16 March 2011

Two Rules


Back in the early eighties, one afternoon I had given an end-of-class quiz to one of my junior high school History classes.  In the middle of the quiz, while I was seated at chair behind the teacher’s table in front, I could see through the corner of one eye that two of my not-so-bright students kept looking my way and were extremely fidgety on their seats.

I immediately knew that the two eggheads were up to no good and that one was passing answers to the other clandestinely.  And probably vice-versa...

So alright! Maybe “not-so-bright” is being extremely kind. Put it this way… The class standing of the two would have been way up there if the game was perde gana…  This is a variant of the game called Chinese checkers for which the objective is get all your pieces eaten by the opponent, a sort of winning by losing, if that makes sense at all.

Standing on the elevated platform, a teacher can see everything!

Rule number one to remember when one is planning to cheat during a test is that the teacher – when in front, and especially someone as tall as I am, regardless of whether standing or sitting down – can see EVERYTHING! That, for those who do not know, is the reason behind the elevated platform underneath the front blackboard.

Of course, the two fidgety adolescents were nothing but clumsy amateurs. The really hardcore professionals in the art of cheating – and there are those, believe me, even in high school – would not even have looked my way, let alone fidget on their seats.

But didn’t I say earlier that, in the intellect department, the two lads were not just a little bit on the wrong side of the spectrum? On a spur-of-the-moment thing, I just decided to let the two eggheads get on with whatever they were doing and let them see for themselves if it would do them any good.  In a metaphorical sense, it was a certifiable case of the blind leading the blind.

Now, of course the purists would cringe and say I should have stood up to put an end to the cheating. However, if I know myself at all, I just probably gave in to the unmistakable humor of the situation!

Rule number two, make sure the classmate you are copying from has the correct answers.

This brings me to rule number two: make sure the person you are copying from knows the correct answers, hello!  In fact, when I got around to checking the papers of the two eggheads, it came as no surprise to me that their answers were not just remarkably similar, they were also remarkably far from correct.

Just to put at rest the minds of the purists, of course I spoke to the two about their cheating.  In hindsight, it was probably the right better thing to do.  Publicly accusing them of cheating while the quiz was going on would have caused them embarrassment, and at least I spared them that.

Once, I told this same anecdote to a couple of colleagues, and after the usual guffaws, one thoughtfully asked if there really are students who are “bobo” – i.e. mentally challenged.

Well, what could I say to that, having encountered the haves and the have-nots inside the classroom for almost two decades while I was teaching? I thought for a while and then chose a safe reply.  Within the context of the principle of multiple intelligence, perhaps no student is really “bobo.”  That is why, I explained, the very same athlete whose intelligent passing you admire while he is on the court has a report card filled with poor grades.

The very same ability he uses to recall and synthesize information when making moves on the court is just not present when he is asked to, say, differentiate between sine and cosine or solve geometrical problems while inside the classroom. So, or at least I told the colleague who had asked me the question, in this context, and I say this without being judgmental, perhaps there were.

I guess it ultimately depends on the person where his or her interests really lie so that his or her intelligence may eventually wield itself.  At the end of the day, intelligence alone is seldom enough to guarantee success in anything.  This thing called effort is also frequently required.

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