As I write to you today, I experience a flurry of emotions. A feeling of pride, for sure, for the young teenager that you are and also immense gratitude for the person you have come to become.
You are in the final realm of your school life, and invariably you will now be told how these four years are the most important years of your school life. You know, this is so true. Because after these four years are done with, you will not get back to school. And, trust me, you are going to miss all the craziness that happens there!
But that’s what your mother is telling you! When they tell you that these years are important, they don’t mean exactly this. They mean that now is the time when you will have to face some of the unfairness of our education system and fall in line with it.
Much that I promised you that we are going to enjoy this life of learning, I am afraid I cannot shield you from it. You may say that I am a part of this system. I’m sorry I don’t know how to stand up to it. So, probably you will face it, no matter how much I want it the other way round.
But then, there are a few things that I can tell you, which may help you to see all of this in a different light altogether.
Once when I was teaching class seven in a particular school, there were two special boys in my class. One of them often surprised me with his expanse of knowledge, his insight and his vision. Most of the time, he would turn my teacher and I so enjoyed learning from him. The other one was extremely hard working and never gave me a reason to complain. His note books were up to the mark and work was so well done. He was alert in class and very responsive.
As a teacher, whenever I had to mark my students for a project or an assignment or even an examination, there was more than one thing that I would consider. Clearly, my hard- working fellow always managed to steal the show with his well-earned marks. While I longed myself to write like my “teacher-student”, I couldn’t give him marks for his sheer brilliance or knowledge.
It saddened my heart to do so. I learnt, as a teacher, that examinations mark you not just for your ability but also for your memory, your presentation and your practice. And I learnt that if you do not top, it doesn’t mean that you are not capable. At the same time, if you do top, it doesn’t mean that there is no one more capable than you.
And this is what I wish to tell you today. Whatever marks you may go on to score tomorrow, do not be deceived by them. Do not be swayed by the laurels you receive or the flak you face. None of it is for real and none of it will stay!
You also know now, why I chose to walk away from teaching. You see the predicament of a teacher!
A lifetime cannot be spent going up the mountain. Once you reach the summit, the downfall must begin. And the sooner you are at the top, the sooner shall you fall down. So, take a step at a time. Do not be in a hurry to reach there. If you dream passionately, it will come your way. But don’t be fooled by little accomplishments. Do not even put them aside like they never happened. Treat them equitably.
Again, when I was teaching in another school, a certain parent approached me with a complaint. She told me that her daughter was utterly dismayed by her result in my subject and felt that there was no good studying for it. I was teaching a language. When I spoke to the girl, she complained that most students felt sad because they didn’t score well in the subject as I didn’t give them enough marks. My answer was simple.
Even as a teacher, I was never confident that I could paraphrase a poem perfectly or write an essay with absolute finish. Because nobody can. It is an ever-evolving subject and perfection, as such, I believe, is a myth. So, how could I grant perfect marks? It is so sad that education has moved from learning to earning scores!
When I see children score a perfect hundred in languages now, I feel we have failed to teach them the languages “perfectly”. Yes, the irony is that perfection in a language lies in its imperfection.
I fear if you ever become overwhelmed by your marks, you might just begin to feel like Faustus– and you know what happened to him!
Finally, do take the plunge, my dear. You will have to. You have no choice. But keep in mind, these things do not define who you are, or what you will be. There is much more to that. Wouldn’t otherwise, happiness reside only in palatial homes, mark sheets, bank accounts or in the biggest offices of the most powerful men and women of the world!
Go on! And measure your life with all that matters to you!!!