We waited in the classroom. My daughter was nervous and she kept pulling my dupatta, and squeezed my hand. I patted her hand and tried to calm her. Soon it was our turn. The teacher handed me the papers, and said, “Please check the papers, total the marks and see.”
She looked a bit stern, but I didn’t bother about that. As I turned, she added, “Ma’m, the English, and Science teachers have asked you to meet them.”
“Sure Ma’m”, I replied with a proud smile, while my daughter shivered like a dry leaf.
We took the bunch of papers and went and sat on a bench to “check” the papers.
Few weeks earlier
“There is so much of homework Amma…”
“You have to finish it, no matter what, and then study 2 chapters as well. Don’t forget that your exams start in a week.”
She looked dejected and then scared, and started to do the homework. After about 2 hours when I checked on her she was still doing her homework. I was surprised.
“You haven’t finished yet? Why are you so slow? Look, you have to learn to write fast… When are you going to study?” I shouted.
“Amma, don’t shout”, she yelled back throwing her pencil down.
I was shocked at her reaction and it actually somehow, made me forget my anger.
“What is your homework?”, I asked her calmly.
“Write all question answers from all lessons ten times.”
“What???”. It sounded more like an imposition than homework. I couldn’t believe that any 8-year-old could actually finish this “homework”.
“Sorry dear, really sorry”, I hugged her. I closed her book.
Her face brightened, but then grew glum, “appo homework?”
“Forget it! We will write it slowly… No child will be able to finish this bigggg homework in one evening.” I consoled her. “For now, you go play and enjoy” I smiled at her.
I felt that my decision was right when I saw her gaily skipping around with her friends.
“What’s there to check?”, I asked her.
“Check Amma, atleast act like checking…What will the teacher think of you?”
I took the papers, looked through the marks, finished checking within minutes. I looked around, I saw many moms were checking each and every line written, cross-checking it with the text and notes. Some had come with the question papers too, to check. And in one corner a few parents were discussing as to why marks had been reduced for a particular question.
We again met the teacher.
“Any corrections, doubts?”, she asked
“Nothing”, I replied.
“Ok, please meet the English and Science teachers.
I nodded. As we left, I heard the next parent pointing out to the teacher how her daughter had written everything in the text, yet half mark had been reduced.
The teacher looked up at me, and then at my daughter.
“I had great expectations about your daughter. What happened to her recently ? She is not doing her homework, not coming prepared for her tests….”
“Yes….I know… But she has scored good marks in the exam, hasn’t she?”
“Average marks… only average marks…”, the teacher stressed, “but tell me, she used to be a good student, used to do all her homework promptly.”
“Yes, very obedient and studious”, joined another teacher.
“She is just 8 years old. At her age, were we writing 20 to 30 pages of homework? At least, I wasn’t. I was playing, climbing trees, plucking mangoes, making paper boats. My daughter is doing exactly the same – enjoying her childhood. She is no longer studying – she is learning.”