Any names, unless given specific permission, have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Hi! My name is Shauna and I am an Overcomer in Christ. I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and verbal abuse. I am a survivor of physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse in a previous marriage. I am an overcomer of food addiction, love and relationship addiction, rage and anger mismanagement, kleptomania, co-dependency and people pleasing.
And this is MY story.
I do not have a lot of memories of kindergarten, just a few snap shots here and there, nothing very concrete.
1st grade however, was a whole different animal and I remember it very well. I may not remember it in perfect chronological order, but I do remember it. And there are a lot of times, when I think back on my childhood, that those were some of the years I wish the most that I could forget. It was a major turning point in my life and I firmly believe that had the school system handled things much differently, the rest of my life would have been drastically different. I am not always sure whether or not I want it to be different, because it has made me who I am today, that classic cliché response. It is, however cliché, still very true that our paths shape us and mold us.
My 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Tims, was a cold and cruel older woman. She was well on her way to retirement and possibly past her time to no longer be teaching. Now as an adult, I can look back and surmise that her “light” had gone out and she no longer had a passion or love for teaching, if she ever had it at all.
Mrs. Tims was my first abuser. Discipline in her class was special for me. I was singled out and humiliated in ways that the other students were not. Had the other students received the same punishments as I did, I would have thought nothing of it, but this was not the case. I was made to sit facing the wall in the front of the classroom for an hour or more at a time. I was called stupid, idiot, brat, heathen, savage, etc. if I made the smallest error.
I remember at one point she used the check system for the class, one I am sure some of you will be familiar with. At the first infraction your name would go on the chalkboard as a warning. The next mess up was a check mark and you had to sit out 1st recess. Second check mark and you sat alone at lunch. Third check mark and you sat out second recess – you get the picture. If you sat out at recess like you were supposed to, then your check mark was erased. And at the end of the day the names were erased and everyone started fresh the next morning.
I was not allowed to start with a fresh slate, my check marks remained on the board for everyone to see, every single day. And more were added daily, with no end in sight. When I sat on the bench, my check mark wasn’t erased. Since there was no end to my check marks, I stopped obeying them, and I would go play at recess. When I did this, I had another check mark added. Needless to say that within a few months my name was on the left side of the board, and my checks extended to the other side of the board.
I have no problem looking back at my past and admitting that I was a handful. I had a lot of energy, my mind went a mile a minute and I am sure my mouth followed suit. As I sit here and write this, that small voice is trying to come back into my mind and make me question what I experienced. It wants me to minimize how I was treated and dismiss it because it was only a bunch of silly check marks. And I am sure a few reading this might be inclined to agree. But I know that I have every right to be hurt by what this woman did to me. I know that there is no way for a grown woman to justify treating a 6 year old little girl with this level of animosity and callousness. I was 6 and these check marks were only the beginning of a long list of “special treatment” that I was subjected to my entire childhood at the hands of authority figures.
During this same year we were beginning to learn to count money. For some reason, God only knows why, I just didn’t get it. Mrs. Tims would explain it, show us the difference between a penny, nickel and dime. We would walk through a few problems together and then be given our own worksheets. I remember easily working on the sheets, finishing them and turning them in. Over and over my worksheets were returned covered in red check marks. Every single problem was wrong, day after day after day. I would ask for help and be told ‘no’. I would ask for help and I was told, “if you don’t get it by now, there is nothing I can do for you”. I would ask other students for help, and I would be sent to the corner for being disruptive. When my mother finally caught wind of this issue, she came to the school to discuss it with Mrs. Tims. Her words to my mother were this:
“I have done things to Shauna that I have never done to another student. I don’t know what else to do to her, I cannot teach her.”
For Mrs. Tims, I was not a child in need of help, I was an entity that would not conform and bend to her will. She did things TO me in an attempt to conform me instead of doing FOR me in an attempt to guide and educate me.