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Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham

Ermigal with some of her former students

Odds and Ends from Ermigal is a fabulous blog. A recently retired English as a Second Language teacher, Ermine Cunningham’s favorite years were teaching students from all over the world. (See them up there?)

One of the things that I love best about Erm’s blog is that she writes about everything and anything under the bed. You didn’t see that coming, did you? Well, that’s what it’s like at Ermine’s. One minute we are talking about salsa lessons and the next thing we know, she admits “Herman Cain Made a Pass At Me, Too.

If you like a good surprise, you will love Ermigal.

• • •

Click on the teacher lady's nose to see other writers who have posted about lessons learned as well as the schedule for who is coming up!

Dear Miss Brown: Thanks for Reaming Me Out

As a greenhorn seventh grader trying to maneuver my way around the unfamiliar world of Junior High School, I was introduced to the new concept of “Slam Books” in Miss Brown‘s homeroom one morning: a spiral notebook with names of kids written at the top that was passed around surreptitiously for anonymous comments — positive or negative — a prehistoric version of internet bullying or sucking up, take your pick.

Eagerly, I became the first taker on a brand new Slam Book in Miss Brown’s homeroom and tried to be clever and cool with my entries. My summer growth spurt made me taller than most of the boys in my class, and I’d been spotted wearing an undershirt in the locker room after gym, as my mother pooh-poohed wearing a bra until I “needed one”. Stationed at my vantage point on the fringes of acceptance, I took a stab at being popular; carefully dressed and wearing a bra I’d purchased at K-Mart, I wanted to fit in.

On the page with “Ginny Bloss” written at the top, I had written, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

I passed the book along and went to my locker before the bell rang to switch classes.

I was on my knees digging in my locker when my teacher faced me, her large green eyes blazing. “Did you write this?” she demanded, pointing to the page with Ginny’s name.

I remember this classmate as small and quiet in class–definitely not one of the “popular” kids. I’d figured out that some kids were cheerleaders or student council material, definitely the ones whose group I wanted to be in. Ginny was not anywhere near being a part of this select bunch; she even paid attention in Mr. Foster’s science class while a group of us fooled around and passed notes.

“Yes,” I whispered. My stomach churned with a feeling of impending doom.

Miss Brown proceeded to go up one side of me and down the other. I distinctly remember when she asked me furiously:

“Who do you think you are?”

That feeling of shame and regret, along with those words, have stuck with me. To this day, that moment in the hall influences how I view other people; on that long ago morning, I learned — in a most basic way — that we are all equal and worthy of respect.

It didn’t hurt that my parents reinforced this trait in me also, but Miss Brown brought it home in a way a thirteen year old could learn from if she chose to do so. My life has been, I hope, a reflection of what I learned that day.

Thanks, Miss Brown.

Have you ever had a “public shame” moment? What did you do? How was it handled? What did you learn?

23 thoughts on “Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham

    1. Lisha,
      Pardon me if I focus on “millions of readers”–way to go! It’s tough to make a mistake that you would give anything to get back, but hopefully you told yourself “it can always be worse”. Like if you included that your friend has an anal cyst or something. Thanks for reading!

    2. Heh heh heh! 😉 It was quickly fixed and no one knew, Lisha.

      Which, by the way, does not rhyme with FIsh-a.

      Right Leeeeeeesha? 😉

      Thanks for being here to guest post today, Erm. This is such a lovely lesson. If only we would all treat each other with a little more sensitivity.

  1. Nice post. I remember walking in the hallway between classes and speaking poorly about a classmate, someone who I didn’t really know at all, someone on the social edge. I don’t remember what I said about her, just that I turned around and she was RIGHT THERE. I was horrified, and I think it pretty much cured me of trash talking people.

    1. Rivki,
      You have a great “humbling” story of your own–thanks for sharing it. Sounds like you viewed it as a positive learning experience, too. Appreciate your feedback!

  2. I was in fourth grade, on a field trip in the mountains with our class. My mom was one of the parent chaperones. I didn’t want her there–only the “dorks” had their parents there. It was an embarrassing day made worse when the “popular boy” intentionally stepped on a banana slug in front of my mom. She had a strict “no kill unless you are going to eat it” policy in life. (Whenever possible,(which was most of the time,) she trapped the mice/bugs/snakes/etc. in the house and released them in the field out back.) I was standing next to my mom when the conversation went down…

    Mom: Why did you just do that?
    Boy: I don’t know.
    Mom: You don’t know, but you did it anyway? Would you like me to come into your home and squash you?
    Boy: No, I suppose not.
    Mom: I didn’t think so. That was senseless and unkind.We are in their home and the creatures that live here have every right to be left alone to live as they choose, don’t you think? Since they can’t speak for themselves, I’m doing it for them. I assume I won’t see anything like that again today.
    Boy: (eyes downward cast, but mocking me, I was certain!) Yes, mam.

    I never heard a peep from the other kids about it, but I felt humiliated by my mom’s scolding of this boy–the boy who I dreamed about. My future as Mrs. Popular was lost, but the lesson I learned that day wasn’t: Speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves.

    (Anyone who would squash a bug just for fun probably wasn’t who I wanted to spend my life with anyways.)

    1. T. Mom, This would be a great scene in a movie–well done! Isn’t it amazing that we remember episodes like that word-for-word? I love your “lesson learned” ,too, and what a powerful thing it would be if we all practiced it, from bug squashing to bullying to global economics. I agree, bug squashers are probably terrible partners. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Haven’t we all tried to be “that cool kid” once or twice?

      I mean… everyone except my kid who is perfectly content and not at all interested in popularity. Lord love him. (I mean it. Lord, please love him because he is going to get knocked around a bit.)

  3. I think it’s exceptionally brave that you owned up to it in that moment at that age! Great post.

    Just a few months ago at work, I was chatting with a colleague I didn’t know very well (I was pretty new to the department), trying to lend an empathetic ear because she was under a lot of stress. Suddenly she asked me a question about our company, followed by, “It’s a trick question.” When I incorrectly answered, she loudly reprimanded me (within earshot of my boss) for not knowing our products well enough. In a way she was right, but I feel like I was set up! It was humiliating. I don’t know if I learned much of a lesson, other than who to avoid in the halls now, LOL

    1. It was disturbing to read about what happened to you at work, especially the “loudly reprimanded” and “humiliated” parts. Having worked in a number of places over the years, sounds like she’s got problems (jealous? insecure?) and yes, best to avoid her like the plague. Trust me, it will catch up with her.

      As for owning up to my Slam Book crime, and I really never thought about that part of it, I have to admit it was part honesty and part not adept enough to fib my way out of things. Thanks for your comments!

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