[ Notes from YLB : Here we are prattling on and on about the modest academic feats of Bunso, when other, more brilliant achievements abound elsewhere in the batch! There are the triple scholars of Felitanco (PhilSci, British School & AdMU), as well as the valedictorian son of RowenaOngSiong- CoKingTeh (Lance) in one of the best middle schools in the islands, that’s Philippine Science HS! And of course, there are QueenHedy and PrinceToto, proud parents of Ashley, an awesome Fine Arts grad in the finest NY tradition, pun intended! Kudos to all kabatch-parents, the apple of course never falls far from the tree! ]
Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :
PARALLEL TO, but otherwise dissimilar to the thought processes of our more overachieving, illustrious and performance-conscious batchmates, we many years past faced each written examination of the schoolyear with pulsating anticipation. But not for the obvious reasons. We were barely average, prepared for these ordeals as haphazardly as the next guy (and gal), and knew how far down we were on the Hogwarts totem pole.
It was the there’s-no-tomorrow, all-or-nothing and all-chips-in nature of the exercise. It was like sailing out into the open sea on a bright windy day, never knowing how far the four winds would take you and how long the fair weather would last.
Frankly, the gamble of whether or not you would pass or fail, get five stars or a big bokya, oohs and aahs or sneers and jeers from your peers was the wild card that always got our adrenalin flowing twice, first a few moments before the actual test, and second just before the results were handed out.
In middle elementary when the ruler culture held sway, if you insisted on living dangerously, you reviewed just enough to get by, knowing fully well that any marks below 75 would receive corresponding “hits” (not the mouse-clicking kind) from Wu Lao Shi (Teacher Wu), our inscrutable, porcelain-skinned and ruler-brandishing ice-queen.
She would smack your open palm with the executioner’s ruler x number of times your grade was below the passing mark; most of us swallowed hard and winced for comrades with 60+ grades who watched too much TV and constantly lived life on the edge. Such was life.
Wang Lao Shi (Teacher Wang) relied less on corporal punishment, but selected colorful Chinese proverbs (cheng yu) that slapped you left and right, made you feel that you were the undereducated Chinoy bumpkin that you were for not performing acceptably in her quizzes.
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But on the whole, the regime of quizzes, tests and exams filled our appetite of gambling with our fleeting memories and chicken-scratch handwriting, in three languages even.
Was our retention of yesterday’s lesson enough to ride us through today’s pop quiz, never mind that it was the first subject of the day and we had barely rid ourselves of the fuzzies that morning?
Had our notoriously unreliable photographic memory captured enough of the previous session’s new Chinese vocabulary (which, being pictographic rather than phonetic, required new combinations of strokes and diagrams of words, constantly eating up new blocks of memory bytes in our addled brains) to carry us through yet another “small test” (xiao kao) which, in reality was anything but small?
Notwithstanding our never-say-die and devil-may-care attitude towards tests, the old-school culture prevailing then which, in fairness, found currency not just in our school but in many others during the 1970s, was the more tests, the better, or quiz them till they drop. There were graded recitations, regular quizzes, surprise quizzes, take-home tests that were of course graded, unit tests, periodical tests, semestral exams, individual reports, groups reports and the all-important final exams, as if all the other modes of grading hadn’t taken place.
Multiply these by around 8 to 10 subjects every schoolyear and you begin to wonder if a bit too much information and testing rigor was crammed into our hard little skulls all those years.
Evidently as it turns out, not. The human brain extends and builds upon its abilities as a sponge of knowledge and new information, continually updating and sorting out data it needs and doesn’t need, correlating and discarding megabytes of kaalaman whether or not we are conscious, from the time we learn to perceive, till the day we die.
We are wired to never stop searching for bits of info, and the day we stop thirsting for learning is the day our brain cells begin to deteriorate and die. Even dementia and Alzheimer’s can be stopped dead in their tracks, it has been suggested, when patients are persuaded to start relearning and forced to make long-dormant minds work anew.
But back to the test culture in school. All sorts of negative reinforcements were set in place to discourage us from absorbing too much of our seatmate’s work, and vice-versa. We were always asked to “cover” our work with handkerchiefs, folders and even our grimy hands (not that that ever worked), automatic zeros were given to the guilty parties, not to mention unspeakable punishment later; we were seated in exam halls far apart and alternately with other classes taking different exams; every kind of technique to discourage cheating was explored, and nothing was too avant-garde and audacious if it worked.
Believe it or not, the thought of being caught and branded a cheat, hypocritical though it was (everyone did it one time or another), being talked about by your classmates, especially the girls, was particularly galling, and the fact that you couldn’t get by on your own wits and wherewithal proved to be the most effective tool in getting us to stay on the straight-and-narrow, relying on our own devices (most of the time) and earning our marks (for the most part) fair and square.
Intentionally or no, as you sow, so shall you reap, sariling sikap and kung uukol, bubukol ultimately became the honor code that marked our years at Hogwarts.
Thanks for the memories !