I was an anxious grade school student but it never hindered me in the ways that my adult diagnosed anxiety disorder does now. The difference being is that as a child, the feelings of anxiousness were all fleeting moments and I was able to carry on with my day once the situation had passed. It was definitely not like the catastrophic roller coaster that my illness makes me ride now.
In school, my stomach swirled when the teacher raised their voice to yell at other students, when classmates whispered within my range, when I felt that I had said something stupid, when I didn’t complete projects to perfection, when schedules were changed, asking to use the washroom, and when I was picked to answer a question.
I hated getting picked to answer a question. I thought that I had hid well. I used to “nonchalantly” throw my pencil on the floor and then spend the entire 30 minute math lesson picking it up. I thought it was a brilliant plan but all of my grade school report cards tell me otherwise.
“Kimberly is a shy, quiet student.”
“Kimberly is very timid. She is encouraged to raise her hand.”
“Kimberly never raises her hand. She is a smart student and should participate more in class discussions.”
“What is wrong with your kid?”
Just kidding on the last one.
My grade 5 teacher however, he saw right through my bullshit.
He picked me to answer a math problem one day. I (and still to this day) am awful at math. I didn’t know the answer and so I shook my head “no”.
He calmly said, “We are going to work on this until you get the right answer.”
I swear my stomach shouted obscenities at him.
I could feel all the eyes of my classmates on me. My thoughts stuck, words clung to that hangy ball thing in the back of my throat, tears just fell out of my face. I knew that Sarah B already had the answer 5 weekends ago. Chris just wanted to eat lunch and it was only 9 in the morning. I started throwing out random numbers and the letters of the alphabet. I prayed to baby Jesus.
He kept encouraging me.
Kept spinning around the desks in his tiny pointy Ireland elf shoes.
Then I got the answer.
“That’s it! That’s it Kimmy! My dear! That’s it!”
I was so bloody angry with him.
Later, he slid a stack of stickers on my desk. He said that he was so proud of me and that I was a smart kid and should be more confident in myself.
I wasn’t convinced.
I thought that I was done being singled out but that man…
…he challenged me more and more.
I still got angry but he turned out to be one of my favourite teachers.
When I graduated, I was given the math award. It wasn’t because I was the smartest in math. Heck no! I was definitely not the smartest. It was because I, “tried so hard and never gave up,” he said as he stood there at the church podium on our graduation day. I’ll never forget that moment and that message.
One that I – we teach our son.
School is hard and even harder on some children. Encouraging our kids to keep trying and not giving up, celebrating successes that are little and big and all the in between are so very important. Not all kids can bring home A’s (if your kid can bring home all A’s, that is amazing! That’s tough stuff!).
What we need to do as parents is recognize how hard their effort is.
Kids learn and achieve in different ways and we should celebrate them in what they are doing well in. Perhaps it’s one course they’re excelling at or starting to show great progress in or maybe they’re starting to show more interest in a subject that they didn’t like before. Amplify it!
We are their cheerleaders.
*And shout out to Mr. O wherever you are. You were a fantastic teacher. I hope that my son has a teacher like you along his academic path.