Looking at things backwards

This story – and it’s a true one – intrigued me.

A couple I met this summer wished to enroll their daughter in a private school in Mexico City for this fall. In order to be accepted, their daughter had to write an entrance test. Some of the questions involved asking the young applicant to correctly spell the object shown in a drawing. For example:

1. ________________________________________________________________    (picture of a cat)

My first thought, I admit, was that this might be setting the bar fairly high for many students. In Canada, we would not ask our kindergarten or Grade 1 students to correctly write and spell a word before they could come to school. But this was not Canada; this was Mexico.

After the test had been completed, school staff contacted the parents and asked them to come in for a meeting. At that meeting, they were told that their daughter had answered all these questions incorrectly. Where there was a picture of a cat, she had printed ‘tac’. For a dog, she had printed ‘god’. Or rather, she had printed the words backwards in Spanish, since that was the language being used.

The school wondered if the girl should be tested for dyslexia.

The parents were concerned, but also confused. They knew that their daughter could spell these words correctly. So that evening, they questioned her about the test and her answers.

“The questions were backwards,” she told them. “I thought it should have been the picture first and then the line.”

Like this.

1. (picture of cat)  _________________________________________________________________________

“So I thought maybe it was a trick and I wrote all the words backwards, too.”

It just goes to show that sometimes our first impressions, informed though they may be, are not to be trusted. We need to ask more questions. In order to get the full picture, we may even need to look at things backwards.

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