I was not going to participate in #1000speak today because and only because, if given a subject and then told; “Okay write!”, I draw a blank. I was sure that in a week or two I would think of a hundred different posts that I could have written, but they were not coming to me when I first heard about this.
I was not going to participate until I read this post yesterday – A Story of Compassion by Kenya G. Johnson (please read it. It is well worth your time). It was a story about how one small gesture from one teacher made a difference in her life. This post led me to think about a teacher I had in the 7th grade.
Before I begin, I have to say that I did enjoy elementary school. I know it is not going to sound like it. I had fun with my friends, the fun was much easier to be had when I could just blend into the background, not waiting to be the second to last person chosen for basketball, dodge ball or any other activity.
I enjoyed elementary school because I had very good friends, many of whom remain good friends to this day. As someone who never felt as though I fit in anywhere, they were my sanctuary. No one could have had better friends. They will be in my heart, mind and life forever. Yes, we’ve all lost track of each other from time to time over the years but we always seem to find our way back to each other. I am thankful to all of them for being there then and now.
brown (blue) eyed girl in hand-me-downs, whose name I never could pronounce” **
If you were to look up “low self-esteem” or “lack of self-confidence”, I am sure my photo – if I enjoyed having my picture taken that is, would be there right there next to the definition. I have been told by a few people these days that I hide that fact very well. Maybe I do, maybe not, but back when I was young, I am sure I did not do the best job of hiding it.
For reasons I will not get into here, I am the epitome of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Always have been, always will be. At times this was almost debilitating – not almost, it was. It still can be now to some extent. I spent most of my time in elementary school hiding behind others. I didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want people to see my clothes, my shoes, my sneakers or me in general. I didn’t have older sisters, but that did not keep the hand-me-downs from coming from cousins and a step-aunt who worked at a high school – she would go “shopping” in the lost and found. I didn’t feel comfortable around people. I didn’t feel comfortable anywhere.
Sometime around the 5th grade I began gaining weight. This just drove my already low self-esteem into the ground. By the 7th grade I had gained a pretty good amount of weight. I was even more miserable than I had ever been.
I will never forget my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Holmes. At the time, I did not understand why he would single me out for things – good things, activities that anyone else would have been happy to be involved in. I didn’t want any part of this and thought he really must not like me very much to keep forcing me to get involved in things with some of the other kids when he had to know how uncomfortable it was for me.
I remember one time when there were a couple of seats available for the 8th grade class trip. The powers that be left it to the 7th grade teachers to choose a couple of students to go on this trip with the 8th graders. Mr. Holmes chose me. I had no idea why he would choose me. I was sure some of the more popular kids would have been very happy to go with their also popular 8th grade friends. Instead of being happy to have been chosen, my reaction went to the “Why are you doing this to me?” side of the spectrum. As if I didn’t feel like an outcast enough with my own classmates, now I had to spend the day with the 8th graders!
I have to admit, I did have a good time when all was said and done, but I still was not understanding why he pushed me into situations that were so very anxiety-ridden for me.
The day of the annual hearing testing came. Each student had to report to the hearing test center, which was in the nurse’s office. When one student completed his/her test, he/she was sent back to the classroom with the name of the next student to be tested. “Martin” came back to Mr. Holmes’ classroom and announced “They want to see the fat one” (that would be me). I tried to look like it didn’t bother me as I got up and had to walk out of the classroom in front of everyone. I don’t know what happened after I left the classroom, I never asked I really didn’t want to know- I just wanted to wipe it from my memory and everyone else’s as well (Where’s Dr. Who when you need him?). If you think it was uncomfortable walking out of the classroom it was 100 times worse having to walk back in and announce the next name, while still trying to look as if what “Martin” said did not faze me in the least. People stared at me but it was not mentioned. I really was thankful for that.
As the school year went on I found that I was much more comfortable in the classroom. This was partially due to the fact that I had lost a good portion of the weight I had gained, which I had already begun losing when “Martin” made his announcement. Also because I felt like I had gotten to know the other students in the classroom better having been thrown together with them so often for activities.
On the last day of 7th grade, before we were dismissed for the summer, Mr. Holmes called for our attention. He began what I thought was probably his annual “last day of school” speech – what a great year it had been, how much we’ve grown and accomplished from the students that entered his classroom back in September to the people we were now, ready for the 8th grade.
“I want to point out a student that I have seen the most growth and progress from. When she first come to this class in September, she would not even make eye contact when she was spoken to…”
… and really, I can not remember anything else he said. I was flabbergasted, mortified, but strangely – a bit proud that someone was actually saying nice things about me to other people! I understood right then and there what he tried to do for me the entire year. He saw a problem and tried to help correct it by trying and succeeding a bit to get me to come out of my shell, to not feel so very uncomfortable, to feel like I fit in by including me in everything he could find to include me in and putting me together with students other than my friends and outside of my comfort zone.
I am not going to say that I turned a corner that day and everything was just fine, but I will say that he did help me to come out of my shell if only a little bit. I am proud to have had him as a teacher and all of these years later I have not forgotten that he made that speech or how he went out of his way to try to help me feel like I was just as good as anyone else. I will never forget him.
I am sure I was not the only person he singled out and I was not his mission in life. I am sure I was just oblivious to everyone else he was trying to help at the time. There was one boy I was not oblivious to… the boy that came to our classroom everyday before the lunch bell rang. He came every day to pick a lunch made for him by Mr. Holmes.
He did pull me aside after his speech to let me know that he understood that his speech probably had me on the brink of a breakdown but he felt is was necessary to say all of these things not only to me but to the class and especially for the benefit of “Martin”.
From 1000 Voices For Compassion Facebook Group:
Let’s get 1000 bloggers to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, n…on-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD! Use the hashtag #1000Speak to promote this event.