Expressive Arts Carnival: Mrs B.

I remember sitting on the mat, near the front, and to the left of Mrs B.  It was the first day of the new school year, and I’d just been moved into “The Unit” – two classrooms joined into one, in the middle of the junior primary school.  Possibly because it was the first day of school, everything seemed so noisy.  Other children were talking to their friends they hadn’t seen since school got out the year before.  A couple of boys were running around the large room, while one of the younger teachers was loudly telling them off.  But, I looked straight ahead, blocking out everything as I looked at Mrs B. talking.

Mrs B. started to called out the role.  My name wasn’t on it.  I continued sitting there, frozen in fear… confused as to what this meant.  I thought that if I stayed quiet enough, no one would notice that I wasn’t meant to be there.  What was one more child to a teacher, anyway?  I didn’t like the look of the other teachers, they were younger and didn’t have the kind eyes of Mrs B.  So I sat there, trying to sink into the mat.  Then, the inevitable happened… a boy from the group I was meant to be in, came looking for the me.  In a daze, I followed him to the group I was meant to be in.  I didn’t look over my shoulder, I’d learned not to look back…

I sat with the rest of the class that I was assigned to be in, dazed and unsure.  I didn’t like this new teacher, she was the one who had been yelling at the boys.  Her face was full of harsh lines, nothing like the softness of Mrs B.  She told me to sit at the front… possibly so that I wouldn’t escape from her again.  That is all that I remember of that teacher… her harsh face and voice.

Throughout the year, the classes intermingled to some extent.  If you needed something, you were to go to your assigned teacher first, but could ask one of the others, if yours wasn’t available.  My main memory of this class, besides the noise, was the writing we were asked to do.  This was the first time we were asked to use our imagination to write a story.  We were to then take our story to a teacher to have it checked.  I hated having my work checked… my spelling has never been stunning, and creativity was never my strong suit.  On one occasion, I took my story to be checked by Mrs B.  She read it through, and showed me how each of my sentences started with the same word.  She suggested that I go and re-write it so that it wasn’t all the same.  I remember being crushed by her criticism, because I liked Mrs B., I wanted everything I showed her to be perfect… I saw perfection as the only way that anyone would like me.

I don’t remember how long it took me to re-write my story, but I was one of the last to go and get it re-checked.  I felt numb as I approached Mrs B. a second time.  I bit down on the inside of my mouth as she read my story.  I stood silently, waiting.  When she raised her arm, I flinched… I remained like stone as she draped her arm around my shoulders, pulled me up against the side of her body, and hugged me.  It was only as she started praising me, that I relaxed… I still remember her voice telling me that she knew I could do it.  She gave me one last gentle squeeze, before releasing me and writing an A on my paper.

As I walked back to my desk, I was beaming… I’d finally done something right.

These are the main memories I have of the first teacher who showed me kindness.  Other teachers since Mrs B. have shown me kindness, but I’ll always remember that hug.  I don’t know if she hugged other children, I imagine she did…  I don’t know if she realised the importance of that hug for me, I doubt it.  I imagine that for Mrs B., it was something she did as a reward for good work… for me, it was about being touched in a safe way, acceptance and kindness.

Thank you Mrs B.  Thank you for showing an awkward child that there was such a thing as safety in this world.

The Expressive Arts Carnival this month is to provide three words, and a hex colour code to contribute towards a healing word cloud.  My three words are: safety, acceptance and kindness.  I chose purple as the colour for my words, because for me, it represents protection and safety.

Thank you Paul… I needed the reminder that healing doesn’t always have to be painful.

Now playing: Counting Crows – Rain King
via FoxyTunes


16 thoughts on “Expressive Arts Carnival: Mrs B.

  1. This is a nice story CG. My first days of school were very scary to me too. I cried alot and isolated myself from the other kids. Everytime I try to recall it I get sick to my stomach. I remember having to draw a picture of our house and family to be handed in. I drew it and one of the ppl in the pic had a penis hanging down and I even drew the pubic hair on it…I was 5 years old. I was a junior in high school and was able to view my file and saw the picture in there…I was horrified.
    I do remember there being teachers that hugged me though and those are warm memories for me…safe ones. There was a time when I liked school more than I liked home but I just can’t remember when or how…For the most part the teachers were safe people for me and I do remember them fondly. I wonder if somehow they knew how much we needed them?

    • Hi Nansie,

      It’s funny that you call this a “nice story”, because it does sort of read like fiction, doesn’t it? When I read it back this morning, it definitely came across as fiction… yet it’s very much true.

      When I started to write this post, I had a huge panic attack. I had to stop and do something else for a while, before coming back to it. All very odd. Mrs B. was safe, so I don’t know what the threat was in sharing a positive piece of my past.

      School was also a safer haven for me. It wasn’t always positive, but it was a fairly safe routine, outside of the home.

      I’m sorry for the reason behind you drawing that picture when you were five. It seems a failure on the part of the school to keep that picture, but not act on it in any way. Do you know if they contacted your parents, or the authorities about it?

      I don’t think teachers realise the impact that they can have on their students. Teachers were often my one constant, in an otherwise chaotic life. I know that a child wouldn’t be hugged like I was now – the protocol in nearly all schools means that there is no touching between teachers and children. In some ways, that’s really sad… I know the protocol is there for everyone’s protection, but it’s still sad.

      Take care,

      • I really think it is a nice story out of our childhood to share. I liked school more than home because it was consistant and predictable…no craziness. That was my only real stable thing in my life. Yea my T and I have talked about how the school let me down and I fell through the cracks. To my knowledge no one was ever contacted on that pic I drew.
        I do think of my teachers back then as being safe for me and it’s one happy story I can tell from my childhood. They really comforted me with those hugs. I too find it sad that they can’t do that with the kids anymore. It meant so much to me back then and I am sure there are many kids today that need that too. Just sad turn of events the way we have evolved as a society. Take care and I enjoyed this post and the warm memories it brought back for me too.

        • I was also let down by my school, and it’s difficult to reconcile that. I know that awareness and training is a lot different now than it was back then, but that feels like an excuse. It’s difficult, as there’s no way to change the past, and the pain caused by those instances where we “fell through the gaps”. I suppose it’s another thing that we have to heal from.

          I know the teachers are fearful of accusations, but it’s such a shame… imagine how many kids like us are out there. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t had those few hugs and approval from the teachers… those teachers helped me find education as my escape and coping mechanism.

          I’m glad this post caused positive memories to be stirred, we all need that 🙂

          Take care,

  2. This was a beautiful story. I could see you as a little girl in my mind’s eye and I felt myself getting scared for you when you had to go over to the other group. I love Mrs.B because of what she did for you, because of the memory she gave you. I’m so happy that you had that experience in life, you needed it. It gave you a wonderful memory that other people might take for granted.

    • Hi tai,

      I have no idea how I ended up in the wrong group – I am so rule driven, that I know I would have been scared of making that sort of mistake. But then, I think this was before I had my ear operation done, so I might not have heard things like roll calls etc.

      You would have liked Mrs B. She was such a lovely person, I still remember her gentleness. At a sports event when all the other parents came, she acted as “mother” to myself and a boy. She made that event fun for us 🙂

      I think little experiences like this, help to save a lot of people. It’s a good reminder that the past wasn’t all bad.

      Take care,

  3. CG, what a wonderful story. shows what you were going through at the time and how in fear you lived. but i am so glad that you were able to have this safe experience.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m not in touch with the fear, but reading through the post, it does sound that way, doesn’t it? I always considered myself silent and watchful, rather than scared. But then, I think those traits probably came from the fear.

      Take care,

  4. This is such a beautiful story, CG. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’m so glad you had Mrs B there to bring you some kindness when you so deserved it, and most needed it. ((hugs))

  5. My first teacher was Mrs. Robin, and I remember her because she had the quietest and most gentle voice, and a world of patience, which I imagine was necessary for teaching kindergartners.

    I’m glad that you experienced a safe and positive touch. Such a hug for me as a child probably would have had me shutting down and shying away from the teacher. I still have difficulty with personal space issues even with people I know fairly well.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      I’m glad there was some positive people in your life when you were growing up. I personally thing early childhood teachers and librarians are a very special breed 🙂 Their caring and empathy is amazing

      I’m sorry for the reasons why you were so scared of physical touch.

      Please take care,

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