A Joy on the Up Days

Anyone who knows me would never use the words overactive or outgoing to describe me. I’m quiet, shy, and, on most occasions, borderline anti-social.

True, if you’re able to bash through that initial barrier of “Don’t acknowledge I exist” and become someone I’m actually comfortable to be around, you get to see the close to outgoing, fun version of me. But to the outside world…I’m a shy, timid embarrassment.

How can such two separate beings live in one body? Well, you can thank my kindergarten and first grade teachers. Seeing as how I’ve not been in kindergarten or the first grade since…’93? ’94? Sure, anyways, since I haven’t been in either grade since those years previously stated, I can’t say this isn’t still one of the main focuses. But on the “report cards” for both kindergarten and first grade was included an interesting phrase.


I have to pre-empt the rest of this by stating I was an all right child when it came to grades. Above average, but not the top percentile, if you get what I’m saying. In some things I excelled (language comprehension, reading) while others not so much (MATH). Overall, I received glowing reports.

Where does self control come in?

I understand it’s mostly behavioral. For those of you who are teachers of kindergarten or the first grade, I’m sure you have better explanations, but I’m going to give it a shot. From what I can gather, it’s basically learning to become a member of society. Learning to fall in line when the teacher tells you. Don’t argue when told to do something. To behave like a good, little kid.

(I’m sure there’s more to it than that such as learning to speak when called upon, interactions with other children, and much more, but for the sake of my argument I choose to focus on the whole, learning to behave properly aspect.)

Now, I understand the importance of self control and teaching it to children when they’re young…BUT I must make one objection. Perhaps, don’t make the child feel so guilty about it.

You see, on MY little grade sheets for both kindergarten and first grade I got that notorious letter N in the little box after SELF CONTROL. What did that stand for? NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.

For those unfamiliar/if it was different where you went to school: There were no real grades until roughly fifth or sixth grade, this differed depending on schools, etc.. Where I went to school (in Indiana) a student could get an S+, S, or S- for Satisfactory, I for Insufficient, or N for Needs Improvement.

To be fair, I wasn’t insufficient at self control…I needed improvement. Do I remember why? No. But I do remember getting upset when everyone didn’t follow the rules exactly, or put things back exactly how or where they were supposed to. >cough< desks in the third grade after circling up >cough<

I remember being able to identify unfairness or the idea of someone clearly getting preferred treatment and voicing my opinion on that (as well as a four or five year old can).

There were two sentences on my first grade report card that, having gone back over these papers in an attempt to clean out boxes, have now resonated with me.

[J] has ups and downs with her self-control. She’s a joy on the “up” days. Let’s keep working on this.

Now, why has looking back on these, truthfully, unimportant pieces of paper bothered me? Because I didn’t learn self control. Oh no, I learned to never stand up for myself. I learned the better student is the one not heard. But here’s the rub! We were also graded on participation. Unlike self control, which improved, my grade for participation went down. It went from S to S- (shocking, I know).

So, yes, I became I good student (cause my grades were pretty good in elementary school [except for math, but come on, no one’s perfect…except for that one kid in every school, you know the one…self control and participation on top of straight S+’s, more machine than human…but I digress]). But I suffered vocally.

I learned to clam up and build a wall around myself, only letting people in who don’t mind that I got an N in self control.

People who don’t mind that I’ll always need improvement.

But, hey…I got a nice blog name out of it.

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