I feel peeved every time a proud parent announces on Facebook, “My son/daughter scored 98 percent, thanks for your blessings.” Hell! If I had blessings, wouldn’t I shower them on my own children? Unlike my proud Facebook friends, my own children are not “bright”. Since early childhood, they have been struggling with their exams. Now, in Class VI, their exams appear like an insurmountable peak. I am as overwhelmed as they are by their Himalayan textbooks and homework. It’s not completely their fault. The twins were preterm babies, born in the seventh month. I have tried to drill that important piece of information into their teachers’ heads, but in vain. Every time we are summoned for PTMs (parent-teacher meetings), my wife goes weak in the knees.
“Your child is not keeping abreast of the class,” the teachers solemnly tell us. They are incredulous when I reply, “It’s fine, I’m not preparing them for any rat race.” After one such PTM, we had to sign an undertaking that said, “We will do our best to improve the child’s performance.” All this has been very taxing for us. But I feel bad for the children. The school and teachers, unwittingly, are responsible for children’s low self-esteem. At home, the kids are bubbling with life and have a great time with their friends. They feel like equals. In school, they are quiet and withdrawn. I am no psychoanalyst, but it appears that the school atmosphere depresses the children. Their confidence ebbs the moment they reach school.
There are times when I despair and vent my anger at them. I have even thought of myself as an unlucky parent. Why? Just because my darlings are not good at studies, does it mean they will not grow up to be responsible citizens and lead happy lives? Judging them by their marks, I am doing exactly what the teachers in school have been guilty of: killing their confidence. Lately, I have asked the teachers to concentrate on their strengths. It has boosted their confidence. The best part, the children have suddenly started looking forward to school.
A new teacher has also worked wonders for them. Unlike other teachers who constantly put the children down, Gayathri Parthasarathi pats them on the back for little tasks completed. She has befriended the kids and they admire her.
That brings me back to the basic issue. We should encourage children, pat them on the back once in a while. It works wonders. Looking back at my own childhood, I too recall being diffident. Maths made me lose confidence. But, when I consistently got good marks at essay writing, I always thought it was by fluke. Even my classmates thought so. One day, giving away corrected essay copies, the teacher announced, “Ashim Choudhury, six marks!” And she added in a caustic tone, “Where did you copy that essay from?” I was speechless. “No ma’am,” I stammered, “I… I didn’t copy!” She still gave me a dirty look. I was upset for a long time until a voice inside me said, ‘Buddy, you write well. That’s why the teacher thinks you have copied the essay!’ It was the first left-handed compliment I had received for my writing skills. I began to believe in myself.
Left to the teachers alone, perhaps, I would never have become a journalist or a writer (though still struggling to make a name). So, if you have children who are ‘below average’, please do not let their school or teachers put them down. Look for their strengths instead. Children need to enjoy their lives. A Facebook message doing the rounds comes to mind: I was dying to finish school and enter college… then dying to finish college and start working… then dying to marry and have children… then dying for them to grow up… then dying to retire… And now when I’m dying… I suddenly realise I never lived! At least, let the children live!