It was an ordinary morning of Spring 2006 at a school of downtown Lahore. The bell rang marking end of 3rd lecture. There were 2 more half an hour long lectures before Ali from sixth standard could enjoy his lunch that his mother had packed with him in heavy satchel.
Ali had joined the school 1 month back, with beginning of his sixth class. Before this, he used to study at another school with lesser student count. He used to wait for his obvious 3rd Position prize at his previous school. In his Primary class, there were only 2 students good at studies. And Ali, being most brilliant among the non serious kids of the class, used to stand 3rd in exams. It was very easy for him to get 3rd position this way. Things were going smooth, but now, his school was switched to the one with more hardworking students.
Third lecture started and Ms. Asma entered the classroom. All the students stood up.
Assalam o Alaykum Teacher
A melodious sound echoed throughout the floor.
Wa Alaikum Assalam, sit down!
said Ms. Asma. Some noise of wood benches moving to-and-fro and all the students were sitting now.
Ms. Asma was not the most senior of all the teachers, but was well educated and a bit strict teacher of the school. In her routine, Ms. Asma used to teach Science to various classes. Today, in class 6th, she entered with a semi-closed diary in her hand with her finger used as a page marker.
Kids, we are having monthly tests from next week.
A chill of silence swept across the small classroom as she announced and moved to the blackboard.
Here is the date-sheet of your monthly test. Write it down on your diaries now.
She was saying while writing on the board which was just cleaned by Urdu teacher Ms. Nosheen at the end of second lecture.
It was a usual drill for most toppers of the class like Fatima, Madiha and Ahmad. But the school Ali came from didn’t use to have anything like ‘Monthly Tests’ in it. And he was feeling afraid of this unseen calamity! Exams always scared him a lot! It was natural for him. He was copying the date sheet down to his school diary.
The third bell rang. Ms. Asma entered the sixth standard classroom in a few minutes. It was a gloomy day for Ali. Everything looked dark to him. The light from tube-light, sunlight from the window and even the light coming through classroom door, that opened right in front of him, wasn’t enough to brighten up his vision and restore it to normal. It wasn’t he had ran into blindness or so.. It was the monthly test of Science today!
Students! Close the books!
This statement of Ms. Asma’s was alike a heart attack for Ali, just like most of the mediocre students.
Monitors! Make sure everyone’s books are closed and placed in their bags!
Another statement banged like a hammer to Ali’s already timid heart! He finally closed the book he was trying to cram since last couple of days. For him, it was an arduous task to cram the lesson word by word like his fellows used to do easily.
All students stand up. Before I write questions over the board, arrange yourself as one boy and one girl on opposite ends of each bench. You arrange yourself roll number wise! Make it quick!
Students arranged, and teacher started writing questions on the board. A little chattering and nodding behind her back, while she wrote questions. Ms. Asma had wrote:
Time: 30 minutes
Q1: What is Xylem? (5)
Q2: Write structure of Floem cells. (5)
Q3: Write a note on plants root-system. (10)
Ali was thinking if anything worse could be possible or not? After-all, he didn’t remember answers to any single question, except the hint of diagrams he recalled a bit from his book. He had spent whole day trying to cram that page. But, he knew he can’t. And he couldn’t either..
Fifteen minutes passed. He hadn’t written a word except his name onto the test sheet. While taking a round of the class, Ms. Asma looked at Ali, who was only looking at the paper and his sheet was blank. She had quite high expectations from Ali, who had joined school with a good academic history, and raw talent for understanding things in good manner. Seeing an empty sheet in front of the kid, Ms. Asma got a bit shocked. She asked Ali:
Didn’t you prepare for the test?– Asma
I did. But it was too hard for me to remember what’s written in there..– Ali
Class! Today’s test is cancelled! You all need better preparation!
We will conduct the test again, tomorrow!– Asma
Being an intelligent and young science teacher, Ms. Asma had realized that the new kid needs help. She knew if she left Ali at his own, he will get used to of messed up grades and will soon become a hard-to-polish kind of student in this tough competitive class. She had seen a few cases before him. Students who used to be shining ones at previous schools, when admitted to this prestigious institute, got ran over by already shining students here.
Ali! Meet me in staff room in your break.
Asma said to Ali, determining not to give up on the new kid this time!
Ali went to staff room and asked for the science teacher. Nodded by another teacher, Ali went to Ms. Asma, who was writing something on her teachers’ diary. Asma saw the kid, stopped writing, closed the diary and spoke to him:
How much time did you spent preparing for the test, Ali?– Asma
Studied whole day Ma’am.– Ali
Ok. But why do you think you couldn’t remember the lesson?– Asma
I don’t know. But I think I can’t do that. It’s too difficult.– Ali
Then she said something, Ali had never heard from a teacher before this:
Ali! You don’t need to write what’s written in the book! Write whatever you understood by reading the book!
Ali had never thought if science can be written by himself too? No Bookish words? Can he creatively write anything? Really?
See you in the test tomorrow. Good Luck!– Asma
With a lot of questions in mind, Ali was feeling his situation getting a bit simpler. He used to read a few monthly magazines that his mother regularly improvised for him and her elder sister. He knew many kids from the country used to write small stories to publish in magazines along with many drawings. He also had tried to write a few Urdu stories. Listening to Ms. Asma’s advice, Ali had got a hope that he could recreate science like a story either!
The day had a unique flavor today! The light was so positive, and the green tree outside the window, was extra-lush today! Ali had never felt this much positive on a result day, ever before! It was the day, when monthly test results were to be announced. Ms. Asma had helped Ali in creative writing skills for almost all the subjects. And today, he was confident that yes, he had learnt something new throughout the test drill. No matter what the results pop out to be, he was satisfied.
The principal was announcing position holders of the monthly tests. It was 6th class now.
Third Position: Madiha RazaPrincipal, sir Yousaf
Second Position: Fatima Mushtaq
First Position: ” A big round of applause for this kid. It’s his first exam in our school, and he topped sixth standard, well done Muhammad Ali“
It was fall 2008, three months passed since Ali switched to another school. This school was the best in town. And multi-sections of multi-branched school had huge number of talented students who looked far more intelligent to Ali. But, he had got used to of believing his creativity in each subject.
An year passed. He had topped this multi-branched school in the board examinations. It wasn’t his gut, he believed. He was far less capable of the rest of guys, he also knew that. But it was a stitch in time by Ms. Asma, that saved nine.
And the story continued… 🙂