I was flamed many times for my spelling mistakes.( My sense of grammar is beyond redemption hence no one bothers to criticize it) I am very much concerned about the process of learning more than anything else and hence wondered why I can’t spell even some of the most common English words.
Till today I need to take help of dictionary-spellcheck to write words like Bureaucracy, Wednesday, Author (I write Auther usually). And I swear when I typed these words just now, I got them all wrong.
Am I linguistically impaired? Should I declare myself ‘language atheist’ and demand minority status in this secular country? When I can manage subjects like probability, artificial intelligence with ease why should I fail in spelling Wednesday ?
I have discovered the reason and I feel it is something that all parents should remember. It so happened that when I entered from a Marathi medium school to a semi-english medium school. And honestly I did not share my parent’s enthusiasm for my education (and the whole process of establishing that they are blessed with a really smart kid).
I dont really blame them for that. They were just trying to be “normal” parents though their kid in my opinion was a pretty abnormal one.
To make a smooth transition from primary to secondary school, the principle of the high-school, a very honorable man, conducted extra classes. In those classes he introduced us to basic blocks of English language. He taught us numbers, names of days and months, to recite tables in English etc. My mom insisted that I must top in the end test that too with full 100% marks. That I must learn all that stuff by heart.
I find it incredibly funny that parents often brag that their kid is not the “by heart” types. Instead he just reads once and that is enough for him. They call this true intelligence. While knowing nothing about the kid next door they don’t forget to bitch that “he is a by heart types”. They spread rumors that the parents actually lock up that guy/girl to make him study. I have always found me and my parents on both the sides of those rumors.
It is both ways. While my parents claimed so about all the kids who were apparently smarter than me and their parents claimed similar things about me. In the battle of beliefs we kids were the casualties.
But as the test day appeared close and close, I began to hate my life. In all the revisions that my mom administered I failed to get most of the spellings correct. It was bloody summer, my favorite seasons and instead of playing cricket in the field I was trying to learn by heart the spellings of week days and months.
She was furious and often used words such as “if you fail to do this you will never have a future”, “all students will race ahead in life while you will be stuck to the bottom”. I never really appreciated why exactly I have to race ahead instead of enjoying the wonderful summer vacation. What exactly is meant by sticking to the bottom?
Today I understand that she meant; I will be left behind in the rat race. She was scared that I might turn out to be a loser rat. Today I understand why she felt so. I empathize with her to the fullest.
But I guess the real phrases that did the damage were something like “you will put us to shame”. As a kid we have a lot of exaggerated sense of shame and pride. Hurting family’s pride was the last thing I wanted to do; that was the only reason I endured the tortures I went through.
The lesson here is not just for me but for all the parents; that a 10-12 year old kid doesn’t have to carry the burden of family’s pride on his tiny shoulders. Parent’s try to justify their miserable failures in life by demanding that their kids full fill their expectations. It is like they want to live their dreams through their kid’s life.
And when the results of that final tests were out they caused an avalanche in my small house. Out of 7 days of week I had got 4 spellings wrong. I had failed to figure out that some consecutive months in year have 31 days ( I still can’t recollect which months quickly). I had spelled “Four” as “Fore” and Telephone as “Telefone”.
That day went a little tough on my little mind. My mom had taken my failure to heart. I was not even allowed to have my lunch peacefully and I almost felt that every one in the house including the servants gave me looks that echoed “such a loser”.
Soon my outlook towards English language turned extremely bitter. I was very proficient in Marathi for my age. I could read books that looked heavy even to the adults. But as far as English and spellings are concerned I developed a trauma.
Soon I refused to learn them. I refused to learn them because I wanted to prove that not knowing correct spelling of “Four” is not going to hurt my future in any way. I am not sure if such an attitude is good for a student but I have always been a stubborn chap. If I am wrong, I am wrong by choice.
Had my mother realized that knowledge of a language is not about ratting spellings of words for the sake of topping a test but it is meant for effective communication. This effective communication comes from clarity of thought and ability to put it in clear words. Vocabulary, grammar (I typed this as grammer right now) and spellings are meant to complement this activity. There is a pure joy involved in writing something that pops up into your mind and then see people read it. If they like it there is nothing better than that.
I don’t remember how much I scored in any of the English test in SSC. All I remember is that it was a miserable score. I got bad stares from my relatives and well-wishers because of that. My parents were upset, I was upset for few days.
But I remember a day. When I was in 6th standard, my school magazine Nandadeep was published. One of my teachers Datta Sir met me next to the staff room and said “Hey I read your article, and you write really so well.”, I was stunned because I did not remember submitting any article to the school magazine. I told him that I did not write anything for school magazine. He said “I have seen it. It is really good. Why are you denying that that you wrote it ? Not acknowledging your talents is like a beautiful girl always keeping her face behind a veil. ”
Honestly I don’t remember how come that article ended up in school magazine when I had not really submitted it to anyone. Someone must have taken it from my personal notebook and given it to the concerned teacher. I wonder who that person was. 😦
I think the most important skills that as a kid one should learn is to accept failures. Doing something the wrong way. To rise above that cut throat competition and look at the world around us with inquisitiveness and curiosity. Add something to it with your creativity. Creativity my friend comes only from mistakes and a mind that does not fear going against the tide.
People who fear to fail become software engineers and clerks. Creative people become some one like Tendulkar, King Khan, Einstein etc. But then cynics will say there is just one Tendulkar and only one Einstein. I would say the world is a big place, it has more than enough space for mini-Tendulkars and mini-Einsteins in their own way.
Bottom line. My spellings have a story behind it. Don’t blame me for that 😉