Elementary School Memories of Shame

I’m not sure when I started feeling insecure around my peers at school.  It definitely seemed to intensify as I approached middle school.  I remember feeling humiliated for being picked last for the kick ball teams at recess.  I remember wishing that I could be average at a sport (as opposed to the worst) so that I could blend in and not be singled out as the worst.

I remember feeling like my skin was too pale and tried to tan in the summer time.  Mostly I would burn and even if I thought my skin was brown people would tell me that I looked pale.  My skin color always lightened up soon after tanning anyway.  I hated the way I looked but this seemed to dissipate as I got older..

I remember people making fun of me for my first name because it was different or perhaps dorky and my last name because it was like a cartoon character.  Basically, the slightest detail that set someone apart was grounds for humiliation.  So my goal was to blend in and not be noticed.  Although, I did stand out for having a good senses of humor and I did like the attention that afforded me.

The third grade put on a play of Hansel and Gretel. I was very excited to play a role.  I auditioned and they assigned me to the part of “background tree.”  I had no speaking lines.  I remember being very upset.  I don’t think this was a humiliating feeling so much as the feeling that I was being left out and that no one recognized my talents.  I remember crying at night in my bed.  I don’t recall my parents being too concerned or supportive about this.  My mother may have tried but I don’t have a memory about this.  My best friend at the time got the part of Hansel.  I wonder why someone who was so similar to me was recognized and I was not.   At the time I saw us as pretty much the same, semi-outcast, wimpy but funny and smart.

In fourth grade I did a country report on Egypt and got the highest grade possible.  I remember being proud of this.  There was this kid named Jay that was one of the “smart kids”.  I recall he was dismissive of my achievement.  My sister accused me of copying her because she did a report on Egypt when she was in fourth grade.  Then she generalized that I always copied her.  This made me feel frustrated like I was being accused of something I did not do but there was no way to prove my innocence and nobody believed me.

I remember thinking that no teacher could think ill of their students.  This probably comes from the thought that parents should not pick favorites.  Looking back on it I don’t think that my fifth grade teacher liked me very much.  She was always yelling at me and acting like I did something I should be ashamed of.  I played drums in the band.  I sucked at it so the band teacher had me play the ride cymbal.  It was an upright cymbal that I hit with a drum stick.  It did not really require any skill.  I remember after the concert my mother praised me and I felt embarrassed.  In my mind either I had done something that required no skill but looked like it required skill in which case my mother’s praise was worthless.  Or I had done something that required no skill and looked like it required no skill and my mother was praising me to make me feel good about myself.  One time the band played outside and the rest of the class came out to watch. The drums were set up behind the band teacher who conducted facing the band.  At one point the drummers pretended to be in a sword fight with our drum sticks.  We were showing off in front of the class.  I did not think I was doing anything all that bad at the time.  Later I was surprised to hear my teacher saying to another kid that “they” (meaning us) did not deserve to be in the band. I remember feeling shitty but also angry that I did not expect to be accused of a crime and that this was somehow unfair.  I was used to being picked on and most of the time I felt like the abuse was deserved on some level.  This time was different.  I’m not sure why that is.

My fifth grade math teacher was an old man who pulled his pants up all the time.  I remember not understanding some math concepts.  He would correct my tests and hand them back to me marked up.  I remember going back to my desk and crying.  I’m not sure why this situation caused me so much grief.  I suspect it felt like yet another situation where I was not good enough.  It was one of many straws placed on an already broken camel’s back.  One day he yelled at me in front of the class saying, “No more baby tears!”  I remember feeling sort of shocked and humiliated at the same time.  I was shocked because I did not expect that and humiliated to learn that yet another trait or behavior of mine was bad or wrong.

I must have not been doing well in English either because my mother started dropping me off early for extra help.  I remember my teacher giving me work sheets but not really providing me with any guidance or instruction.  I told my mother I was not going any more because we weren’t doing anything.  I think my mother was angry about this but I did stop going.  I think my teacher did not consider me worth her effort and was appeasing my mother or her supervisor by having me come in.

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One response to “Elementary School Memories of Shame

  1. Pingback: Hopeless in Connecticut | Winston Scrooge

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