was setting me up. First, to stop me from giving concerts in the school, which I continued to do, he took the vocal music course from me, my major mind you, took my classroom, put me in a locker room, and gave me piano, my minor, to teach. Of course having been trained as a teacher, I could teach any course in music, especially a course like piano, that is my minor. So I tackled that course in a way that no one had taught it before. He told me that himself.
At my last concert at Irvington High, before he took the vocal music course from me, I saw him with my principal watching the show, and he was busy telling the principal all that was wrong with show instead of letting her watch the show and decide for herself. At the meeting of the district music teachers the next week, he talked about my concert to my colleagues as the most anti-musical thing he had ever seen. That was the last straw for me. I went home that day, prayed and asked God in my usual way to show me how to deal with the situation. God did. I got up at the middle of the night, and crafted a letter to my principal to report him for harassing me and trifling with my job in front on my colleagues. I put a copy of the letter into his mail box. I only copied him, I did not want the letter to get to the board, but I would have if he had reacted differently. When he read his copy, he ran to my classroom to deny ever trying to set me up. I used the opportunity of that letter also to clear me of what happened at the graduation ceremony, and he understood where I was going with that. After that incident, I started planning my retirement, and retired two years later. His behavior did not stop me from winning the teacher of the month award in Irvington High School sometime in 2007.
I enjoyed teaching because I loved what I did. I tried to make it enjoyable for my students because that was the only way I could get them to stay focused.
For more information on the above, please check out the following:
Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko: The Saga of a Nigerian Female Ethnomusicologist [Kindle Edition]
Godwin Sadoh (Author)
Mirror of Our Lives – http://sbprabooks.com/JoyNwosuLoBamijoko/
Legend of the Walking – on Amazon.Com:
Buy the B&N e-Pub version at:-
Buy Mirror of Our Lives…Amazon Link:
Barnes & Noble Link
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/UhSyMaUz0Uk
Link to my Blog: jinlobify.Com
FaceBook Link: https://www.facebook.com/joy.lobamijoko
Twitter Handle: @Jinlobify