Day 2 of my #30daywritingchallenge and the subject today is a funny one. How do I interpret this? Is it meant to be about good or bad things? It is true to say that negative comments do stick with you and prey on your mind more than postitive ones. Well they do with me, anyway. So I thought very hard about all the comments that have been directed at me throughout my 45 years on this planet and wondered how I could make sense of them.
I was lucky in that my parents encouraged me in what ever I tried to do in life. I hear stories of pushy parents who are always on their children’s backs giving them a hard time if they don’t get A* in exams or 100% in tests. Or there are the parents that make their children go to lots of different activities that the children don’t want to do. My parents just encouraged me to do my best to my ability. I was grateful that they weren’t pushy parents as I was able to achieve my goals (at the time it was to train to be a primary school teacher) without them constantly on my back the whole time. The story was completely the opposite with my grandad. He told me I was a failure because I didn’t pass one of my A levels and didn’t go to a “proper university” to do an English degree. He said I would end up being in a dead end job. I didn’t like his attitude when we were shopping in Asda once and he told me to push the trolley as it would be practice for pushing a pram when I was older! I nearly ran the bloody thing over his foot! When I told him I wanted to be a primary school teacher he said that “teaching the babies wasn’t being a proper teacher” I will never forget my mum sticking up for me and saying she was proud of me in front of my domineering granddad. Granddad never got to see me get my teaching degree as he died 3 months before I graduated.
Praise and good comments boost people’s morale and confidence. I know this being a teacher and how a little gentle, positive encouragement can work wonders on a child’s self esteem and well being. I think back to my school days and to all the teachers I had both in primary and secondary school. Some teachers’ attitudes would be a definite no-no in this day and age. But one teacher that really destroyed my confidence and took away the enjoyment of something I loved was the Home Economics teacher I had in my first year in secondary school. Up until then I had loved cooking and baking. Most Sunday tea times we were allowed to sit and eat in front of the TV so we had things like sandwiches and cake. I used to bake fairy cakes or my Dad’s favourite fruit cake which he loved. I was so excited when I thought I could do cookery at school. But my excitement was short lived when the teacher shouted at me for being slow and messy. My crime? I’m left handed and I was trying my hardest to peel and core apples with a right handed peeler. She used to stand over me watching me and I got so flustered that I dropped and smashed an egg on the floor in front of her. She used to mark everyone’s food out of 10, something I would never do. So, as a result my love of cooking vanished overnight and I thought I can’t do this as she says I can’t. It wasn’t until I went to uni and had to start cooking for myself. As for baking it would be a few years before I had the confidence to bake anything again. It ended up being my daughter’s first birthday party where I made some cupcakes and actually thought yeah I can do this! So, before you put someone down, think very hard. It can stay with them for a long time well into adulthood. I hope I have never done this to a child.
As a result of negative comments given to you through childhood, it has a knock on effect for people as they grow up. They grow up with a lack of confidence in themselves and in their abilities. When someone criticises you, even if it is a mild criticism it can have a detrimental effect. So I grew up believing I was useless and rubbish and wouldn’t be any good at things because I was made to feel like that as a child. Now as I have grown older and through the power of social media and this blog, it really does give me a confidence boost when I post pictures of my baking. In return I get lovely comments back which spur me on. It isn’t to boast: “Oh, look at me! Look what I’ve made!”, it’s to show people that I’m not the useless fat lump that people thought I was.
Comments which do upset me, though is about my weight and my appearance. This is a very sensitive subject to me. I grew up with a weight problem and it wasn’t until I’d finished my first year at uni and thought enough was enough. Of course since then my weight has gone up and down: two pregnancies and discovering baking again hasn’t helped. But now I’m trying to get it back again under control. But the comment that did spur me to lose weight was when I was in a cafe in Leeds aged 19 and someone asked me when my baby was due! I was mortified. So this is why when I have managed to lose a few pounds I post selfies or photos of me posing in the mirror with something new or an outfit I’ve managed to fit back into. Positive, encouraging comments cheer you on. It’s not being vain or saying “Look at me!”
Any job where you are given good (constructive) or bad feedback can be remembered for many reasons. Not just my chosen career path in my day job, but I would think this would happen anywhere. I have only worked as a teacher, although I have had student holiday jobs in offices, waitressing and bar work. As a teacher we are under constant scrutiny from parents and also other agencies and in particular with OFSTED. Both positive and negative comments given to you when you are observed in the classroom stay with you. Most recently I was subjected to the horror and humilating experience of an OFSTED inspection where the inspector completely missed my lessons of the day and came into my Early Years classroom as the children were tidying up. She also came in when the children were getting dressed for PE and the feedback was that the children were taking too long to get changed. If there was any positive feedback, I never heard it. No wonder teachers have no time for OFSTED inspectors who saunter into schools and only get a 1 day snapshot out of the whole school year.
A lovely comment I had from a teaching assistant in a school I was working at last week made me blush. I have two grown up children: a daughter of 20 who is currently at uni and a 17 year old son. She was asking me if I had children of my own and I told her about my children. She looked at me and said “No way! You don’t look old enough to have a 20 year old daughter!” Now that is a compliment, seeing as I have grey roots showing at the moment, crows feet and am suffering with horrible peri-menopausal symptoms! I did feel very good then, although my children do tease me and say “Mum, you’re dead old!” Well, to them anyone over the age of 40 is ancient!
Are there any comments which stick in your mind about yourself which you have never forgotten?
Love Sam xx