“He is always absent-minded.” — that was my class teacher’s comment written on my report card in Nursery 3.
She noticed how lost I looked in class; my mind wandering off with a short attention span, unable to concentrate long enough to grasp the lessons being taught in class.
I was tagged unfit to be promoted to Primary 1 as I was ranked 43rd out of 45 kids in my class. So, it was recommended that I repeat Nursery 3, which I did.
While the analyses of my poor academic performance was being shared between the school management and my parents, nobody ever asked me why I wasn’t concentrating in class.
They all just assumed that I might have some learning deficiencies and needed extra learning support. So they agreed to employ a teacher for extra classes after school, in a bid to encourage me to learn.
Little did they know that learning wasn’t my problem. My curiosity to learn new knowledge shouldn’t even be questioned. I was just OVERTHINKING when in class which often distracts me from the lessons taught.
For example, whenever I am being taught Mathematics in class, rather than focus on the black board to understand how the teacher got the answer to an arithmetic problem, I would be busy wondering why the plus sign (+) is written that way and who invented it.
I would be wondering what kind of global meeting would have occurred for the whole world to have agreed that the equal sign (=) will be a universally accepted sign.
These were the type of thoughts that occupied my mind even as a child when I should be listening in class. Lol
And by the time I returned to “Earth”, I would realise that the board is already filled with calculations but I had been “absent” while the steps were being written.
So if the teacher decides to test my knowledge on what she had just taught, I would be looking lost like I was never there. This really frustrated my class teacher, and sadly, I couldn’t help myself. My thoughts had so much control over me.
Apparently, my brain activity was high and it made my mind drift away constantly, ruminating on complex issues beyond my age. But since it left me absent-minded in class, I paid for it with poor grades.
I finally managed to pass Nursery 3 at the second attempt, thanks to the extra classes which took my position from 43rd in a class of 45 to 30th in a class of 40. The improvement in performance made everyone smile, hoping things would get better.
Through out Primary 1 to 2, I maintained the same position and was fine with it. At least, I didn’t have to repeat again. It wasn’t until I got to Primary 3, did I finally soak in the deep understanding of repeating a class.
I saw my original peers who were in Primary 4 (while I was in Primary 3) being crowned as school prefects and it got me jealous. Then one of them punished me for an offence I committed.
I felt so embarrassed when he told me not to argue with him because we weren’t mates. “But, Tomide we were class mates in Nursery 3”, I said to him softly “And so what?!”, he retorted in anger. After serving the punishment, I left broken. But the event activated something inside me.
My school often allows students write Common Entrance in Primary 5 and 6, and I knew many of my peers wouId attempt the exam in Primary 5, so I told my parents I wanted to write the exam in Primary 4.
“Our son who is struggling with 30th position in class wants to sit for a tough nationwide exam in Primary 4?”, they wondered. Thankfully, they didn’t discourage me but my father struck a deal with me: “If you perform better in Primary 4, we will support you to register for the Common Entrance.” I agreed.
First Term Primary 4, I came 5th in a class of 45 pupils. My teachers were amazed. My parents were excited. My school allowed me attempt the Common Entrance exam and I passed.
At the end of the day, I left primary school together with my original peers who wrote theirs in Primary 5.
The following session I was enrolled into a secondary school to begin JSS1 and my academics improved drastically afterwards.
This event made me look like a Genius. The same boy who repeated Nursery 3 and was always absent-minded in class.
The truth is the education system is often brutal to kids like me. They easily tag us as deficient and incapable. We are not dullards. We are just misunderstood. We may not learn in a similar way like others, but it doesnt make us less fit. We should be asked what the issue is, before attempting to design a solution for us.
In my own case, I just needed an external trigger to activate an internal desire that will force me to improve, and Tomide was the trigger I needed which also allowed me manage my brain activity better.
I was lucky..
..but many other kids are not and will continue to be assessed as dullards. But are they really dullards or they are simply misunderstood.