September 22, 2020

Lakshmi Pothamsetti on why learning need not be a race

A conversation on one of the mum forums led us to this interesting mum who spoke on pointers  that are insightful. In the times when parents are worried on exam pressures, ability of children to do well in academics, this story on Mums and stories, we hope will answer a few questions.

Meet Lakshmi Pothamsetti a mum who shares with Mums and Stories her journey with her son who wasn’t doing well in academics and how she managed to find the path that wouldn’t let her or her child succumb to academic pressure.

“I realized my son had some difficulties in academics right after he started his kindergarten. He could not hold his pen to write. His lines were crooked and pretty light on paper. That did not make any sense to me. How can he not draw a little, clear straight line? We would sit until 11pm  to complete one page alphabet homework. Most of the time I would hold his hand and make him write. It never got better.

Later, we moved to Delhi. Ever since his 1st grade all I got to hear about him from his teachers is that he does not complete his notes and he cannot finish his test in time. He must have been treated differently in school as he started getting conscious about himself and would laugh whenever someone spoke with him.

I think that was his way of coping with the nervousness. He fell face down and lost his 3 front teeth which made his speech sound funny. Kids made fun of him and called him mad. He never told me anything until one kid asked me on my face “Aunty, is he mad?”

I felt bad but did not know how to handle it. My concentration was on his academics and why he is not able to perform. One day, I was checking his notes and it was incomplete as usual. I got mad and made him sit against wall, Got knows how long, beat him and asked him how are you going to complete it as no kid is willing to lend his notes to you anymore.

He said ” I can write it down, I remember”. I laughed and made him write. I was shocked when I saw him complete his notes just out of what he remembered. I understood that he has not only weakness but also a strength. He was very good at writing things on his own. However, I could not totally understand the role that I play or need to play yet. This saga of scolding, thrashing continued until he was 9yrs old. One day, after my usual reprimanding session, a thought came to me out of nowhere.  He comes to me when he is in pain, what if I have become a pain? That was the moment I decided I am not going to raise my hand and I never did.

The moment I started treating him with respect, I saw change in how people treated him. I tried helping him to write better and faster but it always got him nervous. As I was struggling to figure out a way to help him do better, I got a call from his school as the Principal wanted to meet me.

I knew what was coming but it was worse than I expected. The Hindi teacher welcomed me with a look accusing me of something I don’t know and the Principal started off politely. I tried to discuss the problems my son has and was about to sought their help to help him. But the Principal said “He needs to be in school for special kids”. I thanked him and walked out. I decided to pull him out of that school which is not willing to give him a chance. I knew that some schools in Andhra give printed notes. So, we sent him to that school. I met the principal and explained her the reason for the transfer and asked her if she understands the situation. She was very sympathetic and tried to help my son. She even took him to her home to help him in his studies. But, little did I know that he was not happy there because he never told nor showed any signs of being unhappy.

He started falling ill and he came home for Diwali. My heart broke into pieces when I saw. He was nothing but a skeleton. Apparently, he was sick since 2 weeks and it did not occur to him to call us. He thought he was alone and he has to fight his own battles. I contacted the Principal, explained her the situation and started him in a school close to our house. I told him that day and every possible day after that. ” I know you are more than what people say, you are intelligent and you don’t have to prove it to anybody. Study, to have a better future and to make a path for your career.

I am with you in whatever decision you take. Only thing I need to know is you are putting your best effort in it” asked him if he wants go for any tuitions. He did not want to go. Initial days, I guided him how to understand the subject and he never came to after that.

He wrote his own answers. Teachers gave him bare minimum marks as it was not a copy of the notes they gave.

We did not care. I made him understands that what matters is how much of the subject he understood not how much he could mug up.

He passed his 10th grade with 68% and PUC with 70%. He loves cars and wanted to do engineering in automobile and that is what he is currently doing.”

“ I would say to parents to listen to their children all the time.  I remember, during one conversation at home,  my daughter said she did not want to go to school next day. I said “Anna, never said that when he was in school” and suddenly my son shot back in response.  “Because, I never thought I could say that. I was scared to go to school. I was bullied and beaten in bus and school”. That was shocking. I asked him why he never told me. He said ” I never thought you would listen”.

So, the best thing you could do to your kids is to listen and let them feel that they can talk everything and any thing with you.  Don’t be a friend and don’t be a parent. Be a friendly parent.

We are human and our instincts drive us to find a way out. When they know that we trust them and we are there to support them morally, they will figure it out. But, don’t let your guards down. Be watchful and nudge them back into track when they go off track which they do from time to time. Parent is the one who needs to decide if their child is doing well or not. Society has no right or stakes to decide it for you.

My child still fights his battles as he is socially awkward and not super spontaneous like other guys of his age. He tries to fit in but also knows that he doesn’t have to. I am happy the way he is as long as he is happy with himself. And  if something comes that makes him feel otherwise, we will make it right together. We share an amazing relationship of trust. He confides in me about his crushes and his feelings- what more can I ask?

My son is doing his Engineering in Automobile and in his 3rd year. My husband is in software and never got time to take charge of his studies. He never made big deal of what teachers said but was worried about his future. They both use the little time they get together to talk about cars. :)”

Lastly Lakshmi has one question for all parents to think – “Children come to you when they are hurt. Where can they go if you cause that hurt?”

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