13 Painful Memories Remain Two Decades after First and Second Grade

My time in first and second grade was miserable to say the least. There were some good times, for sure, but a combination of not-so-good teachers and on-going health issues made for interesting times. At the school I attended, I was in a class that had two teachers in one really big room with around 40 first and second graders mixed together.

  1. Until doctors found a medication that worked, I had severe migraine headaches for days and weeks at a time. Doctors requested I always have a small notepad to write the time I got headaches. My teachers refused to let me use this and said whenever I claimed to have a headache, they would send me to the nurse, who would say (by taking my temperature) if I actually had a headache or not. The nurse went along with this. (She should have know better because body temperature is not a measurement of whether one has a headache or not – there is not test for that.) One of the teachers said, “I get migraines, and my doctor said you always throw up, so you’re not actually having migraine headaches.”
  1. Because they were worried I would injure my head, teachers made me wear this big bicycle-like helmet during PE for several months. Before this, I never got to participate in PE. After this, because I was struggling with reading, I was sent to extra classes and never got to attend PE. No wonder I was endlessly teased.
  1. I wrote an essay for our assignment, and for some reason the teacher didn’t like it. She tore it up and stormed out of the room.
  1. I was drawing a picture of my house for an assignment. I drew the roof as being blue. The teachers said, “Why did you color your roof blue? I’ve been by your house. It’s not blue.” (For the record: it was!)
  1. One day we were all working at our desks on an assignment. I needed to tie my shoe, so I started to do so. The teachers said, “What are you doing?” I answered accordingly. She screamed, “Liar! Liar! You are lying!” over and over.
  1. Teachers regularly forced me to eat foods I was not comfortable eating.
  1. During the annual 4th of July program one year the teacher walked up to me (we were all seated on the stage) and said, “If you don’t watch me, I’m going to drag you off this stage.” (I was watching her because she was “directing” “the choir.”)
  1. Because some of the boys and girls kept making a mess in the restroom, teachers constantly threatened to WATCH everyone go and said we could only go when they were available to watch.
  1. For reasons I can’t remember but because the class did something they didn’t like they constantly threatened to remove all the furniture from the room and all the books and all the posters as a rest-of-the-school-year punishment.
  1. For the longest time, I was placed in the reading group called “tortoises” because I was too slow.
  1. Doctors at M.D. Anderson wanted me to eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as part of my lunch each day because it would be like a peanut better and jelly sandwich. Teachers refused to let me eat this, even with a doctor’s note.
  1. We were forced to recite the United States Pledge, Texas Pledge, Star Spangled Banner, all of the states, and all of the presidents every single day, without ever being told what we were actually saying or what it meant. (More on this here.)
  1. Being lied to. About history. About science. About e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. In first grade, they told us, “the sun never moves.” In second grade I asked, “If you can do 6-3, what happens when you do 3-6.” The teacher replied, “That’s not possible. You can never subtract a larger number from a smaller number.”

These memories stay with me and help inform the professor I am. I use my experiences to creative positive learning environments and experiences for others. I demonstrate what a good educator does.

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Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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16 replies

  1. Good grief! Of course these are extremely painful memories. No wonder you are such a good teacher yourself!

    I have many painful memories but they are not associated with school. In fact school was a relief from my family! I was listening today to NPR’s report on what older Howard U’s graduates remember of the songs they listened to in their college years. One song was Sam Cooke singing “A Change is Gonna Come.” I can’t listen to that song without crying. I know he wrote that song as a sign of hope, but he wrote it and recorded it shortly after being beaten up when he tried to just do what any person would do when they travel to another city, like rent a room and eat at a local restaurant. You can hear the strong emotion in his voice while he sang that and, boy, did it speak to me.

    That song was released when I was going through severe depression about how badly my own family treated me. I started hearing that song again when I went to college, when I was going through a bad period of depression. I did not realize why I was so depressed back then until I learned what the cause was more recently. Back then I thought I was depressed over some incidents, never realizing the big picture had led to my depression. I was becoming aware that other people did not treat me as badly as my own family did, and that was why I hated going back to visit my family on holidays, and why it took me 3 weeks to get over what they did to me while I visited. My most serious depression was when I realized that I would have to go back to see my family at Christmas each year. More recently, I was able to analyze what happened in my life, partly because my brain had matured enough to see that perspective (I am over 50 years), and partly because I had started to use the skills I learned from mind-body medicine techniques of mindfulness, visualization, and muscle reflex testing.

    I learned that my mother had rejected me at birth, and did not learn to accept me until after the critical window of the first three years of life when the brain is doing most of its development. Although she accepted me, she did not teach my siblings to do so. I used mindfulness to become aware of these memories as pieces, and spent the time analyzing them to realize what they meant in the big picture. Hearing that song just makes me recall how devastatingly depressed I was growing up and whenever I was in contact with my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew,

    You have come a long way. I am proud of you.

    Love, Pawpaw >

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My grandmother died during my first year of college. I had an essay due in my comp class. I turned it in early, before I left for the funeral. When she passed them back, the grad student instructor said “I don’t know what it is but grandmothers always die when papers are due” while looking right at me. I stood up and said “F–k you!”, walked out of the room and went straight to thr department chair’s office.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My first two years are only good memories. I am sooo sorry you weren’t born a girl (always eligible to be teachers pets) and your Daddy was not “away fighting in the (Korean) war.” THAT MADE FOR SYMPATHETIC TEACHERS!!!! LOL



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