Teacher—that is what so many little girls answered when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. I don’t even think any of these children realized how that profession could affect a child’s view of themselves. We’ve all had teachers in our life that are fondly remembered as being nurturing counselors, or who have guided us when we were lost; often providing a much-needed boost in confidence that might have been lacking at home. For those that went to Parochial Schools, the teachers were often nuns. But the same thing applies: some people were just not equipped to be shaping young minds and have sometimes inflicted great damage. Just like parents, careless or cruel words can have an impact on a developing psyche. I still remember that I was a “dreamy” child who often “checked out”, choosing to look out the window or daydream during class in First Grade. My First Grade teacher assigned a name for me—“Molasses.” This was because I seemed to move in slow motion, apparently and the implication was that I was dumb. At my age, to this day, I still can feel the sting I felt when she called me this and it succeeded in making me feel inferior and stupid (a feeling I was bombarded with at home too). I later found out that I had anemia, which made me draggy and sleepy, but regardless, that “name” or “label” stuck with me. My Third Grade teacher was a bully and incited such fear in me because she seemed to have an actual hatred for me. This caused me to shut down, stop doing my homework, and slowly draw into myself. The nastier she was with me, the worse I became so that I was actually in danger of getting left back. Luckily my mom took charge and helped me get my work up to date. My father actually wrote a letter to her, calling her an ogre, which made things worse. I finally ended up being referred to the school psychologist (Miss Mack) who used to tell me to just “forget her” and got me through that rough time. My Seventh Grade math teacher was a carbon copy of the Third Grade one and ridiculed me in front of the class incessantly, to the point of tears. Nuns can sometimes be just as bad too. My friend, who went to Catholic school, told me about constant daily cruelty inflicted upon a poor boy (most likely autistic), which one day ended up with a basket being overturned on his head (much to the enjoyment of the rest of the class). My friend was horrified and I felt the same way when she told me what happened. The point I am trying to make is that some people, although wonderful in every way, may not have that special quality that makes a great teacher. If we were able to run a survey that spanned decades, I wonder how many children had their dreams and spirit squashed by the very people who should be inspiring them. I wonder how many people did not pursue their dreams or lost confidence due to a supposedly casual name such as “Molasses”. Teachers can be inspirational and uplifting mentors—and many are—but it is too bad that so many of them don’t realize that.
Confidence–how is it that some people seem to have it and some don’t? I think it comes from your upbringing and either it was instilled in you at a young age or maybe you acquire it. But, some people just have that hutzpah it takes to move forward in life, to take chances, to be brash, and to hell with the consequences. Others hesitate because they don’t want rejection or don’t have faith in themselves. I know that I have always been shy—something I hoped and thought I’d eventually grow out of when I got older. But, even though I did make friends as a child, I still lacked that confidence to initiate a conversation (and still do). I never felt that I was especially good at many things, or was particularly pretty, or talented. I know that parents play such an important role in building confidence, and ultimately the success or failure curve of their children. When you have a nurturing family, you feel invincible and are willing to take the chances that will move you beyond the mediocrity of most people. It seems that successful people—in whatever field they are in—have a parent, teacher, mentor, or someone who takes a special interest in them and gives them the ever-important confidence it takes to succeed. Yes, there are exceptions that we hear of—where someone came from a horrible environment and rose above it to become someone amazing. I can think of several celebrities who fit that description, but more commonly, that is not the case. I know that growing up I was told repeatedly that I was “stupid” each and every day, I was told that I had a “horseface”, and on and on. I think when a parent explodes or yells at you and says something hurtful once or twice, it does not have that much of an impact. But, when done over and over, throughout your childhood, it breaks you down and you begin to believe that you really are dumb and ugly and not talented. A very vivid memory I have was when I did a drawing of a princess (and I definitely have artistic talent) and I was so proud, but when I showed it to my Dad, he announced that it was “very juvenile.” I was so very hurt and crushed that I ripped the picture that I was so proud of into tiny pieces and threw it in the basket. I can still feel the sting of disappointment and rage I felt as if I was still a small child. Confidence was not something that was instilled in me as a child and I consequently grew up not being brave and not just going for it, because I always felt I was not good enough, and didn’t want to take the chance of rejection. Confident people don’t worry about rejection, because they know their value. People who lack confidence are constantly searching for others to give them value, because they don’t have it themselves. I think to this very day, I still feel I am never good enough and consequently, feel immense jealousy whenever someone branches out into success and I am left in the dust because I lacked the confidence to do what they did.