Monday, April 23, 2012

The lessons I did not learn..

Monday afternoon at school, the bell rang and our Maths period came to an end. After a gruelling forty minutes of racking our brains with Binomial theorem, it was now time for some relief. In other words, time for our language class.

Our language teacher, Ms. Prateema, would usually take a good ten minutes to leisurely walk up from the staffroom located at the end of the 50 meter corridor. An epitome of lethargy, she seemed to hate the period bell as much as us, if not more. She looked quite hustled up and irritated almost always, as if someone had awakened her from a peaceful trance.   

That day she entered the classroom with a bundle of answer sheets and a victorious look on her face. Within minutes, she had called out 48 names (a feat in itself) and distributed the corrected papers. Mine was the 49th and the penultimate name she uttered. I moved swiftly towards her desk, waiting impatiently to catch a glimpse of the magical number on the answer sheet.

Shock and disbelief were the least of all emotions that followed.

A reprehensible 19 out of 50 was what I had managed after writing all of six pages. The comment along the marks said that I had failed to follow instructions by the teacher...

All students had been asked to learn a composition, word by word, from the text book and reproduce the same in the paper. Own words or creative writing in the language paper were a big no-no.
Seconds later, I could hear my name again. The failed students were to stand up and get their due of embarrassment. I was one.

The next 30 minutes of speech by Ms. Prateema outlined her disgust for us, the creative writers, in the class. Also, she described how pain-stakingly difficult it had been for her to correct our papers (we, the failures), as we had attempted to write in our own language. She christened us as being extremely lazy and spiteful for not adhering to her instructions and threatened we would never be able to clear the council exams. Later, she emphasised the importance of learning from great authors by imbibing their writing (and not writing style, mind you!) completely. She thought it crucial to learn by heart every word (mug up) of what a famous essayist had written and replicate it in our answer sheets to make our language (appear) spot free. According to her, it was futile for us to try and improve our already atrocious language by writing using our own imaginations.

I stood there teary eyed, my head bent low, feeling like a total failure.

That day, I cried ceaselessly when I reached home. Later I had a chat with my mother (who was a teacher herself), which changed my perception and taught me few important lessons. I bet these were crucial, as I wouldn’t be writing this post today (instead would be copy/pasting from famous blogs!)

Lessons I learnt:
-          Being original is not a sin, but a blessing
-          Better to stay mediocre but original, than be best but a copy-cat
-          It is important to learn from others, but plagiarism is never a good option.. who knows you might end up in a copy-right feud ;)

Lessons I did not learn:
-          Short cuts can replace hard work (It never can!)
-          If you want to be a good writer, find one and copy his work i.e. ctrl+c, ctrl+v (ha ha!)
-          All being taught in school will help you become better (it might not.. sad but true)

Reminded of Mark Twains words 'I have never let me schooling interfere with my education', applicable quite literally here!

P.S. As fate would have, I ended up with a distinction for language in my council exams. Needless to say I was ecstatic, after all, my originality had been rewarded..


  1. Gosh, how can a teacher say such a thing. Thank God, we have blog where we can write whatever comes to our mind. But writing something original is an achievement in itself....

    1. Thanks for your comment, Saru.

      Sadly there are more such Ms. Prateema's in the education system who fail to impart education that would last a lifetime

    2. I know, though I was a popular student in my school and most of the teachers were very nice with me. But, still I don't like my School for the lack of teaching morals they had that time.

    3. Good to know, Saru.. I am sure you would've been a great student :) thanks for sharing your thoughts and visiting again!

  2. Good learning! I wonder if Ms Prateema will get a chance to read this !!

    1. Thank you, Sasha! :)

      I really hope she does read this..

  3. Wonderful story,and I can vouch for it as I have had the fortunate/unfortunate experience of being taught by such an individual. Unfortunate for all the obvious reasons-it only cripples students when they cannot express their creativity. Fortunate because it teaches one the valuable lesson of originality and being true to oneself.
    Sasha,I love the way you have given a higher perspective to the whole issue. By restricting it not just to a classroom but relating it to one's life.
    Kudos for a really 'original' piece :)

    1. Thanks Parizat, appreciate your comment! :)

      I agree with your views a lot, it definitely teaches one a valuable lesson. I was fortunate to have my mother help distinguish right from wrong. But am sure there are so many children who are battling such trauma..

    2. That was a mistake again,Saher :)! Apologies!

  4. It was great reading this post. Maybe Ms. Prateema should get to read this post now, she wouldn't dare to give you 19 out of 50 again. I am glad you stayed original and you turned out just well. :)

    1. :) Thanks for reading and appreciating my writing, Akshay!

      I doubt she would ever get to read this, can only hope that teachers such as her realize their duty towards children and stay true.. thanks

  5. Hey it may not be a surprize 4 u but plz check -

    cheers !!

    1. Happy Happy Happy!! is all I'm feeling now

      What a lucky 13th comment :)

      Thanks a ton, Vineet!!

  6. while i was reading it, i kept hoping this would turn out to be fiction! i hoped at the end of the post there would be "P.S: this is for so & so contest" but alas there was none and this is a true account and since i am a language trainer this hurts bad
    the only redemption is that you finally did it your way and did it well too

    1. Oops a language trainer saw it.. so my worst fear came true ;)

      Sadly it happened, yes. But I did have some very great teachers too. It's just that you tend to remember the sour experiences..

      Thanks for dropping by, Sujatha! :)