It was the much-looked-forward-to holiday in the middle of the week. My aunt, a school teacher, dropped in to spend the day with us. And after a while, she did what most teachers do on their days off. She pulled out a thick wad of answer papers and the dreaded red pen. I hurriedly wore a busy look to stave off requests to help with corrections. It was a precious holiday and I didn’t want to be reminded of school!
But on seeing her shake her head and occasionally clutch her greying hair, my curiosity was aroused. A sneak peek revealed that it was a Class II English grammar paper.
Grammar! The bugbear of every student! A subject which drives grownups to their knees! And these were mere 7 year olds, delicately treading a minefield of Opposites, Plurals and Genders. Curious about how they braved their way, I started leafing through some of the corrected papers. And came away with some thrilling insights…
The first error I spotted was in Opposites.
THICK x FAT
Surprisingly, the next 7 papers also had the same error. And then I noticed other similarities as well. I was mildly shocked to discover that they’d been copying. Wasn’t Std. II a little early to start? Or was I the naïve one here?
Some answers, although erroneous, revealed considerable ingenuity.
CLEVER x DISCLEVER
BEGIN x UNBEGIN
ASLEEP x INASLEEP
And one blunder which was nonetheless apt was…
CLEVER x BULL
I couldn’t resist chortling at some of the bloopers in Gender.
SIR x MADMAN
FATHER x GRANDFATHER
Plurals also had several howlers, the most notable being…
SHEEP x SHEEPISH
Guesswork showed up in some answers, with side-splitting effect.
So, a GARDENER was the head of the school.
And a COBBLER operated on an aeroplane.
In Make Sentences With…, one smart kid thought he’d hit upon a sure shot formula. The words were Study, Apple, Leader, Tall. His answers were…
This is a study
This is a apple
This is a leader
This is a tall.
This is a zero, said the menacing red marker, which was looking for ‘meaningful’ sentences.
Some answers were poignant, and revealed the child’s unique insight.
One who sells flowers is MOTHER.
One who teaches in a school is MISS SHILPA.
One who leads a team is INDIAN
One paper stood out in terms of originality. No copying, for this child. Irrespective of the question, the answers were a breezy free association.
FIRST x FOUR
LONG x LION
ASLEEP x APPLE
BEGIN x BANG
Similarly with Gender:
DOG x DICTATION
SIR x SINGER
If there were rewards for originality, I was looking at a class topper!
But the answers that had me doubled up and almost on the floor were:
DOG x GIRL-DOG
Young ones of:
DUCK x DUCK GIRL
The hilarity was tempered a bit when I saw the answers to ‘When do we celebrate Independence Day?’
Incredibly enough, DECEMBER 25, NOVEMBER 14 AND AUGUST 14 were the most popular answers, with August 15 falling somewhere on the lower rungs.
My initial resistance notwithstanding, I couldn’t help thinking about my own school days. Despite being a fairly decent student, I can’t say I ever enjoyed school. I found it terribly dull and unstimulating (something I realised when only when I joined College.) My classmates still reminisce fondly about school being ‘the best time of our lives’. But not me. The only pleasant memories I have are of time spent in the library or of playing throwball in the all-too-short Games classes. The rest of the time it was a feverish race to stay on top of all the homework and rote-learning.
The only time my mind was even awakened to the possibility of a world beyond, was in a Geography class in Std. IX. (Perhaps, the travel bug germinated from there. Thank you Miss Jacinta!)
The last question in the Std. II papers was ‘Write 8 lines about your school’. One line stood out in one of the papers, ‘MY SCHOOL IS A HARD’.
Ha! Out of the mouth of babes…