What makes a good school? Observe the stories we share with our friends. Is there any story on how much we enjoyed learning trigonometry or Light? In fact, it is just the opposite… it’s how we drew out our best doodle, or planned a prank, or bunked the class. Let us admit, as parents we make a mistake of fitting our child to a school, not match the school to our child. I will validate this by sharing my story.
My First School
Class 1st to 5th. I was in a school that was recognized ‘for its discipline towards academics’, to churning toppers in boards, exams, to making ‘children crack the medical and engineering tests’.
To all these big promises, one would feel that all children will be able to recite tables till 20 in class 2. Write essays on my family in class 3. Most did. In my case, I remember feeling invisible, invalidated, and ignored. Do you know why, because I could not learn tables well. I did not like to sit in front of the class. I could not rote learn three essays and select one to write in exams. So the labels for me became more of how the teachers and children knew me. Why don’t you want to learn? No games period for you. Write table of 6, five times. Your brother is so smart, be like him. These were my daily doses of motivation from teachers to do well in studies.
In my hopeless run for ‘top’ grades, the red star, and teacher’s special attention school taught me the right words to say to teachers, and think of the best excuses for not scoring ‘good marks’. I realized that it’s wrong to admit mistake or error, and right to bask under the warmth of being a victim. So most of my stories had me ill, had a fight at home, had my pet dead. How can I forget the magic potion… tears. I realized if I had tears in my eyes, the most bogus story would get me out of sticky situations. But you know what, my mom was smart. She saw what others did not. She could see through my ‘drama’. She could feel my pain. She could see that I was more than what I was becoming: Invisible
My Second School
My mother got me admitted to a ‘new’ school. ‘A better school’, ‘A bigger school’, ‘My kinda school’
A place that gave me safe open spaces to run, play, recite, orate, participate in activities beyond academics. Here I came to be my own. In my first inter-house, I was selected for dramatics, debate, athletics, and swimming. All that I loved to do. I performed in each event like a child playing in the rain and gave my best. For the first time, it was easy to make friends, laugh at my mistakes, help others in practice, and be trusted to perform well. It felt nice to be away from those labels. And just like magic, I performed well. I was even cheered for. That mattered more to me than the best artist in dramatics, second prize in recitation, the best athlete in athletics, and participation in swimming. That inter-house killed the victim in me forever and woke up the giant in me.
I went on to maintain my position as the best athlete until I passed the school. I won debates and became the head girl of the school. All because my mom took the step to match a school to her daughter and not fix her daughter to a school. She wanted a daughter with a happy heart, and a bag full of memories of ‘good time’, ‘naughty times’. She trusted me to do more, be more. She decided that she will give me that stage to perform, not write my play, and say my lines.
Education is not getting ‘top grades’ it is managing life even if you didn’t. Decades have gone by since I left school but the learning of self-belief, confidence, friendship, community, inclusion has stayed with me. These lessons have helped me sail through the toughest low time and keep my head in my easiest times. Till now I don’t know the table of 19 but you know what, I am surviving and surviving pretty well.
Radhika Khosla Walia is a bandwidth of talent. She works as an HR, is a Learning & Development Expert, a storyteller, scriptwriter & editor.