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Self Compassion: Ed Biography

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By Rebekah Gallop


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Joys of Recess and Nap Time

Chapter 2: Math Books for Christmas                 

Chapter 3: 4th, 5th, 4th

Chapter 4: Vegas Lights

Chapter 5: The Southwest Stallions

Chapter 6: David Bowie

Chapter 7: Chased by Horses

Chapter 8: The Pride of Eastern New Mexico

Chapter 9: Park Ranger? College?

Chapter 10: “Bryan Mauwer”

Chapter 11: “Only a good writer at a state college”

Chapter 12: The Big Four Oh




4th, 5th, 4th

I was accustomed to being the new kid. Due to moving around my entire life I had become fairly adaptable; I knew how to make friends quickly and how to navigate a new environment. The first day of 5th grade in my new school in California proved to be different from the school I had left in Canada. We started the first day by taking a placement exam, whereas my last school had seen few exams and had been fairly laid back. I was used to getting good grades and being at the top of my class so I was not overly worried. The teacher handed each student a scantron and a test booklet full of math questions I had never encountered before.

Suddenly, as I looked down at the test booklet, I realized I did not recognize the math problems. I began to panic but the teacher reassured everyone, “this isn’t for a grade and isn’t important, this is just to see where you are, don’t worry!”

I believed her.

            After the test was over, my peers were interested to know who I was. Everyone thought it was cool that I was from Canada and asked me questions about moose, polar bears, and Quebec. The kids invited me to go to recess and have lunch with them and almost immediately I had a group of friends. In under a week I had already been invited to a sleepover at one of my friend’s house! I loved my teacher, the material we were learning, and all of my classmates. My new friends even offered to help me in math and I was beginning to catch up to the other students in my classroom in no time.

            The last day of the second week of school I was playing soccer with my friends at recess when my teacher called me over. I told my friends I would be right back. Following the teacher I thought I was in trouble. However, arriving at the principal’s office I was met by my parents who looked very troubled, which frightened me.

The principal and my teacher sat me down and said, “I think it is best for you if we put you back into the 4th grade. We believe you are behind the other 5th grade students, particularly in math, and would benefit from repeating 4th grade.”

I began to cry. I felt as if I had failed and that my teacher and parents had given up on me. I had thought the placement exam did not matter, that is was just to see where we were. I thought I was improving and I was eager to catch up. I fought back, “I am learning. I learn quickly and have made friends already. Just let me have some more time!”

Being only eight years old they did not listen to me. They assumed they knew what was best for me and that I had no idea what I was talking about. I always worked hard to be a good student and knew how to handle challenges. I thoroughly believed I could catch up. My parents tried to tell me that they thought this was the best thing for me but all I could hear was “You are behind.” I begged for them to give me some time to catch up but in the end a kid hardly ever has a voice or say in what happens to them.

            So I was shuffled back to fourth grade the very same day. The teacher acted as if nothing had happened even though I felt broken. She gathered my classroom supplies from the fifth grade classroom and took me straight to the fourth grade classroom only to humiliate me in front of all my new classmates.     

“Rebekah is joining your class from Mrs. Cash’s room.” Kids are observant. Everyone knew Mrs. Cash was a 5th grade teacher and that I was repeating 4th grade. Everyone could see my eyes were still red from crying.

            The first full day of class was difficult. Kids in the class were nice enough and no one tried to make me feel stupid but I could not convince myself that I was intelligent. For the first time in my educational experience I felt a bitterness towards school, something I had once loved.

 When it was time for recess, our class walked outside where I stumbled across the fifth grade class that I had left. My old friends asked me what had happened and why I was now in Ms. Walsh’s classroom. I tried to explain to them that I had to be in the 4th grade class for now. I was humiliated once more. Between the awkward side glances and silence they managed to say “I’m sorry” before leaving together. I said goodbye to them and ran to recess only to sit behind the school building and cry.

            It took me a while to make friends in the fourth grade classroom. I felt out of place and the kids in the class were younger than me, not by much but when you are eight one year makes a difference. The schoolwork was easier than it had been in fifth grade and I thought that if I just worked hard enough and got good grades the teachers would understand that they had made a mistake and would put me back in 5th grade. I learned no amount of good grades or hard work could accomplish that. Eventually I made friends and learned to enjoy the rest of the fourth grade year. However, I was left in a constant struggle of self-worth.

            Being told I had to repeat fourth grade and was behind had lasting effects on me. I felt, and sometimes still feel, as if I need to prove to people that I am smart, that I am capable, that I am a hard worker. I continually strived to convince everyone around me that I was smart because I could not convince myself that I was. Throughout the years I have come to realize that the reason I was put back in 4th grade was not because I was “stupid” but because the school I had attended in Canada was farther behind and lacked more resources than the school in California. It had nothing to do with my intelligence and everything to do with a lack of resources and differences in education. I have overcome most of these feelings but I sometimes still struggle with self-compassion.