There are always six types of students in any classroom – the smart and popular, the pretty and popular, the social butterfly, the class clown, the average, but well-liked and then, someone like me: the stupid, strange and unpopular.
At least, that’s how I felt for the first six years of school. I couldn’t spell. I couldn’t add. I couldn’t subtract. I couldn’t divide. I couldn’t form proper sentences. Naturally, my entire report book was full of red.
Even after switching tuition teachers three times, I still ended up number two… from the bottom. For four years straight. I started getting used to being last.
“I’ve tried my best, but your daughter is pretty bad,” my tuition teacher told my mom, “I think she’s not trying.”
But I was. I was trying very hard. At least I thought I was.
Of course, I got a scolding from my mother that night. It didn’t help though, my grades came back the exact same the next time around.
“This is just a simple division,” my math teacher would tell me, “why can’t you do it like your sister?”
I didn’t have an answer. I simply didn’t how to do it.
I started to think, maybe… maybe I’m just one of the stupid ones. So, no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter. Stupid people can’t do maths.
I saw it in the eyes of my teachers, and my classmates, saying to me, Tang Lu Wee, you are just not good enough.
So I gave up trying. I slept through my classes and handed in empty homework.
There was no point. Everyone thought I was dumb, so why even try?
I hated going to school. Every day, I asked my mom, Can I just stop going to school? I really don’t like it.
There is a happy ending to this story.
I ended up graduating A levels with straight A’s and university with first-class honours.
If you told the primary 1 Lu Wee that she would one day become a top student, Lu Wee would have probably ignored you. She believed she was destined to be stupid. Always number two or three from the bottom.
And she would have continued believing this if not for this one teacher who made her feel like her life was worth more. That she had the potential to grow, and become better.
That there was a purpose to her struggles.
This one teacher and his words changed her entire life.
Because I grew up as the stupid kid, I could always relate to students who don’t do well in school.
In high school, I spent many hours a week after school coaching my friends in various subjects. I saw my teacher’s magic happen again and again.
An F student would get a B after 1 or 2 months. Sometimes an A. Nothing changed. The only thing that was added into their life was a purpose, meaning and encouragement.
I realised then that there are never really “stupid” students, just students who needed some help and encouragement.
If you know a “stupid” kid in your life, don’t give up on them. Encourage them and be kind to them. Most importantly, don’t judge them.
They can see that from your eyes.