My story about education, self-esteem, and trauma may resonate with many of you. Hopefully, my reframe of reference can give you the strength to view your story from a different angle and help you create your own more positive account to move forward with for a brighter future. Thanks for listening.
I remember really loving kindergarten. My teacher was in a word delightful. I immediately switched from crying and first-day-fears to (literally) skipping my way to school.
Of course, I loved playing at all of the stations (water station was my main jam), gluing popsicle sticks into ‘art,’ recess with friends- but she even made the ‘work’ parts like math and reading fun.
Soon I learned to crave the sweet satisfaction of her praise (and let’s face it mostly, stickers!!!) I try to be good in all that entailed. Intently listening so I could get all the answers right, raising my hand proud with hopes of getting called.
Guess I was well on my way to a lifetime of chasing ‘teacher’s pet’ status. Except everything changed in grade 1.
Ya ok, so kindergarten is supposed to be a cake walk compared to grade 1. Now you spend a full day mostly at your desk, academic expectations grow, while playtimes begin to shrink. But none of that was the problem.
Aside from the normal dismays of kindergarten being over, and the painful fact that now I only got to see my very favorite teacher in the halls (fussing over her tiny new brood). New teacher wasn’t warm and sweet. She didn’t glow with kindness and patience. No- I remember her being cold and sharp, keeping us at bay from behind her desk and with the pointer.
While kindergarten was tamed with charm, grade one was ruled with authority. Stickers were scarce and praise was sparse- especially for me.
I wanted her to like me. I wanted to do good. Boy did I try hard.
But something was different here, here the harder I tried the less I was received.
I was rarely called on. When I was, it was barely acknowledged if I got it right and chastised for getting it wrong.
I began to doubt myself.
I began to wonder how I had fallen from grace.
I began to fade into the background, to try the opposite strategy of not getting noticed (this would become my go-to strategy for the rest of school).
Hey, I was 6! I internalized it all.
Obviously, I was bad and stupid. So, of course, I should be punished and rejected and ridiculed. I deserved it for being such a disappointment, such a failure.
I might not trust my child’s memory on all of this if it wasn’t for my Mother bringing up the matter. I mean could I be holding the lack of stickers and sweetness against my new teacher? Right?
But my Mom’s recount made me look back (and she was not the kind of parent that would blindly take my side, “my precious darling could do no wrong” not that kind). I am told it was not until the first parent/teacher interview that she heard I was failing, which was a surprise because in kindergarten (for what it’s worth) had gone so smoothly. My teacher was asked to keep her in the loop and advise us on how to improve my grades. By the mid-year report card my D’s becoming F’s. My teacher hadn’t been in touch to help remedy the problem. My Mom started to get the sense that there was a deeper issue, other than my learning comprehension and went to the Principal.
I guess since I made it through the year to grade 2 something go sorted out, I honestly don’t remember how it all worked out.
And the retell.. Well doesn’t seem like the first part needs any retouching, kindergarten is a wonderful memory. And I feel blessed to have had such an angel of a woman for my first teacher. I guess the big problem was really in contrast between the two grades. And while I am not going to paint a rosier picture of grade one, I will do this retell by focusing on the good that came from the unfortunate.
I wonder what had happened to that poor woman. A woman who had chosen to teach small children as her career path, to get her triggered by a child just hungry to learn and connect? Looking back she could not have been a very happy individual.
She gave me the invaluable lesson that, sometimes people just don’t like you and they won’t treat you fairly. Something about you triggers something in them (want to have some fun playing with your shadows, check out our new contest, and stay-tuned for our next tool in the Tool Box about shadow and Shadow Work) to react poorly, and while it might feel like it has everything to do with you, there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. Sure it took till adulthood to assimilate this lesson, and I have had many renditions of it over the years, but this is probably the clearest.
And while I did curl into my academic shell at a very early age, she could not curb my desire to learn and explore the world of ideas. And although I remember it taking a long time to figure out the ways that I was smart – to see them for myself, and to have the courage and self-confidence to claim them as my own- it did eventually lead me to want to understand different types of intelligence and to examine how we approach learning as a whole. To become interested in growing research about how trauma can manifest very much like learning disability. And ultimately to become passionate about human potential and all the ways we can unfurl and grow into our best selves (and where we might get hung up and caught from doing so)!
So while I am certainly not giving a crappy time in grade one credit for my whole academic and personal development (there have been many wonderful and awful formative experiences along the road;) when I follow this thread back I certainly count it as significant. And while I am still working on things, and have days (or months) where I’d just like to push the “reboot button,” mostly I am pretty satisfied with how I am turning out. Guess I will count these stories as ones I am thankful for.
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