No, the teacher didn’t say that to me. And I’m not telling ya who the teacher was,but I was at Holy Rosary School and I just couldn’t get division of a number by a two digit number. You do the Math! I always loved Math, and it broke my heart that the teacher was giving me a hard time. I was the last in class to get division. Oh, I could do the division using one digit. That wasn’t too bad, but the two digit division was putting me behind my classmates.
I don’ t know how I finally got it, because I had no one to show me at home. My mother was too busy with all the mouths to feed and Dad was too busy making money to feed all those mouths. It will do your heart good to know that I finally did conquer that skill. And I do believe it was on my own. Going to the blackboard to show how to do the division brought out a lot of fear and as you are probably aware, fear can be a great motivator.
During the last years of high school, my friend Clarence and I made many trips out to Mr. Power to get help with problems we couldn’t solve on our own. There was no way that we were going to let Mr. James Brennan know that he could fool us with a problem so difficult that his brightest and best couldn’t figure it out. It just wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t even happy when I got an 88; he told me I should have gotten a 90. OMG!
Many years later when I was finished high school with the highest marks in my class in Mathematics, that incident was still there in the back of my mind like a bad dream. I wanted to take my report card to that elementary grade teacher and let her know that I really wasn’t all that stun. But of course, where would I find her and what would she care anyway? I did go on to do a minor in Mathematics at Memorial University, so her words didn’t hold me back. If anything, I became more determined to never let anyone hold me back.
I’ve used several examples in my classrooms over the year to show the students that it really doesn’t matter what anyone says to you, you are much better than what anyone thinks. And smarter, too. As a child I remember meeting a man about the age of my father as I was walking on the street. I didn’t recall much about his clothing or facial appearance but I did remember what he said to me. He said, “You’re in my daughter’s class? You’re Pauline, aren’t you?” When I nodded, he continued. ” You think you’re so smart?” Well, you might imagine that I was taken aback by this comment. I didn’t say anything to him, just walked on. If I had that chance again, I would have answered him by saying “You betcha!” We were taught back then not to answer people back, to respect our elders, and it never occurred to me to say those words.
Parents weren’t always encouraging as they seemed to be too engaged in earning a living. My parents in particular wanted us to do our homework, but they didn’t think we were going to do much with our lives. It wasn’t discussed often. Dad once said, when I asked him if he was coming to an award ceremony, “What does it all matter anyway? YOu’re only going to get married and have kids, like everyone else!” Maybe that was a part of my future, but wasn’t this an important reason to get an education? I’m happy to say that my mother went back to school years later and got her grade 10 certificate. She was some proud of that accomplishment. As were all her children! I have to say that my father was proud of us all in the end, when we chose our own paths in life. Perhaps he was just a little overwhelmed with so many depending on him.
The message in all of this is encourage your children. Give them challenges or allow them to be challenged and then believe in them. Sometimes trusting them to do chores for themselves and cheering from a distance is required. An arm ready to give a hug or a smile when things are not going as we want them, may be all that is needed at times. We all have to deal with the naysayers in our lives but with great home support and a strong family base, no one can shake our confidence.