I was in the "gifted" homeroom in 6th grade, which in my school system in Michigan was considered Middle School. I had been in a variety of gifted programs in a variety of school systems, since we moved so much, some of them fantastic, some of them a total waste. This program was FANTASTIC. We were taught to be self-sufficient learners, make choices that corresponded with our learning styles, and to use creativity to process and present facts. I loved the class. I learned so much. But I always had the feeling in the pit of my stomach that the teacher didn't like me. And, more than anything, I wanted to be liked.
Organization does not come naturally to me. I live a neat and tidy existence now, but I have to work very hard to maintain it, and it was really only in the past 3 or 4 years that I would say I have gotten "good" at de-cluttering. As a child, left to my own right-brained devices my backpack was a mess, my possessions were jumbled, papers got lost. At the age of 11, I really needed HELP.
What I did NOT need was my teacher upending my desk and screaming at me in front of the whole class when I couldn't find something.
I did not crumple externally. I remember standing there with a dumb half-grin on my face, too mortified to dare show it. But inside, I felt so small. And bad. And stupid. It marks, I think, the beginning of my adolescent self-loathing, of being limited by my own feelings of inadequacy and angst. I spent the remainder of my youth waiting for those I respected to upend my desk, literally or metaphorically. The experience didn't make me a more organized person. It just made me very certain that there was something "wrong" with me.
I had kind of forgotten all about the incident until a year or so ago, when one of my friends who teaches upper elementary told me about losing her cool towards one of her students. "This girl," she said, "is a sweet person, super smart and really a good kid, but her desk is such a MESS! I couldn't stand it! So today I dumped it out and made her sort through it in front of everyone."
I stiffened, and felt a wave of disgust wash over me. I told her that a teacher did that to me once, and that it was really humiliating. My friend is not the kind of teacher who gets a charge out of embarrassing her students. Maybe the teacher who did that to me was not either. I looked her up when I started writing this post, and she's actually very highly acclaimed, leading symposiums and publishing research. Maybe she just had an off day, maybe she really thought I had potential and was frustrated with my self-limiting habits. Maybe, at the end of the day, she actually liked me. But when I think about it, even 20+ years later, I feel hated. And small. And ashamed.