“Madam! The Girls are Nervous! You must meet with them in the next few days!!!”

The teacher was responding to my question as to whether she had marked and scored the practice examinations she had just given to the girls.  No she had not.  She had marked mistakes but had not scored the papers.  Why?  Because the girls are nervous.  She said I must meet with them because they are nervous. 

So, I summoned the girls.  I called out, "Boro Bacchas (Big girls), meeting, meeting…"  They came quickly and stood around nervously.  Some sat on the floor.  I said, "Auntie says you are nervous.  Is that true?"  They looked at me nervously and nodded.  "Well," I added, "This is normal!!!!!  Of course you are nervous.  Everyone taking exams is nervous.  Every girl taking an admission test is nervous.  I can't tell you not to be nervous.  It doesn't work.  But, I can tell you that nothing bad will happen if you don't do well."

We have talked and talked, and will continue to talk about their fears.  I told them I am so proud that they are even able to sit for these exams.  I reminded them of how far they had come, what they couldn't do when they arrived.  They liked that.  I told them they had courage to go on even being so much older and bigger than others in their classes.  And I reiterated that we would make the decision together, considering what each girl wanted… At present though there seems to be general agreement that they want to go to a school with transport.  They want to ride a bus each day.  I supported this.  I told them how they would meet children in the neighborhood by riding the bus, and then others at the school in their classes.  I pointed out that riding on a bus is a good time to talk to friends, or to sleep.  The sleep part appealed to a couple of them.

The girls believe me that I will not force anyone to go anywhere.  They also understand that I want them to go to a school where they will feel good, where they will have fun as well as learn.  And I said that sometimes it's good to go to a school where you can be a little bad once in a while.  I talked about what it would be like for me seeing them off, having them on their own all day, waiting for them to come home. 

It's really OK to be nervous. Sometimes it's totally appropriate.  But in this community such emotion evokes panic among teachers and other adults.  Our girls grew up mostly using avoidance as a response to nervous-making situations.  Here they have had to face so many challenges.  I'd be more worried if they were not nervous.  That would make me very nervous.

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