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Saturday, March 1, 2014


I've gotten them since the fourth grade. A year that struggle is all I remember. I had a teacher I feared, she was strict, a yeller who easily snapped and seemed to hate me. My family had fallen apart. My Mom hurt and I could see the pain and fear in her eyes as she began a new life, without my Father. My oldest sister graduated from college and on that same day my Dad got remarried to the woman he had left my Mom for.
Fourth grade was the year I look at in elementary school as the year I'd most like to forget. The migraines started and because my teacher seemed to dislike me, all I remember was her accusing me of faking my pain to try and get out of work. The pain was intense, the nausea would overcome me, I couldn't contain my tears and would often melt into a puddle. My Mom had suffered migraines, she knew it was real. She worried and tried to get me medical help. I missed much school and fell behind in the lessons, fearing the wrath of my teacher more. The stress of trying to catch up would just give me more migraines. It was a vicious cycle, I just couldn't win.
I often wish I could embrace that fourth grade me and tell her it was going to be ok. I wish I could tell her that one teacher's opinion, one person, should not be allowed to kill another person's spirit. I wish I could tell her that in the end, fourth grade was not that important. I mostly wish I could tell her she was a good person.
It was the year it all began, a lifetime ago, that still sticks out as a year I couldn't find peace or compassion in my fourth grade classroom. I struggled and I hurt, my life seemingly falling apart, but to this teacher I was just lazy. I was a problem she could fix with her strictness. I often wondered if she herself had not known love or compassion?  Was her unkindness because she had been treated the same? I remember the day I finally shared my sadness over my parents splitting, the finality of my Dad remarrying. I remember nothing but her icy stare and the accusations of me making excuses why I was so far behind in the work. She thought I was making excuses, but in truth I just needed understanding. I was a confused kid, who felt alone in her pain, who thought no one lived in my world of a family torn apart by divorce.
I wonder now if she knew how much she scared me, how deeply fearful of going to school I had become. The power she had over me still makes me pause. How did no one see that she was killing my spirit or did they? Did she just have others convinced I was just a bad egg and not a child struggling?
She changed me, all good and bad circumstances we live, change us. We take the lessons in and learn from them. We may not recognize those lessons at the time, we may stuff the understanding deep into our self conscious, but we change.
For me that year taught me more than I could possibly understand as a young, fourth grade girl. The way she made me feel, I would remember forever and I would treat children completely differently than she treated me. I would love and feel compassion because of her. I would look at children, knowing they were good. I would not jump to mistrust and doubt when a child's spirit was in my hands.
The migraines continue to this day and I still think of her when I get one. My heart still skips a little faster with with fear when I think of fourth grade.
I learned that the way we see people is only a small part of their depth. I learned there is always another side of the story. I learned to seek the truth and not jump to my own conclusions. I learned that children are good first and foremost and that they deserve our love, our understanding and our compassion.
I learned the saying "you will get more bees with honey than with vinegar" to be true, because in fifth grade I found a teacher who understood and that year my work greatly improved. 

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