Don’t speak

Very talkative – that’s what my grade-school teachers comments were at the end of each grading period while I was in Grades 1-4. At first, my parents didn’t really mind those comments at the back of my class cards, as they were mostly just a footnote to the good grades I got. As long as I got good grades, they don’t have any complaints. However, things started to take a turn for the worse when my Conduct scores started to take a dive. They theorised that maybe the teachers found my habit of chatting up my seatmates as disruptive and equate it with being impolite. Following this logic, she further surmised that the teacher might have further translated impoliteness to having a bad conduct. I promised my mom I would talk less during class hours for the umpteenth time but she didn’t seem convinced.

One day in fourth grade, a fellow classmate (who was my then-rival for a spot at the top 3 honours list) was made to monitor who talks the most during class hours. Needless to say, I got the top spot for the noisiest kid in her list most days of the week. Unfortunately for me, one teacher dreamt up this brilliant idea as to how the noisiest kid should be punished. The kid who gets the most strikes against their name in the list would have a coloured paper ribbon pinned to their hair and made to stand alone in the school stage during recess. I guess the teacher reasoned that making an outcast out of the noisiest kid would do the trick – and it did to an extent. I started to talk less, preferring to listen to the conversation around me, only chiming in occasionally. Regardless, I still topped the noisiest kid list. Looks like the evil class monitor is enjoying seeing me in the stage during recess and the teacher is too busy to monitor the class herself that she never noticed that I am now starting to keep my mouth shut.

By the following year, I have started my policy of keeping my silence unless I am directly spoken to. All my seatmates could talk among themselves all they want and I’d just listen, preferring to think about what I have to say instead of actually saying it out loud. Needless to say, most of them got their turns standing on the stage during recess while I play with the other kids. When it came time to distribute the class cards, I was a bit apprehensive. This is a new year after all and I don’t want to see my scorecard marred by another horrible comment. I quickly scanned the grades next to my subjects and saw that they’re okay, even Conduct (such a silly subject). I held my breath and flipped the card over, running over what I would tell my mom if another nasty comment is written there. Lo and behold, there was none! There was only a short note from the teacher saying that I should keep up the good work.

Nowadays, I doubt anyone would associate the word talkative to me. Like a mice in a laboratory experiment, I was taught that talking only when spoken to is the right thing to do. No talking equates to no punishment and a pat on the back. I’ve learned that getting into other people’s business by speaking the truth when they don’t want to hear it could cost friendships. An innocent remark could be twisted or taken the wrong way by someone to use against me and that saying something in anger could mean hurt feelings long after you’ve apologised for it. So, if you meet me in person and I seem withdrawn, don’t take it personally. I don’t talk much anymore; the system seemed to have beaten it out of me.

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Published in: on November 3, 2005 at 7:26 am  Comments (4)