For anyone who has read any of my posts about my disorders, you know that I was diagnosed at four. This means that I have had roughly fourteen years of experience, and the majority of them I spent going through the American public school system. There is so much to be said on the topic, and I by no means speak for every child or person with anxiety. I did not have the same experiences as everyone else. These are simply my feelings.
As a child, I attended one elementary school through third grade before switching to another. This meant all new friends, new teachers, new unwritten rules I was magically supposed to know, and being labeled as the “new kid”. For any kid this is hard, but it’s even worse when you are anxious all the time and have horrible social anxiety. My new school did not help me.
My first day I sat with a group of older kids the entire day and barely said more than my name at the beginning of the day. At lunch I sat alone at a table in the back corner, and at recess I hid in a tube area where no one could see me. On my second day, I tried to sit with the same group of kids, them being the only kids I even slightly knew, and I was shoved out of my chair by another student who apparently had already magically saved that spot before coming into the room. Did my teacher rush to my aid? Did she get the other kid in trouble? Did she even bother to help me to my feet? Nope. She just went on with the lesson and left little nine year old me to wonder what I did wrong.
As the year went on, my resentment for my teacher and her lack of caring only grew. I tend to talk a lot, and instead of trying to deal with that in a constructive way, whenever we would have quiet work time she would just send me out into the hall. It got to the point where she wouldn’t even wait to see if I started chatting with my neighbor, she would just send me out before we even started. This didn’t exactly help me to make friends.
There were a couple of times where I would forget my homework in my locker and my mom would drive me back to school and make me go in and get it. No matter how quiet I tried to be, my teacher always saw me walk by and had to come talk to me. She scolded me for being so disrespectful to her and so irresponsible for forgetting my homework. She’d yell at me until I cried, and then would walk me to the front door of the school so I could go back to my mother’s car.
She also never gave me even the chance to prove myself. I’m not trying to brag or anything when I say this, but I was a smart kid. At my old school I was in an advanced math and reading group, and I guess no one clued my new teacher in on this. All she saw me as was a problem, so why would I be good at school? She sent me out into the hallway for twenty minutes to finish an assignment that only took me about five. She’d yell at me for rushing through it, but then never said anything when I would get a perfect score. She’d yell at me for talking in class, and then never say anything when I got the high score on the test. Since I left my homework at school only a couple times she assumed that I never did it and accused me of cheating more than once.
Note to any teachers reading this, listen to your kids and their issues. No matter how much of a “problem kid” they are, never doubt their intelligence, and never make assumptions. When you label a kid as bad, they start acting that way because they don’t see a point in trying. When you only call kids out for their misbehaviors and never praise them for their accomplishments, all they see themselves as is a failure. Help them when they need it, and give them the benefit of the doubt.