This happened in 2013. I was voluntarily teaching a class of 70 students. They had come from Dzelukope R.C., where I was holding the classes, Vui Zion Basic, Tegbi Afedome, Tegbi E.P. and some other junior high schools.
I was teaching Mathematics for free, and this was after I had organized pep talks for the various schools on how to prepare for the Basic Education Certificate Examinations.
In one of our sessions, I gave a question which they all answered; some got it wrong, some got it right. Then I told the class that the people who got it wrong were in a more favourable position to benefit if I explain the question and answer further, and that I was happy they got it wrong. One sharp guy who got it correct (he’s now in his final year at Ashesi University) asked me why I said that. Why was I enthused about those who got the question wrong and somehow not appreciative of those who got it right?
The answer I attempted giving him, which he failed to appreciate at the time, is the subject matter of this post.
But maybe that’s just me being biased because I wasn’t an excellent student. I graduated from Ketasco with A1 for Business Management, B2s for Accounting and Social Studies, B3 for Economics and English and C6s for Inter Science and Principles of Cost Accounting and wait for it—D7 for Mathematics at the first attempt.
A friend, on the other hand, had 8A1s. He was excellent as his result slip states; I, on the other hand, have excellent, very good, good, credit, etc attached to mine.
Remarkable, isn’t it? How did a guy who got A1 for BM and B2 for Accounting contrive to not get at least B3 for Science and a C4 for Mathematics?
Worth making a remark about, isn’t it? Remarkable.
All it shows is that he was a dedicated student; he read nothing save Business textbooks and missed no classes.
I, however, missed a Maths class because I was engrossed in Joseph Campbell’s the Hero with a Thousand Faces which I found in some obscure corner of the Ketasco library, and then missed a science class because I couldn’t pull myself away from Oscar Wilde’s the Picture of Dorian Grey, and when the then Economics teacher, Mr. Azaletey, recently retired Assistant Headmaster for Academics, was teaching us and asked somebody to explain to him what “depression” was, nobody raised his or her hand. I did (and this was regular; anytime he asked a question nobody could answer I always came up with the answers, but I couldn’t get A1for Economics).
I had a few days prior to the class listened to a BBC documentary on the US Recession of 2007-2009 and one of the economists being interviewed had made reference to the Great Depression of the 1930s. That’s how I got to know what “depression” meant.
When I explained to Mr. Azaletey what “depression” was, he was surprised. He didn’t expect any of us to know what it entailed. I knew because I was remarkable, not excellent. I refused to be boxed into a business studies curriculum and read and studied anything that aroused my interest. Not a good strategy if you want to get 8A1s, but dead spot on if you want a complete, rounded education.
Get my drift? Your son or daughter not performing excellently could be because she was chasing a more rounded, generalized education rather than trying to put in a specialists’ shift.
And I personally prefer the first to the other. There’s something about failure—it’s humbling, teaching, builds you up, and makes you more appreciative of things. A guy who got straight A1s in senior high school is more likely to be very, very depressed and likely to commit suicide if he fails at the tertiary level than a guy who got B3s.
The just-short-of-perfection people are also likelier to involve themselves in charitable causes that benefit others and the community than the straight A1s people. A1s people get serious jobs that make them seriously busy and incapable of doing anything else.
Here’s hoping that as soon as possible, my friend will make time during weekends to be teaching Maths to children in his locality or donate to my social entrepreneurship projects.