Do you feel useless because of low grades?


IF I were to name the one book that changed my life, it would most definitely be “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”. It is the one book that helped me survive through school, and helped build my esteem, one slow painful brick at a time from the pieces that had been shattered.

The changes that overcame me as I read this book were slow, but, importantly, they were there. This book, along with the amazing woman who gave birth to me, and reared me, along with three other brilliant women helped shape me for who I am today. I’m nobody famous, don’t get me wrong. I’m no author or speaker. I’m just a very plain, very average, very normal girl with a passion for writing. But these women gave me one thing I will value to my grave.


I see other teenagers, other girls and boys, going through school, victims of the cultural entrapments that limit their minds, and make them so much less than what they could have become.

I came across a short story in The 7 Habits that I feel most school-goers can relate to, written by a George Reavis:

Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of “a new world.” So they organized a school.

They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming, in fact better than his instructor, but he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” (muscle spasm) from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and a “D” in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well, and also run, climb and fly a little, had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

Now I know this story, very obviously is not true. But is it?

Being a Sri Lankan girl, educated in the Sri Lankan embassy school of Riyadh, I come from an environment where the grades you get in Math, and Physics, and Chemistry is what defines you.

self-esteemTeachers don’t give you the time of day if you are not scoring at least a 70 in their class. You become the topic of talk inside staff rooms, labelled as a “problem child”,  because you’re unable to understand what your Math teacher is saying.

Mothers tell their daughters and sons to stay away from you because you scored 10% in your last Accounts exam.

But is that all there is to that? Do the marks on a sheet of paper define who you are and what your talents are?

My experience in life has proved otherwise.

Up until I was getting ready for my O/Level exam, I hadn’t the faintest clue that I had a passion, and a talent if I may add, for writing. I had a flair for it. The thoughts, the ideas that I’d kept crowded in my head, finally, slowly began to seep out and dance on the pages of a notebook as I wrote, wrote to my heart’s content.

How many of us go through school, feeling dumb and useless, simply because we don’t have the photographic memory that all “A” student in class does? How many parents gossip and backbite about how sorry they feel for your parents because you have to repeat a grade because you “didn’t study all semester, and instead only played with your friends”?

kid-writerHow many of us have our potential and talents go untouched and untapped throughout our lives because we didn’t know what we were capable of?

One of the world’s most revered writers once said, “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” And I agree with him 100%.

Learning does not mean sitting in front of your books, cramming in every fact only to vomit it all on a piece of paper on some pre scheduled date. No. How can that be learning?

Learning, seeking knowledge, is much more a beautiful process than that. Teaching yourself how to knit is learning, learning how to decorate a cake is learning, memorizing verses of the Noble Quran is learning. Any activity where you acquire KNOWLEDGE is LEARNING!

I’m not here to say that formal education is useless and that you should burn all your books. That is not my point at all.

The message I’m trying to convey is simply that because a person is not up to a certain standard in their IQ, doesn’t mean that they are of an equally low percentile in their  EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), HQ (Health Intelligence Quotient), MQ (Moral Intelligence Quotient), DQ (Daring Intelligence Quotient), AQ (Adversity Intelligence Quotient), FQ (Financial Intelligence Quotient), MQ (Mental Intelligence Quotient), WQ (Will Intelligence Quotient),  and SQ (Spiritual Intelligence Quotient), all of which are equally important and valuable.

And I’m pretty sure there are a lot of other Q’s out there that I haven’t mentioned!

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