Friday, November 13, 2009

To Make a Child Secure

(In which I wish – whether in or out of context – to quote Pythagoras.)

Friday. It was both the most loved and hated day of the week by the two main characters in our academy – the teachers and students. The students hate it for being a test day. The teachers hate it for being a test day. But both love it for being the last day of the week.

I gave a four-part test to Sandy, my lovely solace who exists side by side me and my duty to educate in an academy where almost everything – good or bad – is possible. The first is made up of two columns of five fragments which are supposed to be matched to make up a sentence. The second consists of five sentences. The duty of the examinee is to underline the complete subject and encircle the complete predicate. The third, the culprit, is about pluralization of regular and irregular nouns. The last, the one most likely for ten-year-olds, is a word puzzle box of important vocabulary.

So my ever confident and jovial little angel is at her jolliest today. She was so excited to see me more than before. The reason for her unusual glow was made clear when she said, “Teacher, let’s play after the test with Charlotte!” I looked at the door across from ours. “But they’re not there.” “They will be!” she answered positively.

So she answered the test with more confidence than ever. Then she handed it to me and smiled.

“Are you sure it’s done?”


Of course I know that there are mistakes but I didn’t tell her. And we all know that that is the point of giving a test.

I finished checking the paper, pausing every time to explain her mistakes. She was receptive at first. Then she remembered her deal with her mother.

“Mother said I should have 90 more,” she said in their distinct rising and falling East Asian accent.

“You mean you should get a score not lower than 90 percent?” I asked in clarification.



“If not, she will kill me,” she responded with a shy and knowing smile. The kind that tells you it’s a given.

I counted her score which was mercifully upped because of some minor considerations. 39 over 50. By the mere look of it I bet my entire art set it wouldn’t even reach 85%.

“What’s the over 100?”

“You mean what’s your score? In percentage?”

“Yes. “

“Hmmm. We need a calculator.”

We went to my room and pulled up a calculator. 39 / 50 x 100 = …

When we saw it, I saved my art set. But not her. Not that saving her is a part of my noble duty. But when I saw her face as blank and as flat as a bond paper, I wished I have just lost my art set.

“One more,” she pleaded.

I recalculated it and got the same results. Her flat and blank face seemed to get worse. Who would want, having the same smartness as she has, to see a solid 78 percent as a test score anyway? I held her shoulder and had her face me.

“You Mom won’t get angry. Really.”

“No,” she said certainly. And pouted as if saying “No one understands. Even you.”

“Look. You did well.”


I looked at her paper again. How come that she wrote heroes as the plural of hero but wrote tomatos, mosquitos and potatos? And she was right when she pluralized life into lives, leaf into leaves but wrote knifes, scarfs and loafs!

“How to do? Mother will kill me!” she said desperately.

“Of course she won’t. I’ll talk to her. She’ll understand. Do you want that?”

She nodded. Just when I thought it’s over, she told me this: “Teacher, one more test!”

So the next several minutes were spent on an informal emergency meeting with co-teachers. And the final decision is to talk to the manager.

“Ok. Review the test to her and have her repeat the exam. Then give me both the original and the retake. I’ll tell her Mother what happened.”

So that was what’s done. She impressed me for knowing the grammar rules in verbatim. After the retake, she was elated. 46 over 50. She urged me to go to my room to calculate her score. When she saw that it was 92, she jumped. I then remembered that she called the computer crazy for giving her 78.

The rest is up to the manager. What I’m more concerned of is the kind of kids that would be raised in a society which is overly concerned with results of tests. Numbers, how powerful indeed you are!