The 3rd grade Spelling Test that reinforced this life concept.
I was 7 years old in the 3rd grade at Barracks Road Primary School. It was spelling test day, which is usually a Friday, so I sat down in the front row of the right side of the room, like I always do, in my Khaki colored uniform, epaulets, on my shirt, and my polished black shoes slightly nervous but ready to take this end of the week test.
The test had two parts. The first was 10 words with 2 bonus words that the teacher would say/pronounce out loud, and we would have to spell it out in cursive on our loose leaf paper. The second half of the test was another 10 words that we had to match with the correct definition by drawing a line from the word to the definition.
I had studied extremely hard the entire week, but I still knew it would be a challenge, because our teacher would always throw a few tricky words in the spelling portion and the matching portion of the test. So I remember my grandmother telling me to take my time and sound out the words while I studied on the red veranda facing the breadfruit tree down the dirt road hill in the yard.
As quickly as the first part of the test was completed, one of the students completed the second half in less than 7 minutes. He was considered to be the prefect of my grade level – that is a student that averages perfect or almost perfect grades on every test and is awarded that position by the teachers/staff of his grade level. When I saw that he completed his test so quickly, it made me incredibly nervous. It was like the room started to shrink and droplets of sweat started to form on the bridge of my nose.
Six other students turn their test in after the prefect did just 3 minutes later. I watched them all individually walk from their seat to the teacher’s desk, hand her their test, and walk out the door.
I was only on word 3 when that happened. I started to think wait, “Am I slow; why are they completing the test so quickly?” I consider myself a really great speller and word-smith. So I looked down at my paper and started to work even harder. I completed about 4 more matches quickly after that, because the words/definitions jumped out at me. Then the majority of the class started to get up and turn their test in.
At this moment I had 2 more words to match with 25 minutes left in the class. There was only 3 of us left. Within another 6 minutes it was just me sitting in the corner trying to figure out the last 2 words. At that point, I had a nervous habit of biting into my number 2 pencils and with 15 minutes left, there were teeth Mark’s from just above the led of the pencil to the metal casing of the off red eraser top.
I took deep breaths often, l wiped the sweat off of the bridge of my nose, I looked around the empty room a few times and looked out side the door where kids were already playing and getting ready for the evening dismissal. Then I looked at the teacher, who then directed me to pay attention to my test. So I looked down one more time in intense focus, and I figured out one of the 2 words which then gave me the answer to the final word by a process of elimination. I still had 5 minutes left so even though I was finished with the test, I would always review my answers.
I went through all the words I spelled one after the other carefully to ensure I spelled them correctly. Doing that made me smile because spelling was my strong point, and I knew I got them all correct. Then I reviewed the matching section and recognize that one word was incorrect, and I corrected it by finding the right definition while recognizing that the definition belonged to another word. I was super happy that I caught it, because with 1 minute left, I walked up to the teacher confidently with my test confidently and turned it in. She joked and said, “Rishone, you do know there is a minute left. Are you sure you got them all right?” I replied, “Yes, Miss Smith!” with my big smile on my face.
Monday afternoon came after the weekend, and the teacher started to hand back the graded spelling/definition test. To my surprise she announces that I had the highest score on the test beating out the prefect who misspelled 1 of the bonus words. Basically I got a 120/100. I was floored with excitement and the kids looked at me with amazement because normally the person who was left behind struggling would get the worst grade on the test.
At that moment, I felt a moment of confidence in myself. There were so many times during the test while others were turning in their test that I could have made errors, because I was questioning how they finished so quickly, and I was struggling through the definitions. I mean the prefect was expected to finish quickly, but I was the last one in the room sweating and making sure I did my best, and because I focused on me, I was happy.
Fast forward to 30 years later, I am still the same. I have my Biology degree and my Engineering degree, but I choose to be an entrepreneur that invests in my passions of the culinary arts and dance. There are so many of my peers that are practicing Physicians, Veterinarians, Scientists, Chiropractors, Physical Therapist, high powered Lawyers, Architects, Physician Assistant, Nurses, Accountants, and even manage to be parents of a few children. I mean, even my first girlfriend has 3 kids, one of which is a teenager.
I could have been any of those things, but I learned when I was 7 that it’s perfectly fine to live life at my own pace, because I can be just as successful as someone else who finished before I did. What really matters is that I focus on what I’m doing. Everyone has the same life to live with varied amount of time to live it. We all learn differently and take tests differently, so don’t worry about this person or that person. Comparing yourself to your peers can distract you from achieving your own happiness or your definition of success.