Friday, March 27, 2009

Self-Esteem

Sticks and stones
may break my bones,
but names will never harm me


Do you remember this? Often said in my childhood.

Said by me.

I remember...
...saying it when teased about my lisp.
...saying it when teased about being too skinny.
...saying it when teased that my Dad was Frankenstein.

Self-esteem is defined as the following: good opinion of oneself; self-confidence.

Have you ever witnessed someone strip a child of self-esteem? Have you ever been a victim?

When I was child, I had several situations where the very person that should be building up my self-esteem, instead, stripped me of it.

I vividly remember an incident when I was only 6 years old. I was in first grade. We were in the classroom, working on writing our letters with pencils. A boy sitting next to me, took my pencil out of my hand, to use himself. I asked him to give it back. He ignored me. I asked again. This time, the teacher appeared behind me. Instead of asking what was going on, she went on a rampage to the class about how I forgot the rules of talking in class. She scooped me up and dragged me to the front of the classroom. She announced to the class that I was BAD, forgetting this rule. She begin to shake me by the armpits, with my legs dangling in the air below. This bizarre teacher announced that I would have to sit in time out until I cried out,

"help, help! I am caught in the mouse trap without any cheese!"

(A strange discipline that she often used with us when in trouble.) The room erupted in laughter at what happened next. Apparently, when dressing that morning, I put my big sisters panties on instead of my own. They were now around my ankles from being shook so hard. I sat in the "mouse trap" time out for the entire day, including lunch.

When I was in seventh grade, I had a Reading teacher, that constantly got irritated with my lisp. (By 7th grade, I was already in my 8th year of speech classes). She wouldn't just correct me when I mispronounced words, she repeated it first the way I said it, which made the class snicker. By embarrassing me, I guess she felt I would try harder to get it correct. One day, as I tried to pronounce a word correctly after she made the point that I again said it incorrectly. She got this evil smile across her face and asked me out of the blue,
"Do you like McDonalds, Janis?".
I asked, her "what?"
She repeated, louder and slower, "I SAID, DOO YOUU LIKE MCDONNALDSS, JANIS!"
Softly, and embarrassed, now as the class look on for what was next, I answered, "no."
She said, "why not?".
I said, "I hate onions, they put onions on the hamburgers there."
She then said with a laugh, "well, you better grow to like them! you gonna be working there at McDonald's when you grow up, because nobody will hire you the way you talk, Girl!"

The class laughter burned through me. One friend teared up for me as I stood there stunned.

It is because of these moments and others, that I wanted to make a difference in children's lives. To be extra kind. To always show appreciation, and to praise them. The growing years are so crucial. From experience I know how important it is to help a child feel important, have self-worth and to be invincible.

Today as an adult I still struggle with self-esteem. I see what I do wrong more than what I do right. I constantly beat myself up. Sometimes. I will run into a bully even at 46. I can't believe I can still let it get to me. I always think of what I should have done and said later, kicking myself for allowing myself to be a victim.

The little nursery rhyme above came to mind last night as I allowed someone to bully me. I almost sang it. I think if she goes there again, I just might. Better than letting her words get the best of me!

Or maybe I will just smile, and let it roll!

8 comments:

lakeviewer said...

Janis, thanks for sharing this with all of us. You have captured moments of terror and violence in a child's life caused by ignorant or uncaring people. The worst part is these people were professionals, who should have known better.

You survived and became extra sensitive about how we all treat each other. What they took, you replaced with warmth and empathy for those people who get hurt. Good for you. And shame on those teachers.

janis said...

Thank you Rosaria~ I was hoping to hear a comment from you knowing you were an Educator. Your kind words ratify my decision to post about it. I did have some pretty awesome teachers too!

kim said...

THANKS JAN! I TOO REMEMBER BEING ABUSED BY AT LEAST TWO OF MY TEACHERS....IT NEVER GOES AWAY! WORDS ARE VERY STRONG AND POWERFUL, THEY STICK IN OUR MINDS FOREVER!! IT HAS IN FACT MADE AN IMPACT ON MY SELF ESTEEM AND I DON'T KNOW IF THAT CAN EVER REALLY BE REBUILT....AT LEAST FULLY. THANKS FOR SHARING....I LOVE YOU!!

An English Shepherd said...

What horrible, horrible teachers :-(

Why would anyone become a teacher if they had attitudes like that?

I agree with lakeviewer, shame on them.

Good that you had some awesome ones as well :-)

Anonymous said...

Jan, thank you for sharing, we all, well, some of us have those moments we'd rather forget. One nice thing about getting older is that less and less do I give a SH>>> about what someone else thinks and I am happy to share with them what I think!! No one who knew me in gradeschool would ever believe it. Give 'em hell...unless they are packin'...Deb.

Vevay Anderson said...

That is horrid! I had several bad experiences with teachers, but nothing that bad.

Most of the destruction of my self esteem came from my dad, my dad's mom, kids in school, and, the absolute worst, MYSELF!

YOU are a wonderful, inspiring person! Boo to mean people!

Anonymous said...

Who was that horrid teacher at Forest Manor? Mrs. Conrad? I do not remember this. Deb is right-- screw what people think but to a degree. I bet you ended up with more in life than she did. At least you had me, Sheri and the rest of the Pasadena gang to fall back on. Except for Jamie Robbins who used to throw you shoes out the bus window while we were moving.

You have self esteem whether you know it or not-- it just sometimes lies dormant and you need to find ways to wake it up when it sleeps.

Take care,

Rich

janis said...

Jamie? Ha Ha! I actually thought about a post dedicated to him! Remember "Janis~ It is time for your daily beating". He beat me up after school every day for nearly two years! What the hell? You guys should have helped me beat the shit out of him! Serious, I wonder what kind of life he, Jon, David, Tommy & Mark have today. Still trying to figure out why he felt the need to beat me up. I did toughen up a bit.
Gosh~ not the best memories. Was I really this dysfuntional?