As I was contemplating what to write today, I decided I wanted to NOT write about narcissistic abuse because I want to remember that I am so much more than that. Yes, I’m experiencing Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome, but I’m still doing things in my life I’m proud of…like teaching!
My mom says that I played teacher from a very young age. I would sit on the edge of the bathtub and read my sister books while she was ‘going’ and then she’d do the same with me! I loved lining my stuffed animals up in front of my closet doors, and ‘teaching’ them all I was learning in class. I loved school throughout all my years, and although being bullied during those years was a bit difficult to endure, I never lost my love of being in a classroom and learning something new.
As early as the 4th grade, I knew I would teach! My teacher, Mrs. Whitlock (we called her Mrs. Witchclock even though she was a fantastic teacher!) put me in the hallway with another student so I could help them with their multiplication tables. I started helping her and showed her some short-cuts I knew, and at one point, she looked up at me and said “I get it!” I was euphoric!! To know I taught something to someone felt like such an accomplishment that I ran home to mom and screamed “I’m going to be a teacher!!”
My first teaching gig was at a YWCA preschool, and I was assigned to the 2 year old room. Having absolutely NO experience whatsoever, and only being a junior in college, I was completely overwhelmed by these little monsters. After just a day, I knew why these moms had signed their little darlings up for ‘class’ 3 days a week. To get them out of their hair, and to put them in mine! I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I did have fun with the kids and pretty much vowed at that time, I would only have 1 or 2 of my own!!
When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, I started teaching elementary and had a 5th/6th split class. I was offered a Kindergarten or 2nd grade room, but I chose these pre-adolescents that no other applicant wanted (really!). I was so scared standing in front of my class our first day of school. Before that, I was always supervised or taught in a ‘lab’ on campus. This was the real thing and I was petrified of doing something wrong. I had remembered an education prof telling me to come in hard, and then lighten up so the kids would know I was serious from the start. So, that’s what I did. However, I must have been ‘meaner’ than I wanted, because my classroom was silent! I finally told the kids that they could talk a bit and move around, and one young man raised his hand. I asked him what he needed and he said this: “We’re all a little scared of you!” I laughed on the inside, but said “Oh?” and proceeded to lighten up a bit! After that, those were my kids and we had a ball! I taught for 2 years, and we ice skated, and went to museums, and had pizza parties, and played games for lessons, etc. Everyday was exciting to me, and watching my students learn and grow was amazing!
I quit teaching when my son was born, but when he turned 6 months, I decided to see if I could teach at the local community college. Even though I didn’t have my Masters yet, they said I could! So…at the age of 27, I walked into my first college class as an instructor…not a student. This time, I was so shaky, I couldn’t read the attendance sheet I was holding! Finally, I got in the groove, and really loved teaching at the college level. I missed my kids, but liked the repartee and subject matter immensely. I teach both Psychology and Sociology so the topics to present are almost endless!
While I was teaching a class or 2 a semester, I started night school for my Masters degree. My son was 1 when I started and 3 when I graduated, and I did everything while he was asleep, so I could still be a stay-at-home mom…at least during the day!!
When my hubby and I moved back to our hometown, I applied at where I teach now, and was given another adjunct position. After 4 years, a full-time position opened, and I got it! I was ecstatic! I climbed up the ladder and was granted tenure and then a professorship. I’ve been at the college for 20 years now!!
I’ve had super great students…and I’ve had very challenging students. But what’s awesome about my job is that it’s different everyday and I form lasting relationships with my students!
Through the years, some funny things have happened. Once, I had a student who barely came to class and pretty much slept through it when he was there. I handed back tests one day, and he looked at his and said: “I can’t believe I got a fucking F on this test!!” Now, I RARELY curse in front of my students, and I never say that word, but my reply was this: “I can’t believe you didn’t fucking study!” The class roared!! And the student did much better from that moment on!
There was another student I had who had been in special ed throughout his pre-college years because of reading disabilities. He was SO excited to be in university (I taught at our local university part-time for 5 years while still at the community college) and after my first lecture, he literally broke out in applause. At first, I thought he was mocking me, but he was being sincere!! A pattern was formed…after a lecture, he would always clap for me! One day, I finished my lecture and he was silent. In fact, he didn’t meet my eyes. I said: “J…why didn’t you clap for me??” And he said: “Professor K, that was NOT your best!!” And he was right!!
Being an educator is my passion. I’d never tell my dean, but I’d teach for free just out of the love for it. (Of course, I’d have to win the lottery so I could survive!)! There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by in my teaching career that I haven’t wanted to be at school. It’s my safe place. My haven.
I met Sarge at school, and he spent a lot of time in my office and classroom. I’ve done some re-arranging and am really trying to actively fight any image of him there, because that’s my space. Period. He’s taken too much from me…and I won’t allow my teaching to be any part of that!!
This is what I know: We all are so much more than any abuse we’ve suffered. Yes, we are victims of somebody else’s mental health issues/disorders, but obviously, we’re survivors too! Besides being a victim, I’m a mom, daughter, professor, friend, etc. And I need to remember these parts of me and how I still have so much in my life to be thankful for. I still miss Sarge. I still want him. I still love him. But I know that a relationship with him is not possible. But my relationships with my family, friends, and students is something to nurture, appreciate, and thank God for everyday.