So yesterday was “Results Day.” They have a meeting with the parents, which is mostly administration talking to the parents for a long time about issues the parents don’t care about all that much, but they are trying to be good parents, so mostly they try to pay some attention. I think. It’s mostly in the National Language.
We had ours at my school and then I rushed up to the high school to get C’s “results.” (We know it as a report card in the US. No idea what other people call it.)
I went first to get C. I said help me find your class teacher. She was pissed. “I told you not to come.” It was mostly angry child, not punishing parent. Maybe some Teen. She said they are finished now. Send an sms. I said I told you uncle I would get your cousin’s marks also. (Her cousin is in Class 10.) Her cousin appeared then, and I went with her cousin to locate the teachers. They were in a meeting.
I saw the matron outside and asked what I wanted. I said I wanted to see the marks. She said it wouldn’t be possible. They had all been handed over to the exam committee. I could come back on Monday.
She hates me.
Anyway, I went to the hall where the meeting was being held. I assumed somehow it was a teacher’s meeting. I looked inside, and hardly anyone was there. It was one of those idiot foreigner moments. I hung around in the kitchen, waiting. Well, it was a parent meeting, and I finally went inside and sat down. The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. Then I approached the teachers, and evidently all the marks were sitting on a table still, so I looked through for C’s. Her cousin’s happened not to be there, but hers were. She passed, anyway. She failed in two of the three science classes they are taking in Class 9. (Who the hell thinks taking three science classes which all meet for 2 hours a week is actually a good idea?) But you get to fail in one area and still pass the grade. Bizarre, but I don’t question. So she failed in sciences, passed in what they call “arts” (geography and history) and passed in English and the National Language. Maths is lumped with sciences, and she passed in that. Overall, she passed. I thought it quite possible she wouldn’t, given the degree of freaking out she was doing during exam period.
Then I went back towards the hostel, looking for the matron to get permission to talk to C. As mentioned, it seemed to me she hates me. (The marks were sitting right there.) I am playing by the book a bit more. I talked to her about C’s exam mark in maths (33% out of 100, which sounds terrible, but 35 is passing). I told her C has never in her life gotten a 33 on a maths exam before. Last year, at midterm, she got 20.5. At the end of the year, she got 19. I thanked her and choked up. (The matron might hate me, but I don’t hate her and if C performed better on an exam by more than 10 percentage points, then something is going right for C.) The matron softened up, “It’s okay, ma’am. It’s our duty to teach all of the students.” Well, then I choked up more. You can imagine the reasons perhaps.
I went to the hostel then. C was there, unhappy to see me. I can’t really remember the sequence of events. I think I told her I was proud of her and held her. That must have been shortly after I came in. I am proud of her. I wasn’t lying. I felt that way, even though her marks were nothing much. She improved in the National Language. That was significant. Everything else was about the same as last year, except that the exam is weighted more heavily in Class 9 than in Class 8, so if you are the type to panic about exams and if it happens to come at a point of the year where there is enormous trigger looming on the horizon, it’s difficult. It’s difficult to get even the same mark as when those things aren’t true.
Then I said I wanted to talk to her about her marks. She had to carry stones. I said go and get the stones and I will wait here. It had become one of those conversations. She was angry, “You are always doing like this.” (Like what? I didn’t ask. Being annoying, I kind of figured). I agreed. Yes, I am always like this. Go move the stones. “You’re hungry.” Indeed, I was. I suppose it was 2 pm by them. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. In the morning, I had been in too much of a state. C had not asked me to skip breakfast though. That wasn’t her problem. Go ask permission from the counselors (the kid in charge of the other kids) to not move stones. She didn’t like that option either. We had sort of a discussion. One of the other girls asked why she didn’t want to tell me her marks. I said I knew her marks. I wanted to discuss them with her. I didn’t really know why she didn’t want to. She wanted to move stones.
Finally, C just bolted and went and moved stones.
I waited. I don’t know how long I waited for. It didn’t seem that long. Maybe 30 minutes. She came back with her face washed. When I saw her through the window, she had that haggard look she gets that I think is absolute despair. She must have assumed I would have left by then. I hadn’t. I was still sitting there.
While she had been moving stones, other girls had come to talk to me. They were still sitting there when C came, and one of them told her to sit with them on the other bed. I pulled C to me and said to sit with me. She resisted, and I let go, but this has happened before, and the last time, I realized she liked that. She liked being pulled to me. This time, she began to feel angry, and I let go of her. She sat on the other bed for a bit, and there was a bit of light discussion of some kind. It might have been about someone’s siblings. I don’t remember.
After a while, I said something about wanting to talk to C about her marks, and I told them to go away. One of them said to let it go. She would improve next time. It clicked in then. Oh, they think it’s a scolding. C thinks it’s a scolding. I told her I was proud of her, but she thinks it’s a scolding. There isn’t any kind of discussion that could be had. I said it wouldn’t be like that. It would be my kind of discussion.
So they went, except for one of them, who sat there quietly and listened. I don’t know why. It must have seemed important to her to listen.
I asked C how she felt about her marks. I had converted them to percents, by then, so that I understood them and could compare to Class 8 marks. I can’t understand marks out of 40 that well. Maybe after years of marks out of 40, you get the hang of it. (Frequently marks at midterm are out of 40. End-of-year marks are out of 100, but it depends on the subject. I think it’s idiocy. How will parents who are barely literate make any sense of anything?) Anyway, I pointed to her National Language mark, and asked how she felt. She said nothing, and looked very guarded. I said it’s better than last year. It’s an improvement. And I compared the percentage I had calculated with her end-of-year mark last year. That seemed to be okay.
Then I asked about her English mark. Nothing, she said, and looked very angry. I said that mark you don’t feel happy with. She denied it. She didn’t feel anything. I didn’t know how to explain to her the anger was all over her face. She felt disappointed with it, and probably angry at herself.
We went on to the sciences and maths, and I explained that maths was really an improvement. I reminded her of her exam marks last year and told her it was a big improvement. I am sure it helps that she is allowed a calculator now, but I don’t think that’s all it is. I think there is some conceptual understanding in her head now. Maybe there isn’t really—I don’t see her work. But I think so.
I asked her about Chemistry and Biology—the two sciences where she failed. I asked if she had any idea what happened with them. She didn’t. I said I remembered a problem before those two exams. I remember being worried. Actually, the Chemistry exam was they night Games Ma’am visited her, and that was a distinctly bad idea. I didn’t remember that until later though. I just remembered their being something wrong.
Then I said it can be hard to look at our mistakes. By now she was close to frantic. It had been a terribly hard conversation for her. I told her that mistakes are things that we do. They are not who we are. I pointed to her low marks. I said Chemistry is a mistake. You are not a mistake. I said that two times. You are not a mistake.
That was kind of the wrap-up. She said something about going, and it was time for me to leave. I hugged her and she hugged me back with one hand, the way she has started doing. I think it might be a good sign, that she feels safe enough to do that. She said be careful of the dog, and I said I would. She began to fiddle with things on her bed. It was a really hard day.