07. June 2013 · Comments Off on Magnet · Categories: Uncategorized

My new classmate Annie is far and above everyone in math subjects, although I have a slight edge in geometry.   I see that math is my weak subject.  I get my cousin to tutor me enough to keep up.   But for me, math never catches fire.

I am astonished when Annie tells me that she stayed up most of the night studying for an exam.  She says her mother brought her a bowl of cold water to splash on her face to keep awake.  I feel the void inside and a pang of envy.  Annie has a tiger mother who cares.

By this time I am not keeping up because of my sister or anyone else.    My sister threw down a challenge for me, but I know that she has already dismissed it when she remarks that anyone could be First of the Class if they study hard enough.   Titi shows no interest.

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Something else is driving me.  Rather, something else is pulling me from ahead like an invisible magnet.  I am not sure where it leads.  I recognize that the pull forward is a lifeline.   At least it is my lifeline.   At the same time I’m afraid I will lose it and never get it back.

But why does Annie need to cram?  We have comprehensive monthly tests.   No one is allowed to fall behind.   She is always in second place only because there are fewer math subjects, and I have an edge on the subjects requiring language.

Except for math, all our tests are in the form of essays and often require illustrations.   For biology finals we are given a blank piece of paper and two hours to illustrate the circulation of the heart.   For geography we have to draw the map of Africa and fill in all that we know.  We bring color pencils to exams.

Though we are expected to help one another at other times, our tests and exams are designed to be competitive.  Each teacher has her own system of grading, but they all use numbers, like judges in the Olympics.   Instead of 1 to 10, they grade from 60 to 100.  No one starts under 60 – she would not be in the class.   Except for math, in which we can get 100, we are graded mostly on knowledge but also on presentation, and no one gets 100 – there is always room for improvement.

I wonder for the first time whether I have a different way of studying that depends less on repetition than on the quality of concentration.  I see patterns and structures and fit the details into them.  It is visual in the sense that when I get the right focus, so to speak, on a page, I will have a visual memory of the order of the paragraphs, and the order and even the spelling of the words.  Any images on the page are gifts, like extra markers.

If I am not distracted, I need to do this twice, and once more for review before an exam.  There is more than enough time in my day, especially if I concentrate in class, which gets me halfway there.  I sit in the front row for that reason.

Annie is dedicated.   She is working for a scholarship to an American college, and her whole family is cheering her on.

I don’t have such a clear plan.   All I have is this magnet thing that pulls me forward.   It is as tyrannical as a demon drug master.

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