Shola Alabi is a qualified teacher by profession, and she has been in the education sphere for about sixteen years. She is a Parent Partner, Author, Speaker, Educator and Consultant. In our interview with her, she takes us on her fascinating journey, from being a ‘science nerd’ to being featured on ITV, one of Britain’s biggest TV stations!
Growing up as a Science Nerd…
My dad was an accountant and he expected every one of us to be mathematical. I was fortunate enough to be very good with my numbers – I did really well with the sciences and I had A’s in my science subjects. So of course, it was natural for me to go into medicine. But I did try a few times to get into medical school; I tried JAMB twice but I couldn’t get in. That’s how I ended up doing Biochemistry as first degree at FUTA (Federal University of Technology in Akure) with the plan of going to further my education in London to become a doctor. But when I got to London, I worked in a lab just to get some money together. After working in the lab for a while, I started speaking to people, and then I realized that I was not sure I was going to be able to cope within the medical sciences. My dad was not pleased with my decision to leave the medical sciences, but I convinced him and said that he didn’t have to fund my studies. He agreed, and so I left my job at the lab.
From Biochemist to Teacher…
For three years, I worked in the civil service, and whilst within the civil service, I got some funding, and that’s how I started teachers training in 2000. I was married at the time, and my husband was very supportive. He was working and I was funded as well. What happens is that the first 3 months whilst you’re at teacher training, they observe and watch you. So, if you’re doing really well, they can actually fund you. So, I got about £600 every month for the duration. So, that was a blessing.
Before I finished in March, there were some of the signs I had that I was going into the right path, because we had to do two different teacher training placements in 2 different schools. In the two schools that I was actually placed at (Forest Gate School in Stratford and Eastlea Community School), and I took the job offer one in Eastlea Community School.
From the Classroom to ITV!
I did not realise that during my first term of teaching in Eastlea, there was going to be an OFSTED (Officers of the Standards in Education) inspection that October in 2002. When the inspectors came in, to my surprise, my lesson was one of the lessons they were actually going to observe. I was teaching the food chain because I was the science teacher to a year 8 class (13 year olds). At the end of the whole inspection, I was the 2nd person who had an excellent lesson – the other one was in the English department, and she’d been teaching for 13 years! Even the head of the science department was like “I just cannot believe it Shola even I have been here for the past 33 years and I’ve only been given a very good”. So, it was the talk of the whole school, and I really had to pinch myself to stay humble because everywhere I turned in school, it was like “That’s the lady!” When ITV came, my headteacher said, “It would only be fair if it was you who was being interviewed.” It was all over the news!
A big move and a new Career…
I taught for about six years. Then when I and my husband had my son, we moved out of London into Essex, so I moved schools. I was there for about 4 years, and it was hard. I am very determined, but my son did not settle into nursery school. I had to think of other things that I could do, so I stumbled into tuition. I did private tuition, and then I set up an education centre – Its supplementary school, so it supplements what happens at school, and we also teach kids who want to write exams and kids who want to do common entrance exams. Now I have two centres, one is in South London (Exam Success Education Centre) the other is in Essex (Thurrock Tuition Centre). I have been doing this for now for the past ten years.
It all starts with the parents…
I have noticed over the years that children who do exceptionally well and end up in the Ivy League universities have their parents working along with them. When my daughter started reception at age 5, on her first parent teacher meeting, her teacher said to us that she was writing her letters and her numbers the other way around (a 9 would be a p and a 5 would be an S). But the teacher said to me, “It’s nothing to worry about, Mrs. Alabi”. And I said to him, ‘Thank you very much.”
That was the wakeup call for me.
When we got home that evening, I did some research and for the next six weeks, I and my daughter sat down together, almost every evening after school. You would not believe the transformation! She was even recognized in assembly, and this was just being consistent for six weeks. Now she is going into Kings College to read Political Economics this September.
A parent is the first role model that a child should be able to emulate. This is because that is the first point of call. It is not the teacher. It is not the counsellor. It is the parent. So, I believe that the parent should be the one to invest in their child and that is where I come in. When I talk to parents, I talk about the personality of the child. If you don’t know the personality of your child, then it would be a case if you steering the child in the wrong direction. I do have one of my parents who I advised about two years ago. Her son was seven, and she said everythime she went into his room, there was paper everywhere. Then I said, “Why don’t you register him in Junior Toastmasters?” And within the last eight months at a burial ceremony for his grandmother, the boy stood up in front of everybody and read a tribute. Nothing fazed him, and he spoke and he wowed everybody. Now she says she tells him to document all his writing, and he even has a journal where he writes.
The Parent Partner…
I launched my book (Parents Understand Your Child – The Key To Your Child’s Success) last year. I am using strategies from the book to speak to parents and educate them about the whole child, rather than just the different aspects of the child. I also have an online platform called The Raising Successful Children Hub, where parents can subscribe monthly for 10 pounds or yearly for 100 pounds. I don’t call myself a coach. I’d say partner with parents. I can help parents get the best out of their children.
You can reach Shola Alabi on: