Sunday, November 13, 2011

She Had No Idea What It Did To Me

Last week, I wrote about a defining moment I had in 7th grade, where my dad gave me a spirited lecture on my lack of effort. This specific moment immediately changed my perspective on the control I had to change outcomes. Today, I want to share an experience I had at an early age that also affected my entire life. This one, unfortunately, had a negative influence on me ... one I never shook.

Remember, what you say to kids can have a life changing affect on them, good and bad.

It's third grade, my best friend, Shane and I hand in our math quiz to the teacher, Mrs. Soviezcek. I'm excited, because I thought I did well, and can't wait to get praised for my work. Soon after we handed it in, she gave it back to us with a grade on top of the page. I don't remember the exact grade I received, but I'll never forget what she told me as she handed it to me:

"You didn't do well on this quiz, but it's o.k., because math isn't for you. Shane is really good at math, but your strength is writing. You're a very good writer, but you're not good at math. Some things come naturally to all of us. Math just isn't natural for you."

Those words are burned into my brain, as if she said them to me yesterday. When I read them back, I find it impossible that a teacher ... a third grade teacher, especially, would say that to a student, but she did. Before this moment, I remember enjoying math, and looking forward to figuring out the answers. After these harsh words, I forever linked negativity and weakness to every math class I took.

"Math isn't for you."

Is it a coincidence I remember her name? I don't remember many of my teachers before high school, but I'll never forget Mrs. Soviezcek's name. She unknowingly linked such a negative emotion into my subconscious, I became exactly what she told me I'd become - an 'A' student in English, and below average in math.

I'm not blaming her for every bad grade I received in math, because I had a choice to study more, but the strength of emotion she created at such an early age absolutely had an affect. I was in third grade, looking for self esteem and confidence, and she was my teacher who was supposed be helping me in those areas. When you're that young, adults are all-knowing. Everything they say "must" be true, right? Wrong!

We must be very aware of what we're telling our children. Our self-limitations mustn't influence their possibilities. Our words can change the path they choose to walk. Choose those words carefully!


Spiller said...

I am still convinced that there are hundreds of adults out there who think they are stupid just because a teacher told them that they were when they were younger.
I don't believe there is such a thing as stupid, or anything that anyone can't do, the only thing that changes is the enjoyment you get out of it, the speed at which you learn - "talent" is just an ability to learn quickly - but we all know that's not enough - you need the hard work, and slower learners just take longer, that doesn't mean they're not just as capable of reaching exactly the same goals. If you don't enjoy it you probably won't work at it and hence won't achieve, that still doesn't mean you can't achieve!
My Mrs Soviezcek was a Dr Ramachandran at Uni, My sister's was a Mrs Somerville when she was 5, my brother's was a teacher in his new school when he changed schools at 9. Everyone has them - and that's what we need to change!!

Dayne Gingrich said...

Fantastic reply, Spiller... thank you. Very thoughtful.

It's such a shame that it's so common. Teachers have such powerful influence.

Thanks again for taking the time to post such a thoughtful response.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget when a counselor told me in high school that because I was going to a state college that I would never amount to anything.

I went to that state college and had the time of my life.

I now run a major company and am considered the best in my field.