A Reclaimed First Rank

by Sahadev Komaragiri

“BBigPrizeut I always got first rank sir”. Ratna was swallowing her tears as she uttered those words. There is a certain dignity and composure in her sadness. With her face down and tears flowing down her cheek she made no noise – no heavy breathing, no cough, and no hiccups. The words were clear and crisp. Such a poise is a rare quality for anyone, especially a third grader. Ratna was in my office along with her mother.

Ratna is a brilliant child and always stood first in her class. Because of some temporary illness she couldn’t take her computer test conducted as part of the unit tests. She took all the other tests and aced them all. Her computer teacher promised her that she can take the computer test later. Unfortunately the computer teacher was unable to conduct that special test for Ratna. In the meantime, she corrected all the papers and gave the answer sheets back to the students. Marks were tabulated to finalize the ranks. Ratna kept reminding the teacher and somehow things did not work out. All the marks and ranks were announced and for the first time Ratna did not secure the first rank in her class of 30+ children.. Believe it or not, for Ratna, a third grade student, it is an unimaginable crisis.

“It’s okay Ratna, this is the only time you did not get first rank. You will get first rank next time. Don’t worry”. Her mother tried to console her. For Ratna, it was unacceptable.

She turned to me: “But sir I was told that that a special computer test will be conducted for me again”.

I: “Ranks were already announced”
Ratna: “Sir, the teacher promised me”
I: “Progress cards are already given out”
Ratna: “But sir, corrections to my progress report can be made at any time”
I: “You should have told me earlier”
Ratna: “No sir, I reminded computer teacher several times”
I: “Ratna, it is too late now”
Ratna: “Sir, it is not too late if you give permission”

Very early into the conversation I decided that she should take the special test. But I wanted to see what kind of arguments she will place and how persistent she was going to be. We talked about it on and on and she kept on persisting that she should take the computer test. The very fact that she brought her mother to the school and sought to talk to me in itself is an evidence of her strong persistence.

I asked, “If I get the computer test conducted right now, will you take that test?”.

I thought she would seek some time, at least until the next day. It was already 3:30 pm, the teachers were leaving the school and all the other students are getting into the school bus. She suddenly felt very optimistic. She said she can get her exam pad right away. I was stumped. We have conducted special tests for students on several occasions. This is not really an exceptional case, however, it was a little late to accommodate.

I requested the computer teacher to come to my office and sought her help. The computer teacher was a very amenable person and readily accommodated my request. The test was conducted and the computer teacher collected the answer sheet and left for the day. The child and her mother left too.

Test results were announced the next day and as expected Ratna aced the test. Finally, the letter ‘A'(for absent) was whitened out on her progress report. With the new total she jumped to the first rank. We give badges to our students who secure first rank in their class. It is a kind of a badge of honour. This badge was already given out to the other student. Fortunately we had some extra badges to accommodate a tie for the first rank. We awarded that to her.

She was certainly very happy. The smile on her face after she was told that she got the first rank is something that I shall never forget. A little shyness that sprouts from an accomplishment, a smile that left a deep dimple on her right cheek and a demeanour that demonstrated the retrieval of lost pride are all very clearly visible. I gave her a big hug and told her that she will achieve anything in her life if she kept very persistent like the way she did for the computer test.

IfYouArePersistentIt is easy for those who preach incessantly to say that it is okay to fail once in a while. But for Ratna failure is not an option and she will not give up that easily. As for some attitude corrections that may be needed for such bright students, it can be done in certain subtle yet effective ways. I am sure she will go places and one day she will make her school, her teachers, her village and all her friends very proud of her. I patted myself for putting that smile on her face and bringing that pride back into her existence.

She is just a third grader, but she has her own world too. That, I think, we should all realize about every child that we deal with. When a child like that wants to grow and she is putting every effort towards that goal, we should do our part in removing all the stop signs on her path to glory.

This is my 100th post on my blog. I dedicate it to the likes of Ratna…

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