September 24 – when i went from the bottom to the top

62/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’ve had high school teachers who have made a difference for me. I’ve had a university professor who was my advisor during my Masters program make a difference for me but I’ve only ever had one university professor who made a difference for me during their teaching of me. In my third year of university, I wanted to take yet another elective outside of my Commerce degree program. My first choice was Punjabi 300. It is the native language of my parents and because I could only speak it brokenly (my sister and I called our language Pun-glish as we would speak to our parents in a mixture of both Punjabi and English as they could speak both), I thought that it would be to my advantage to learn it. However, since it was an 8.30 am class, that idea was nixed pretty fast given how long a bus commute would take. I decided on Hindi 300 Beginners which I thought was a similar dialect to Punjabi and it was at a decent time of 12.30 – yes, my education is all at my convenience   I got to the class and the instructor was white and all the students were white. He took one look at me and said Hindi 301 Advanced and sent me to another lecture room. I was stunned. I can barely speak my own language and I am being sent to an advanced class in another language? I got there and everyone was brown-skinned like myself – even the professor. I was nervous as I heard the chit-chat all in Hindi but didn’t understand a word of it. I sat there as the professor started the lecture in – surprise, surprise – Hindi! My heart beating, I looked around and everyone was understanding except for one girl – Sheena. By the end of the class, I was mentally exhausted as I had no clue what happened, what was assigned, what we had to do. I would have normally just transferred out but something made me talk to the professor. I told her that I had no clue what was going on and that I was sent out of Hindi Beginners. She asked me if I was willing to try and learn and I said yes. I went almost every other day to see her after class and she gave me easy simple Hindi books to read and helped me recognize the characters and start with simple pronunciation etc. The other girl Sheena and I naturally gravitated towards each other based on our lack of understanding. When it came to oral skills in class – the days I dreaded – I would get a few things correct trying my best but to the snickering of the others. I tried and tried and was nowhere near the others in class but never gave up. In the end, I was expecting perhaps a Pass or if lucky a C. When the final grades were posted, I started at the bottom of the list expecting to find my name there and ended up being at the top with the highest grade. I was stunned and knew a mistake had been made. All the others were trying to figure out who had the top grade and then they both looked at Sheena and myself. I said nothing but the professor, seeing everything, said it was me and the students asked why as I didn’t know any Hindi – uhm, awkward!! To the students’ chagrin, she told everyone that from where I began to where I ended up, I made the most advancements and most of their improvements were incremental. I was in shock and awe – this amazing woman assessed my individual learning and didn’t rank me against my classmates in a university class of all places and I ended up with the highest grade based on effort. I often look back at her assessment style and try to model myself after her. I, for the life of me, can’t remember her name but have to thank this woman from the bottom of my student and teacher heart for instilling in me such a valuable lesson and yes, giving me an amazing grade! I write an exam for you my Hindi 301 professor!

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