Somewhere in the grand list of Things Lynn Is Grateful For, I always find myself going back to primary school. Primary school was… not a good time for me. I think there was about one year in which I didn’t get bullied.
I don’t recall if I’ve written about that before, but anyway this is not a post about bullying. I’m just mentioning it because the mindset is important. I went from being a social introvert who loved storytelling and sharing to a wallflower quite quickly.
I wasn’t just a wallflower, though. I became a ‘trouble-maker’. I didn’t like being in classrooms at all. They were loud and, you know, the kids who bullied me were there and I was expected to cooperate with them on things. And mostly I blanked out this part of my life as much as possible, but the main point is this: instead of addressing the fact that I was bullied and getting the other kids to behave they labelled me as a trouble-maker because I get disrupting the class.
They started removing me from the classroom. Which meant I acted out worse because, look, that was what I wanted. (Okay, so the thing I wanted was for things to be quiet and more challenging and for the bullying to not-happen, but since that was the functional result of being moved into the teachers’ lounge…)
My point is that during most of my formative years I was told by teachers that I wasn’t worth anything. They may not have meant to, but that was what happened when they didn’t address the issues I was having and only looked at the surface. My self-worth, already having taken a beating from repeated bullying, plummeted further.
And then, when I was… nine, I think, a new teacher started to work at our school. He wasn’t my teacher (yet), but he was… I’m not sure if he was new and still filled with the energy of a newly graduated teacher, full of ideals. Probably that’s just the kind of person he was.
But the point is that he saw us. He saw me. And he didn’t see a child that was just making trouble for the sake of making trouble. Or whatever the teachers before him thought I was doing. No, he saw a child worth encouraging. He taught me that I was worth something. That I mattered.
And sure it didn’t stop the bullying, but his belief in me was something that I sorely needed.
In secondary school things were somewhat better. At least in the sense that I had teachers who believed in me and who encouraged me to keep up my studies and attend university. (It’s not that I hated school. I like school and learning. Yes, I’m weird. Deal with it? It’s just I hated the bullying and I hated being bored by the classes.) And so I found myself at university after all.
All because one teacher in primary school decided to look past the label of trouble-maker and saw a child who just needed encouragement and someone with an authority position to say “I believe in you”.