Let me take you way back to when I was a timid child in the fourth grade. Now before I go on, you need to understand this about my former child-self: I was incredibly shy and quiet. One of my best friends to this very day recalled when she had first met me and said how I would only whisper to her and to no one else. That’s how shy I was. Basically, I never spoke up in class, I took school work very seriously and I never, ever got in trouble. Until one day.
We were all in class working on a spelling assignment (and I remember everything about that assignment), when the bell rang for recess. I hadn’t finished yet but I wanted to get it done before the next class so I kept pounding away until my teacher, whom we’ll call Ms. T, asked me to finish my work at the office. It wasn’t later until I realized that her sending me to the office was not to penalize me, but to simply provide a quiet space for me to work. Of course, I didn’t understand this and in my little fourth grade mind, going to the office was synonymous with CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
Taken aback, I gathered my things and proceeded to leave the classroom with a lump in my throat. Then the tears came. I decided to shield my face in my locker so that no one would know that I was crying. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t work for Ms. T. She asked me what I was doing and I could have avoided a whole afternoon of more crying had I simply told her, “I’m crying.”
I had felt embarrassed so I lied and said that I was looking for a pencil. For some reason, she didn’t believe me because she asked me to open up the pencil case that I had had with me the whole time. And lo and behold, there were pencils galore inside. This time, she told me to wait at the office until recess was over. And it must’ve been the emotions that got to me because I didn’t quite understand her instructions and ended up staying in the office well after recess. Finally, I left the office after realizing that I wasn’t meant to stay there for the entire day and started walking back to my classroom. But just as I reached the door, I heard her telling the class that she would be right back. I froze. Then I turned around and walked in the opposite direction when I heard her call my name and ask, “Where are you going?” Here, I brilliantly lied again saying that I was going to the lost and found. Fail.
She knew immediately that I was lying, again. She asked me to look her in the eyes, but I couldn’t, I kept looking down, looking at everything except her. She finally had to take my books from my arms in order that I would stop staring at them and look at her. When I did, I was terrified. The tears started coming again. It was then that she recognized the root problem of why I acted the way I did, and it was because I had little confidence due to my overwhelming shyness. She then came up with a solution which she introduced to me the next day.
The next morning, she called me over to her desk and gave me a card that had a chart on it – my school schedule actually in a span of two weeks. She then explained that in order for me to break out of my shell, I needed to take initiative. So the plan was that everyday for two weeks, I would go to class and have a little conversation with my teachers either at the beginning or end of class, and having done so, they would initial in the little chart I carried with me and at the end of the week, I would show this to Ms. T. The crazy thing is, it not only gave me the confidence I never knew existed in me, but I also had fun with it! In the end, Ms. T. went out of her way to help me become the person I am today. She could have easily turned a blind eye and let me continue whispering and crying and lying, but she knew that I was capable of something more.
I hadn’t seen this clearly back then. Sadly, for years I’ve only remembered her as the teacher who made me cry. All my life, I’ve regarded her as sadistic and cruel. Two years ago when I was studying education in university, we were asked to think of one teacher that impacted us, and it was her name that came to mind right away. It was then that I finally realized what exactly she was trying to do. She helped me build confidence and find a voice for myself when I didn’t even know I had it in me. And that is something I will not soon forget.
And you? Do you have a teacher who went the extra mile for you (that perhaps you haven’t realized yet)?