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What is your definition of ‘Smartness’?

Updated: May 17, 2019


Before you even try to put the meaning into words, here’s what the dictionary has to say: “demonstrating intelligence, wise, clever or ingenious; Characterized by quickness and ease in learning; Quick and brisk” etc. How smart do you think we are or were as kids? How much would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

My notion about my own smartness was broken lately. A few of our teachers were on leave and we had to arrange volunteers to keep Paathshala classes running, and I decided I would go teach the kids on one of the days. I was asked to teach at Central School and before I left, I asked another teacher there to brief me with the lesson to be taught. I was asked to teach a chapter in the Hindi textbook, which involved reading and completing exercises given at the back.

But what I saw reaching the school amused me. The class allotted to me was busy learning/revising a lesson taught earlier. When asked, I came to know that an oral test was due the same day. Being a visiting teacher, I suggested the class to postpone test and continue with my pre planned lesson for them.

As a student, I would welcome such a thought any day! Tests, Exams, Quiz etc. were something I detested deeply. This would, of course, mean I was a mediocre academically. But let me introduce this lot of crazy Philomath Paathshala Students. No! I am not talking about a few of them, but EVERY STUDENT IN THE CLASS! With one voice they rejected my idea of postponing the test and insisted that I must take the oral test.

Honestly, I was taken aback! This was the first time ever I was encountering children like these. I had no option than to continue with the test. I told myself - this would get over soon.

The students had to learn two pages of English words – their meanings in Hindi along with spellings. I picked up one word from the given pages and asked its meaning from the first kid. The reply was quick and correct. I was impressed; and I moved to the other kid. I quickly finished asking all the students minimum of two words randomly picked from the two pages, and I was glad the test was over. Or so I thought!

As soon as I told them that the test was over, there was a loud cry of dissatisfaction. And in that moment of disappointment, each kid tried explaining me that I was supposed to ask each one of them all the words given in the two pages.

I was SHOCKED! Are you all out of your mind? – I thought to myself. The more I tried skipping test for them, the more they desired to give the test. And it was unlike something I ever witnessed before. Mind you, this wasn’t the response of one student, but the whole class together!

Who would have dared to go against such determined kids? I decided I would do as asked. I also realized it wasn’t just about the test, I was supposed to acknowledge their hard work. And I started all over with the test; asking each one of them the meaning and spellings of all the words.

I asked all the words in the given sequence from the first kid and got all the answers prompt and correct. Next, I slightly mixed the order of the words and the second kid gave all the answers correctly again; the promptness continued. It was admirable; and I took the liberty of further shuffling the words. Half way through and there was not even one kid who did not know the answers or who would get confused with the shuffling. Again, it was commendable to see how quickly they would reply back. I kept jumbling the words, changing their order and making it tougher. But I couldn’t make them lose attention.

At the end of the test, I was left with such high regard for these kids! Overwhelmed with joy, I thanked God for such brilliance! I must admit, I was not even close to such smartness at that age. Can you imagine their potential? The heights they can reach to? Do you know what we call them? BUDS and BLOSSOMS –small, but ready to grow and turn into something BEAUTIFUL! Unlike me, many of you may be equally smart at such age, but mind you, these are not ordinary kids going to regular schools. They are ‘Extra-ordinary’ Paathshala Students and we take pride in them!!

At this point, I also want to appreciate our laborious teachers! They may not have degrees in the field of education, but they have a loving heart and strong determination to change lives. They slog all year round so that stories like these may reach you. Kudos to them!

- Ashraye David


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