I had an experience in the 4th grade, in Ohio, that I can say changed me and a certain aspect of my life for the rest of my life. It was pretty devastating to me at the time and really should have never happened. As most of us grow up, we learned how to handwrite (cursive) in the 3rd and 4th grade. For me, it was mostly in the 4th grade. I remember doing hand writing drills in class and learning specifically how to join the letters together so it would all flow so to speak. I truly was very proud of myself. To learn how to write in cursive was a major step for any young child I should think. Well, one day we were having a handwriting test in class, my teacher, Mrs. Bailey directed us as to how the test would work and told us when to start. I started writing in cursive and decided I was going to write as best as I could but write it as fast as I could too. Mrs. Bailey was walking around the room, as she was prone to do, while we all were writing our writing samples for our test. It was oh so quiet in the room as it usually was during a test.
All of the sudden I feel Mrs. Bailey standing next to me, looking down at my test and making an interesting noise that only I could hear. All of the sudden she said something that the whole class could hear: “Caroline Reaves – your handwriting is terrible!” I looked at her in her candy stripe looking dress and I’m sure my mouth fell open. I was just devastated but more than anything I was embarrassed. All the people in the class looked at me. Some were stunned, some were smiling, and some were just nonplussed and continued their work. I do have to say that that was one of the first days in a classroom that really changed my life and my perception of me and my capabilities. To this day my handwriting is terrible and I really feel that I have been fulfilling my teacher’s thoughts and declaration because it was and is the way it is.
I look back at this event in my life and learned a few life lessons for sure. Of course, I know and you know that it was just an unacceptable comment for a teacher to make out loud to a young child in front of so many others. But what came from this negative comment to me by a teacher that never should have been said, came a positive thing. I learned how devastating a negative comment can hurt a child so I was bound and determined to speak to young children in a positive way as much as possible. And not just speak to young children, young people or young adults positively but also try to say something positive often to people…and mean it. Mean what you say and look them in the eye when you do it. Build up people, don’t break them down.
I think of Mrs. Bailey at least 4 or 5 times a year still because of that comment she made to me in front of so many of my friends. And I think of her in a negative way. I don’t want people thinking of me in a negative way. I want them to think of me in a positive way. So, I guess I do have Mrs. Bailey to thank for something anyway! My handwriting may not be beautiful and perfect, but so many other aspects of my life are beautiful that it far outweighs my lack of perfect handwriting!