Dear Ms. G,
(My only teacher I had ever had to use the term MS.)
Remember me? I was that chubby little red-head who wore the clear framed glasses 2 sizes too large. You know… they had the little white daisies on the sides? I couldn’t seem to find a picture with me IN those glasses, but anyway, it was 1986 and I was at my prime of childhood awkwardness.
You may not know this but out of all of my teachers I liked you the best. That out of all of my teachers you taught me the most. I don’t remember squat about the books we read or your school forte… MATH. YUCK. But what I do remember of you was learning a valuable lesson that would later teach me about life.
You see, I had never been chosen by anyone in school for anything. When it came to kids choosing me to be on their team for whatever dumb sport we were playing in gym, I was the one they didn’t have the choice on. They just got me. Last goes with team whose turn was last. It’s okay. I hated gym anyway.
But you know, those kids who always seemed to get out of school work and run errands for teachers? Up until I got into your class, I was never chosen, but for whatever reason you picked me. Not just once, but a few times! I remember even thinking to myself, could I possibly be a “teachers pet”???? Oh how I wished to be disliked by everyone for a reason like that instead of the multiple reasons they already had.
The seasons were changing and the bulletin board needed updating. So you chose myself and another girl in our class to cut out several letters for the board. To this day I cannot remember what they even said. I hoping to remember one day, now that my good childhood memories are slowly coming back.
Now let me tell you, you have no idea how big of a deal this was for me. First of all, I LOVED art. The closest thing I ever got to art while attending St. Hyacinth School, was a xerox copy coloring page that had pictures of the saints or bible characters on them. I never got lucky enough to have a teacher that valued art as a subject in my dear old catholic school. But here was my chance. Not only did you, my awesome teacher choose me, but you gave me a project you thought I could successfully execute.
I can see myself now, sitting at my desk earnestly cutting away with my eyes laser focused on my scissors. I was going to give you the best letters EVER. They were going to be WAY better than the other girl’s letters for sure. So with excitement and unfortunately no attention to detail, I handed them in way before the other girl. The next day when I arrived at school, expecting to see my work stapled to the cork boards, I quickly realized you hadn’t put them up yet. SO I sat down at my desk, and reached for my first book of the day, and I found a ziplock baggie with the letters I had cut for you.
In the bag was a note that said:
Please look at the edges on the letters. You can do much better than this. Please take your time and fix them.
Now at first, I was really, REALLY upset. Questions of self pity flooded my mind like “Why wasn’t anything I ever did ever good enough?”But regardless of how I felt, I took my time to recut the letters more smoothly and later that week you hung them up as you intended. What you don’t know is that entire season I remember not wanting to look at those letters because of my feelings of failure. (probably why I cannot remember what they said)
You didn’t know how my mind saw things back then or why, but I didn’t have the emotional capability to look at the situation simply for what it was.
Instead I saw it as:
I screwed up because I was a screw up. I remembered myself as the fat, dumb 6th grader who couldn’t even cut correctly.
For years this memory haunted me.
But today, as I am now slowly peeling paging back and looking straight on to my memories as they were, I see that it wasn’t rejection you showed me. Instead, it was that you BELIEVED in me. You wouldn’t have given me the task if you thought I couldn’t do it. Yes, you saw I rushed through it and knew I could do better.
Because you gave me a chance that day, I DID DO BETTER.
You CHOSE me AGAIN even when I didn’t meet your expectations.
So Ms. G, even if it wasn’t intentional, you taught me that one day I would have to grow up and enter into situations where there would not be anyone to tell me to try again. EXCEPT FOR ME. This taught me that I would have to look at my failures, my pain, my past straight on (sometimes for seasons or even years) and even though things aren’t always as fixable as your letters, that I can still TRY again. And even DO BETTER.
Because of you seeing that potential in me, I always had the stepping stones to one day see potential in myself.
Thank you Ms.G
Chantel A. Szyka
(btw, I’m still trying to cut)