In a recent blog, "Has there ever been a Mrs. B in your life?" my dear friend Judy Yaron, described the agony she suffered as a child from her English teacher, where her teacher actually thought she was doing Judy good by questioning everything she knew, but in reality she was trampling her confidence. This post reminded me of similar incidents from my own life, when I felt tortured by my kannada teachers (the regional language of where I live) during my primary and secondary schooling.
Their strict demeanour and unapproachable attitude actually made me turn away from the language. I was petrified of them, and fear and I don’t do well together. Where students generally respond to fear and learn what is at hand, my mind blocked out the subject itself and what I needed was a survival skill to escape punishment and the teachers' attention. My solution lay in memorising the questions and answers, and I managed to read and write enough to pass the exams, without really learnt the language.
This trick came very handy in tackling the classes in my high school years. As to why teachers of this particular language tended to be so strict is beyond me! There was but this one teacher (of kannada) who was strict but somehow I was able to impress him everytime.
In his very first class he tested our language skills by making us write the words he dictated on the blackboard. The good ones succeeded, the not so good ones got in his black-book in return. When my turn came he gave me one of the words he usually found students err- his name, Prabhakar. As kannada has different symbols for each phonetic, he found students usually got confused in them. I simply spelled out the word in mind and put it on the board. And lo! I had got it right.
One of the reasons that worked in my favour with him was that he was lenient enough to explain complex parts in English and allowed us to discuss them in English as well. Nonetheless, whenever he chose to bombard us with questions, I would be shivering inside hoping he would not ask me (which he never failed to do). However, using the survival skill I keenly developed during primary school, I would stand up with all confidence and answer to the point. Like a computer my mind fetched from memory and answered any question he asked.
Thus, by succeeding in creating an illusion of understanding the language, I passed my courses with flying colors, when in reality I could hardly speak a complete sentence on my own without mistakes.