When I was younger, I was playing in school and saw a kitten crouched by one of the trees within the school compound. A teacher told me to take it out to the field. The kitten was too weak to walk and I asked her what would happen to the kitten. She said the kitten may die but it was not allowed in the school compound anyway.
I could not bear the thought of it and walked to the vet that was near the school to send the kitten and went back to class. I missed some time of class, of course, and my subject teacher said sarcastically in front of everyone, “Wow, maybe when you take the national exam, you can bring that kitten with you and see if you pass.”
I stayed silent, but was wondering how she could say that. Like, was it really wrong of me to care about a kitten? I got yelled at pretty often in general by a few teachers since I would misbehave compared to other students but in retrospect, it’s unbelievable how some would stop the class and shout and scream at you for like 15 minutes in front of other students for something minor.
The thing is I always had extra classes when I got home and would be doing hours of practice and over the weekend. Before the national exam came around, I would be studying the whole day and part of the night. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or go out with friends until exams were over with. The point is I wasn’t burning the school down yet would still be putting in the work, so really, there was no need to scream the roof down so many times.
Ironically, the same teachers who used to scream their lungs out and tell me I would never pass were the same ones who made sure to congratulate me in front of my parents and tell them I was a good kid. It fell flat and sounded empty to my ears after all the scoldings that were given. For one of the crazier teachers (who scolded me extra crazily more frequently) who did that, I told my parents in front of her, “This is the same teacher who kept saying I would fail.” Normally, I would not be vindictive but I hated how this teacher tried to play things to her advantage.
Not all the teachers were like that of course (the school was pretty awesome too) and there were many teachers I really grew to like, but I wonder sometimes what some kids go through. Your child could come home and you could have no idea what happened to him/her at school. When a kid is always being told they are useless or not going to amount to much whether by a teacher or a fellow student, it is hard. What more if they are young and unsure how to defend themselves. I was blessed that I had a drill sergeant at home who made sure I worked hard and got the As though it felt somewhat like shooting in the dark. I was not sure of how I could even hit the target or even if I could. I would block the white noise out and just tried because I was scared that the negative comments were right, that I would fail because I was useless.
During another instance, I needed some help with chemistry and I approached a teacher who was really good for a few sessions. Because it was so close to the exam, she told me she did not think there was much she could do for me and would feel bad for taking money as a result. I managed to persuade her to give me just two sessions, where I would do past year papers before the sessions. I only wanted her guidance in marking and teaching me some things. So we had the two sessions and I got the A* I wanted in the end. I’m thankful for the help I got when I went after something I really wanted. Intrinsic motivation is powerful and I loved the subject chemistry.
Are A’s the end all and be all of things? Why scare someone into scoring when you can try getting them to be intrinsically motivated? Just because someone gets good results, does that mean their characters are totally pristine? Or if you behave exactly how someone wants you to behave, that makes you a better person than the one next to you? It’s unfortunate if children place their self-worth on just results or how they are supposed to show themselves to be when there is so much more to an individual. You can’t expect someone to have good moral values and think they have it only if they do well in their moral studies class.
I hope if AK was in my situation, she would also save the kitten and also go after the things she really wants. I would always stand by her for the decisions that help her grow as an individual. Of course parents want their kids to do well but I don’t want AK to feel like my love for her is based on the grades she gets or the people she manages to please. At the expense of being able to be herself and having good values. No. Just No.
It’s also kind of funny that some students I know who were perceived to be black sheep, who were told they would not do well, are the same ones who are highly successful today. They took the negative nagging and turned it into something positive akin to a challenge and went ahead and did it. They are often go-getters, self-fulfilled individuals who would share their knowledge and experiences with others who need it. It’s true: if you are going to base your views and your actions on what people say, you are doing yourself a disfavor. Till this day, I am so thankful for some of the black sheep who looked out for me and pushed me to greater heights when I had doubts.
Moral of the story: Just because some may think you cannot do something does not make it true. You may take more time and more effort in getting there but if you are consistent, keep your head down and feet planted on the ground, there is no doubt you will reach that eventually. The stories you tell yourself while you lie down on your bed in the dark matter so take care of yourself. Lean on those who also believe in you and would help you, they are there and all you have to do is reach out. And by all means, stretch yourself 🙂