“Grades do not measure intelligence.”
How many times do we tell our children that? Perhaps, in most Indian families, never. For most of them, the pressure to not only outdo themselves semester after semester but also stay at the top of the class, often results in severe stress, and sometimes, even a meltdown.
I grew up in a family with an older sister who was always a ‘topper.’ She even moved on to become the first student in our school’s history to score above 90 at the Class 10 boards.
There was never any overt pressure from my parents or teachers to score a similar, or perhaps higher score at the boards, but in Class 10, due to the inherent competition that existed around me, I thought my pride was at stake.
‘Topper ki behen aur 90 na aaye?’ (How can I be a topper’s sister and not score 90 per cent?)
So I worked hard, but never pulled all-nighters. Doubting Thomases in my life nodded their heads in dismay when I slept at 10 pm every night and revised only for an hour before writing my boards.
Did I score a 90+? Yes.
But what after that? It was one day of fame, and then it was gone. Nobody ever spoke about it, again.
As life moved on, it taught me a lesson, one that I have mentioned right at the top. Your grades do not measure your intelligence, and they certainly do not define who you are and who you are going to be.
Every year, when the results come out, we often see headlines splashed all over newspapers and TV channels with names of students who have passed with “perfect” marks, i.e., a cent per cent score in their Class 10 and 12 boards.
But this is also a time when we see disappointed students and parents shying away from discussing scores that may be considered ‘lower’ when compared to conventional ‘good score’ standards. (which at least in India is always above 80).
Yes, it is unfortunate. This is perhaps the reason why, a viral post by a Delhi mom is winning hearts all over the internet and resonating with people across India.
Yesterday, Delhi-based Vandana Sufia Katoch took to Facebook to share her joy over her son’s CBSE Class 10 results. This is what she wrote:
“Super proud of my boy who scored a 60% in Class 10 board exams. Yes, it is not a 90, but that doesn’t change how I feel. Simply because I have seen him struggle with certain subjects almost to the point of giving up, and then deciding to give his all in the last month-and-a-half to finally make it through! Here’s to you. And others like you – fishes asked to climb trees. Chart your own course in the big, wide ocean, my love. And keep your innate goodness, curiosity and wisdom alive. And of course, your wicked sense of humour!”
So far, the post has 8,900 likes, 12,000 comments and more than 5,300 shares.
In an exclusive interview with The Better India, Vandana sheds light on the reason behind this post.
“My son (name withheld on request) struggled for years; he was pushing himself very hard since Class 8. I am well aware of the amount of stress he went through. In January, he had almost reached a breaking point, but he turned things around and gave the exam more than 100 per cent. So, when the results came out, my first reaction was relief, because he had finally made it through. And now as he steps into Class 11, he can freely choose the subjects that he wants to study, an option he did not have until Class 10.”
He was notified of his results the same day in school. When Vandana went to pick him up at the bus stop, she remembers him walking towards her and looking a little upset. His class was full of students who had scored 80 and 90 per cent, and he truly believes that he deserved more than a 60 per cent for the amount of hard work he put in and the way his exams ended.
“I was bubbling with pride at his result. I gave him a big hug saying—‘You make mama super proud. Your struggles were way different from the rest of your classmates. We know where you were in January and look where your hard work and rigour got you. This isn’t just another pep talk. I mean it when I say I am proud that you scored a 60.’ It perked him up.”
When the duo returned home, she asked him if she could take to social media to share her delight. “I wanted to share my feelings of pride and happiness with my friends. And I also wanted to remove the shame out of the 60s. My son is a wise child so he understood what I was trying to do and he too, felt there was no shame in scoring a 60 per cent.”
Vandana’s post struck a chord with several other parents, she was soon flooded with praise. One of them wrote, “Enlightenment…. This is where many of us are struggling to reach to. I am glad that you have..so proud of you… Your son is lucky to have you. Congratulations to you and your son.”
Here are a few other lovely comments:
“WOW………I hope this inspires a lot more parents to express to and acknowledge their children a little more and not burden them with expectations. Thank you.”
“Absolutely.. loved what you wrote .. my son is just in grade 6, but I keep telling him to do your best and don’t bother about marks.. congrats to your son and to you for being the parent you are,” beamed another mother.
Vandana has a final message for parents.
“Our children are beautiful just the way they are. It is us, parents, who need to reexamine our approach towards our children. We need to stop living our unfulfilled dreams through our kids. The belief that ‘my children are a reflection of me, so if they do badly, I will get a bad name’ also needs to change. These are additional expectations that we push onto ourselves. It is only when we as parents become centred, calm, peaceful, happy and complete within ourselves, that we can help our children blossom to the best of their abilities. The responsibility of making us happy shouldn’t be pushed on to our children. They only have a few years until they become adults. So, let them live their childhood. And live it to the fullest, while they are at it.”
If this story inspired you, get in touch with Vandana on her Instagram at @beingsufia.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)